jeremy england

jeremy england

intro’d to Jeremy here (article from april 2015):

The 101 version of his big idea is this: Under the right conditions, a random group of atoms will self-organize, unbidden, to more effectively use energy. Over time and with just the right amount of, say, sunlight, a cluster of atoms could come remarkably close to what we call life. ..Some things we consider inanimate actually may already be “alive.” .. “People think of the origin of life as being a rare process,” …. “Jeremy’s proposal makes life a consequence of physical laws, not something random.”


England didn’t begin with number-crunching, though. During his postdoc research on embryonic development, he kept coming back to the question: What qualifies something as alive or not? He later superimposed an analytical rigor to that question, publishing an equation in 2013 about how much energy is required for self-replication to take place.


England believes science can give us explanations and predictions, but it can never tell us what we should do with that information. That’s where, he says, the religious teachings come in.


What is life-lecture – sept 2014 – a new theory of evolutionary adaptation

4 min – words get meaning from context of usage… i don’t want to look for a defn of life that comes from physics… we start with this empirical phenomenon… we can say a lot of things about system depending on if we’re talking about them as ie: biologist.. or physicist..

5 min – physical reasoning is really rooted in a few very simple categories of measurement… life is totally absent from our description of the physical properties of the system...

6 min – art of translation..

whether we’re looking at something that’s alive or not is not something i would argue that those basic physical descriptors can tell us… that means if we’re going to do biophysics and do it well.. we have to be aware of the intuitive act of translation that we’re engaging in between these diff languages of categorization… just as you can do good/bad translation.. it’s also case.. there’s some relevant way to draw connections.. but we can always appreciate.. there is no perfect translation.. there always is a role for the intuition of the interpreter in the role of translation..

8 min – what is special about life.. (physically)…

1\ self-replication

2\ sensing, computation, and anticipation

3\ effective absorption of work (energy) from environment

we tend to understand 3 and 2 in terms of 1

how do i take living things and be as specific as i can about physical properties distinctive (not unique) to life..

15 min – i want to construct adaptation in physical terms..

is there a general language for this.. (yes)

do we always need darwinian selection to get adaptation.. (no – and this is what i’m most excited to tell you about)

can we explain the emergence of life like organization using fundamental physics.. (maybe)

17 min – hints… all living things: are made of matter; need to eat; give off heat; cannot grow backwards

when you think about newton’s law.. have basic symmetry… time reversal symmetry… in principle.. seeing a plant run backward into the seed.. is not forbidden by newtonian motion.. so that raises question why we don’t see it…

21 min – living things are very much not at thermal/chemical equilibrium.. and that is what is essential to making them as interesting as they are...

23 min – what controls ratio – is heat exchange in forward direction – heat exchange divided by temp is entropy change…

the statistical irreversibility of something happening has a direct quantitative relationship in the entropy that’s produced in the surroundings…

24 min – this relationship remains exact w/ additional modifications..

26 min – microscopic arrangements are not things we can measure.. i’d like to make some statement about quality.. i’d like to collect a bunch and make them the same..

macrostate construction…

27 min – the borders of my language determine the borders of my world – ludvig wittgenstein – die grenzen meiner sprache bedeuten die grenzen meiner welt

28 min – why do we see organization of (us) in particular types.. given all potential arrangements

30 min – averaging exponentials of things.. – jensen (denmark) and the 2nd law – the more universal.. the more you have to increase the entropy

32 min – self-replication

33 min – you can grow faster the more so you generate more dissipation in your surroundings…

34 min – instead of talking about inequality… think about choice of going to b or c if starting at a… rather than a to b or b to a

35 min – break probability (of going to b or c) into pieces.. generalization of quantity of free energy for an arbitrarily driven system evolving over a finite period of time under an arbitrary external driving field…

we care about – the order/organization diff between b and c… easier to do something disorganized than organized…  it still matters how organized you are you’re under pressure to be disorganized all things being equal

37 min – easier to go somewhere if it’s easier to come back from there..

log of avg of exponential.. in order to be likely to go to b.. increasing reliably increase dissipations

38 min – intuition from arrhenius (sweden)

39 min – why you tend to go places where you dissipate reliably… in sync and out of sync oscillations

41 min – strong correlation between dissipation and drift

43 min – oscillation and resonance

47 min – over time.. driven/drifting…  into particular regions of configuration space… good at absorbing work from environment..

48 min – not typical macrostate – living things are good at getting applied fields to do work on them so they can dissipate the energy

look at plant – much better at reliably absorbing work energy from environ it lives in than most of the ways of randomly re arranging the atoms out of which it is built

something special about it’s organization that we recognize… a lot of outcomes of biological organization.. seem to be good examples.. toward discovery of organized states… how they formed… is that they absorbed a lot of work from environ and formed lot of dissipation as result.

