Tag Archives: artificial chemistry

More about chemical transactions

There is much more about these chemical transactions and their proofs. First is that transactions are partially independent on the molecules. The blockchain may be useful only for having a distributed database of transactions and proofs, available for further use. But there’s more.

Think about this database as one of valid computations, which can then be reused in any combination or degree of parallelism. Then, that’s the field of several competitions.

The same transaction can have several proofs, shorter or longer. It can have big left pattern therefore costly to use it in another computation. Maybe a transaction goes too long and therefore it is not useful to use in combination with others.

When there is a molecule to reduce, the application of a transaction means:
– identify a subgraph isomorphic with the left pattern and pick one such subgraph
– apply the transaction to this particular subgraph (which is equivalent with: reduce only that subgraph of the molecule, and freeze the rest of the molecule, but do it in one step because the sequence of reductions is already pre-computed)

Now, which is more convenient, to reduce the molecule by using the random algorithm and the available graph rewrites, or to use some transactions which fit, which is fast (as concerns step 2) but costly (as concerns step 1), moreover it may be that there is a transaction with shorter proof for that particular molecule, which mixes parts of several available precomputed transactions.

Therefore the addition of transactions and their proofs (needed to be able to validate them) into the database should be made in such a way which profit from this competition.

If I see the reduction of a molecule (which may be itself distributed) as a service then besides the competition for making available the most useful transactions with the shortest proofs, there is another competition between brute force reducing it and using the available transactions, with all the time costs they need.

If well designed, these competitions should lead to the emergence of clusters of useful transactions (call such a cluster a “chemlisp”) and also to the emergence of better strategies for reducing molecules.

This will lead to more and more complex computations which are feasible with this system and probably fast enough they will become very hard to understand by a human mind, or even by using IT tools on a limited part of the users of the system.

Chemical transactions and their proofs

By definition a transaction is either a rewrite from the list of
accepted rewrites (say of chemlambda) or a composition of two
transaction which match. A transaction has a left and a right pattern
and a proof (which is the transaction expressed as a cascade of
accepted rewrites).

When you reduce a molecule, the output is a proof of a transaction.
The transaction proof itself is more important than the molecule from
the start. Indeed, if you think that the transaction proof looks like
a list

rm leftpattern1
add rightpattern1

where leftpattern1 is a list of lines of a mol file, same for the rightpattern1,

then you can deduce from the transaction proof only the following:
– the minimal initial molecule needed to apply this transaction, call
it the left pattern of the transaction
– the minimal final molecule appearing after the transaction, call it
the right pattern of the transaction

and therefore any transaction has:
– a left pattern
– a right pattern
– a proof made of a chain of other transaction which match (the right
pattern of transaction N contains the left pattern of transaction N+1)

It would be useful to think in term of transactions and their proofs
as the basic objects, not molecules.

The replicant

This is a molecular machine designed as a patch which would upgrade biological ribosomes. Once it attaches to a ribosome, it behaves in an almost similar ways as the synthetic ribosome Ribo-T, recently announced in  Nature 524,119–124(06 August 2015) doi:10.1038/nature14862  [1].  It thus enables an orthogonal genetic system, (i.e., citing from the mentioned Nature letter “genetic systems that could be evolved for novel functions without interfering with native translation”).

The novel function is designed for is more ambitious than specialized new proteins synthesis. It is, instead, a  two-ways translation device, between real chemistry and programmable artificial chemistry.

It behaves like a bootstrapper in computing. It is itself simulated in chemlambda, an artificial chemistry which was recently proposed as a means towards molecular computers [2].  The animation shows one of the first successful simulations.




With this molecular device in place, we can program living matter by using living cells themselves, instead of using, for example, complex, big 3D DNA printers like the ones developed by Craig Venter.

The only missing step, until recently, was the discovery of the basic translation of the building blocks of chemlambda into real chemistry.

I am very happy to make public a breakthrough result by Dr. Eldon Tyrell/Rosen, a genius who went out of academia some years ago and pursued a private career. It appears that he got interested early in this mix of lambda calculus, geometry and chemistry and he arrived to reproduce with real chemical ingredients two of the chemlambda graph rewrites: the beta rewrite and one of the DIST rewrites.

He tells me in a message  that he is working on prototypes of replicants already.

He suggested the name “replicant” instead of a synthetic ribosome because a replicant, according to him, is a device which replicates a computer program (in chemlambda molecular form) into a form compatible with the cellular DNA machine, and conversely, it may convert certain (RNA) strands into chemlambda molecules, i.e. back into  synthetic form corresponding to a computer program.

[1] Protein synthesis by ribosomes with tethered subunits,  C. Orelle, E. D. Carlson, T. Szal,  T. Florin,  M. C. Jewett, A. S. Mankin

[2] Molecular computers, M Buliga

[This post is a reply to +Yonatan Zunger  post

where he shows that the INCEPT DATE of the Blade Runner replicant Roy Batty appears to be 8 Jan, 2016.
So here is a replicant, in the inception phase 🙂 ]

PS: The post appeared as well in the chemlambda collection:

Mind tricks

One of my goals is to uncover the geometry in the computations. Most people see visualizations as cute, but unnecessary  additions.  Maybe with some very limited pedagogical value. Not the real thing.

The really funny thing is that, on average, people tend to take too seriously a visualization. Some animations trigger all sorts of reflexes which mislead the viewers into seeing too much.

The animal is there, skin deep. Eye deep.


A recent example of using visualizations for research  is how I arrived to build a kinesin like molecule by looking at the Y combinator and permutations.

This is a phenomenon which appeared previously in the artificial chemistry chemlambda. Recall how the analysis of the predecessor lambda term,  led to the introduction of chemlambda quines?

