## Molecular Programming Project

Bookmarked Molecular Programming Project (Molecular Programming Project)

“The Molecular Programming Project aims to develop computer science principles for programming information-bearing molecules like DNA and RNA to create artificial biomolecular programs of similar complexity. Our long-term vision is to establish molecular programming as a subdiscipline of computer science — one that will enable a yet-to-be imagined array of applications from chemical circuitry for interacting with biological molecules to nanoscale computing and molecular robotics.”

Source: MPP: Home

## A world of languages – and how many speak them (Infographic)

An infographic from the South China Morning Post has some interesting statistics about which many modern people don’t know (or remember). It’s very interesting to see the distribution of languages and where they’re spoken. Of particular note that most will miss, even from this infographic, is that 839 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea (11.8% of all known languages on Earth). Given the effects of history and modernity, imagine how many languages there might have been without them.

## Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies

I just ordered a copy of Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies by Cesar Hidalgo. Although it seems more focused on economics, the base theory seems to fit right into some similar thoughts I’ve long held about biology.

From the book description:

“What is economic growth? And why, historically, has it occurred in only a few places? Previous efforts to answer these questions have focused on institutions, geography, finances, and psychology. But according to MIT’s antidisciplinarian César Hidalgo, understanding the nature of economic growth demands transcending the social sciences and including the natural sciences of information, networks, and complexity. To understand the growth of economies, Hidalgo argues, we first need to understand the growth of order.

At first glance, the universe seems hostile to order. Thermodynamics dictates that over time, order–or information–will disappear. Whispers vanish in the wind just like the beauty of swirling cigarette smoke collapses into disorderly clouds. But thermodynamics also has loopholes that promote the growth of information in pockets. Our cities are pockets where information grows, but they are not all the same. For every Silicon Valley, Tokyo, and Paris, there are dozens of places with economies that accomplish little more than pulling rocks off the ground. So, why does the US economy outstrip Brazil’s, and Brazil’s that of Chad? Why did the technology corridor along Boston’s Route 128 languish while Silicon Valley blossomed? In each case, the key is how people, firms, and the networks they form make use of information.

Seen from Hidalgo’s vantage, economies become distributed computers, made of networks of people, and the problem of economic development becomes the problem of making these computers more powerful. By uncovering the mechanisms that enable the growth of information in nature and society, Why Information Grows lays bear the origins of physical order and economic growth. Situated at the nexus of information theory, physics, sociology, and economics, this book propounds a new theory of how economies can do, not just more, but more interesting things.”

## The Information Universe Conference

Yesterday, via a notification from Lanyard, I came across a notice for the upcoming conference “The Information Universe” which hits several of the sweet spots for areas involving information theory, physics, the origin of life, complexity, computer science, and microbiology. It is scheduled to occur from October 7-9, 2015 at the Infoversum Theater in Groningen, The Netherlands.

I’ll let their site speak for itself below, but they already have an interesting line up of speakers including:

### Keynote speakers

• Erik Verlinde, Professor Theoretical Physics, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
• Alex Szalay, Alumni Centennial Professor of Astronomy, The Johns Hopkins University, USA
• Gerard ‘t Hooft, Professor Theoretical Physics, University of Utrecht, Netherlands
• Gregory Chaitin, Professor Mathematics and Computer Science, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
• Charley Lineweaver, Professor Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University, Australia
• Lude Franke, Professor System Genetics, University Medical Center Groningen, Netherlands

### Conference synopsis from their homepage:

Additional details about the conference including the participants, program, venue, and registration can also be found at their website.

## Videos from the NIMBioS Workshop on Information and Entropy in Biological Systems

Videos from the April 8-10, 2015, NIMBioS workshop on Information and Entropy in Biological Systems are slowly starting to appear on YouTube.

