But I emphasized the word appear when speaking about the connection between amino acids and their codons, because a code doesn’t simply spring into existence fully formed. So herein lies the central mystery: how does a non-equilibrium organization direct energy flow into the emergence of an informational code that is not itself predetermined by the laws of chemistry and physics? This theme may be compressed as the problem of the emergence of information. Thus far I have been describing the energetic constraints placed on pre-biotic evolution: how non-equilibrium distributions provide organizational contexts for the random motions of matter and energy. The problem to be addressed in future posts, for which I do not claim to have any clear solution, is to see how physics and chemistry could have conspired to turn these transient non-equilibrium states into information which could then be used to reproduce those same non-equilibrium conditions given the necessary resources.
Remember, a candle flame is an organized, non-equilibrium flow which exists to dissipate potential energy...but the candle does not have the complexity required to use that dissipating energy as a means for storing the information required to make another candle. Yet the chemistry which life uses to maintain itself is essentially the same as the chemistry powering the candle flame. How then, does chemistry become language? Next time we’ll take a close-up look at the ribosome and the translation process in order to set the stage for some possible solutions to this problem.
Thumbnail image is from here.