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Extending Darwinian theory to molecules


Einstein and the theory of quantum mechanics
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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Einstein didn't like quantum mechanics - until his end, his death, he did not really... he said, 'It's not the final theory', although now it turns out that so far it is the final theory. But Heisenberg insisted and said, 'Look, this is a theory which applies only to observables'. And Einstein said, 'Only theory can tell you what you have to observe and what not to observe'. So in other words he put the theory on top of it, while Heisenberg thought to find a theory which applies to observables.

[Q] So if I understand you right, Einstein put the theory as a motive for doing experiments?

Yes, that's in every case, yes. But he said the theory comes first because only the theory tells you what type of experiments, what is worth to observe and how to interpret your...

[Q] Yes, but you can make a hypercycle out of this. Theory tells you what experiments to do, the experiments you have done, it makes maybe necessary...

It has to be cyclic, yes.

[Q] To do theory to explain it, so the hypercycle.

Yes, so we should name it after you!

[Q] So the hypercycle really was a necessity to come up due to the genotype/phenotype dichotomy to explain that or to overcome that problem.


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: quantum mechanics, genotype/phenotype dichotomy, Albert Einstein, Werner Karl Heisenberg

Duration: 1 minute, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008