John Baez, one of the organizers of the workshop, is also going through them and adding some interesting background and links on his Azimuth blog as well for those who are looking for additional details and depth

## Popular Science Books on Information Theory, Biology, and Complexity

Previously, I had made a large and somewhat random list of books which lie in the intersection of the application of information theory, physics, and engineering practice to the area of biology.  Below I’ll begin to do a somewhat better job of providing a finer gradation of technical level for both the hobbyist or the aspiring student who wishes to bring themselves to a higher level of understanding of these areas.  In future posts, I’ll try to begin classifying other texts into graduated strata as well.  The final list will be maintained here: Books at the Intersection of Information Theory and Biology.

## Introductory / General Readership / Popular Science Books

These books are written on a generally non-technical level and give a broad overview of their topics with occasional forays into interesting or intriguing subtopics. They include little, if any, mathematical equations or conceptualization. Typically, any high school student should be able to read, follow, and understand the broad concepts behind these books.  Though often non-technical, these texts can give some useful insight into the topics at hand, even for the most advanced researchers.

Possibly one of the best places to start, this text gives a great overview of most of the major areas of study related to these fields.

Entropy Demystified: The Second Law Reduced to Plain Common Sense by Arieh Ben-Naim

One of the best books on the concept of entropy out there.  It can be read even by middle school students with no exposure to algebra and does a fantastic job of laying out the conceptualization of how entropy underlies large areas of the broader subject. Even those with Ph.D.’s in statistical thermodynamics can gain something useful from this lovely volume.

A relatively recent popular science volume covering various conceptualizations of what information is and how it’s been dealt with in science and engineering.  Though it has its flaws, its certainly a good introduction to the beginner, particularly with regard to history.

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

One of the most influential pieces of writing known to man, this classical text is the basis from which major strides in biology have been made as a result. A must read for everyone on the planet.

Information, Entropy, Life and the Universe: What We Know and What We Do Not Know by Arieh Ben-Naim

Information Theory and Evolution by John Avery

Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life by Hubert P. Yockey

The four books above have a significant amount of overlap. Though one could read all of them, I recommend that those pressed for time choose Ben-Naim first. As I write this I’ll note that Ben-Naim’s book is scheduled for release on May 30, 2015, but he’s been kind enough to allow me to read an advance copy while it was in process; it gets my highest recommendation in its class. Loewenstein covers a bit more than Avery who also has a more basic presentation. Most who continue with the subject will later come across Yockey’s Information Theory and Molecular Biology which is similar to his text here but written at a slightly higher level of sophistication. Those who finish at this level of sophistication might want to try Yockey third instead.

The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley

Grammatical Man: Information, Entropy, Language, and Life  by Jeremy Campbell

Life’s Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos by Peter M. Hoffmann

Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos by M. Mitchell Waldrop

The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, May 10, 2016)

In the coming weeks/months, I’ll try to continue putting recommended books on the remainder of the rest of the spectrum, the balance of which follows in outline form below. As always, I welcome suggestions and recommendations based on others’ experiences as well. If you’d like to suggest additional resources in any of the sections below, please do so via our suggestion box. For those interested in additional resources, please take a look at the ITBio Resources page which includes information about related research groups; references and journal articles; academic, research institutes, societies, groups, and organizations; and conferences, workshops, and symposia.

These books are written at a level that can be grasped and understood by most with a freshmen or sophomore university level. Coursework in math, science, and engineering will usually presume knowledge of calculus, basic probability theory, introductory physics, chemistry, and basic biology.

These books are written at a level that can be grasped and understood by those at a junior or senor university level. Coursework in math, science, and engineering may presume knowledge of probability theory, differential equations, linear algebra, complex analysis, abstract algebra, signal processing, organic chemistry, molecular biology, evolutionary theory, thermodynamics, advanced physics, and basic information theory.

These books are written at a level that can be grasped and understood by most working at the level of a master’s level at most universities.  Coursework presumes all the previously mentioned classes, though may require a higher level of sub-specialization in one or more areas of mathematics, physics, biology, or engineering practice.  Because of the depth and breadth of disciplines covered here, many may feel the need to delve into areas outside of their particular specialization.

