“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crystal Virus Ribosome

The protein capsule of a rhinovirus is a twenty-sided crystal. I guess that makes it familiar to Dungeons and Dragons fans.

A ribosome is also a crystalline form.

It's good to think of these components of lifeforms as crystals, if only because a) it's technically correct and b) it deforms the notion of “life” as some supervenient fact added on to physical objects.

Ribosomes are particularly interesting because

1) DNA can't exist without them. And vice versa. So there had to be some kind of pre-DNA world, which Sol Spiegelman calls RNA world (details in The Ecological Thought). Ribozymes might be remnants of this world. Ribozymes catalyze

2) They act rather like Turing machines (and they look rather like them in schematic diagrams). Ribosomes “read” RNA by passing along it and synthesizing proteins out of transfer RNA. The process is called translation.

Catalysis, translation, reading. No clunk causality there.

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