Professor David Gelernter of Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science is famous for having predicted the World Wide Web years before its appearance, as well as having conceived or designed innumerable computing tools in wide use throughout the world.
But Gelernter is also something of a Renaissance Man because he is a prolific lecturer and author, the latter including works of fiction, technical articles and art criticism. Plus, he’s a member of the National Council of the Arts.
Imagine that your life depends upon your finding one particular molecule among all the molecules that make up our galaxy, the Milky Way? Oh, and you are blindfolded. What are the odds?
Well, according to molecular biologist Douglas Axe, who did the calculations, your odds of choosing the right molecule out of all the molecules that make up the Milky Way are actually better than the odds of random genetic changes to produce something new, even something as modest as a new protein function?
Axe, who received his PhD from CalTech in chemical engineering, puts it this way: “We ask how rare or how common functional proteins are within the space of possibilities. Doing experiments and calculations, we found that they are exceedingly rare, like one in 10 to the 74th power rare.”
This could be a little difficult for some folks (me included) to wrap your mind around but imagine that your next Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy assembled itself, with no human or robot hands involved in the final process.
No, that’s not science fiction speculation, but real-world technological progress. Super intelligent people at places like MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab are already working on turning the concept into reality and have come up with a pilot process, according to a smart guy who should know.
I don’t know about you, but I find that prospect absolutely fascinating because, if a self-assembly process is possible for a smartphone, the same cannot be far behind for … cars, computers, power plants, who knows what the limits might be or if there even are any limits.
For folks who aren’t biochemists, the headline above likely makes no sense, but Reasons To Believe’s Fazale Rana, who is a biochemist, is also a solid write who knows how to make complexity understandable.
That’s fortunate for the rest of us because there is huge news on the biochemistry front that sounds like a potential paradigm shifter for our understanding of DNA.
It all has to do with interruptions. You know, that irritating legislative director in Rayburn or the haughty communications director over on the Senate side who won’t let you finish a sentence without interrupting you. And that has immense implications for the evolution vs. creation debate.
Oxford Professor Emeritus Fellow Richard Dawkins is among the world’s most famous atheists, thanks largely to his prolific pen, which produced such well-read books as “The God Delusion” and “The Blind Watchmaker.”
Less appreciated perhaps is the unmitigated bluntness with which Dawkins so forthrightly discusses the implications of his conclusions about the origin of man and the universe for the rest of us.