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Keywords:

  • homochirality;
  • information theory;
  • self-replication;
  • Soai reaction;
  • origin of life

Abstract

Chirality is often glossed over in theoretical or experimental discussions concerning the origin of life, but the ubiquity of homochiral building blocks in known biological systems demands explanation. Information theory can provide a quantitative framework for understanding the role of chirality in biology. Here I show how conclusions derived from information theory, in particular the concept of equivocation, can explain not only why chiral building blocks are necessary in living systems but also why a homochiral set of building blocks is necessary. These results lead to a new definition of life, and to the conclusion that the simplest form of life exists in the form of self-amplifying, autocatalytic reactions such as the Soai reaction. Chirality, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.