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Turing's Theory of Chemical Morphogenesis Validated 60 Years After His Death

Unknown Lamer posted about 5 months ago | from the how-does-it-feel-to-be-a-robot dept.

Science 74

cold fjord writes "Phys.org reports, "Alan Turing's accomplishments in computer science are well known, but lesser known is his impact on biology and chemistry. In his only paper on biology (PDF), Turing proposed a theory of morphogenesis, or how identical copies of a single cell differentiate, for example, into an organism with arms and legs, a head and tail. Now, 60 years after Turing's death, researchers from Brandeis University and the University of Pittsburgh have provided the first experimental evidence that validates Turing's theory in cell-like structures. The team published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, March 10.""

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74 comments

Alan Turing was Gay (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462607)

Hence he was called anal turing

I expected this from Cold Ford... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462643)

did you get tired of trolling NSA stories?

Re:I expected this from Cold Ford... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46463609)

You should get some help for that butt hurt, seriously.

Re:I expected this from Cold Ford... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46465367)

Looks like a low rent troll.

Re:Alan Turing was Gay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462653)

Rick Santorum? That you, buddy?

Re: Alan Turing was Gay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462681)

I believed he invented the turing car :E

Re: Alan Turing was Gay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462745)

Fuck you faggot

Re: Alan Turing was Gay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46463137)

LOL Looser

Re:Alan Turing was Gay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462967)

Actually, no he wasn't. He was quite morose and depressed. You would be too if you were a homosexual in 50s Britain.

Re: Alan Turing was Gay (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46463949)

...and a pedophile, which is why he got prosecuted in the first place.

Re: Alan Turing was Gay (3, Informative)

Muros (1167213) | about 5 months ago | (#46465899)

...and a pedophile, which is why he got prosecuted in the first place.

That is untrue. The prosecution was for "gross indecency" with a 19 year old man, who was also prosecuted.

Re:Alan Turing was Gay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46464221)

That's not even a bad pun. It's just stupid.

But it's understandable considering Turing was smarter than you by an order of magnitude, in every possible way.

Re:Alan Turing was Gay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46464413)

it's hard to believe that you were the sperm that made it through

momkind advances (r)evolutionary style & subst (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462669)

little miss dna cannot be wrong http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dna+advances&sm=3

Please stop linking paywalled papers. (5, Insightful)

xophos (517934) | about 5 months ago | (#46462673)

Science should be readable by anyone.
Don't advertise the profiteers.

Re:Please stop linking paywalled papers. (-1, Redundant)

lesincompetent (2836253) | about 5 months ago | (#46462685)

Mod parent up, also remember to fuck beta.

Re: Please stop linking paywalled papers. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462695)

Chuck Peta!

Re: Please stop linking paywalled papers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462809)

Chuck Testa!

Re: Please stop linking paywalled papers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462979)

Nope

Re: Please stop linking paywalled papers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46463827)

Lack Tesla?

Re: Please stop linking paywalled papers. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462805)

Fuck parent up, remember to mod beta.

Re:Please stop linking paywalled papers. (1)

azav (469988) | about 5 months ago | (#46463481)

Someone's got to pay to fund the research.

Re:Please stop linking paywalled papers. (5, Insightful)

cduffy (652) | about 5 months ago | (#46463703)

Someone's got to pay to fund the research.

...but that someone isn't generally the publishers running the paywalls, so how is that relevant?

Re:Please stop linking paywalled papers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46463869)

You pay the publishers, publishers pay the people who fronted money for the study, they paid the scientists. Money moves through many hands

Re:Please stop linking paywalled papers. (5, Informative)

cduffy (652) | about 5 months ago | (#46464435)

publishers pay the people who fronted money for the study

If only they did.

Funds paid to scientific publishers pay for editing, not for the original studies. Moreover, peer review -- the most important part of the process -- is almost universally done for free by other scientists in the field; the publishers are just mediators in that process, adding minimal value.

Re:Please stop linking paywalled papers. (1)

kevmitch (2220314) | about 5 months ago | (#46467211)

Quite the reverse. The authors typically also pay to have the paper published.

Re:Please stop linking paywalled papers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46467737)

Wrong.

Taxpayers pay the NSF/NIH/etc. NSF pays the universities. The universities pay the grad students. Grad students do the work, professors get the tenure. Publications simply serve as "referees", to make sure that the work that grad students do is good enough to get their advisors tenure. Which, of course, is a noble profession and worthy of the millions of dollars their articles cost.