Same here.

Chemical computation is a sort of combinatorial movement, if this makes any sense. Lambda calculus or other means towards rigorous notions of computation clash with the reality: chemical computations, in living organisms, say, are horrendously complex movements of atoms and rearrangements of bonds. There is no input, nor output written with numbers. That’s all there is: movements and rearrangements.

Chemlambda marks some points by showing how to take lambda calculus as inspiration, then how we can see some interesting, movements and rearrangements related thing in the behaviour of the lambda term, then how we can exploit this for designing some pure (artificial) chemistry tour de force of unsupervised cascades of reactions which achieve some goal. Unsupervised, random!

OK, so here is a kinesin built in chemlambda. I see it works and I want to play a bit with it and also to show it.

The following animation has stirred some attention on 4chan, and less attention on google+, of course compared with others from the amazing chemlambda collection 🙂


It makes sense, you can relate with the two kinesins which meet together, they salute each other, then they go their way. One of them detaches from the microtubule (a particularly designed one, which allows kinesins to go in both directions, hm, because I can). The other roams a bit, quick, concerned.

It’s the result of randomness, but it conveys the right info, without introducing too much unrelated stuff.

The next one is about 4 kinesins on a circular microtubule.


This is a bit to much. They look like suspiciously quick moving spiders… Not something to relate to.

But still, there is no false suggestion in it.

People love more the following one, where there are 8 kinesins.


It looks like a creature which tries to feel the boundary of the frame. Cool, but misleading, because:

  • the coordinates of nodes of the graph in this representation are irrelevant
  • the boundary of the frame is not part of the model, it means nothing for the molecule.

In chemlambda there is a choice made: chemistry is separated from physics. The chemistry (so to say) part, i.e. the graph rewrites and the algorithm of application, is independent from the d3.js rendering of the evolution of the graph.

But people love to see graphs in space, they love to see boundaries and they relate with things which have an appearance of life (or some meaning).

That’s how we are made, no problem, but it plays mind tricks on us.

A clever influencer would play these tricks in favor of the model…

The viewers, if asked to support the research, would be less willing to do it after seeing the fast moving spiders…

I find this very entertaining!

For the record, here is another direction of thinking, inspired by the same permutations which led me to kinesins.

Deterministic vs random, an example of grandiose shows vs quieter, functioning anarchy

In the following video you can see the deterministic, at the right random evolution of the same molecule, duplex.mol from the chemlambda repository. They take about the same time.

The deterministic one is like a ballet, it has a comprehensible development, it has rhythm and drama. Clear steps and synchronization.

The random one is more fluid, less symmetric, more mysterious.

What do you prefer, a grand synchronized show or a functioning, quieter anarchy?

Which one do you think is more resilient?

What is happening here?

The molecule is inspired from lambda calculus. The computation which is encoded is the following. Consider the lambda term for the identity function, i.e. I=Lx.x. It has the property that IA reduces to A for any term A. In the molecule it appears as a red trivalent node with two ports connected, so it looks like a dangling red globe. Now, use a tree of fanouts to multiply (replicate) this identity 8 times, then build the term


Then use one more fanout to replicate this term into two copies and reduce all. You’ll get two I terms, eventually.
In the deterministic version the following happens.

– the I term (seen as a red dangling node) is replicated (by sequence of two rewrites, detail) and gradually the tree of fanouts is destroyed

– simultaneously, the tree of applications (i.e. the syntactic tree of the term, but seen with the I’s as leaves) replicates by the fanout from the end

– because the reduction is deterministic, we’ll get 16 copies of I’s exactly when we’ll get two copies of the application tree, so in the next step there will be a further replication of the 16 I’s into 32 and then there will be two, disconnected, copies of the molecule which represents ((II)(II))((II)(II))

– after that, this term-molecule reduces to (II)(II), then to II, then to I, but recall that there are two copies, therefore you see this twice.

In the random version everything mixes. Anarchy. Some replications of the I’s reach the tree of applications before it has finished to replicate itself, then reductions of the kind II –> I happen in the same time with replications of other pieces. And so on.
There is no separation of stages of this computation.
And it still works!

I used quiner_experia, with the mol file duplex.mol. The first time I modified all the weights to 0 (to have deterministic application) and took the rise parameter=0 (this is specific to quiner_experia, not present in quiner) too, because the rise parameter lower the probabilities of new rewrites, exponentially, during the same step, in order to give fair chances to any subset of all possible rewrites possible.
Then I made a screencast of the result, without speeding it, and by using safari to run the result.
For the random version I took all the weights equal to 1 and the rise parameter equal to 8 (empirically, this gives the most smooth evolution, for a generic molecule from the list of examples). Ran the result with safari and screencasted it.
Then I put the two movies one near the other (deterministic at left, random at right) and made a screencast of them running in parallel. (Almost, there is about 1/2 second difference because I started the deterministic one first, by hand).
That’s it, enjoy!
For chemlambda look at the trailer from the collections of videos I have here on vimeo.

Replication, 4 to 9

In the artificial chemistry chemlambda  there exist molecules which can replicate, they have a metabolism and they may even die. They are called chemlambda quines, but a convenient shorter name is: microbes.
In this video you see 4 microbes which replicate in complex ways. They are based on a simpler microbe whose life can be seen live (as a suite of d3.js animations) at [1].
The video was done by screencasting the evolution of the molecule 5_16_quine_bubbles_hyb.mol and with the script quiner_experia, all available at the chemlambda GitHub repository [2].

[1] The birth and metabolism of a chemlambda quine. (browsers recommended: safari, chrome/chromium)

[2] The chemlambda repository: github.com/chorasimilarity/chemlambda-gui/blob/gh-pages/dynamic/README.md