This dropped into my hands while I listened to the panspermia chatter surrounding the marvellous Rosetta/Philae mission to comet 67P last November. HoThis dropped into my hands while I listened to the panspermia chatter surrounding the marvellous Rosetta/Philae mission to comet 67P last November. However, the book attempts to answer the 'how' rather than the 'whence life' question. Pross presents this in the principal of how abiogenesis occurs despite the constraints imposed on matter by the second law of thermodynamics. Pross argues simple chemical processes are the key to understanding how inert matter acquires the essential replicating and metabolizing properties that disclose living entities. His ideas merge with and incorporate Darwin's theory of evolution; so that we approach an ahistorical general law that explains life from its simple chemical origins to the complexification into all possible species. Pross accepts we may never know the primary organisms in the history of life on earth, but this idea like almost every sentence in this book is a wonderful discovery....more
More interesting when the mathematical operand disappears in the later chapters on quantum mechanics and black holes. Ironically I wanted an expositioMore interesting when the mathematical operand disappears in the later chapters on quantum mechanics and black holes. Ironically I wanted an exposition of the former, but I suppose that's the nature of wanting too much of one thing from nothing....more
Mr Palomar is a fiction with reference to the encounters of Calvino in his "Collection of Sand: Essays", and contrary to Palomar's literary reputationMr Palomar is a fiction with reference to the encounters of Calvino in his "Collection of Sand: Essays", and contrary to Palomar's literary reputation of maudlin neuroticism is - with the Palomar/Calvino voices interchangeable - a wonderous approach with peace, humour and humility to introspection through observation.
Reading Palomar is an uncanny experience as the epistemological worldview of Palomar/Calvino exists unknowingly at the threshold of the interface granted by the information/communication revolution and yet their world is an analogous territory - with its mismatched slippers, albino gorillas, Zen garden of Ryoanji - of today's world. Of course; this could be my own magnified confabulation, but the points and period inbetween relay an interesting hand in the unscrewing of the eyepiece of postmodernism....more
This occupies the ground between a publication for the benefit of general public knowledge - as a duty and justification of research funding - and a sThis occupies the ground between a publication for the benefit of general public knowledge - as a duty and justification of research funding - and a summary review for a high-minded circle of readers who appreciate, are perhaps even hedonic over robust cognitive scientific methods moderately diluted from the lab.
Prior understanding of experimental methods, behaviourism, positive/negative reinforcement, controls etc, and a familiarity with sub-cortical neuroanatomy would perhaps help the reader extract the most from the nuances of meaning within each essay... The essays as a whole are striking in the fact that amongst the cutting-edge language and processes of discovery the science still remains in its infancy and is dependent on inferences from brain-relative course-grained technology (e.g. MRI, PET scanning) capturing fleeting hotspot activity such as regional cortical blood flow. Locating the spots, loops, excitatory/inhibitory chemistry of pleasure in the brain seems almost absurdly myopic when compared with the complexity of being human (with qualia), but it seems that this broad-based reductionist routine is an essential condition that science must meet for itself....more
"Pandaemonium: The coming of the machine" is an awkward, grinding introduction to the industrial revolution for this member of a post-industrial gener"Pandaemonium: The coming of the machine" is an awkward, grinding introduction to the industrial revolution for this member of a post-industrial generation. The book's modernist fragmentary form clashes with the distant science and the staid, long-winded language of the period. This is compounded by Jennings' infrequent commentary: as its density and insight - pointing to esoteric associations between texts that were beyond my capacity to notice for myself - often seemed a more valuable proposition than the contemporary accounts.
However, some of the content is rewarding and almost a pleasure such as this irreverent snippet from James Nasmyth, 1864... "Among the many things that I showed Sir John [Herschel] while at Hammerfield, was a piece of white calico on which I had got printed one million spots. This was for the purpose of exhibiting one million in visible form. In astronomical subjects a million is a sort of unit, and it occurred to me to show what a million really is. Sir John was delighted and astonished at the sight. He went carefully over the outstretched piece with his rule, measured its length and breadth, and verified its correctness."...more