Posts tagged ‘evolution’

September 27, 2011

Eyebrows: What are They All About?

by Nathaniel Virgo

Humans are the only animal to have these weird little tufts of hair above their eyes.  I find the question of why this is to be a surprisingly interesting one, worthy of a long and rambling post about human evolution.

July 18, 2011

What is life? (and why the answer doesn’t matter)

by Nathaniel Virgo

What is life?  Some people will say it’s obvious: life is reproduction.  But I may never choose to reproduce, and a worker ant couldn’t if it wanted to – does that make us dead?

Others will say life is evolution.  But on closer inspection, that doesn’t really stand up either.  Evolution is easy enough to implement on a computer.  You just store a bunch of random bit strings in memory, evaluate them according to some “fitness function”, and then “mutate” and “recombine” the best ones to produce a new generation.  By iterating this process you get what’s called a “genetic algorithm”, and this can be used to design robot controllers and all sorts of other things.  These things evolve, but are they alive?  Some might say yes, but anyone with any experience in genetic algorithms will say no.

June 24, 2011

I think you may have confused the word “humanities” with “humanism”

by James Thorniley

A famous liberal British thinker who specializes in secular morality has founded a university in Bloomsbury, central London, and it’s all over the news. Weirdly, this has happened before, sort of.

University College London was founded in 1826 just down the road from AC Grayling’s “New College of the Humanities“. It was the first university in Britain to accept students regardless of faith. Jeremy Bentham, though not technically its founder, was a major influence. He says (ta, Wikipedia):

Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.

Yeah screw you, God!

June 22, 2011

Fisher on Thermodynamics and Evolution

by Lucas Wilkins

I’ve been reading Ronald Fishers book: The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, which is now publicly available. I was a little surprised to find he wrote a page or two on thermodynamics and entropy in evolution, here it is, verbatim, with a couple of comments on the numbered points. First though, his definition, in words, of the fundamental theorum of Natural Selection:

The rate of increase in fitness of any organism at any time is equal to its genetic variance at that time.

with that in mind…


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