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Einstein and the theory of quantum mechanics


The necessity for the theory for hypercycles
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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[Q] What was the necessity of your theory for hypercycles? There were experiments or facts which made it necessary that you make a theory which has got the name hypercycles?

As I said genotype/phenotype dichotomy. I said first of all a theory without this translation, and that would get stuck with the error threshold. In order to overcome the error threshold you have to make good proteins. But in order to make proteins you need more information. So you got stuck somehow. So you needed something to overcome this. And the other is the fact that once you do translation you have to test your translation products, your phenotypes, but you have to store your information in the genotype and you have to make sure that you don't lose that, because otherwise everything is gone. So there was a necessity to... and there could well have been a different model. For instance, one model which we later on found and combined with the hypercycle, was that you have to make compartmentation. In other words, you know that all life is not in homogeneous solution, it's always in cells or in organism and so forth. So you'd have to compartmentalise your system of nucleic acids and proteins, but you might immediately ask: isn't it sufficient to compartment them, why then a hypercycle, now you keep protein and nucleic acids together in your compartment? Well, if you only would put them into a compartment, the nucleic acids would start to compete with one another, so you must fit them into a reaction network and that has to be cyclic.

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: hypercycles, genotype/phenotype dichotomy, error threshold, nucleic acids, proteins

Duration: 1 minute, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008