center for systems

& synthetic biology

an NIGMS national systems biology center


A thermodynamic memory

October 8, 2012

Biological systems are typically embedded in fluctuating surroundings. But what properties of a system make it good at harnessing energy available in its changing environment? In work recently published in Physical Review Letters and highlighted in Nature, Systems Biology Fellow David Sivak and colleagues demonstrate a close connection between thermodynamic efficiency (not wasting energy) and modeling efficiency (predicting future events using minimal information from the past).  This work suggests that any biological system that has been sculpted to be energetically efficient—whether it be an organism, a neuron, or a molecular machine—can efficiently glean information from its environment to be prepared for future changes.