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Feynman and I (07/05/18 06:35:48) Reply
    Feynman was asked something to this effect: If there is one piece of scientific information to be preserved after total breakdown of civilisation - which information would that be? Feynman replied: The knowledge that the world is made of atoms.

    I strongly claim that he was mistaken.

    The idea that the world is made of atoms was made by pure speculation by the old Greeks. No scientific evidence - and even so the idea could be generated. It took centuries before the idea could be proved scientifically, and even longer to come to use. It has no use in daily life.

    I think a much more useful piece of information would be: There exist life forms that are so small that we cannot see them. This does have uses in daily life by answering some of the whys - the boiling of foods, the avoidance of touching sick animals, the fermentation of foods.
e

Re: Feynman and I (08/05/18 21:01:04) Reply
    Feynman was a great physicist. He knew preciously little of other sciences than his own, and little if no biology. So he is excused.

    You do not need to know about elements to have use of the knowledge of microbiology. For the complexity of biological molecules you need not to know about elements. For needing to know about molybdenium or cobalt or vanadium you need to be part of a scientifically advanced culture. Fungi or yeasts or bacteria: If they had known about it, Greek philosophyt would (I think) have been different and maybe useful.
e

Re: Re: Feynman and I (16/06/18 01:27:15) Reply
    It is quiet here these years, and I have added to that I suppose.

    This post reminded me of my attempt to make it through the Feynman lectures a few years ago. I didn't make it through very many (maybe 7 or 8) before I realized I'd get more out of it by knowing more math first and I set the project aside, but I remember that question (or perhaps just a similar one) and have hunted it down.

    Feynman posed the question in his first lecture: "If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?" in the first of his lectures on physics as a kind of thought experiment to illustrate how much information is packed into his statement. His reply was "that all things are made of atoms--little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another." See link for his that lecture: http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/I_01.html#Ch1-S2 the rest of his lecture is the other things he claims can be deduced from that information and why he picked it. Those lectures are a fascinating read, more for how he explains things and the approach he takes to solving problems, than the physics itself. So it isn't so much the utility that he was after as efficient encoding of information.

    Feynman did a sabbatical one year studying the microbiology or the genetics of the bacteriophage, so he had at least some idea of biology. I haven't read the paper he contributed to, but here's a link to it in the event someone wants to read it
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1210321/pdf/179.pdf

    In terms of pure usefulness I think your statement is a good one, though the scientific method itself could also be a good contender.

    If I might address the philosophy as an apologist (not for the Greek stuff, but in general)

    Greek philosophy is significant, I think, only because it is the first (recorded time in the West at least) that humans started inquiring about cosmogony, and cosmology outside of a religious context. But I agree with you that it isn't particular useful as a subject now. When they realized those were very difficult things to determine answers about, they moved on to human questions like what is a good life, and how should society be organized to foster such a life (politics)--which are also very difficult to find answers to or perhaps implement. There are a few underappreciated gems though: Heraclitus (who I think was on to something), Pyrrho (because a healthy dose of skepticism does one good sometimes, but Pyrrho is skeptical enough that one must start to fight it oneself and find things that can be known), and Diogenes the cynic (mostly because he lived a colorful life and that is a bright spot in an otherwise full subject).

    In fairness to philosophy, most of which leaves something to be desired if one is after a definitive answer, most of the non-modern stuff is significant not for its content now, but because of how it changed how humans think about the world. Reading it makes one think not only about what is said, but also the meaning, implications, context, and why it was/is being said. I am always curious about the philosophers that don't get much study, why do some ideas persist and other fade? It cannot be just the ideas, because the Greeks are still around..

    Philosophy might be to ideas what science is to the world--a method of weeding out inconsistencies to approximate truth.

    There is something interesting in the premise of Feynman's question how to convey the most information in the fewest words.
hraefn

Re: Re: Re: Feynman and I (19/06/18 09:08:21) Reply
    Nice. Thank you.

    Another Feynman saying (according to memory): There's plenty of tyranny at the top, and plenty of room at the bottom. So when the scientific method were too primitive for discoveries at the bottom, philosophy changed focus. Some of it became a tool of tyranny.

    Now, thanks to technical development, we can go back to the bottom. But now we need also to deal with the tyranny at the top.
e

Re: Re: Re: Re: Feynman and I (19/06/18 11:49:31) Reply
    A wonderful planet.
    I believe we are getting closer to an understanding of the origin of life. Hydrothermal vents are the hottest candidates for being the place(s) where it happened. Precursors to organic material is one type of conponent; others are catalytic trace metals - iron, cobalt, molybdenum, vanadium, zinc - which are hard to come by, but available in hydrothermal systems.

