Can computers help us read the mind of nature? by Paul Davies | The Guardian

Paul Davies waxes poetic about the application of physics, chemistry, and information theory to biology, genetics, and the origin of life.

For too long, scientists focused on what we can see. Now they are at last starting to decode life’s software.

“A soup of chemicals may spontaneously form a reaction network, but what does it take for such a molecular muddle to begin coherently organising information flow and storage? Rather than looking to biology or chemistry, we can perhaps dream that advances in the mathematics of information theory hold the key.”

Paul Davies, physicist, writer, and broadcaster
in Can computers help us read the mind of nature? in The Guardian

 

 ‘When we look at a plant or an animal we see the physical forms, not the swirling patterns of instructions inside them.’ Photograph: Abir Sultan/EPA
‘When we look at a plant or an animal we see the physical forms, not the swirling patterns of instructions inside them.’ Photograph: Abir Sultan/EPA
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Author: Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

4 thoughts on “Can computers help us read the mind of nature? by Paul Davies | The Guardian”

  1. Paul, thanks for the provocative piece, though the state of the art is certain much further along that your piece intimates. For the general reader, I would suggest reading MIT professor Cesar Hidalgo’s recent book Why Information Grows (MIT Press, 2015) for some general structure and philosophy.

    One of the best definitions and frameworks I’ve seen thus far has to be that of Christoph Adami. To start, and depending on your level of sophistication, take a look at his recent arXiv paper (Information-theoretic considerations concerning the origin of life – http://arxiv.org/abs/1409.0590 ) and then take a crack at this popular press article about it in Medium https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/information-theory-and-the-origin-of-life-4cf6b93d156c). If it’s something that blows your skirt up, then you can certainly begin to delve more deeply into some of his journal articles over the past decade or so.

    For further references, I maintain a nice list of resources at Information Theory and Biology Resources [http://boffosocko.com/itbio/%5D, as well as a “journal club” of sorts at Mendeley: ITBio: Information Theory, Microbiology, Evolution, and Complexity [https://www.mendeley.com/groups/2545131/itbio-information-theory-microbiology-evolution-and-complexity/%5D.
    For those who like to watch video material, I’ll refer them to some videos from the NIMBioS Workshop on Information and Entropy in Biological Systems [http://boffosocko.com/2015/05/20/videos-from-nimbios-workshop-on-information-and-entropy-in-biological-systems/%5D organized by physicist John Carlos Baez. The Banff International Research Station also hosted a relatively recent week long workshop on Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory [http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170%5D which covered some interesting related ground with videos of many of the talks there as well.

    via stream.boffosocko.com

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