Professor Jeremy England (MIT) - " Mechanisms of Life-like Fine-tuning in Driven Matter"


Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 4:00pm to 5:30pm


Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street


When we say a collection of matter has a form that is well-suited to a particular function, we are claiming implicitly that the particular arrangement of matter in question is much better at accomplishing some task than a random rearrangement would be.  In the biological context, we see many examples of form that supports function, and we very often seek to explain the exquisite non-randomness of structure as the result of successive rounds of self-replication, mutation, and selection.  One may also ask, however, what physical mechanisms may still give rise to fine-tuned forms that support life-like functions even in the absence of self-replication.  In this talk we will discuss two instances of such dynamical evolution: first, in a randomly-wired chemical network (Horowitz and England, PNAS, 2017), and second in a vibrating disordered mechanical tangle (unpublished).  Through these examples, we will suggest spontaneous fine-tuning may be possible, or even likely, in a broad class of a- or pre-biotic scenarios. 

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