Stephen Hawking – Lucy Hawking talking about her father.

Stephen Hawking had a degenerative disease –amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that wears away at nerve and muscle function over time. It affects the muscles but not the brain. While in his early twenties he was given just months to live. Most people would have curled up and died.

Here is what his daughter, Lucy Hawking had to say about him:

‘My father never gave up, he never shied away from the fight. At the age of seventy-five, completely paralysed and able to move only a few facial muscles, he still got up every day, put on a suit and went to work. He had stuff to do and was not going to let a few trivialities get in his way.’

What an inspiration that man was!

He is rightfully buried in St Paul’s Cathedral between Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. Not bad!

 

Stephen Hawking – Inspiring Quotes

Stephen Hawking is probably the most intelligent man on the planet in the last hundred years – an incredible human being who defied his medical condition and overcame adversity.

I have just read the inspiring book of his (his last) – Brief Answers to the Big Question’. It was very uplifting and enthralling. It made me very sad to think that we have lost such a great mind.

This is what he had to say about the future:

‘We stand at the threshold of important discoveries in all areas of science. Without doubt, our world will change enormously in the next fifty years. We will find out what happened at the Big Bang. We will come to understand how life began on Earth. We may even discover whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. While the chances of communicating with an intelligent extra-terrestrial species may be slim, the importance of such a discovery means we must not give up trying. We will continue to explore our cosmic habitat, sending robots and humans into space. We cannot continue to look inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet. Through scientific endeavour and technological innovation, we must look outwards to the wider universe, while also striving to fix the problems on Earth.  And I am optimistic that we will ultimately create viable habitats for the human race on other planets. We will transcend the Earth and learn to exist in space.

This is not the end of the story, but just the beginning of what I hope will be billions of years of life flourishing in the cosmos.’

My DNA testing for Heredity and Race.

I have just received the results of my genetic testing. I am a little surprised!

I think everybody should have one of these tests. It can blow all the racist attitudes to pieces.

Our genetics reveals our history. We are not easily identified as any particular race or nationality. It is quite clear that our ancestors migrated, moved around and intermarried. That is human nature. We fall in love with people from other races and nationalities. The vast majority of us are hybrids.

I think some of those racists, nationalists and white supremacists might get a shock or two if they were to look into their genetic history.

I am British. I was born in the South of England. I know I have some Scottish and Irish ancestry. I also know that, as a Brit, my distance ancestors came from all over Europe – mainly Germany, France, Italy and Scandinavia. There were no British people. We are all immigrants. We displaced the Celts, who retreated to Scotland, Cornwall, Wales and Ireland.

I expected all that to be reflected in my genetic make-up.

I was disappointed with my profile. I was hoping for some Asian and African but nope.

What was interesting was that being English (with parents and grandparents born in England), I might expect a high proportion of my genes to be English. They weren’t.

My profile is :

81.2% – North West European (German, Austrian, French)

15.6% – Celtic (Scottish, Irish, Welsh)

1.8% – Iberian (Spanish, Portuguese)

1.4% – English

No wonder I oppose Brexit. I know I am (like most white British people) European.

I think it might do racists and extreme nationalist good to know that their genetics might show that they are not as ‘limited’ as they think they are.

It would have been nice to have a wider base but I guess I’d have to go back a bit further from that. After all, we all came out of Africa.

The Future – Covid, A/I and a new beginning.

I smell change in the air!! I hope it manifests properly.
I think we are on a cusp. The way I see it A/I and automation can be the saviour or the last straw. There’s an A/I revolution coming.
From shelf stackers to truck drivers, teaching, doctors, surgeons, cleaners, deliverers, picking veg, flying planes and running factories – the jobs are going A/I is coming – it’s going to be automated like never before. Skilled jobs will go as well as manual. Computers will run the world.
We will not need the workforce.
In a sensible world we would reduce our numbers by a good half, share jobs and go down to a two or three day week, retrain staff into caring and support roles, share the increased wealth, encourage creativity and leisure, nurture nature, eradicate poverty and disease, end all wars and produce a well-balance, more equal and fulfilled global society.
In a stupid world, run by a greedy elite, we would encourage more expansion, more people to consume, keep using up resources and destroying the environment, shovel the increased profits into the huge pockets of the selfish elite, maintain poverty and inequality in order to create cheap labour (when needed), encourage war and conflict (as it provides opportunity for profit), and create a polluted hell-hole for nature and the many, which they, with their immense wealth, private health, education and security and gated communities, can live apart from in their own little bubble.
Which way do you think we’ll go??
I know what I’m promoting!

