Loops, Self-Reference, Substrates

  • Michael L. Johnson


Hofstadter’s interest in formal systems leads him into considering a variety of processes that involve the isomorphic translation of information, many of which, seen as he sees them, have important implications for the MLM metaphor. He observes, for instance, that the ‘isomorphism that mirrors TNT inside the abstract realm of natural numbers can be likened to the quasi-isomorphism that mirrors the real world inside our brains, by means of symbols’, where the symbols themselves ‘play quasi-isomorphic roles to the objects …’. Such a translation occurs also on the intracellular level, in protein production, after DNA dispatches messenger RNA from the nucleus:

Now when a strand of mRNA, after its escape into the cytoplasm, encounters a ribosome, a very intricate and beautiful process called translation takes place…. Imagine the mRNA to be like a long piece of magnetic recording tape, and the ribosome to be like a tape recorder. As the tape passes through the playing head of the recorder, it is ‘read’ and converted into music, or other sounds. Thus magnetic markings are ‘translated’ into notes. Similarly, when a ‘tape’ of mRNA passes through the ‘playing head’ of a ribosome, the ‘notes’ which are produced are amino acids and the ‘pieces of music’ which they make up are proteins. This is what translation is all about… .


Klein Bottle Playing Head Magnetic Recording Tape Magnetic Marking General Recursive Function 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. Douglas R. Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (New York: Basic Books, 1979), pp. 502, 518–19, 531, 532.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Michael L. Johnson 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael L. Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KansasUK

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