Protein Complexity

  • H. Frauenfelder
Conference paper
Part of the Springer Series in Synergetics book series (SSSYN, volume 39)


Complexity and order are easy to understand, but difficult to define rigorously. Up to a short time ago, nearly all physicists were mainly concerned with systems of small complexity. The two prototypes of simple systems are the perfect gas (complete disorder) and the ideal solid (perfect order). We can assign complexity 0 to both of these systems, because no information can be stored either in an ideal gas or a perfect solid. Studies of such simple systems have contributed greatly to the foundations of physics. All truly interesting systems, from proteins to brains and from languages to computers, are neither fully ordered nor completely disordered and they possess complexity. Within the past few decades, physicists have turned their attention to complex systems, much to the amusement of life scientists who have known for many years that living systems are extremely complex and that the exploration of such complex systems is exciting. In any case, here we are, trying to understand systems like proteins. In addition to the intrinsic reward, the work on biological molecules has brought me the pleasure of getting to know the life scientists who investigate similar problems but with a much longer history and much deeper insight. It is a particular pleasure to dedicate this paper to Benno Hess, who has contributed so much to the field of complexity and who always sees through the fog of unimportant details to recognize the important aspects.


Spin Glass Heme Iron Heme Protein Flash Photolysis Intrinsic Reward 
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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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Frauenfelder
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysicsUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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