Chemical Evolution: From Prebiotic Soup to Intelligent Molecules of the Future

Sunday, February 19, 2012: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Room 121 (VCC West Building)
Charles Darwin imagined a chemically rich “warm pond” from which evolution originated, and his idea was published almost 100 years before the duplex structure of DNA was proposed. A population of simple molecules, storing and copying information to ensure their own survival prebiotically, argues that intelligent behavior is not restricted to complex genomes, but an inherent property of matter. Does Darwin's hypothesis not predict the emergence of new intelligent materials? For this symposium, leading scientists who are working across diverse fields will consider the origins of evolution, or at least the simplest molecular systems capable of intelligent behavior. Merely defining the terms learning, intelligence, and evolution at a simple molecular level remains a significant part of this challenge, but our understanding of reaction dynamics and energetics, dynamic combinatorial systems, and macromolecular assemblies have seen great progress just in the last few years. We live in a time when our understanding of complex systems is changing rapidly, when the discovery of new planetary bodies around nearby stars is exploding, and when the convergence of these fields will inevitably change our view of humanity's place in the cosmos within this decade. The time for this symposium could not be more compelling.
Cynthia J. Burrows, University of Utah
David G. Lynn, Emory University
Robert Root-Bernstein, Michigan State University
An Ecology-First Approach to the Origins of Chemical Evolution
David G. Lynn, Emory University
Intelligent Materials
David A. Leigh, University of Edinburgh
Making the Tiniest Machines
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