You’re flipping a coin. How many heads in a row would it take for you to start getting suspicious?
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH: Ninety-Two?[i]
Life may be ubiquitous in the universe, forms and structures may crop up independently in very similar forms, but at the moment it seems as if human life is unique on our planet. The Cambridge Palaeobiologist Professor Simon Conway Morris made a name for himself by studying the Burgess shale, which is one of the earliest records of soft-bodied animal forms. From this work, he developed an interest in convergent evolution – the idea that independent evolutionary processes hit on the similar solutions again and again. Now that convergence has blossomed into a field of its own, Simon has turned his attention to human and animal intelligence. At this year’s Faraday Institute summer course he described some of his findings so far, which I will summarise here in my own words. Continue reading
What is our place in the world? In his seminar at the Faraday Institute last month, Dr Jonathan Moo described the current movement towards ecomodernism, which involves a separation from nature. If you want to understand this trend in more depth you can listen to the recording of Jonathan’s talk. In this post I will focus on the last part of the seminar, where Jonathan presented his own ideas about how limits can help us to flourish. Continue reading
Human beings tend to look after their families and friends, and at times we even show concern for complete strangers. Some of this care and compassion can be explained in terms of hormones. For example, Continue reading
Science is a deeply human activity that people were doing long before the ‘scientific revolution’ a few hundred years ago – but then so is religion. Is there any evidence to suggest which came first? Did early human beings find themselves thinking deep thoughts about the meaning of the universe, then become motivated to investigate the world around them more intensively, or Continue reading
My desk at the Faraday Institute has a view of the garden, where a squirrel buries its nuts in the autumn. Running to and from the trees in the hedge, it digs into the carefully tended college lawn, building up its stock for the winter. Work must stop every now and then when Continue reading
Science is not about discovering a low-level “theory of everything” that captures everything that can be said about what happens in the physical world. The structure of the natural world is not like that. To illustrate this, I began with a simple parable, which has an obvious application to the structure of scientific explanation. Continue reading