Poetry – Combination

Combination

 

Hydrogen, oxygen and carbon,

Combine,

in ways sublime,

To construct a new bargain.

 

In protein and DNA

They create a new alphabet,

To make a world at play

That the universe won’t forget.

 

In coils, fibres and globules

In viscous solutions,

Sparking electricity in

The wise or fools,

Fomenting evolution

Along their very own rules.

 

What a combination –

Creating plant and nation.

Organic molecules

Resulting in spaceships and schools.

Hydrogen,

Carbon

And oxygen –

Amen amen amen.

 

Opher – 8.5.2020

Water or Savannah Apes? Where did humans evolve from?

Water or Savannah Apes? Where did humans evolve from?

As you can imagine the debate is getting heated. After Attenborough did his programme on humans evolving from marine apes the conservative human evolution establishment is up in arms. They do not like their current theory being challenged.

Human beings evolved from apes in the Rift Valley area of Africa about two million years ago. Not many, apart from the flat-eithers and creationists, are disputing that. We have the fossil evidence.

It is widely believed that we became bipedal on the African savannah in order to hunt and hold tools. The development of intelligence, along with binocular sight and the opposable thumb, necessary for tool manipulation, is well documented.

What David suggested was that we did not become biped on the savannah for hunting but developed this from wading in water to live off molluscs.

So what is the evidence for our aquatic past?

a. Evidence that primitive man ate a lot of bivalves

b. We have blubber (a thick layer of fat under the skin)

c. Babies are born with an immersion syndrome. They naturally hold their breath and can swim under water.

d. We have a physiological change when immersed. Our peripheral blood system shuts down and there are changes in metabolism and brain activity.

e. The hair deposition is of an aquatic animal.

f. We have an affinity for water. We love it.

It is an interesting idea. I look forward to seeing where it goes.

Pete Smith’s Cartoons of Genius – The teaching of Science

Pete Smith’s Cartoons of Genius – The teaching of Science

 

Our Zoology course was a disaster. We had a huge mass of facts to learn and regurgitate. Instead of a celebration of life it was a boring memory test. Instead of piercing the awe  and wonder of living specimens it was a tedious analysis of dead bodies. We had to learn diagnostic features and categorise everything.

It ran counter to our love of the living world.

Pete summed it up with this cartoon.

Science should we about wonder, awe and mystery. It should be fun and fulfilling. It is the most exciting subject ever.

The differences between plants and animals is a result of what they eat!

The differences between plants and animals is a result of what they eat!

If you start off by imagining a plant and an animal as a blob we can go from there!

Plants make their own food from light, water, carbon dioxide and mineral salts.

Animals have to eat complex food from plants and animals.

The Animal

It has to find its food so it needs senses.

It has to move to get to its food so it needs limbs.

It has to eat and break down the food so it needs a digestive system.

It needs a nervous system to coordinate the senses and control the limbs.

Because it is moving it uses lots of energy and requires lungs and a heart and blood system.

Because there are waste molecules in the food it takes in it has to excrete them.

Hence the animal is complex and has lots of crucial systems that make it vulnerable.

P1120344 (2)

The Plant

It doesn’t have to move because all its necessary materials are all around it.

It develops flat projects to increase it’s surface area to absorb light and carbon dioxide (Leaves)

It develops projects to go down into the soil to absorb water and mineral salts (Roots)

It develops tubes to carry the water and food around its body

It sits there and feeds.

Reproduction is a problem because it can’t move so they get insects and the wind to do all the hard work for them.

A plant’s cells are 200 times more complex than an animals but it’s body is much simpler. Therefore it is not prone to damage. It is less vulnerable. It does not have lots of essential, delicate systems.

It is conscious.

The difference between a plant and animal is due to the way they eat. Plants are the highest forms of animals. They are much more complex than us.

Pete Smith’s Cartoons of Genius – Science should be a celebration!

Pete Smith’s Cartoons of Genius – Science should be a celebration!

 

We both felt that our Biology course was dire. Our Science education was reductionary and all about dissecting and breaking things down.