    "The Chicxulub crater, shown here in an artist’s conception, formed a little more than 66 million years ago when a meteorite plowed into Earth’s surface, wiping out 75% of all species on the planet. But recent findings suggest the impact actually could have helped generate the conditions necessary for the creation of life itself. Image courtesy of Detlev van Ravenswaay/ScienceSource."

    It says: Hydrothermal systems may have been created on land from the damage caused by meteorite collisions.

    (http://www.pnas.org/content/115/23/5820)

    Hydrothermal systems and Darwinian selections seem more realistic than some of the older models.
e

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Feynman and I (19/06/18 15:05:37) Reply
    I (so as not to generalise inaccurately) can talk about it because Bento de Spinoza started the breakup of religion's monopoly on science. I will not forget that he and his struggle at the bottom lost against the tyranny at the top.

    The struggle has not been won once and for all. These days religion is again getting stronger in its struggle for ignorance.

    It is worth remembering that the original sin was to take a bite of the fruit from the tree of knowledge.
e

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Feynman and I (19/06/18 19:39:25) Reply
    That is an interesting Feynman statement. I have always sort of viewed the tyrannical part of philosophy as rhetoric. Both care about arguments, but philosophy cares less about beating the other side than it does about using them as a means to find truth. Rhetoric is more concerned with winning. But I suppose both are prone to misuse and not all philosophy is helpful.

    I do agree with you that the struggle of some of the early modern philosophers was imperative to the free science from religion. Spinoza for sure. Even Descartes can be read in a way that sees his philosophy as an attempt create a space for physical science to coexist with religion--as strange as his argument is otherwise. Spinoza's solution is much more elegant that way. It is telling how much religion can delay progress or even the status quo (see the delay between the Antikythera mechanism and the start of modern clockwork again).

    You're right that religion is indeed gaining prominence over thought for dominance in general. Here it seems like an apathetic malaise has settled over people, so any group that has beliefs and the energy to fight for them will gradually increase in influence simply because enough people do not care to fight against it. It is slipping perhaps because people do not recognize (or think about) what may be lost as a result.

    I wonder if part of the problem is that most people are no longer able to understand how technology works (in its details). 100-120 years ago, most people could probably take apart anything and figure out how it worked. Whereas now most things (unless one is really inclined), are beyond most people's understanding because of the level of background needed for anything other than an analogy. It's easier (less work) to just ignore how it works than just to use it. The curious ones still figure out how it works. Distractions reign, and because of the general apathy it allows religious thinking to regain a foothold. It seems like there is a general decrease in interest in the natural world in favour of ones of human creation.

    Science provides a better explanation for life, but it doesn't provide a meaning for it. Religion claims to have such a meaning and that appeals to a lot of people who don't want to consider that life could be nothing more than a beautiful happenstance of nature. Without considering why it is that they think life should have some kind of meaning. That is a domain that science can't really cover. One can find meaning in doing science, but one can't scientifically find the meaning of life--if that makes sense. The options then strike me as either ignore the problem entirely (which seems to be what most people do), turn to philosophy (which doesn't have definitive answers but sort of equips one to deal with that fact), or take up religion (which claims to have answers but only by replacing thought with faith) without thinking about the impact that may have on quality of life in general.

    I do recall that original sin was taking a bite out of the fruit from the tree of knowledge. I have always found that story strange, because to know that eating the fruit was wrong presupposes that one already had the knowledge gained from the act.

    That's a fascinating article, it seems similar to the hypothesis that life originated in geothermal vents, albeit with slightly different circumstances. I admit my knowledge of biochemistry could be much better than it is, but how does that kind of setting compare to the experiments used to make RNA/RNA precursors in laboratory settings--beyond the obvious vent vs lab?
hraefn

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Feynman and I (20/06/18 09:48:04) Reply
    The meaning of life in the religious way seems like reward seeking from the deity - for being pious; for saying the right prayers at the right times; for keeping up with more or less functional demands like food rules or dress codes, and for paying one's dues to the clerics. The reward could be eternal life and eternal happiness. It is really a business transaction: I do this, and the deity rewards me and punishes me according to my deeds and attitudes.

    In Pontoppidan's elaboration of Luther's catechism there is a lot about the meaning of life.
    http://www.evangelisk-luthersk.eu/Indbygget%20ramme-side/ny_side_1.htm

    It is tyranny from the top, and the punishments for any deviation from the right faith were really harsh. No escape at the bottom when priests were monitoring sex and reproduction, and newborn children and their mothers were regarded as impure the newborn child was still a heathen.

