Back in April, there was an article in new scientist discussing the work of Lee Cronin, who postulated that molecules of a certain complexity must be biological.

Cronin has developed a way to measure the complexity of a molecule by counting the number of unique steps – adding chemical side groups or ring structures, for example – needed for its formation, without double-counting repeated steps. To draw an analogy, his metric would score the words “bana” and “banana” as equally complex, since once you can make one “na” it is trivial to add a second one.

Any structure requiring more than about 15 steps is so complex it must be biological in origin, he said this week at the Astrobiology Science Conference in Mesa, Arizona.

Does anyone know how to use Cronin's method to measure complexity?

  • $\begingroup$ Have you tried looking through the publications on his website? $\endgroup$
    – NotEvans.
    Jun 25 '17 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ There is a preprint of Cronin's article on Arxiv: arxiv.org/abs/1705.03460 $\endgroup$
    – Tyberius
    Jun 25 '17 at 23:02
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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, the paper includes some elements of graph theory linked with combinatorics, but in my opinion has nothing specific towards defining its title. With the same success one could utilize, lets say, big-O notation from the computer science field for describing complexity in chemistry. With all respect to Prof. Cronin he is famous for using buzzwords for popularizing his research. In late 2011 during his TED talk he basically announced (youtu.be/unNRCSj0igI?t=845) an advent of artificial (polyoxometalate-based) life in 2013. $\endgroup$
    – andselisk
    Jun 26 '17 at 3:32
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    $\begingroup$ Pfft, remember that all organic compounds were once thought to origin only in life. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Jun 30 '17 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Tyberius Thanks to the preprint you indicated I read the publication. But I wonder about the references. Maybe not the first (historically speaking) but at least among the first (as in first class) in categorizing organic reactions -- where is EJ Corey? With his formalizations like Logic of Synthesis, and software (e.g. LHASA) where reducing complexity became a criterion to select path B in preference over path A (scripps.edu/baran/images/grpmtgpdf/Maimone_Mar_06.pdf) which eventually lead him 1990 to Sweden? $\endgroup$
    – Buttonwood
    Jul 5 '17 at 0:28

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