Life and the Meaning of Everything

Life and the Virus  

In no form of life is directive activity wholly absent. ... We can no more fix the earliest appearance of a recognizable self in organic evolution that we can fix the earliest appearance of conscious activity. Indeed, the recent study of viruses is apparently making it difficult to draw a definitive line between the behaviour of living and non-living matter. [Charles S Myers, The absurdity of any mind-body relation, L T Hobhouse Memorial Trust Lecture #2, delivered 19 May 1932, at University College, London]


What is Life? (1)

Something capable of reproducing itself and evolving - that is the sort of definition Charles Darwin would have accepted ~ Professor Colin Pillinger, chief scientist to the European Space Agency's unsuccessful Beagle 2 Mars exploration, as reported speaking at press conference in December 2003. (Which begs the question, how do you judge something as being "capable" of "evolving" - surely that capacity is a feature of the environment as well as the organism? Obviously you need to find evidence for a regular, reliable and robust mechanism for reproduction - but not too regular, not too reliable and not too robust; whilst the process depends upon sufficient stability to ensure a reliable inheritance, it also needs just the right degree of instability to offer a swatch of future selectables.)

What is Life? (2)

The Biologists' Answer: Life is a sexually-transmitted terminal disease.

A joke from Belgium

Three engineering students were gathered together discussing the possible designers of the human body. One said, "It was a mechanical engineer. Just look at at the joints." Another said, "No, it was an electrical engineer. The nervous system has many thousands of electrical connections." The last said, "Actually, it was a civil engineer. Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a recreational area?" (Source: Pierre Janssen)

How to remember the value of Pi

How I like a drink alcoholic of course after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics....

Letter from Horace Walpole to Horace Mann, 28 January 1754

I once read a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip; as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right - now do you understand serendipity?
[Cambridge University Library 457.d.97.46 / page 54 / "Horace Walpole"]


I gather that there is a 17th Century Church in Oxford that was recently able to repair its roof because the elders planted a grove of oak trees at the same time the church was built, which furnished the wood required to make the repairs.

How to distinguish between knowledge and wisdom

Knowledge ~ the tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable

Wisdom ~ you don't put tomatoes in a fruit salad

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