Re:Please stop linking paywalled papers. (1)

rgmoore (133276) | about 5 months ago | (#46464189)

The publishers aren't paying for research. If anything, they're taking money away from research by charging too much for journals and, in many cases, additional fees to authors to get their work published. Most of the money paying for research comes from government grants, and thus ultimately from the public, and then the journal publishers try to lock it up and make everyone pay a second time to see the work they've already paid for.

Re:Please stop linking paywalled papers. (4, Interesting)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 5 months ago | (#46463871)

I agree that the papers should be open, but I disagree that not linking to the paywalled site is a good answer. Publishers of scientific journals don't get much money by individuals paying for papers. They get their money from universities and research institutions paying the toll. The paywall for individuals is just to keep forcing the universities paying. What you said is true for paywalls on general periodicals like wall street journal or new york times (if either still does that), since people actually might buy access to those articles. Not PNAS.

Furthermore, the primary source is important obviously. Most of the time with slashdot articles, you get a link to some three paragraph blurb in science daily or Time, and the actual paper is not linked in that article. Meanwhile, there are questions here that can only be answered by details which are in the actual paper but aren't in the blurby news story. These questions could be answered by people who do have access, but without a link to the paywalled paper, such people are less likely to bother tracking it down.

That criticism doesn't go for phys.org: they have the link to the actual paper at the bottom. Good on them.

Again, publicly funded research should be open access, I'm not saying paywalls are good or justified.

Re:Please stop linking paywalled papers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46471465)

True they get tons of money from university access, but that's all profit. They employ minimal editors and reviews review for free. Then they double-dip by charging to publish and for access to the publications. The minimal service they provide is hosting a bunch of documents online and forwarding papers to review to reviewers (normally professors).

A well implemented open source solution (a non-open solution that is less greedy would work too) backed up by an initial set of reviewers can wipe them out and pay reviews to actually review the articles using publishing funds. I'm not a people person, I don't have connections to get a group of reviewers. The software is almost trivial.

Re:Please stop linking paywalled papers. (2)

turning in circles (2882659) | about 5 months ago | (#46464039)

PNAS has an option where the researcher uses $1,350 or $1,000 funds to make the research Open Access. The money to do this can be written into grants. Alternatively, the researchers can publish in another journal that is open access (again for a fee). So, blame the researcher, not the journal.

Re: Please stop linking paywalled papers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46464419)

Who cares about the findings, Turing's original paper is available free! That is the only important resource, so what are you bitching about? Not like you could understand the paper anyway! You are informed of the content of the paper in terms that you might understand, so nothing is lost.

On Turing (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#46462687)

Is there nothing he couldn't do?

Re:On Turing (4, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 5 months ago | (#46462719)

Is there nothing he couldn't do?

Women.

(I kid, I kid.)

Re:On Turing (1)

Noryungi (70322) | about 5 months ago | (#46462733)

Actually, he could not do women and candied apples.

You should have seen his latest attempt.

(Yes, I am kidding as well - I find it very sad that he was not able to do more in his life due to the stupid laws of his time).

Re:On Turing (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 5 months ago | (#46462747)

I don't get it. What's the candied apples thing all about?

Re:On Turing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462791)

Turing is widely regarded to have commited suicide by eating an arsenic-laced apple.

Re:On Turing (3, Interesting)

TheCarp (96830) | about 5 months ago | (#46463139)

No not arsenic, cyanide:

On 8 June 1954, Turing's cleaner found him dead. He had died the previous day. A post-mortem examination established that the cause of death was cyanide poisoning. When his body was discovered, an apple lay half-eaten beside his bed, and although the apple was not tested for cyanide
(wikipedia)

Although.... that isn't the whole story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org]

There is some speculation that he may have inhaled cyanide accidentlly, (which would be proposterous unless he had say... was doing gold electroplating in his house....oh which he was. He also apparently was known to eat an apple before bed nightly.

Now perhaps it was accidental, perhaps the whole gold plating thing was just to justify having cyanide around? Nobody is ever going to know.... but the poisioned apple makes for a nice story and adds a bit more mystery to the man than accidental inhalation of chemicals while trying to gold plate his silverware.

Re:On Turing (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 5 months ago | (#46462815)

Is there nothing he couldn't do?

Women.

(I kid, I kid.)

Actually, he probably could but wasn't interested. No that I am done being pedantic (I'd say anal retentive but that would be too obvious in this discussion), imagine what he could have done but didn't because of how society treated him? What insights and ideas did we lose?

