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Biology & Evolution

Is pain a spandrel?

Is pain an evolutionary evolved feature?

I can see the usefulness of a warning system that allows injury to be detected, mitigated and protected so the body can repair.

And for that it is very effective: any injury to the skin or flesh wounds are detectable, can be protected and will eventually heal.

Fitness Tracking

One of the biggest difficulties I have getting fit is the lack of metrics on progress. I have no way of knowing whether or not a workout is effective or whether or not I'm making good use of my time. Fitness trackers are available now although most of them only track footsteps which to me is useless (maybe I'm wrong).

In addition I also have a terrible time getting quality sleep. I wish there were a device that could monitor and debug my sleeping difficulties.

SciFi Musing #2: AI vs human genome

Fully conscious, self-aware, complex and possibly even immature electro-mechanical machines are just one more step (and probably not even the last) in what is a long series of developments that started with the invention of computers (arguably earlier if you consider hunting dogs and the like). It started with basic stuff like calculators. Smart homes, cars and phones are automating our lives. It's a matter of time before these machines learn and build their own knowledge systems. And it's just a matter of time before one of them becomes self-aware.

SciFi Musing #1: Scientific Knowledge is outpacing mankind's ability to handle it

CRISPR describes a mechanism that bacteria use as a defense mechanism against viruses. It involves incorporating a part of the virus DNA into their own DNA to use as a fingerprint to quickly identify a repeat invasion. It is also a method for coopting those genes for cutting in (or out) specific gene sequences in a cell. Any cell. I learned about it from Radiolab's latest broadcast and the power of this tool is mind blowing.

SciFi Musing #3: Wealth gap will lead to Genetic gap

I don't know whether to be excited or terrified by the thought that we could soon have the ability to genetically modify our children's genome. This could be accomplished by tweaking the genes in young embryos or later on by "patching" the genome.

Love Language

At the behest of a friend I took the "Love Language" test. It is an attempt to score how one expresses love and (without awareness of such) how one expects to be loved (iow how they feel loved).

The results:

7 Words of Affirmation
10 Quality Time
1 Receiving Gifts
4 Acts of Service
8 Physical Touch

Each has a maximum score of 12 points.

A Slightly Mathematical Derivation of Happiness

What is your purpose? Do you do anything that's important to society? Do you do anything that's important to you? Think about happiness. What makes you happy? Does happiness just happen to you? I doubt that and what I'm about to propose supports that it does not. If you have ever been happy in your life, and then at some point later you did reach a state of happiness, then happiness didn't just 'happen'. Either someone did something to you or for you, or you did something yourself that lead either directly or indirectly to your happiness.

Theory of Speciation; History of Life

I read Gould's "Structure of Evolutionary Theory" and I was relieved to see that the there are others who are struck with the same problem with Darwin that I have. The thing that doesn't add up in "Origin of Species" is slow gradual evolution couldn't work during extinction events. More specifically, the period afterwards when the environment has radically changed and that all living things are somehow expected to slowly catch up. The life timescale is far shorter than the evolutionary timescale. If that were true, the species would become extinct.

I Am In Awe Of The Structure And Form Of Life

I am constantly struck by the beauty of California. Up and down the highways the state has placed interesting and unusual flora. It is spring time now and everything has come alive, shooting leaves and branches and stems into the air. Here and there stretches of highway will explode with color as a particular plant blooms. I could count a hundred different plants to and from work... trees, flowers, bushes, shrubs, cactus, etc. Most of which are flowering or soon to. Once leafless and dull, trees have shot out little leaves. It is quite pleasing to see different plants for the first time.

Selection, Levels.

Anyone who has read Darwin knows that evolution can be broken down into 3 basic ideas: inheritence, selection, and change. What evolves, is the organism. But where, exactly, that evolution takes place has always been debated. For almost 200 years scientists have argued the where of inheritence. Today it is known that the primary item of inheritence is DNA. DNA is passed from parent to child, ad infinitum. Some (like Dawkins) take a hard line approach to this and exclude anything but DNA as the item of inheritance. But, there are other alternative theories.

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