Daan Frenkel

Random Design: A litany of Ignorance.


One of the marvels of life is that a collection of thousands of complex molecules can maintain a self-replicating process. Somehow, specific molecules interact with other specific molecules and, in the process, induce a change that affects other specific molecules in the cell. This raises the question: "How do biomolecules 'know' what to do?"

However, if a chemist were to prepare a concentrated solution of a few thousand species, the result would probably some amorphous sediment. This raises the complementary question: "How do biomolecules `know' what NOT to do?"

To me, a cell (compartment) is a multi-component mixture. In my talk, will discuss some of the things that we know about multi-component mixtures. I will discuss 'synthetic' specificity in multi-component mixtures. But, in the end, I will simply demonstrate that, even at the level of physical chemistry, the design principles of life are obscure to me.

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