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Eigen's book: Treatise on Matter, Information, Life and Thought


Only science can prevent the problems of population growth
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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An exponential curve never goes to infinity, it go only up to infinite time. But the hyperbole has a finite time... infinity. When I told this once in Jerusalem, in a lecture, the Jerusalem Post next day said, 'Scientist predicts the end of our world in the year 2041', because this hyperbole I calculated has a singularity at 2041. Well, my reply was, 'Exactly that I did not say, because in our world nothing can get infinite'. What it means... the only thing I can predict, that we will not reach infinity at any finite time. But on the other hand, if we are close to a singularity we'll get fluctuations and only by those fluctuations, and they will become larger and larger, we will prevent infinity. And we see that already, we have catastrophes in the world and to look at Africa or other places in the world, it is really something we should think about. And this is an unsolved problem, and I don't think you can solve the problem without science. In other words many people come to the conclusion saying well, we have done too much in science and that caused all this trouble to us. That's not true, that's not true. Only with science we can prevent trouble. We are so dependent on civilisation now that without it, that would be the end.

Nobel Prize winning German biophysical chemist, Manfred Eigen (1927-2019), was best known for his work on fast chemical reactions and his development of ways to accurately measure these reactions down to the nearest billionth of a second. He published over 100 papers with topics ranging from hydrogen bridges of nucleic acids to the storage of information in the central nervous system.

Listeners: Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitch

Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch is the eldest daughter of the Austrian physicist Klaus Osatitsch, an internationally renowned expert in gas dynamics, and his wife Hedwig Oswatitsch-Klabinus. She was born in the German university town of Göttingen where her father worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Aerodynamics under Ludwig Prandtl. After World War II she was educated in Stockholm, Sweden, where her father was then a research scientist and lecturer at the Royal Institute of Technology.

In 1961 Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch enrolled in Chemistry at the Technical University of Vienna where she received her PhD in 1969 with a dissertation on "Fast complex reactions of alkali ions with biological membrane carriers". The experimental work for her thesis was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Göttingen under Manfred Eigen.

From 1971 to the present Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch has been working as a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen in the Department of Chemical Kinetics which is headed by Manfred Eigen. Her interest was first focused on an application of relaxation techniques to the study of fast biological reactions. Thereafter, she engaged in theoretical studies on molecular evolution and developed game models for representing the underlying chemical proceses. Together with Manfred Eigen she wrote the widely noted book, "Laws of the Game" (Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1981 and Princeton University Press, 1993). Her more recent studies were concerned with comparative sequence analysis of nucleic acids in order to find out the age of the genetic code and the time course of the early evolution of life. For the last decade she has been successfully establishing industrial applications in the field of evolutionary biotechnology.

Tags: Jerusalem Post

Duration: 1 minute, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010