Science education should be about illuminating the wonders of the universe, celebrating life and the joy of living. Science is about investigating the mysteries. It should be life-affirming and joyous.

Looking at dead things through microscopes was a million miles from the happy life Pete and I had experienced in our childhood, wading through ponds and streams, climbing trees, lying in meadows while the dynamo of nature hummed around us and infinity was all around.

We wanted better education – better science!! More Wonder and Awe!!

AD 210 – The new calendar for the modern age!

AD 210 – The new calendar for the modern age!

A new Calendar

I suggest 1809 should now be year 0 and henceforth we move into a calendar based on that. Year 1 is AD 1810 and so we are living in AD 207

Surely in this age of science and enlightenment it is time to move on?

The world has largely progressed out of the age of superstition and has emerged into a new understanding of life and the universe. When someone asked AJP Taylor, the famous historian, when it was that we emerged out of the Dark Ages, his reply was that we had not done so yet. When someone asked Ghandi what he thought of civilisation he replied that it would be a good idea. I take a more optimistic view; I think we are at the start of a new era. It is the era of science and enlightenment.

I have hopes for it. I believe it will augur a new age of tolerance. We are at the threshold of an age of discovery and wonder – the age of science.

Once the genie is out of the bottle it cannot be put back. There is an inexorable flood.

Every culture has its creation myths and religious stories which are being shown to be the products of fertile human imagination – nothing more.

We have moved into an age where we are no longer willing to believe the fantastic without evidence. Science has affected our gullibility.

Science is evidence based. The results are all around us. They have transformed the world. If something cannot be seen, measured and replicated then it is no longer believed.

Science is the melding of imagination, creativity, thought, observation and recording. It has heralded a new age of wonder, awe and incredibility.

We have learnt more in this last single year than in the whole prescience history of the world. Yet what we know is still only touching the surface.

This is still the beginning. We are only just beginning to slowly shuffle out of the Dark Ages and there are many forces struggling to throw us back.

To signify this move forward into the light of a new era I suggest we adopt a new calendar. Not a calendar based on some erstwhile religious prophet, such as Jesus or Mohamed, but one based on a scientist of note; one of the many who have risked all to take us forward; someone instrumental in dispelling the myths and shedding light on reality.

There are many courageous people to choose from. We could go back to the likes of Copernicus, Galileo or Da Vinci, who risked grizzly death at the wrath of the church for daring to challenge the myths and investigate the truth. We could go back to the ancient Chinese or to the pre-Islamic scientists who invented agriculture, maths, the alphabet and astronomy. Here were the rudiments of science. There are hundreds to choose from.

We could go to the geniuses who arose after the enlightenment who laid the groundwork for the amazing technology of today – people like Newton, Currie or Einstein – or even Hawkin? We could choose Watson, Crick and Franklin.

II even toyed with Richard Dawkins. I felt he would be a suitable candidate. Whoever it turned out to be had to be a symbol for all the brave pioneers that had gone before, someone who symbolised this move into an age of reason.

For me there is only one candidate – the man who by revealing the whole sequence of evolution demolished all those millennia of myth. Charles Darwin started a ball rolling that has not stopped. It clearly shows that we are not divine creatures created by a god but flawed animals little different from our closest relatives – the chimps, gibbons, orangutans and gorillas. DNA has taken it a step further. The ball is still in motion. The new age is unfolding before us. It has brought the electric light, cars, flight, space travel and all the machines and technology we have become used to.

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, along with genetics, fired the magic bullet into the overinflated balloon of organised religion. For me it meant that the claims for Jesus, Mohamed, Shiva, Jehovah or Zeus are all exposed as primitive superstition.

Science has not yet discovered all the answers and probably never will. Perhaps there is an underlying spirituality? The machinery of the universe is extraordinary and more mysterious with every new discovery but it is a million miles away from the simplicity of religion and our primitive concept of god. We are not the centre of any universe and of no great significance. To suggest the universe was created for us is laughable – an egotistical nonsense. We have quarks, string theory, quantum physics, black holes, quasars, the human mind, artificial intelligence and a universe that is a whole lot more complicated and wondrous than anything in a religious text, more extraordinary than any religious leader could imagine.

I suggest we take the year of Darwin’s birth as the beginning of our new calendar.

I hope 210 After Darwin – 211 AD – is a good year for you!