Re: Life in the Lab -- Fox and the Nobel Prize

Moorad Alexanian (
Fri, 07 May 1999 09:05:59 -0400

The word believe is what bugs me!!! I read it in the website you mentioned
and now I read it in your own post. In physics we use the word believe
extremely rarely. Perhaps in questions about origin of the universe,
planets, etc. But nowhere else in physics do we use the word believe. This
is the experimental aspect of physics. We give experimental data that can
be reproduce by anyone and prove the claims being made. The claim that life,
as an ordinary person understands it--as something that can die, for
Scientists of all disciples would have known about it. Including me!


-----Original Message-----
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Date: Friday, May 07, 1999 12:05 AM
Subject: Re: Life in the Lab -- Fox and the Nobel Prize

>In a message dated 5/6/99 1:47:03 PM Mountain Daylight Time,
> writes:
>> I am in the middle of much work and cannot dedicate the time to learn and
>> discuss the interesting issue that we are discussing. I did look at the
>> you mentioned and I found the following:
>> "Life," in this contest is defined as follows: "--- any system which can
>> independently do all four of the following:"
>> 1. "Delineate itself from its environment through the production and
>> maintenance of a membrane equivalent, most probably a rudimentary or
>> quasi-active-transport membrane necessary for selective absorption of
>> nutrients, excretion of wastes, and overcoming osmotic and toxic
>> 2. Capture, transduce, store, and call up energy for utilization (work),
>> 3. Actively replicate, not just passively polymerize or crystallize, and
>> 4. Write, store, and pass along seemingly conceptual information that
>> orders' for what is to be manufactured in the future, and to actually
>> to pass those processes and "factory products" out of linguistic-like
>> (codon) messages ('recipes') into physical biochemical, biological, and
>> thermodynamic reality."
>> Are the protocells of Fox alive according to the above definition?
>Dr. Aristotel Pappelis and Dr. Donald Ugent seem to believe so. Item 1 is
>simply a description of cellularity, tem 2 of metabolism and item 3 of
>reproduction, which are three of the four criteria Fox used (and which his
>protocells demonstrate). Fox's fourth criterion was response to external
>stimuli. The organizers of the webpage Pappelis and Ugent were writing
>didn't use that criterion. Instead they describe what sounds like a
>combination of anabolism (that part of metabolism responsible for
>and transcription/translation. Fox's protocells can synthesize both
>and polynucleotides, but whether they fit the description of item 4 depends
>upon how you interpret it. Not even Fox has claimed that his protocells
>a proto-transcription/translation system, but they didn't need one either.
>His protocells can absorb proteinoids directly from the environment; they
>don't need to make their own. It is therefore possible that item 4 may for
>some part describe more advanced features that did not appear until later
>the history of the origin of life. Their absence would not disqualify a
>protocell from being alive if the protocell didn't need them to live.
>Kevin L. O'Brien