## Nicolas Perony: Puppies! Now that I’ve got your attention, complexity theory | TED

For those who are looking for a good, simple, and entertaining explanation of the concept of emergent properties and behavior within complexity theory (or Big History), I just came across a nice TED talk that simplifies complexity using a few animal examples including a cute puppy video as well as a bat and a meerkat example. The latter two also have implications for evolution and survival which are lovely examples as well.

[ted id=1916]

## BIRS Workshop on Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory | Storify Stream

Over the span of the coming week, I’ll be updating (and archiving) the stream of information coming out of the BIRS Workshop on Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory.

Editor’s note: On 12/12/17 Storify announced they would be shutting down. As a result, I’m changing the embedded version of the original data served by Storify for an HTML copy which can be found below:

# BIRS: Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory

A 5 Day workshop on Biology and Information Theory hosted by the Banff International Research Station

1. I know where I’ll be in Oct 2014! Let’s hear it for Biology & Information Theory!  https://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170  #ITBio #Banff @andreweckford
2. . @andreweckford You might be interested in this grouping of research papers:  http://www.mendeley.com/groups/2545131/itbio/  #ITBio #Banff
3. Wishing I was at the Gene Regulation and Information Theory meeting starting tomorrow  http://bit.ly/XnHRZs  #ITBio
4. #ITBio: @andreweckford has a new book on Molecular Communication available Oct 31.  http://bit.ly/15uEUzF
5. Mathematical and Statistical Models for Genetic Coding starts today.  http://www.am.hs-mannheim.de/genetic_code_2013.php?id=1  @andreweckford might borrow attendees for BIRS
6. Mathematical Foundations for Information Theory in Diffusion-Based Molecular Communications  http://bit.ly/1aTVR2c  #ITBio
7. Bill Bialek giving plenary talk “Information flow & order in real biological networks” at Feb 2014 workshop  http://mnd.ly/19LQH8f  #ITBio
8. Workshop on Information Theoretic Incentives for Artificial Life  http://jhu.md/1lM8tAn  #ITBio #ALife14 @alifeofficial @14thALIFE @cxdig
9. Researchers working in information theory & biology  http://jhu.md/1gieQGR  #ITBio @andreweckford @ChristophAdami @wbialek @johnhawks
10. #ITBio http://t.co/Ty8dEIXQUT"/>

