Life as nonequilibrium self-organized matter processing information

// PI: Massimiliano Esposito //

The most complex behaviors known in the universe take place in living systems and thanks to unprecedented progress in nano- and bio-technologies we can study them quantitatively down to the molecular level. However, beside evolutionary theory, general principles to guide the quantitative study of living systems are completely missing. 

From our standpoint, living systems are nonequilibrium self-organized forms of matter which extract energy from their surrounding and perform complex information processing and computation tasks to continue to do so in the future. We would like to understand how these behaviors can be understood from existing or possibly new laws of physics. 

At our current toolbox predominantly comprises Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics, Information Theory, Complex Systems Theories.

Most of our present and past focus has been to formulate a theory describing how open chemical reaction networks can process energy an information. While primarily applying to cellular metabolism, many of the concepts and tools we developed also apply to other cellular processes. Connections to other local activities:

  • Skupin: critical transitions in the transcriptome, modelling mitochondria, 
  • Tkatchenko: intra- and inter-molecular free energies, kinetic constants
  • Linster: metabolic repair mechanisms and their thermodynamic cost     

Connections to other international activities: Thermodynamics of Computation: 
https://centre.santafe.edu/thermocomp/Santa_Fe_Institute_Collaboration_Platform:Thermodynamics_of_Computation_Wiki

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