is human longevity unusually long?
Origins of life and common sense: how could some believe that arsenic would replace phosphorus?
Building up a synthetic genome does not mean understanding what it codes for, or does it?
We perceive our world through four categories: space, time, mass and energy. To this list, physics adds information as an essential component. Indeed, information resolves the conflicts between classical and quantum physics. Thus, if only from a heuristic point of view, information is an authentic category of Reality. This implies that the accumulation of information is the result of concrete instantiations, incarnations of those agents that James Clerk Maxwell invented, known today as «Maxwell's demons».
To make this view explicit, we develop here the consequences of the physics principle discovered by Rolf Landauer in 1961, and which took decades to be understood. By reflecting on what common sense calls «information» - with the connotation of what might be «useful» information, or contextually valuable information - Landauer demonstrated that information creation, contrary to popular belief, is reversible. Information creation does not dissipate energy. What 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 vision the presence of agents that drive and control the assembly line of the machine's progeny. These energy dissipating agents are absent from the standard vision of computing. If one then explores the functions of the cell that appear to dissipate energy for no apparent reason, analysis of the genome sequence reveals many genes that code for these functions. This discovery sheds light on the core of what makes biological chemistry seem 'animate', a feature of life that has been elusive until now.
"Here this text comes to an end. In our time, now that the written word has lost the almost sacred status it had for so long, I wonder about its significance. Should I have written it? Or indeed, what place is there for scientific writing? This is a minor work; what benefit can it bring? Choose a major work, such as the 1905 article in which Einstein explicitly sets out the foundations of the theory of relativity, and compare it, with its enormously destructive consequences – do you remember Nagasaki? – with Mozart’s Don Giovanni, with Mickiewicz’s love poetry, or Michelangelo’s Pietà. Ask yourself which you would destroy, if fate allowed you to save only three of these works. Science is, and remains, anonymous. Anyone might rediscover Einstein’s findings, one fine day. Science is anonymous, and this is probably why it is both feared and disdained. What ambition, what mad hope drove me to dedicate my days and nights to thinking through what is set down in black and white in this bundle of pages? Astonishment, no doubt. Astonishment at finding myself one of the billions of human beings taking part in the last doubling of the population of humanity, at a time when we can all look around us at this planet we have devastated. At having witnessed the destruction of all my hopes and all my beliefs, and yet finding myself still standing on this transient earth. At knowing that a day will come, not for me but for others, when a new form of creation will replace what we have destroyed, only to disappear in its turn into the night of Oblivion. I wanted to leave some signs of this new hope of an impossible future, to help those mysterious Others who will one day give it birth, to help them find their way, or rather to know that the way exists, without me. "
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