CECAM Workshop: “Entropy in Biomolecular Systems” starts May 14 in Vienna.  http://jhu.md/1faLR8t  #ITBio pic.twitter.com/Ty8dEIXQUT
11. Currently organizing my Banff workshop on bio-information theory …  https://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170
12. Last RT: wonder what the weather is going to be like at the end of October for my @BIRS_Math workshop
13. @JoVanEvery I’m organizing a workshop in Banff in October … hopefully this isn’t a sign of weather to come!
14. How information theory could hold the key to quantifying nature.  http://wrd.cm/1uy1xdX  by @vero_greenwood pic.twitter.com/ek5DUb2Ul9
15. Good morning from Banff. Current temp: -1 C
16. Banff takes its name from the town of Banff, Scotland, not to be confused with Bamff, also Scotland.
17. Good morning from beautiful Banff. How can you not love the mountains? pic.twitter.com/mxYBNz7yzl
18. “Not an obvious connection between utility and information, just as there is no obvious connection between energy and entropy” @BIRS_Math
19. Peter Thomas (Case Western Reserve University), Signal Transduction and Information Theory  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410270940-Thomas.mp4
20. Last RT: a lot of discussion of my signal transduction work with Peter Thomas.
21. Live now: Nicolo Michelusi of @USCViterbi on Stochastic Model for Electron Transfer in Bacterial Cables  http://www.birs.ca/live  #ITBio
22. Nicolo Michelusi (University of Southern California), A Stochastic Model for Electron Transfer in Bacterial Cables  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410271450-Michelusi.mp4
23. Listening to the always awesome @cnmirose talk about the ultimate limits of molecular communication.
24. “Timing is fundamental … subsumes time-varying concentration channel” @cnmirose @BIRS_Math
25. Chris Rose (Rutgers University), Molecular Communication Channels: timing vs. payload  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410271538-Rose.mp4
26. Standard opening quote of these talks: “I’m not a biologist, but …” @BIRS_Math
27. Stefan Moser (ETH Zurich), Capacity Bounds of the Memoryless AIGN Channel – a Toy-Model for Molecular Communicat…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410271610-Moser.mp4
28. Weisi Guo (University of Warwick), Communication Envelopes for Molecular Diffusion and Electromagnetic Wave Propag…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410271643-Guo.mp4
29. Terrific introduction of Canada/Banff by Andrew Eckford (York)The Landscape  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410270858-Eckford.mp4
30. Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory workshop videos!  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos  @BIRS_Math
31. .@ChrisAldrich @andreweckford @Storify @BIRS_Math Sounds like a fascinating workshop on bioinformation theory in Banff.
32. Toby Berger, winner of the 2002 Shannon award, speaking right now. @BIRS_Math
33. Naftali Tishby (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Sensing and acting under information constraints – a principled a…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410281032-Tishby.mp4
34. “…places such as BIRS and the Banff Centre exist to facilitate the exchange and pursuit of knowledge.” S. Sundaram  http://www.birs.ca/testimonials/#testimonial-1454
35. We’re going for a hike tomorrow. Many thanks to Lukas at the @ParksCanada info centre in Banff for helpful advice! @BIRS_Math
36. Behnaam Aazhang (Rice University), Real-Time Network Modulation for Intractable Epilepsy  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410281337-Aazhang.mp4
37. Alexander Dimitrov (Washington State University), Invariant signal processing in auditory biological systems  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410281416-Dimitrov.mp4
38. Joel Zylberberg (University of Washington), Communicating with noisy signals: lessons learned from the mammalian v…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410281450-Zylberberg.mp4
39. Robert Schober (Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg), Intersymbol interference mitigation in diffusive molecular communi…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410281549-Schober.mp4
40. Rudolf Rabenstein (Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg (FAU)), Modelling Molecular Communication Cha…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410281627-Rabenstein.mp4
42. THis week @BIRS_Math ” Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory ” @thebanffcentre #biology #math @NSF
43. “Your theory might match the data, but the data might be wrong” – Crick @BIRS_Math
44. So information theory seems to be a big deal in ecology. @BIRS_Math
45. Tom Schneider (National Institutes of Health), Three Principles of Biological States: Ecology and Cancer  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410290904-Schneider.mp4
46. “In biodiversity, the entropy of an ecosystem is the expected … information we gain about an organism by learning its species” @BIRS_Math
47. Seriously, I’m blown away by this work in information theory in ecology. Huge body of work; I had no idea. @BIRS_Math
48. .@andreweckford @BIRS_Math Harte’s book Maximum Entropy & Ecology is excellent in this area  http://amzn.to/1DwIl3V  pic.twitter.com/EIBDpM35uf
49. .@andreweckford @QuantaMagazine had a nice overview of some of John Harte’s work in September  http://bit.ly/1DwIWCD  @BIRS_Math
50. Chan-Byoung Chae (Yonsei University), Molecular MIMO: From Theory to Practice  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410281705-Chae.mp4
51. John Baez (University of California, Riverside), Biodiversity, entropy and thermodynamics  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410291038-Baez.mp4
52. I encourage @BIRS_Math attendees at Biological & Bio-Inspired Information Theory to contribute references here:  http://bit.ly/1jQwObk
53. Christoph Adami (Michigan State University), Some Information-Theoretic Musings Concerning the Origin and Evolutio…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410291114-Adami.mp4
54. #ITBio http://t.co/VA8komuuSW"/>

