With any other object, the object’s properties depend on its physical makeup — ultimately, its constituent particles. But those particles’ properties derive not from constituents of their own but from mathematical patterns. As points of contact between mathematics and reality, particles straddle both worlds with an uncertain footing.
Mammals rarely engage in repeated stereotypical behaviour when presented with a task wherein they cannot directly obtain their goal, but will change their behaviour and attempt different strategies. This could provide one possible definition of intelligence in animals: the more complex the improvised strategy, the more intelligent the animal. Other behaviours can also be used as markers of intelligence and there are gradations in intelligence.
It still feels hard, if not reckless, to imagine the upside of Covid-19. We may not have even seen the worst of it yet.
But everyone in the world has suddenly been exposed to problems they had never seen before. They’ve become aware of new risks. New constraints in how they live, work, and play. A whole new set of perspectives on how to keep your family safe, run a business, and use technology.
Some of the changes that will bring are obvious. We’re already better and faster at creating vaccines than we were a year ago. Doctors are more knowledgeable. Remote work is more efficient. Travel is less necessary.
Then there’s a second tier of change: perhaps using our new knowledge of mRNA vaccines to treat other diseases, like cancer. It seems likely, but who knows.
Whether we are creating new forms of life in a lab on Earth or elsewhere in the Universe – we are currently creating new chemical possibilities, and therefore new potential forms of appreciation and value that can affect the way we live. The technological possibilities of applied prebiotic chemistry are only now beginning to be resolved. We can imagine using chemical reactions to perform computational processes much more efficiently than silicon chips. We can imagine self-organising organic chemical systems engineering solutions to pressing environmental problems. We can imagine hybrid systems composed of Earth life and prebiotic chemical systems greatly expanding and stabilising human exploration of the solar system.
Over the last 90 years, fire ants have irrevocably altered the southeastern United States. Some 30–60 percent of the human population there is stung every year, to say nothing of the wildlife and livestock. In their quest for protein, swarms can kill calves and strip the bones. The ants have displaced many native species, reduced biodiversity, spread disease and even likely caused one species of lizard to evolve longer legs just to provide more leverage for flinging them off. The costs are not just physical. Fire ants cost the U.S. around $6.5 billion annually on a combination of control, medical treatments, livestock and crop loss, and vet bills. We are not alone in our suffering. In just the last 20 years, fire ants have colonized China, Taiwan, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Macao, the Caribbean and Australia.
View and Listen
A video on life and size of living things – magic of diffusion
Types of bridges – Every Bridge For Every Situation, Explained By an Engineer
A brilliant ad by German government on staying indoors during COVID
Discussion with Jimmy Wales of how Wikipedia works, why it works, and how well it can go on working if the culture wars continue to escalate.
Food scientist Harold McGee talks about the workings of smell, and its connections with taste
What to do if the plane crashes?