Thanks, helo. I had not seen the first article. I find that one really interesting. I'm going to have to look at that one. I had seen the second one.
These are both interesting, but to me, in a sense, they show the same thing - the fact that we're dealing with "floppy" locks and keys. I think everybody agrees at this point that there are locks and keys. The question is now how they operate. People today are a bit fooled by the quality of our own "shape-based" locks on our doors. We think one lock, one key. But because I still remember the days of bad locks, I recall that I occasionally found keys that "almost worked", and I once found a wrong key that did work. And of course the whole concept of lock-picking works on the idea that locks can be fooled by a super-flexible process that mocks the correct key.
We really have to be careful about this "shape theory" thing. I know it's driving David to distraction, and worse than that, I think it's misleading to ourselves. Perhaps it's just a case of journalists oversimplifying things, or marketers trying to gin up a conflict to make a book subject "hotter", but I think we have to be on the same page on this. Locks and keys are here to stay.
The second article is showing me that when you pin down a floppy molecule that activates a particular olfactory receptor, it can prevent it from accessing the particular shape that best turns the key, or it can (theoretically) pin it into a particularly good shape that fits the lock. There's a bit of a problem in the study here, in that you can't really lock the molecule into its "loose and long" conformation, and that's what seems to work best. Still, it's interesting.
I find the first article really interesting. I may buy it. If I read the abstract correctly, they're saying that the electronic signal sent from the lock (ignoring to some extent what turned the key) is itself not very precise, and that they were able to rule out a lot of explanations other than the neurons themselves (the cells with the receptors) having a certain amount of unpredictability. That says loose locks to me, although I have to look at the article and see if what they say sheds any light on the manner of looseness, and where it enters into things. And is the looseness truly random, or just pseudo-random? (I almost have to use the book title pun "Fooled By Pseudo-Randomness"! ) No matter what - very interesting.