Biological Information and Biological Function

  • TWCF Number:

    0242

  • Project Duration:

    September 1, 2017 - August 31, 2020

  • Core Funding Area:

    Big Questions

  • Region:

    Oceania

  • Amount Awarded:

    $330,000

Director: Arnaud Pocheville

Institution: University of Sydney

Many biologists routinely describe the capability to process information as the fundamental characteristic distinguishing life from non-life. In previous projects, the investigator and collaborators developed quantitative measures of biological information that moved this notion from the realm of metaphor into the domain of scientific model-building. This project now focuses upon semantic information, the type of data that concern how objects can have function, meaning, and intentionality.

Specifically, Arnaud Pocheville’s project explores how semantic information emerges from causal information. This will involve showing how living systems process causal information and then exploring how this processed causal information can lead to biological function and purpose. This project will demonstrate the evolution from causal to semantic information processing in two experiments, one at the cellular level and one at the systems level, with the overall goal of demonstrating that biological information is intrinsically capable of bearing a biological function.

Cellular Level Experiment
Using data on catalytic properties of RNA sequences, the investigator will simulate and measure the transfer and processing of causal information between molecules during cellular functioning.

Systems-Level Experiment
At the other end of the biological hierarchy, the investigator will look at how causal information can lead to representation and intentionality in signalling networks, using agent-based models developed in collaboration with behavioural ecologists.

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