    Finding meaning of life does not need religion or advanced knowledge. But I admit: I would not easily or at all find the meaning of life if my situation were dominated by poverty, violence, lies and exploitation.

    ---

    I have not read up on the latest models for pre-biological synthesis of nucleotides and amino acids; I stopped when I was reminded that heavy metals are essential for life.

    ---
    The Feynman quotation is taken as one of the starting points of nanotechnology. It wasn't about politics or society, it was about physics.
e

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Feynman and I (20/06/18 11:38:26) Reply
    I believe: to find a meaning of life, one needs an idea of how it should be, and room enough to make it a reality. This is really about finding a room at the bottom. Comparing oneself with others will frequently lead to unhappiness. I know from experience - but also from reading what others write about themselves, and from reading the statistics of mental discomfort and disease (increasing).

    Being me is no big deal. Being of help to wife and children and grandchildren and neighbours are. It's just modest services - playing with the children, picking up at kindergarten, cooking. Keeping the small flame burning, invisible to all except those who can see the light and feel the warmth.

    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44299/elegy-written-in-a-country-churchyard

    But don't forget the laughs.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elegy_Written_in_a_Country_Churchyard

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil%27s_Dictionary
    http://www.thedevilsdictionary.com/?a=#!
e

Vote (20/06/18 11:40:10) Reply
    The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.

    (From Devil's Dictionary)
e

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Feynman and I (20/06/18 17:26:03) Reply
    This strict Christianity is a part of Europe's religious past. I am sure that all those extreme abuses were preparing the thinking people for a rebellion against, and, eventually, the expulsion of religion from politics.

    I do not want it back in any form. The recent events in West Asia is a reminder that we are not rid of the concept or the reality of the God state. I think we should be more active in removing the basis for it - by education about what is possible and what is impossible.

    --

    So - I say that life created itself, and there are theories about the mechanisms operating - within the laws of nature. It is much harder so give a plausible mechanism for the existence of an almighty invisible all-knowing ubiquitous god having created himself and thereafter the universe and all life by intelligent design. Actually - I have not seem one single proposal of a physical mechanism - it is all about faith - and ignorance.

    " Since their discovery, hydrothermal vents have been relevant to concepts that surround the origin of life. At the simplest level, there are two kinds of hydrothermal vents: the hot (approximately 350°C) black smoker type, the chemistry of which is driven by the magma-chamber that resides below ocean-floor spreading zones, and the cooler (approximately 50–90°C) Lost City type, the chemistry of which is driven not by magma, but by a process called serpentinization.

    Serpentinization is a H2-producing geochemical reaction that has been operation in hydrothermal systems for as long as there has been water on the Earth. Its reducing power is sufficient to generate substantial amounts of abiogenic CH4 and short hydrocarbons in the effluent of some modern hydrothermal vents.

    In the study of the origin of life, major unresolved issues concern the source of sustained chemical energy and the source of reduced carbon compounds. The CO2-reducing geochemistry of modern hydrothermal vents provides a model for our understanding of how such processes might have been possible at the dawn of biochemistry.

    Methanogens and acetogens satisfy their carbon needs through the acetyl-coenzyme A pathway, an energy-releasing pathway of CO2 fixation, if given sufficient environmental H2 and CO2. The authors consider the idea that the CH4-producing and acetate-producing geochemistry of hydrothermal vents is the abiogenic precursor of modern microbial CH4 and acetate production.

    This suggests that the evolutionary starting point of microbial metabolism might have been an energy-releasing geochemical process in which CO2 served as the acceptor for electrons that stemmed from H2 generated by serpentinization. The naturally chemiosmotic nature of alkaline hydrothermal systems, such as Lost City, might be important to the origin of life issue, but in a somewhat unexpected way that, in turn, helps to explain why chemiosmotic coupling through ATPases is universal throughout the microbial world."

    https://www.nature.com/articles/nrmicro1991

    ---

    " A new theory proposes the primordial life-forms that gave rise to all life on Earth left deep-sea vents because of their "invention" of a tiny pump. These primitive cellular pumps would have powered life-giving chemical reactions.

    The idea, detailed Dec. 20 in the journal Cell, could help explain two mysteries of life's early origin: How did the earliest proto-cells power chemical reactions to make the organic building blocks of life; and how did they leave hydrothermal vents to colonize early Earth's oceans?

    Authors of the new theory argue the environmental conditions in porous hydrothermal vents — where heated, mineral-laden seawater spews from cracks in the ocean crust — created a gradient in positively charged protons that served as a "battery" to fuel the creation of organic molecules and proto-cells.

