"The Shape of Life" - Mark Shelley 2002 - Episode 1: Origins


Shape of Life at CBS

  • The sponge turns out to be an animal - and the oldest / most basal one at that too! That means we (humans as part of the animal kingdom) all descend from the sponge! Congratulations everyone.
  • The sponge is a living filter.

Fractal genes


Fingernails are a small but remarkable part of the human features. Over the years, I've been noticing repeating patterns of fingernails, distributed seemingly randomly among individuals. There are maybe a half-dozen types of fingernail shapes, and individual hands exhibit instances of these types, with feature details more or less emphasized. Individual hands can sometimes even exhibit combinations of different types.

Similarly to morphological features, we can discuss psychological features using patterns.

Albert Libchaber: "The Origin of Life: from geophysics to biology?"


I was fortunate to attend a fascinating public lecture by physicist-turned-biologist Albert Libchaber at the UBC Pacific Institute of Theoretical Physics.

The main thesis of the talk was to suggest that temperature differences can account for a diverse range of important physical and biological phenomena.

The blinders of science


One of the great blinders of science stems from the burden of provability: if something is not scientifically provable, then it does not have objective existence, and it's labelled as "superstition".

Genesis (2004) Claude Nuridsany et Marie Pérennou

I am lucky to find "Genesis", a French documentary about the natural history of the Earth, on TPS Star tonight. Google takes me instantly to the schedule page of the TPS Star channel, informing me: Genesis Film documentaire de Claude Nuridsany et Marie Pérennou. 2004. Thanks globalization for the poor.

The Earth starts with molten lava.

As the fire burns out, steam comes out.

The steam is redistributed on the lava as rain, covering the earth and cooling it.

As the volume of steam gets redistributed as oceans, seas, rivers and lakes, the weather cycle is initiated.

The two faces of behaviour

In distributed systems, local subsystems have distinct behaviour that together contribute to a desired overall behaviour. The local behaviour is typically simple algorithmically compared to the overall.

On the other side, some classes of systems composed of subsystems (like particles) also have distinguishable behaviour that can be modelled and expressed mathematically (like fluid flow).

Dialectical and Multi-system theory


The title gives it away really. It is the paradigm of dialectics (of which I have only a faint idea) to the study and theory of systems (of which I am trying to learn the rudiments).

Probability and statistics

Randomness is a measure of our ignorance.

Time is a river, and we are the salmons


Time has been often compared to a river, because it flows. But in which direction? Consider this: things that were once in the future will soon be past. So from our reference point, time flows in the reverse direction! And that makes us creatures that swim upstream :-)

Or, as U2 puts it in Zoo Station (from Achtung Baby):

Time is a train
Makes the future the past
Leaves you standing in the station
Your face pressed up against the glass

Simplicity and perfection

Antoine de Saint Exupéry:

La perfection est atteinte non quand il ne reste rien à ajouter, mais quand il ne reste rien à enlever. Perfection is achieved not when there's nothing more to add, but when there's nothing left to remove.

Found in the very good programming book, Programming Pearls, by Jon Bentley.

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