Re:On Turing (1)

wasteoid (1897370) | about 5 months ago | (#46467939)

+1 Funny (oddly no more mod points after i started using beta)

Re:On Turing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462735)

Is there nothing he couldn't do?

Turn straight?

Re:On Turing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46463009)

Turn straight?

You'd make a terrible back-seat driver.

Re:On Turing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462741)

Metabolize poison.

Re:On Turing (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 5 months ago | (#46462773)

Father a child?

Re:On Turing (1)

Megol (3135005) | about 5 months ago | (#46462869)

Was he infertile?

Re:On Turing (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 5 months ago | (#46463001)

He was gay, which is one obstacle.
Then they castrated him for being gay.

Re:On Turing (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#46463485)

Chemically, not surgically.

Re:On Turing (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 5 months ago | (#46464015)

Implying that he could still father a child? I know he was chemically castrated, but did not think the method was relevant, was I wrong?

Re:On Turing (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#46464431)

Implying that he could still father a child?

Yes. He'd certainly find it a lot easier than if they'd cut his knackers off. Chemical castration reduces libido but does not, as far as I can ascertain, impair actual fertility. And it's reversible.

Re:On Turing (1)

Megol (3135005) | about 5 months ago | (#46464495)

It's only recently homosexual avoid getting children. Not liking women sexually doesn't mean they can't get children and in the past not having children could make ones old age very poor. The same applies to heterosexuals of course, in the past it was common to be married and get children with people one didn't like or even hate for that is how it was.

Re:On Turing (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 5 months ago | (#46464621)

Depends. A lot of cultures put homosexuals into Shamen/Preists roles. The entire driving evolutionary force behind homosexuality I believe is to have free, unattached, men who could help the community instead of just their own families.

Yes, people without children were poor; Though I strongly disagree that they disliked each other, but homosexual males were meant to fill other societal roles.

Re:On Turing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46468059)

Though I strongly disagree that they disliked each other, but homosexual males were meant to fill other societal roles.

I read Megol's comment "in the past it was common to be married and get children with people one didn't like or even hate" as homosexuals would parent children with an opposite-sex partner whom they didn't necessarily get along with, for the sake of having children to take care of them in their old age.

Re:On Turing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462835)

Determine if programs halt?

Re:On Turing (1)

AGMW (594303) | about 5 months ago | (#46464417)

Apparently, only women, but I think we long ago realised that wasn't a problem!

Re:On Turing (1)

AGMW (594303) | about 5 months ago | (#46464441)

Ha ... my own fault for not refreshing the page before posting ... but if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can ... oh forget it!

Re:On Turing (1)

osu-neko (2604) | about 5 months ago | (#46467231)

Is there nothing he couldn't do?

Withhold certain information while talking to cops.

On a roll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462709)

recently his pardon, now this? he's on a roll lately...or is rolling in ones grave not a good thing?

Re:On a roll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46463057)

recently his pardon, now this? he's on a roll lately...or is rolling in ones grave not a good thing?

That depends. Is his grave turning complete?

not bad work (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46462711)

not bad work .... for a poofter

Re:not bad work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46464349)

not a bad comment ... for a dumbass

Re:not bad work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46473645)

"not bad work .... for a poofter"

Written on a device extensively using said poofters paradigms.

Details? (4, Interesting)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 5 months ago | (#46462783)

Is this a huge find, will this make these scientists big names? Or was the reason it took so long to validate because no one really cared?

Was this expected, has everyone assumed he was right for a long time, or was their a lot of controversy?

Re:Details? (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about 5 months ago | (#46463653)

In order to save time and 30 replies, the answer is Yes and No to all of your questions. And at least three posts explaining why they were silly questions.

Re:Details? (2)

clawsoon (748629) | about 5 months ago | (#46464379)

Coincidentally, I was reading Chapter 21 of Molecular Biology of the Cell by Alberts et al last night, which discusses some of the many experiments which have been done to demonstrate the effect. Intercellular chemical gradients involving counteracting exciters and inhibitors are only one of many effects that control differentiation, however. There are also:

  • - intracellular gradients leading to asymmetric cell division (e.g. the place where the sperm enters the egg creates a protein gradient across the egg that determines the future head/ass orientation of the body)
  • - timing mechanisms (e.g. the on-off cycle that appears to be responsible for the development of vertebrae)
  • - cell-to-cell contact, either directly with neighbours or over longer distances through tubes or spikes

So Turing figured out one of the mechanisms, and it was certainly an important accomplishment. If Google Scholar is telling the truth, his paper has over 8000 citations, including around 1,500 that mention "embryo", so his accomplishment hasn't been ignored. The claims of this new paper for novelty, though, seem a bit weaker.

long ago (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about 5 months ago | (#46462865)

Creating artificial chemical structures based on his theory, like this paper seems to do, is a neat additional gimmick, but that has been done many times before. Even if it were new, it wouldn't be little more than a simulation of his equations; what counts is whether biology behaves like he predicted.