    Later, primitive cellular pumps gradually evolved the ability to use a different type of gradient — the difference in sodium particles inside and outside the cell — as a battery to power the construction of complex molecules like proteins. And, voilà, the proto-cells could leave the deep-sea hydrothermal vents. [Image Gallery: Unique Life at Deep-Sea Vents]

    "A coupling of proton gradients and sodium gradients may have played a major role in the origin of life. This is really cool, novel stuff," Jan Amend, a researcher at the University of Southern California, who was not involved in the study, wrote in an email to LiveScience. The study reflects the increasingly popular idea that a simple, everyday source of power, not a rare occurrence like a lightning strike, could have provided the power to initially create life, he said.

    Deep-sea start

    Many scientists think life got its start around 3.7 billion years ago in deep-sea hydrothermal vents. But figuring out just how complex, carbon-based life formed in that primordial stew has been tricky.

    Somehow, the precursors of life harnessed carbon dioxide and hydrogen available in those primitive conditions to create the building blocks of life, such as amino acids and nucleotides (building blocks of DNA). But those chemical reactions require a power source, said study co-author Nick Lane, a researcher at the University College London.

    Now, Lane and William Martin, of the Institute of Molecular Evolution at the Heinrich Heine University in Germany, propose that the rocky mineral walls in ocean-floor vents could have provided the means.

    The theory goes: At the time of life's origin, the early ocean was acidic and filled with positively charged protons, while the deep-sea vents spewed out bitter alkaline fluid, which is rich in negatively charged hydroxide ions, Lane told LiveScience.

    The vents created furrowed rocky, iron- and sulfur-rich walls full of tiny pores that separated the warm alkaline vent fluid from the cooler, acidic seawater. The interface between the two created a natural charge gradient.

    "It's a little bit like a battery," Lane told LiveScience.

    That battery then powered the chemical transformation of carbon dioxide and hydrogen into simple carbon-based molecules such as amino acids or proteins. Eventually that gradient drove the creation of cellular membranes, complicated proteins and ribonucleic acid (RNA), a molecule similar to DNA.

    Leaving the vents

    At that point, primitive cells used the thin, serpentine walls of the vent to corral the new carbon-based molecules together into precursors of cells and used the charge gradient in the environment to power the building of more complex organic chemicals.

    But in order to leave the vent, primitive cells would have needed some way to carry a power-producing gradient with them — think battery pack. To solve that problem, the team looked at existing archaea bacteria in deep-sea vents.

    Those primeval life-forms use a simple type of cellular pump that pushes sodium out of the cell while pulling positively charged protons in. The team proposed that a precursor to that cellular pump evolved in the membranes of the proto-cells.

    The membrane started out very leaky, but over time, the membranes would have slowly closed, preventing much larger sodium particles from leaving the cell while smaller protons could still slip through. That enabled the proto-cells to still use the existing power-source in the environment — the charge gradient — while gradually evolving an independent way of getting power.

    Eventually, when the pores closed completely, the primitive cells would have had a sodium pump that could power their cellular reactions, enabling more complex life to form. They could then leave their birthplace.

    Testing the idea, however, will be tricky, Amend told LiveScience. "Mimicking natural conditions in the lab is a lot more difficult than it sounds.""

    ( A new theory proposes the primordial life-forms that gave rise to all life on Earth left deep-sea vents because of their "invention" of a tiny pump. These primitive cellular pumps would have powered life-giving chemical reactions.

    The idea, detailed Dec. 20 in the journal Cell, could help explain two mysteries of life's early origin: How did the earliest proto-cells power chemical reactions to make the organic building blocks of life; and how did they leave hydrothermal vents to colonize early Earth's oceans?

    Authors of the new theory argue the environmental conditions in porous hydrothermal vents — where heated, mineral-laden seawater spews from cracks in the ocean crust — created a gradient in positively charged protons that served as a "battery" to fuel the creation of organic molecules and proto-cells.

    Later, primitive cellular pumps gradually evolved the ability to use a different type of gradient — the difference in sodium particles inside and outside the cell — as a battery to power the construction of complex molecules like proteins. And, voilà, the proto-cells could leave the deep-sea hydrothermal vents. [Image Gallery: Unique Life at Deep-Sea Vents]

    "A coupling of proton gradients and sodium gradients may have played a major role in the origin of life. This is really cool, novel stuff," Jan Amend, a researcher at the University of Southern California, who was not involved in the study, wrote in an email to LiveScience. The study reflects the increasingly popular idea that a simple, everyday source of power, not a rare occurrence like a lightning strike, could have provided the power to initially create life, he said.

