I've been hearing some talk (the current issue of Science) of writing a computer program that completely simulates a bacteria, in particular a Mycoplasma chosen because it has only 265 genes and is the simplest known life form that has a metabolism. It would be a huge project but Blue Gene might be able to handle it. Among other things we'd need to know the 3D shape of all 265 proteins the genes produced but some of those are already known, obtained from laborious X ray diffraction experiments. If we really can write such a program then we can truly say we understand how at least one life form works. Anyway I was encouraged that respectable scientists are no longer embarrassed to talk about such things. There is even talk of making the first artificial cell, one that is even simpler, perhaps with only 180 genes or so.
John K Clark email@example.com