In your August 1, 2005 issue, Herbert Sauro writes: "Given the statistics on modern chip design, one wonders if, in fact, cellular complexity has been surpassed [by computer technology]. For example, with the recent move to 90-nm fabrication technology, the average transistor is now less than 50 nm in diameter – only 5 times bigger than the average intracellular protein."1 However, proteins are not just static structures of atoms; they also contain dynamic circuits that convey nuclear force and charge, with highly complex nuclear interactions that change not only the shape but also function of the protein. The "transistor" in a protein is often or always an atom.
For example, look at the reaction centers of the photosynthetic light harvesting proteins, which are just 10 nm across – a fifth the size of a single transistor. These proteins contain extensive energy control and switching circuits, in which each individual atom can act as a "transistor," giving this 10 nm protein unit a complexity several thousands or even hundreds of thousands of times that of a simple transistor in a chip. There is absolutely no parity in complexity between this protein and a transistor 5 times larger.
Sauro then suggests that the first single-chip microprocessor, the 4004, had more computational power than a single cell – a single cell that contains billions of bits of data in the DNA, has more moving parts than a jumbo jet, has protein synthesizer units that can produce towards 30,000 different proteins, which fold in complex ways in fractions of a second, and a complex protein delivery network which uses zip or post codes tagged onto proteins to control delivery within the cell and out. The range of functionality and flexibility that currently is beyond any human mind to comprehend in totality or anywhere near it, and yet, this incredible "machine," the cell, is compared to a sloppy old 2,000 transistor microchip. Is this a meaningful comparison?