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IET Lecture: Darwinian Evolution, Symmetry, Conservation Principles and a box of chocolates

About this event

Charles Darwin, jointly with Alfred Russell Wallace, introduced their theory of Natural Selection at the Linnean Society on 1st July 1858. Today, it defines evolutionary thought through and beyond the discovery of the double helix in 1953 and the development of modern genetics. However, there are features of life, for example the recently-discovered remarkable constancy of average protein length which it does not explain. Meanwhile in the physical sciences, thanks to a remarkable theorem by Emmy Noether in 1918, for the first time we understood that the grand Conservation principles of the universe such as Conservation of Energy, Linear Momentum, Angular Momentum and so on, were actually the result of symmetries.

In this talk, using concepts from Information Theory and with the singular help of a box of chocolates, I will demonstrate that large assemblies of discrete pieces, be they proteins (made from amino acids), pieces of software (made from textual symbols) or the Bach chorales (made from musical notes), have important organising principles in common because they jointly obey a previously undiscovered Conservation principle which explains these phenomena. In short, all systems built from discrete pieces are guided by the Conservation of Information, and its corresponding symmetry, scale. Finally I will show that another implication of the uniformly random choice of amino acids in protein construction (they are named by letters), is that the words “ELVIS” and “KING” are likely to appear together in exactly one currently known protein and, as a denouement, will reveal its name.

About the speaker

Les Hatton is Emeritus Professor of Forensic Software Engineering at Kingston University. He has previously lectured at the IET on the longbow, javelins and also how to avoid email scams. After obtaining a BA in Mathematics as an undergraduate at King’s College Cambridge, he obtained his doctorate at University of Manchester, for work on computational fluid dynamics in tornadoes, and has since contributed to many aspects of embedded software systems and software systems reliability.

Sponsor – http://www.oakcomp.co.uk/


12:00 to 13:45 – lunch
14:00 to 14:45/15:00 – lecture
14:45/15:00 to 15:30 approximately – questions and discussion

Reasons to attend

This is a general interest talk which will reveal how apparently unrelated topics are connected.


Delegates will have the opportunity to pre book a lunch at Savoy Place. The present cost for a two course meal with wine is £16. It is essential to pre book lunch.

Those wishing to attend are asked to send an e-mail by the preceding Monday, giving name(s), and requesting attendance at the lunch and lecture or just the lecture, and in the case of lunch, giving any dietary restrictions. The e-mail should be sent to both John Fuller and Tony Davies please note the triple ‘e’ in Tony’s address, with the subject line [Darwinian, Symmetry, Conservation and chocolates 2016 Friday Lunch and Lecture Friday 16th December 2016]. No acknowledgement will be sent unless specifically requested.

Previously it was thought that this event would coincide with the Carol Service for IET staff and members. This service will now take place in the early evening on Friday 2 December 2016 in the ‘Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy’, Savoy Hill, (http://royalchapelsavoy.org/). This chapel is behind the IET building in Savoy Place.

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