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No theory without experiments, no experiments without theory


The Hypercycle - A Principle of Natural Self-Organization
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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Peter Schuster is the co-author of a book we have written, The Hypercycle - A Principle of Self-Organisation in Nature. Yes, I haven't talked too much about the theory because it's difficult. Peter Schuster is an excellent theoretician. These systems of differential equations are all non-linear. You cannot easily do transformations there, in other words you cannot easily get complete solutions. You can make phase diagrams, you can get attractors and you can show how the system behaves, but this is a highly theoretical work and I think I will come back to theory, and then I must also name another co-worker, that is John McAskill who came from Oxford to us, and who did renormalisation of the selection theory. There are lots of theoretical tricks and this is now a complete field of research... the molecular evolution.

[Q] So there is also evolution going on in your science?

Oh, yes.

Nobel Prize winning German biophysical chemist, Manfred Eigen (1927-2019), was best known for his work on fast chemical reactions and his development of ways to accurately measure these reactions down to the nearest billionth of a second. He published over 100 papers with topics ranging from hydrogen bridges of nucleic acids to the storage of information in the central nervous system.

Listeners: Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitch

Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch is the eldest daughter of the Austrian physicist Klaus Osatitsch, an internationally renowned expert in gas dynamics, and his wife Hedwig Oswatitsch-Klabinus. She was born in the German university town of Göttingen where her father worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Aerodynamics under Ludwig Prandtl. After World War II she was educated in Stockholm, Sweden, where her father was then a research scientist and lecturer at the Royal Institute of Technology.

In 1961 Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch enrolled in Chemistry at the Technical University of Vienna where she received her PhD in 1969 with a dissertation on "Fast complex reactions of alkali ions with biological membrane carriers". The experimental work for her thesis was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Göttingen under Manfred Eigen.

From 1971 to the present Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch has been working as a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen in the Department of Chemical Kinetics which is headed by Manfred Eigen. Her interest was first focused on an application of relaxation techniques to the study of fast biological reactions. Thereafter, she engaged in theoretical studies on molecular evolution and developed game models for representing the underlying chemical proceses. Together with Manfred Eigen she wrote the widely noted book, "Laws of the Game" (Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1981 and Princeton University Press, 1993). Her more recent studies were concerned with comparative sequence analysis of nucleic acids in order to find out the age of the genetic code and the time course of the early evolution of life. For the last decade she has been successfully establishing industrial applications in the field of evolutionary biotechnology.

Tags: The Hypercycle - A Principle of Natural Self-Organization, non-linear differential equations, molecular evolution, Peter K Schuster, John McCaskill

Duration: 1 minute, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008