Hydrogen cyanide and the computational origin of life

Associate Professor Martin Hanczyc
University of Southern Denmark
Department of Physics and Chemistry

Associate Professor Daniel Merkle
University of Southern Denmark
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

Presented in the Embryo Physics Course, March 19, 2014




2 responses to “Hydrogen cyanide and the computational origin of life”

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  1. Martin and Daniel,

    Thanks a lot for your lecture. Well done.

    I have a small comment just indirectly related to your work. I am a chemist and I enjoy now watching biologists in general. By them chemical molecules get new unusual properties: in biology molecules have a goal, they sense environment and then even take decisions. It is very inspiring.

    Thereafter I have really enjoyed Martin’s remark that in a complex chemical environment a droplet has to figure out by itself what chemicals to use.

    There is a saying: Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he’s unwilling to be seen with her in public. It seems that this is the case when people research on the origin of life.


  2. Martin says:

    Thanks for your comment Evgenii. Teleology is a way to intuitively convey the information about the system especially to a mixed audience. But in reality what we have is the interrelation among the various chemical reactions (including reactants, products, and rates) and the interfacial tension. If the system produces surface active molecules at the right time, place, and quantity, we would expect to see the phenomena observed. But this is done by the system itself and not enforced by the experimenter. In my opinion there is no more motivation for the system to behave in this way than a ball rolling down a hill. However, we are also investigating how the internal dynamics of the system may be dynamically coupling and decoupling from the environment. This complicates things and perhaps leads to a topic for a different lecture, the chemical basis for cognition.