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Self-Assembling Objects

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Hypognosis | 14:22 Sat 21st Feb 2015 | Science
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Did any of you watch the full version of this week's Click (technology show on BBC News Channel)?

The self assembling objects (most were the work of MIT) were fun to watch and I've been hoping to see something of this kind for some time, bringing to public consciousness a key concept in molecular biology, which is that simple molecules, in a turbulent environment can spontaneously arrange themselves into complex shapes, simply due to attraction/repulsion forces between them and others like them and between them and water.

This is relevant in discussions of abiogenesis, especially when confronted by those who hold that complexity cannot arise from simple physical forces alone (the stuff of chemistry, to be specific).

You may already know that genes code for protein molecules but, if you want to get an idea of how a long-chain molecule transforms into a complex globular shape, spontaneously, this is how. The visuals in this program will help you picture what occurs.



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I saw this too and found it fascinating! Not been able to find any kind of repeat or catch up to record this or watch again......Any suggestions?
Question Author
Hi Matheous,

I'm glad someone else enjoyed it. It seems abiogenesis only gets people motivated to post if you mention it in R&S, or hardly anyone is following this section, lol.

The episode will remain available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days from the first broadcast date (21st Feb, I think).

If you share the link , remember that friends outside the UK will not be able to view the content. If they have "BBC World" on their cable/sat/streaming setup, they might be able to use whatever iPlayer equivalent is on offer.

Thanks for that-I will search it out....
Question Author
I had hoped this thread would generate a fair amout of interest considering the abiogenesis threads we have had before. Should I have posted this in R&S, instead? Clearly Science section is nobody's hangout.

Any biologists/molecular biologists out there?

Note: iPlayer availability will be down to 21 days by now.
I was aware of this thread but was sort of waiting for someone else to hop in before I joined any debate. Apparently, no-one else is willing to start either. Pity. A very interesting set of results and shows that after all, complex self-assembly is not a matter of random chance in the way most people assume it to be (eg equivalent to forming a plane given a scrapyard and a tornado).
Question Author
Quite so. And human-manufactured things, such as aircraft are uniquely complex, compared to things in nature but the kind of person who'd come out with an aphorism, such as that, probably wouldn't recognise, let alone acknowledge the comparative simplicity of a macromolecule or contemplate the forces which cause them to fold spontaneously into shape (in water, at least).

Or the fact that, in many cases, it is only capable of doing one thing: joining two reactants together or splitting one big one into two small ones.

Anyway, the technological possibilities for self-assembling machines are interesting and it was another example of (seemingly) complex "emergent behaviour" resulting from simple physical laws.

Question Author
I have made repeated references to deep-sea hydrothermal vents, where heat and pressure can drive reaction rates to levels as good as, or better than in life, with enzymes etc. The other way is at normal atmospheric pressure, with exposure to sunlight, including ultraviolet. I'm only dubious about that side as UV would be damaging, to biomolecules, just as much as it might drive reactions, prior to enzymes existing.

Daily Mail 26th April 2016

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