Lambda calculus and the fixed point combinator in chemlambda (VI)

This is the 6th  (continuing from part I  and part II  and part III and part IV and part V)   in a series of expository posts where we put together in one place the pieces from various places about:

  • how is treated lambda calculus in chemlambda
  • how it works, with special emphasis on the fixed point combinator.

I hope to make this presentation  self-contained. (However, look up this page, there are links to online tutorials, as well as already many posts on the general subjects, which you may discover either by clicking on the tag cloud at left, or by searching by keywords in this open notebook.)


This series of posts may be used as a longer, more detailed version of sections

  • The chemlambda formalism
  • Chemlambda and lambda calculus
  • Propagators, distributors, multipliers and guns
  • The Y combinator and self-multiplication

from the article M. Buliga, L.H. Kauffman, Chemlambda, universality and self-multiplication,  arXiv:1403.8046 [cs.AI],  which is accepted in the ALIFE 14 conference, 7/30 to 8/2 – 2014 – Javits Center / SUNY Global Center – New York, (go see the presentation of Louis Kauffman if you are near the event.) Here is a link to the published  article, free, at MIT Press.


In this post I want to concentrate on the mechanism of self-multiplication for g-patterns coming from lambda terms (see  part IV   where the algorithm of translation from lambda terms to g-patterns is explained).

Before that, please notice that there is a lot to talk about an important problem which shall be described later in detail. But here is it, to keep an eye on it.

Chemlambda in itself is only a graph rewriting system. In part V is explained that  the beta reduction from lambda calculus needs an evaluation strategy in order to be used. We noticed that  in chemlambda the self-multiplication is needed in order to prove that one can do beta reduction as the beta move.

We go towards the obvious conclusion that in chemlambda reduction (i.e. beta move) and self-multiplication are just names used for parts of the computation. Indeed, the clear conclusion is that there is a computation which can be done with chemlambda, which has some parts where we use the beta move (and possibly some COMB, CO-ASSOC, CO-COMM, LOC PRUNING) and some other parts we use DIST and FAN-IN (and possibly some of the moves COMB, CO-ASSOC, CO-COMM, LOC PRUNING). These two parts have as names reduction and self-multiplication respectively, but in the big computation they mix into a whole. There are only moves, graphs rewrites applied to a molecule.

Which brings the problem: chemlambda in itself is not sufficient for having a model of computation. We need to specify how, where, when the reductions apply to molecules.

There may be many variants, roughly described as: sequential, parallel, concurrent, decentralized, random, based on chemical reaction network models, etc

Each model of computation (which can be made compatible with chemlambda) gives a different whole when used with chemlambda. Until now, in this series there has been no mention of a model of computation.

There is another aspect of this. It is obvious that chemlambda graphs  form a larger class than lambda terms, and also that the graph rewrites apply to more general situations  than beta reduction (and eventually an evaluation strategy).  It means that the important problem of defining a model of computation over chemlambda will have influences over the way chemlambda molecules “compute” in general.

The model of computation which I prefer  is not based on chemical reaction networks, nor on process calculi, but on a new model, inspired from the Actor Model, called  the distributed GLC. I shall explain why I believe that the Actor Model of Hewitt is superior to those mentioned previously (with respect to decentralized, asynchronous computation in the real Internet, and also in the real world), I shall explain what is my understanding of that model and eventually the distributed GLC proposal by me and Louis Kauffman will be exposed in all details.

4.  Self-multiplication of a g-pattern coming from a lambda term.

For the moment we concentrate on the self-multiplication phenomenon for g-patterns which represent lambda terms. In the following is a departure from the ALIFE 14 article. I shall not use the path which consists into going to combinators patterns, nor I shall discuss in this post why the self-multiplication phenomenon is not confined in the world of g-patterns coming from lambda terms. This is for a future post.

In this post I want to give an image about how these g-patterns self-multiply, in the sense that most of the self-multiplication process can be explained independently on the computing model. Later on we shall come back to this, we shall look outside lambda calculus as well and we shall explore also the combinator molecules.

OK, let’s start. In part V has been noticed that after an application of the beta rule to the g-pattern

L[a,x,b] A[b,c,d] C[c]  FOTREE[x,a1,…,aN] B[a1,…,aN, a]

we obtain (via COMB moves)

C[x] FOTREE[x,a1,…,aN] B[a1,…,aN,d]

and the problem is that we have a g-pattern which is not coming from a lambda term, because it has a FOTREE in the middle of it. It looks like this (recall that FOTREEs are figured in yellow and the syntactic trees are figured in light blue)

structure_12The question is: what can happen next?  Let’s simplify the setting by taking the FOTREE in the middle as a single fanout node, then we ask what moves can be applied further to the g-pattern

C[x] FO[x,a,b]

Clearly we can apply DIST moves. There are two DIST moves, one for the application node, the other for the lambda node.

There is a chain of propagation of DIST moves through the syntactic tree of C, which is independent on the model of computation chosen (i.e. on the rules about which, when and where rules are used), because the syntactic tree is a tree.

Look what happens. We have the propagation of DIST moves (for the application nodes say) first, which produce two copies of a part of the syntactic tree which contains the root.


At some point we arrive to a pattern which allows the application of a DIST move for a lambda node. We do the rule:


We see that fanins appear! … and then the propagation of DIST moves through the syntactic tree continues until eventually we get this:

structure_9So the syntactic tree self-multiplied, but the two copies are still connected by FOTREEs  which connect to left.out ports of the lambda nodes which are part of the syntactic tree (figured only one in the previous image).

Notice that now (or even earlier, it does not matter actually, will be explained rigorously why when we shall talk about the computing model, for the moment we want to see if it is possible only) we are in position to apply the FAN-IN move. Also, it is clear that by using CO-COMM and CO-ASSOC moves we can shuffle the arrows of the FOTREE,  which is “conjugated” with a fanin at the root and with fanouts at the leaves, so that eventually we get this.


The self-multiplication is achieved! It looks strikingly like the anaphase [source]

800px-Anaphase.svgfollowed by telophase [source]





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