New Approaches to the Origin of Life

Mike Melrose, flickrcc.bluemountains.net
Mike Melrose, flickrcc.bluemountains.net

Studying the origin of life is an intractable problem, a little like navigating the misty trackless waste that is central Dartmoor. For an event that happened so long ago, we are unlikely to find a ‘smoking gun’. If life originated on another planet and then somehow seeded life on Earth – a possibility that is being taken seriously at the moment – we have even less hope of finding a solution. This was Christopher Southgate’s impression of the field of origins research until a few years ago. Chris is a theologian and former biochemist based at Exeter University, and in his Faraday seminar on New Approaches to the Origin of life: Scientific and Theological last week, he explained why he is now a little a more hopeful. He also described a very unique research programme that combines both science and theology.

Life is generally easier to describe than define. Any description that tries to be all-inclusive will inevitably leave something out. Southgate’s own definition includes three properties: Continue reading

What makes us creative?

notebook529999_81765483Chris Greene cropped
© Chris Greene, http://www.sxc.hu

We value creativity very highly – in science and every other area of life – but what makes a person creative? Creativity is not correlated to the much-contested score of mathematical and linguistic ability, spatial awareness and memory that is IQ. It also seems that one does not inherit creativity, at least not biologically. What we do know is that creativity can be nurtured. Children who are encouraged to be creative are more likely to be creative as adults, adults are more likely to be creative in certain environments, and the people around us are a vital source of inspiration.[1]

Susan Hackwood was a department head in the famously creative Bell Laboratories, the US telecommunications industry research lab that produced seven Nobel Prizes, and is now a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California. She has taken a professional interest in the cultivation of creativity, and has contributed to the recent book, Exceptional Creativity. Her research has revealed two personality traits and two abilities that must be encouraged in order for creativity to flourish. Continue reading