The real test of Turing's theory is whether it describes actual morphogenesis, and it has been shown to do that, many times over the years. That's the real "validation".

I think it's time (4, Funny)

invictusvoyd (3546069) | about 5 months ago | (#46463097)

We should give him the Turing award .

Re:I think it's time (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about 5 months ago | (#46466603)

It's not uncommon for an eponymous award to be won by the person it's named after. In fact, they're often the first person to win it, if they're alive.

Alas, if only that had been the case for Alan Turing.

Re:I think it's time (1)

invictusvoyd (3546069) | about 5 months ago | (#46466751)

With due respect of your views , I've spent some sarcasm towards the way in which this great genius of humanity was treated in his times . just and just for his sexual preference .. Imagine "chemically castrating" Elton john .. ( not that i'm a great fan of his music .. but ..)

Re:I think it's time (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about 5 months ago | (#46466889)

Thanks for respecting my views. I certainly didn't mean any disrespect to yours -- in fact, I agree with them. Your original post was (rightly) modded funny. I was just adding some information.

Chemistry vs Molecular Biology (5, Informative)

wombatmobile (623057) | about 5 months ago | (#46463377)

Turing's theory was formulated in an era when physics and chemistry were the foundation components of biology. The problem he was trying to solve is: How is biological complexity achieved in terms of fundamental chemistry and physics? At the time, chemistry could explain how two poisonous chemicals, sodium and chlorine, could combine to produce a substance as benign as common table sale (NaCl). But nothing could explain how a single cell could develop into something as complex as a fish, or a mouse, or a human being.

In 1953, Crick and Watson published a paper in Nature that revealed the chemical structure of DNA. The discovery was a revolution in science because it changed biology from an amalgam of physics and chemistry into an information science. In DNA and RNA, a whole vocabulary of computing was encoded. Suddenly, the complexity of biological processes such as embryogenesis, heredity, and cancer could be understood in programmatic terms through the molecular language of DNA.

Turing's theory of chemical morphogenesis doesn't mention DNA. As such, it is too simple to explain morphogenesis per se. Rather, his concept of intercellular reaction-diffusion may be applied to cell biology inter alia, but it isn't the big picture. Crick and Watson worked that out, thanks in no small part to Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins.

Re: Chemistry vs Molecular Biology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46463689)

Stop trying to raise the level of discourse! This is the Internet!

Re:Chemistry vs Molecular Biology (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46464011)

Then again what the DNA and RNA actually perform is to encode chemicals which can trigger the reactions that Turing was describing in his paper. I agree with you that the discovery of this process was revolutionary (even more so once large scale decoding of DNA sequences started to happen), but ultimately it still is a chemical process which happens inside of cells.

Various chemical receptors can also trigger certain DNA sequences to be enabled or suppressed to in turn create other organic molecules as encoded in that DNA, hence the relevance.

Of course some people suggest that Maxwell basically discovered the Theory of Relativity with his equations of electrodynamics. If not necessarily discovering that theory, then certainly supported the theoretical background that Einstein later built upon. I think in this case Turing deserves a similar accolade for providing some early theoretical work that was built upon by later researchers... just as all good science tends to do anyway. Besides, it is otherwise just another citation of Turing's paper, which is still a good thing in terms of showing Turing actually did know what he was talking about.

Re:Chemistry vs Molecular Biology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46465627)

Maxwell can also been seen as complete alternative to relativity, but this path was never fully explored or understood.

I see, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46464739)

I'm a theoretical evolution kook, sure I believe in evolution, but as a gag, I refuse to accept it until it is formally proven to be statistically likely. In my arsenal of inconvenience I use simulations and commonly accepted theories to demonstrate that the odds for evolution is far greater than otherwise assumed. Mostly I'm ignored and that sadens me a little bit because this should be fun.... Nevertheless, this new finding; it does give me a few things to consider. I admit I never saw it and it will cause me some problems that I will have to adjust to, however those who believe will of course say they already knew it from the beginning, furthering their assurance that I'm a kook. This is not what they need though...

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