Simulating a single-cell bacterium

cell components

To Model the Simplest Microbe in the World, You Need 128 Computers

The Atlantic – ALEXIS MADRIGAL – Jul 23, 2012

The depth and breadth of cellular complexity has turned out to be nearly unbelievable, and difficult to manage, even given Moore’s Law. The M. genitalium model required 28 subsystems to be individually modeled and integrated, and many critics of the work have been complaining on Twitter that’s only a fraction of what will eventually be required to consider the simulation realistic. Go to story


The simplest organism, a bacterium named Mycoplasma genitalium, so complex that simulating it only partially in software requires 128 computers. Scientists admit that the molecular processes that power life are inconceivably complex. Yet the very persons who endeavor to engineer life in the laboratory dismiss the idea of a chief engineer behind the universe and its plethora of life forms.

excerpt from conversation with Svarup Damodar, Atlanta, February 28, 1975:

Always “just around the next corner”

Synthetic biology’s missing component: the life force
ATREYA RISHI: Prabhupada, is it possible that man could ever make even a one-celled living being?
PRABHUPADA: Even if he makes, what is credit there? Cells are already there. What is the question of making?
SHYMASUNDAR: All they’re doing is creating the conditions for the jiva to enter, actually. Isn’t it?
PRABHUPADA: Whatever their proposal, these things are already there. So even they can create something, xerox copy, what is the credit? more

To whom does the credit belong?

PRABHUPADA: Suppose by chemical combination, if you produce one life… You will never be able. But still, if you think that you will be able or you become able, then what is credit to you? Without your help there, millions and millions of life are being manufactured, without your help. Then what is your credit?

TAMAL KRSNA: Imitating a barking dog.

PRABHUPADA: That’s it. So millions of dogs are barking, and one man has learned how to bark like dog, and people will go to see him by purchasing ticket. This is their foolishness. Suppose if you somehow or other become able to produce life from chemical, then what is your credit? It is like barking dog. Millions of dogs are barking. Now you have learned how to bark like dog. So what is your credit? It may be for the rascal fools that you are scientist, but we are not so rascal.

RUPANUGA: They will clap. The fools will clap.

PRABHUPADA: Yes. Yes. “How nice barking. Oh, how he has learned to bark.” Just see. We are not so fools. Krishna yei bhaje sei bado chatura: “The first-class intelligent man is he who is Krishna conscious.” Sei bado chatura. All rascals. Krishna said, na mam dushkritinah mudhah. “Oh? Also very scientist?” Mayayapahrita-jñana: “They have no knowledge, all rascals.” Krishna says. Mayayapahrita-jñana. That [the scientist] is not thinking, that “Suppose I can produce life by chemical combination, then what is my credit? The life is already there. It is going on very nicely.” … If the things are going on nicely, then where is my credit? Either you say, “by chance,” or “by God’s arrangement,” “by nature,” but things are going on nicely. So it is same thing, to learn how to bark, that’s all. Barking is going on, but he wants to take credit by learning how to bark. That’s all.

MADHAVA: They try to imitate God.

PRABHUPADA: That’s all. That he cannot, and that is his foolishness. Therefore we say [to the scientists], “You are cheating. Things are already there, going on. What is your credit?”

RUPANUGA: The scientists are trying to be the hero. Krishna is the hero. He has done everything first, and the scientist wants to be the hero.

PRABHUPADA: So you have to present like this, that “What is the credit? Suppose by chemical composition you can manufacture one ant. That is not possible. Be assured you will never be able. That we are assured. But even if you are able, then what is your credit? The credit is the man has learned how to bark like a dog. That’s all, this much credit.”

SVARUP DAMODAR: No, if they are able to make life, then they are going to say that there’s no God.

PRABHUPADA: Yes, but first of all you produce. Then say. Why you are anticipating that you will be able to…?

RUPANUGA: Still, who is the bigger God? If I make one ant, and there’s already many, many ants made by a bigger God than me…

TAMAL KRSNA: Yes, so He is God. Whoever has made the most, He should be God.

PRABHUPADA: Yes.

RUPANUGA: So we must recognize Krishna as the big scientist.

PRABHUPADA: That is… This foolishness is going on throughout the whole world, and scientist and people are after the so-called scientist, Darwin. So we want to stop this misleading. That is our duty.

They will never create life – life is not created, nor destroyed

SVARUP DAMODAR: Actually, the way they study the origin of life is nothing but the origin of molecules. It’s not actually of life, the way they are studying. So there is a misunderstanding what is life and what is matter.

PRABHUPADA: No, no, whatever they are studying, this rascal cannot make life even with combination of those original molecules. Where is that proof? Our challenge is that because they cannot do it, therefore they are rascals. And that vrishchika tandula nyaya, that a scorpion is coming out of rice, that’s it.[1]

SVARUP DAMODAR: Their claim depends on the…

PRABHUPADA: There are life manifestation, according to Vedic literature, that some of the life, they are coming from eggs, some of the life, they are coming from perspiration, some of the lives come from a seed, and some of the life comes from embryo. This is all stated there. Sveda-ja, udbi-ja, anda-ja, jarayu-ja. They already there. Jarayu means embryo, and sveda means perspiration. Life is everywhere. When they take little advantage, they come out, manifest. You will find even on the pavement, footpath, as soon as there is crack, some grass is coming out. So life is everywhere, it is struggling, and as soon as there is favorable circumstances, they come in a form. That’s it.

Life is not created—na jayate. Read Bhagavad-gita. Na jayate: “Life is never created.” It is existing eternally. Therefore it is said, na jayate [never born]. So unfortunate rascals, they do not take advantage of Bhagavad-gita, and they’re making research. So we want to stop this rascaldom. They are trying to create life, and it is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, na jayate: “Life is never created.” It is already there. Simply it is coming out, being manifest by different bodies, 8,400,000 forms. That I was explaining last night. According to his desire… The life is already there, and according to his desire, he is coming out in different forms. That is going on.

This is a false theory, that chemical can create life. It is nonsense. Life is never created, life is already there. God is already there, and the part and particles, molecules, life, was already there. Na jayate mriyate va kadachit. This word is used, kadachit, “at any time.” So we have got perfect knowledge [reference to knowledge of the Vedas, spoken of in earlier part of the conversation not included in this excerpt]. Why should we say, “Yes,” with these rascals? We have got perfect knowledge.

RUPANUGA: They say matter can never be created or destroyed, but they do not know that life cannot be created or destroyed.

PRABHUPADA: Nothing can be created. Life also cannot be created. [The living beings] are already there. But matter is [sometimes] manifest, [other times] not manifest. Just like this body is manifest because the life is there. Now, this body will be destroyed, but I will exist. Tatha dehantara-praptih [Bg. 2.13: “As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death.”]. I will accept another body, and it will grow. Therefore the matter grows on the basis of life, not that from matter, life comes. This is all rascaldom.


1. Vrischika tandula nyaya, or fallacy of the scorpion born from rice, refers to the fallibility of hypothesis and empirical knowledge, or perception that relies on imperfect senses or instruments – e.g. suppose someone sees baby scorpions crawling out from a mound of rice, and assumes that they are born from grains of rice.

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