Identifying molecules as biosignatures with assembly theory

An interesting approach to measuring molecular complexity. Supporters of ID might want to study this for how to rigorously define a measure of complexity that can be experimentally measured.

Identifying molecules as biosignatures with assembly theory and mass spectrometry


The search for alien life is hard because we do not know what signatures are unique to life. We show why complex molecules found in high abundance are universal biosignatures and demonstrate the first intrinsic experimentally tractable measure of molecular complexity, called the molecular assembly index (MA). To do this we calculate the complexity of several million molecules and validate that their complexity can be experimentally determined by mass spectrometry. This approach allows us to identify molecular biosignatures from a set of diverse samples from around the world, outer space, and the laboratory, demonstrating it is possible to build a life detection experiment based on MA that could be deployed to extraterrestrial locations, and used as a complexity scale to quantify constraints needed to direct prebiotically plausible processes in the laboratory. Such an approach is vital for finding life elsewhere in the universe or creating de-novo life in the lab.

Fluff article:

The cynic in me sees mass spectrometry experts trying to find new funding sources. When your a mass spectrometer, everything is a ratio of mass and charge. :wink:

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How silly is that? Everyone knows that everything is probabilities and distributions! :laughing:


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