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Oὐδὲν χρῆμα μάτην γίνεται ἀλλα πάντα ἐκ λόγου τε καὶ ὑπ᾽ ἀνάγκης


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Landauer's principle animates biological chemistry

Will we reconstruct and synthesize life?
Out of the box questions and some answers
News about the genome revolution

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We perceive our world through four categories: space, time, mass and energy. To this list, physics adds information as an essential component. This is because information resolves the conflicts between classical physics and quantum physics. Thus, if only from a heuristic point of view, information is an authentic category of Reality. This implies that accumulating information is the result of concrete instantiations, embodiments of these agents that James Clerk Maxwell invented, known today as «Maxwell's demons».

To make this view explicit, we develop here the consequences of the principle of physics discovered by Rolf Landauer in 1961, and which took decades to be understood. Reflecting about what common sense calls «information» —with the connotation of what could be «useful» information, or information linked to a context carrying some value— Landauer demonstrated that creating information, contrary to popular belief, is reversible. Creation of information does not dissipate energy. demonWhat is energy-consuming is the process of resetting the agents that create information to their ground state, allowing them to perform their function again. If we see living organisms as computers able to generate computers (or finite Turing Machines, generating finite Turing Machines) we must add to Turing's view the presence of agents  that drive and control the assembly line for the machine's progeny. These energy dissipating agents are missing from standard views of computing. If one then explores the cell's functions that seem to dissipate energy for no apparent reason, the analysis of the genome sequence reveals many genes that code for these functions. This discovery highlights the heart of what makes the apparent «animation» of biological chemistry, a feature of life that has been elusive until now.

+  Caveat: The epilogue to The Delphic Boat. Harvard University Press, 2003. Scientists should have no name...