    Deep-sea start

    Many scientists think life got its start around 3.7 billion years ago in deep-sea hydrothermal vents. But figuring out just how complex, carbon-based life formed in that primordial stew has been tricky.

    Somehow, the precursors of life harnessed carbon dioxide and hydrogen available in those primitive conditions to create the building blocks of life, such as amino acids and nucleotides (building blocks of DNA). But those chemical reactions require a power source, said study co-author Nick Lane, a researcher at the University College London.

    Now, Lane and William Martin, of the Institute of Molecular Evolution at the Heinrich Heine University in Germany, propose that the rocky mineral walls in ocean-floor vents could have provided the means.

    The theory goes: At the time of life's origin, the early ocean was acidic and filled with positively charged protons, while the deep-sea vents spewed out bitter alkaline fluid, which is rich in negatively charged hydroxide ions, Lane told LiveScience.

    The vents created furrowed rocky, iron- and sulfur-rich walls full of tiny pores that separated the warm alkaline vent fluid from the cooler, acidic seawater. The interface between the two created a natural charge gradient.

    "It's a little bit like a battery," Lane told LiveScience.

    That battery then powered the chemical transformation of carbon dioxide and hydrogen into simple carbon-based molecules such as amino acids or proteins. Eventually that gradient drove the creation of cellular membranes, complicated proteins and ribonucleic acid (RNA), a molecule similar to DNA.

    Leaving the vents

    At that point, primitive cells used the thin, serpentine walls of the vent to corral the new carbon-based molecules together into precursors of cells and used the charge gradient in the environment to power the building of more complex organic chemicals.

    But in order to leave the vent, primitive cells would have needed some way to carry a power-producing gradient with them — think battery pack. To solve that problem, the team looked at existing archaea bacteria in deep-sea vents.

    Those primeval life-forms use a simple type of cellular pump that pushes sodium out of the cell while pulling positively charged protons in. The team proposed that a precursor to that cellular pump evolved in the membranes of the proto-cells.

    The membrane started out very leaky, but over time, the membranes would have slowly closed, preventing much larger sodium particles from leaving the cell while smaller protons could still slip through. That enabled the proto-cells to still use the existing power-source in the environment — the charge gradient — while gradually evolving an independent way of getting power.

    Eventually, when the pores closed completely, the primitive cells would have had a sodium pump that could power their cellular reactions, enabling more complex life to form. They could then leave their birthplace.

    Testing the idea, however, will be tricky, Amend told LiveScience. "Mimicking natural conditions in the lab is a lot more difficult than it sounds.")

    ---
    "While proponents of the primordial soup theory argue that electrostatic discharges or the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation drove life’s first chemical reactions, modern life is not powered by any of these volatile energy sources. Instead, at the core of life’s energy production are ion gradients across biological membranes. Nothing even remotely similar could have emerged within the warm ponds of primeval broth on Earth’s surface. In these environments, chemical compounds and charged particles tend to get evenly diluted instead of forming gradients or non-equilibrium states that are so central to life.

    Deep-sea hydrothermal vents represent the only known environment that could have created complex organic molecules with the same kind of energy-harnessing machinery as modern cells. Seeking the origins of life in the primordial soup made sense when little was known about the universal principles of life’s energetics. But as our knowledge expands, it is time to embrace alternative hypotheses that recognize the importance of the energy flux driving the first biochemical reactions. These theories seamlessly bridge the gap between the energetics of living cells and non-living molecules."

    (https://qz.com/761430/weve-been-wrong-about-the-origins-of-life-for-90-years/)
e

Re: Feynman and I (29/05/18 19:30:10) Reply
    "There exist life forms that are so small that we cannot see them"

    I agree, we can only perceive the world in terms of what we know, the formation of atoms as a concept was speaking to a greater depth of understanding, like building blocks to an unknown world.

    Ultimately all things exist as thoughts, and dissecting what a thought is you will find that its the result that arises when consciousness meets an object, so a state which can't be observed objectively if it makes sense, can only be indicated by an object(to those with wondrous minds), and the destination starts with the indicative object and flows in the direction pointed to, to discover for them selves the elements of that state of mind.

    A new world which is not familiar to those that were to timid to take the journey has to be communicated to them in turns of what they know, because even you will find it hard to articulate the emotions

    If we were both to touch an open light bulb socket, and suppose we get electrocuted we will both have some sort of unknown communication between us based on our experience but would find it hard to communicate it to someone who has not been electrocuted
d


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