Von Neumann and the Origin of Life

May 17, 2018 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm America/New York Timezone
MIT - Stata Center - Room 32-G449

Computer Society and GBC/ACM

This talk will be webcast on the MIT CSAIL Youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYs2iUgksAhgoidZwEAimmg/live beginning at 7pm.

Von Neumann and the Origin of Life

Hyman Hartman

We will outline a historical solution to the Origin of Life based on the Origin and Evolution of the Genetic Code and the Origin and Evolution of Metabolism mediated by replicating Iron -Rich Clays. This is a historical reconstruction.

Biological research is in crisis, and in Alan Turing’s work there is much to guide us. The most interesting connection with biology, in my view, is in Turing’s most important paper: ‘On computable numbers with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem’, published in 1936, when Turing was just 24. Computable numbers are defined as those whose decimals are calculable by finite means. Turing introduced what became known as the Turing machine to formalize the Origin of the digital computer.

Von Neumann’s Kinematic Self Replicating Machines: Turing’s ideas were carried further in the 1940s by mathematician and engineer John von Neumann, who conceived of a ‘constructor’ machine capable of assembling another according to a description. A universal constructor with its own description would build a machine like itself. To complete the task, the universal constructor needs to copy its description and insert the copy into the offspring machine. Von Neumann noted that if the copying machine made errors, these ‘mutations’ would provide inheritable changes in the progeny.

Sidney Brenner: Nature 482,461(23 February 2012)

The Body of the Talk: 1) Cellular Automata according to Von Neumann and Ulam. 2) Probabilistic Cellular Automata 3) Ising Model 4) Spin glasses 5) Computers and the Brain according to Von Neumann 6) Evolution and Machine Learning the Valient way

In summary: Life began as a spin Glass and evolved into the Universal Turing Machine/ Von Neumann constructor

Hyman Hartman was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He received his B.Sc with honors In Biochemistry from McGill University (1957) and his PhD in Biochemistry from Columbia University (1964). He began his studies on the Origin of Life by publishing two pioneering papers in 1974 on the Evolution of the Genetic Code and the Origin and Evolution of Metabolism. These papers were based on the Clay theory for the Origin of Life. He edited a book with Graham Cairns-Smith entitled Clay Minerals and the Origin of Life.(1987). He was on the Grant Board for NASA Exobiology Division and he was a co-editor with Jim Lawless and Phil Morrison on the book Search for the Universal Ancestors published by NASA. He and Temple Smith (Boston University) have been studying the Bioinformatics of the Ribosomal Proteins and the Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetases. These studies have allowed them to reconstruct the Origin and Evolution of the Translational Apparatus and the Origin and Evolution of the Genetic Code. He is also active with a group in the University of Kentucky and McGill University studying the De Novo synthesis of Clay as catalyzed by Amino acids and Dicarboxylic acids.

This joint meeting of the Boston Chapter of the IEEE Computer Society and GBC/ACM will be held in MIT Room 32-G449 (the Kiva conference room on the 4th floor of the Stata Center, building 32 on MIT maps) . You can see it on this map of the MIT campus.