February/March 2007


The life puzzle solver

Like many mathematicians Pavel Pevzner likes to solve puzzles. The puzzles he has chosen to solve are those of the biological world concerning the very basic stuff of life itself; proteins and DNA. Working away behind the old Iron Curtain he found out, before many people in the more open Western World, that biology presented some quite interesting and deserving puzzles. Since moving to the US he has become one of the pioneers of bioinformatics.


Quantifying the ideal

Plato posited a cosmology in which the variability of what see we around us results from imperfect manifestation of ideal forms. So, for example, the large black horse and the small piebald horse you pass in a field are variant images of an ideal pattern of perfect horsehood. It’s not difficult to square this, at least intuitively, with modern ideas of micromutation and genetic blueprints. It is also a view of the universe mirrored in the idea of a theoretical model – the model being an idealised image of the varying reality (whatever reality may be, once you start looking at it closely).


Simple is often best

A common sight in factories and other industrial settings in the past might have been of a technician with a pen and clipboard, noting down measurements from assorted pieces of equipment to ensure that everything was running properly. Today, however, a computer is far more likely to be gathering measurements such as temperature and pressure automatically and alerting the technician of anything that they need to be aware of.