THE PHYSICAL BASIS OF CODING AND RELIABILITY IN BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION
STANFORD UNIV CA BIOPHYSICS LAB
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The paper considers the following question Are the characteristic processes of biological organisms understandable in terms of the basic laws of physics. It is shown that in spite of the many classical models of cellular structures and functions there are severe difficulties in accounting for the reliability of hereditary transmission in terms of the elementary laws of physics. It is proposed that the ultimate source of the unique distinction between living and nonliving matter does not rest on idealized classical models of macromolecules, template replication, or metabolic control, but on the quantitative reliability of molecular codes which can correlate the contents of a quantum mechanical description with its classical phenotypic expression. To understand such a correlation between quantum descriptions and the corresponding observable classical event requires a quantum theory of measurement applied to elementary molecular hereditary processes. Such a theory presents serious, though not insurmountable, conceptual and formal difficulties for the physicist. However, in spite of the unsolved theoretical questions certain necessary conditions can be specified for individual molecular coding structures. These conditions suggest that the seat of coding or measurement processes in living matter is the individual non-holonomic enzyme catalyst, although it is likely that other structures in the cell serve to increase the reliability of these codes.
- Anatomy and Physiology