The Cell as a Thermostat: How Much does it Know?

Conference paper

DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4419-7210-1_10

Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 736)
Cite this paper as:
Bray D. (2012) The Cell as a Thermostat: How Much does it Know?. In: Goryanin I., Goryachev A. (eds) Advances in Systems Biology. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, vol 736. Springer, New York, NY


How does bacterial thermotaxis compare to a simple wall thermostat? Elements with similar function can be found in the two, including a temperature-sensing element, an output switch, and an external control. But they differ in their origins. A thermostat is designed and made by humans and embodies their understanding of seasonal fluctuations in temperature and how these affect room comfort. By contrast, the bacterial system is self-contained and assembles according to information in its genome acquired by evolution. This information is far richer than anything carried by a thermostat and closer to the ‘knowledge’ that higher animals have about the world.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physiology, Development and NeuroscienceUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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