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Top Story

Programmable disorder

Many self-organized systems in nature exploit a sophisticated blend of deterministic and random processes. For example, no two trees are exactly alike because growth is random, but a Redwood can be readily distinguished from a Jacaranda as the two species follow different genetic programs. The value of randomness in biological organisms is not fully understood but it has been hypothesized that it allows for smaller genome sizes—because not every detail must be encoded. Randomness also provides the variation underlying adaptive evolution. In contrast to biology, engineering seldom takes advantage of the power of randomness for fabricating complex structures. Now, a group of Caltech scientists has demonstrated that randomness in molecular self-assembly can be combined with deterministic rules to produce complex nanostructures out of DNA.

Visit Website | Image credit: Caltech / Grigory Tikhomirov, Philip Petersen and Lulu Qian