Biology is about to get seriously weird, says Nobel Prize winner

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Paul Nurse, who won the 2001 Nobel Prize for physiology, said in a speech recently that biology is about to go through a revolution similar to what physics experienced after the discovery of quantum mechanics.

The Guardian has an interesting excerpt from Nurse's speech earlier this year, where he asserted that everything we know about biology is about to change. He talks about how we once believed DNA was simple, with each gene producing one protein, but now we know that DNA is a complex, information-processing system.


As the Guardian summarizes:

The structure of DNA may be elegant and may reveal the mechanism that controls heredity, but its real importance lies with the way it stores digital information. Nor is it the only system in a living being that stores and processes information. The cell can be seen as a tiny computer, for example.

Understanding how the different parts of the body process information and then distribute it is the next task facing modern biology, says [Nurse]. How does homeostasis – the mechanism by which an organism maintains its biological status quo – work? And how do cells communicate with each other?

Understanding these networks will reveal "a strange, counterintuitive world", insists Nurse.


Perhaps we'll even discover that genes work at a quantum level.