48 min – what my group working on now: some simple prelim test in simpler systems.. we want to test general intuition of principal of self-org of things that aren’t alive but do obey newton’s laws and live in a heat bath

ie: already – silver nanorods…

50 min – toy chemistry – spontaneous rewiring

51 min – adaptation w/o selection – overtime system is rewiring itself.. pulled toward driving freq

53 min – graph – still grappling with..

55 min – maybe we can get emergence .. in structure of driven system.. huge combinatorial of directions… time reversibility


time reversibility of newton’s law guarantees relationship between irreversibility and entropy production

structures that form through reliable entropy production in a time-varying environment should seem adapted to ‘eating’ (energy from surroundings)

we are able to demo this ‘learned’resonance by simulating a simple toy chemistry in an oscillating drive

predicting adaptive emergence..


56 min – future directions

explaining some aspects of biological organization w/o darwinian selection

demo ing more complex adaptation phenomena in driven ‘inanimate’ systems

looking for signatures of sensing, prediction and computation

57 min – living things experiencing fluctuating environ… part of being good to get it to work on you.. is anticipating it.. so things that happen in past allow you to make prediction for future..

how is that emergent..? adaptive..?

how is that not agenda ized..?


find/follow Jeremy:

his pages at mit:

his lab at mit:

this research group, led by Jeremy England, we studytheoretical questions in the biophysics of cells and macromolecules.

wikipedia small

Jeremy England is an American physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology best known for a mathematical explanation of the origins of life known as dissipation-driven adaptation


next day. new day. imagining if 7 billion people felt it was new years day everyday. w/o exhaustion from it being not. from it being as is.

anyway.. from reading next morning.. (from a rt from bonnie)

12/10/15 6:32 AM
Let me translate: Academia is for the ‘well-bred’ and pedigreed.
@DNLee5: This ‘advice’ sticks in my craw because it rests on the presumption that ‘high’ inquiry only comes from ‘on high’
12/10/15 6:34 AM
Much of the focus on public engagement comes from the fact that individuals from Working Class & other “underserved” communities have +@DNLee5: + “dared” enter the Ivory Tower and “sullied it” what with our ideas on accessibility, collaboration with “mere citizens” and what not.

I often contemplate how my research could aid a university like my own. Right now, I am investigating 18th-century British authors who wrote poetry and plays in colonial cities and outposts stationed around India, Sumatra and Singapore. Many of these authors haven’t been read since they appeared in print during the 1790s.

this is what’s eating at me with England…

and earlier…. on waiting for research.. before part of judicial system…
we need to recognise that popularising research isn’t the only way to make a social impact.
…..the meticulous research of queer theorists and historians only became central to the judicial process years after the research was completed.

as a scholar, I can’t predict which, if any, of these themes will be influential in the coming decades. Engaging the public is important, but we should not assume that what will be integral to future society is the same as what can be made popular or immediately understandable now.

Humanists like myself are regularly forced to consider what the public wants. We are told to imagine their desires and to conjure ways to fulfil them. This is an important strategy that every academic should pursue.

But we must be allowed to resist this impulse, too. We can’t anticipate what intellectual discoveries will become essential answers to the public’s future questions. We don’t always know what form public scholarship should take.

perhaps if you want to get faster.. or better et better.. or best of all… more alive… we quit claiming research/proof as our road map..perhaps we let go of road maps… and trust us/whimsy…

not denying impact of ie: research impacting judicial process in past.. am questioning acceptance/focus/obsession/compliance to judicial process in the first place.

thinking of Jeremy talking of predicting living ness:

57 of being good to get it to work on you.. is anticipating it.. so things that happen in past allow you to make prediction for future..

are allegiance to past/research seems to be binding us to past/research. perhaps we need a nother way.. that re generates free-form emergence. perhaps we realize that anticipation is perhaps.. keeping us from us.

ie: antifragile ness (as i take it in).. be\ing stronger… more alive.. the more we embrace uncertainty..

whether or not taleb s math was headed toward this.. i don’t know. do we know.. ever..?

and then ha.. next tweet i read:

First task for 2016: finish this GINI paper and generalize to concentration measures in physics.

Original Tweet:


new meaning of life.. via ideapod

simple physical laws make complex life more likely than not.

What does all matter—rocks, plants, animals, and humans—have in common? We all absorb and dissipate energy. While a rock absorbs a small amount of energy before releasing what it doesn’t use back into the universe, life takes in more energy and releases less. This makes life better at redistributing energy, and the process of converting and dissipating energy is simply a fundamental characteristic of the universe.

According to England, the second law of thermodynamics gives life its meaning.

The law states that entropy, i.e. decay, will continuously increase.

energy ness..

entropy ness

a nother way.. to embrace emergence ness.. of our wild ness

ie: embracing uncertainty.. antifragilewhimsical..


for (blank)’s sake