.@ChristophAdami talk Some Information-Theoretic Musings Concerning the Origin of Life @BIRS_Math this morning #ITBio pic.twitter.com/VA8komuuSW
55. ICYMI @ChristophAdami had great paper: Information-theoretic Considerations on Origin of Life on arXiv  http://bit.ly/1yIhK2Q  @BIRS_Math
56. Johnston Canyon selfie @BIRS_Math pic.twitter.com/MEKeY5To5s
57. Baez has a post on Tishby’s talk “Sensing & Acting Under Information Constraints”  http://bit.ly/1yIDonR  @BIRS_Math pic.twitter.com/dFuiVLFSGC
58. INFORMATION THEORY is the new central …
59. I’m listening to a talk on the origin of life at a workshop on Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory. …  https://plus.google.com/117562920675666983007/posts/gqFL7XY3quF
60. Ilya Nemenman @EmoryUniversity on Predictive information  http://bit.ly/1titfOw
61. Now accepting applications for the #Research Collaboration Workshop for Women in #MathBio at NIMBioS  http://ow.ly/DzeZ7
62. Inkpots selfie from yesterday’s hike. @BIRS_Math pic.twitter.com/0A6ZQsQVwE
63. On the way home from Inkpots. @BIRS_Math pic.twitter.com/1XhO8mLOkq
64. Toby Berger (University of Virginia), Neruoscience Applications of GIG Distributions  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410280914-Berger.mp4
65. We removed a faulty microphone from our lecture room this morning. We’re now fixing the audio buzz in this week’s videos, and reposting.
66. Daniel Polani (University of Hertfordshire), Informational Principles in Perception-Action Loops  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410301038-Polani.mp4
67. Didn’t get enough information theory & biology this week @BIRS_Math? Apply for NIMBioS workshop in April 2015  http://bit.ly/1yIeiWe  #ITBio
68. Amin Emad (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Applications of Discrete Mathematics in Bioinformatics  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410301329-Emad.mp4
69. Paul Bogdan (University of Southern California), Multiscale Analysis Reveals Complex Behavior in Bacteria Populati…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410301401-Bogdan.mp4
70. Robert Shaw (ProtoLife Inc.), Information and Causality in a Reaction-Diffusion System  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410301434-Shaw.mp4
71. Lubomir Kostal (Institute of Physiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic), Efficient information transmi…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410301534-Kostal.mp4
72. Nima Soltani (Stanford University), Applications of Directed Information to Neuroscience  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410301647-Soltani.mp4
73. Banff ☀️❄️🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲❤️
74. @lrvarshney I shoulda invited you to this BIRS workshop …
75. @conservativelez I’m a big fan of your dad’s research & was reminded of much of it via a workshop on Biological Information Theory
76. @conservativelez Though he may not have been able to attend, he can catch most of the talks online if he’d like  https://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170
77. Depressed that @BIRS_Math Workshop on Biological & Bio-Inspired Information Theory is over? Relive it here:  http://bit.ly/1rF3G4B  #ITBio
78. Kudos @andreweckford, Toby Berger, Peter Thomas, @NGhoussoub, @BIRS_Math & friends on a fantastic workshop!  http://bit.ly/1ckttZq
79. This @BIRS_Math Workshop was biggest thing in #informationtheory & #biology since the Gatlinburg Symposium in 1956.  http://bit.ly/1rF4RRr
80. See you later Calgary. pic.twitter.com/mkmU6yrmVz
81. A few thoughts about that workshop while I wait for my flight back to Toronto.
82. 1/ Everyone I talked to said it was the best workshop they’d ever been to, and they’d like to do a follow-up workshop @BIRS_Math
83. 2/ There is an amazing diversity of work under the umbrella of “information theory”. @BIRS_Math
84. 3/ Much of this work is outside the IT mainstream, and an issue is that people use different terms for related concepts. @BIRS_Math
85. 4/ Some community building is in order. I think this workshop was a good first step. @BIRS_Math
86. 5/ Many many thanks to @BIRS_Math and huge kudos to @NGhoussoub for excellent service to the Canadian scientific community. BIRS is a gem.
87. 6/ Also many thanks to the participants for their excellent talks, and to @ChrisAldrich for maintaining a Storify.