What chemlambda can do for you

This post follows after What can I do with chemlambda, which questions to ask about it? and FAQ: chemlambda in real and virtual worlds.


0.(for chemists)  With chemlambda you can build molecular computers. For this you (in case you’re a chemist) could identify the real chemical reactions which embody the moves of this made-up chemistry. They are simple enough to be possible in the real world. See All chemical reactions needed for a molecular computer.


1. Is chemlambda another visualization tool for lambda calculus?

NO. Visualization is an independent part, for the moment I use d3.js. Moreover chemlambda is only tangentially related to lambda calculus.

2. What is new in chemlambda then?

You have an example of a computation model which does not use values, calls, variables, variable passing.

Have you seen any other model with these properties?

3. Why should I be excited about a computation with no values, no evaluations, no calls, etc?

For several reasons:

  • nobody thinks about that (excepting perhaps biology related researchers, who don’t see, by looking through the microscope, the structure loved by CS people)
  • this is a blind spot, an accident of the history, because computers appeared after the telephone, during and after the WW2 when the problem was to encrypt and decrypt a message sent from A to B, and because physically the computers we know how to build are based on electronics
  • think, if you don’t have the problem of how to pass a value, or how to call a function in the internet, then what could be possible which now is not?
  • think about building real or virtual computers which are life like, in the sense that their work is complex to the point of seeming incomprehensible, but their complexity is based on very simple mechanisms, used again and again, without any director to channel them and without any hierarchy to maintain or enforce.

4. So should I pack my bags and look for other research subjects than what is popular now, or maybe should I just ignore chemlambda and go with the business as usual? After all, you know, cloud computing is great. Process calculi, types, all this.

It’s your choice, but now you know that there is something which is closer to real life like computation, which may hold the promise for a free sky, cloudless internet.

5. Suppose I want to play a bit with these ideas, but not to the point of getting out of my comfort zone. Which questions would be interesting to ask?

Right, this is a good strategy. Here are some questions which are related to lambda calculus, say.

  •  there is an algorithm which transforms a (untyped lambda beta calculus) term into a chemlambda molecule, but even if one can prove that beta move translates into the BETA move (like Wadsworth-Lamping) and that eventually the translations of SKI or BCKW combinators reduce in chemlambda like they should, there is the question: how does chemlambda does by local writes the thing which replaces  an evaluation strategy? A study by examples may give interesting insights.
  • how to program with chemlambda? Indeed, it can reproduce some behaviours of untyped lambda beta, but even so it does it in ways which are not like usually expected, as proven by the demos. To take an older example, the Y combinator simplifies to a 2 nodes molecule, story told in this article http://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/content/alife14/ch079.html . The fact is that because one does not have eta (which looks like a global move in chemlambda, i.e. there is no a priory bound on the number of nodes and links to check for application of eta) then there are no functions. It’s a kind of extremal functional programming where there are no functions.
  • (c) what are the right replacements for lists, currying, booleans, which could take advantage from  chemlambda?
  • (d) by a try and explore procedure, which are the less stupid reduction algorithms and in which sense do they work exactly? This has to do with locality, which constrains a lot the design of those algorithms.
  • (e) finally, what can chemlambda do outside the sector of untyped lambda beta, which is only a small part of the possible chemlambda molecules?



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