The Plastic Brain

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Anti-Darwin Logic

I am having a fine old time whetting my teeth on the anti-Darwinism classic “The Neck of the Giraffe: or Where Darwin Went Wrong” by Francis Hitching.

My favourite bit of logic so far centres on the paradox of transitional species.

Part 1: If man has evolved from monkeys, where is the transition species? Why are there no half-monkey, half-man species around today? -> If evolution worked by Darwinian mechanisms, there would be extant transition species

Part 2: If so-called transition species are alive today, then they can’t be transitions after all, since they have “obstinately refus[ed] to evolve” between the time that speciation occurred until now. -> If the are extant transition species, then evolution cannot work by Darwinian mechanisms

There is a slight logical contradiction between Part 1 and Part 2. Can you find it?

The "solar" salamander

I well remember the first time I heard that mitochondria and chloroplasts may be the remnants of intracellular symbionts. How and when could that have happened?, I wondered. Surely only in a very primitive uni- or multicellular organism. Well, it turns out that such symbiosis can even occur in vertebrates. Click the link in the title to read more.

Mindblowingly awesome discovery

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…more on the utility of mathematics.

saratron of the Lazy Sunday tumblelog was not too impressed with my foray into mathematics blogging:

WTF is this guy talking about? Many maths teachers insist on stressing its utility, even when it has none. 

EXCUSE ME? I must have been living under a rock for the past 23 years cause last I heard we use math EVERYDAY and oh yeah it holds the universe together, y’know little stuff like that. 

I feel I should therefore expand on my thesis:

Of course mathematics is useful. Mathematics has both scientific and engineering applications, and as such, can help us not only understand the universe, but help us built machines to explore it.

But that’s not all there is to it. And some might argue that that interpretation leaves out the best parts. The parts that are pursued for the love of numbers, their beauty and the unexpected revelations that emerge from studying them.

It is true that these sometimes turn out later to be useful. But the point is utility should not be the driving force.


GENEVA (Reuters) – Physicists probing the origins of the cosmos hope that next year they will turn up the first proofs of the existence of concepts long dear to science-fiction writers such as hidden worlds and extra dimensions.

And as their Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN near Geneva moves into high gear, they are talking increasingly of the “New Physics” on the horizon that could totally change current views of the universe and how it works.

CERN scientists eye parallel universe breakthrough

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When it’s finally restored, I’m going to christen my 10-speed the Krebs Cycle.

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The Elucidating Adventures of Charles and Harriet

Charles: Hello young tortoise. I am going to become rather famous, you know. I shall pen the seminal work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.
Harriet: That is rather impressive. But I shall outlive you by many years, and I shall go on the meet Steve Irwin.
Charles: Touché.

Charles: Would you like to go on an amazing voyage with me, young lad?
Harriet: I thought you’d never ask. Only, I’m not a..oh, well, never mind.

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Mathematics can be useful, but it doesn’t have to be.

zillio mega mountain

To paraphrase Thomas Tymoczko: Mathematics must not necessarily be useful to be interesting and worthy of study. Many maths teachers insist on stressing its utility, even when it has none. As a result, they often hide from their students the excitement and intrinsic interest of mathematics: they hide it behind a facade of utility. It’s rather like trying to awaken people to the joy of mountain climbing by trying to convince them that someday they might have to climb over a mountain, en route to somewhere else.

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My Four Cs

The Mesopotamians may have had Seven Seas, but for me the forces that shape our lives can be summarized by the Four Cs.

Physicists also recognise four forces that shape the universe – being electromagnetism, gravity, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Important though they no doubt are, how do they help us make sense of the everyday world around us?

No, for me, serenity comes from allowing the Four Cs to wash over me. I think the physicists should dip their TOE in my Cs.

What are these four principles?

Complexity, Change, Counterpoint and Cyclicality.

The more you explore anything the more detail there is, it never stays the same, there is often contradiction, symmetry or both, yet somehow, inexplicably, you will always find yourself back where you started.

Don’t worry though. Sit back. Relax. That’s just the way the universe works.

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Milton Galser took the link between Magritte and Plato one step further.

Of this work, he said: “The four hats shown in the poster suggest how art might be defined: as the thing itself, the word for the thing, the shadow of the thing and the shape of the thing.” 

Compare this, now with Plato. The hat, its shape and its shadow are all of the physical. Although the word may advance us a step towrd the Form, it remains only a represenation of the ‘true’ hat.

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