Is intelligent life trying to communicate with us from space? Professor Paul Davies explores the potential and limits of research into the origin and evolution of life, and the search for life beyond Earth. Has ET maybe visited our planet ages ago and left us a message? At the Australian National University, Paul Davies discussed his latest book The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe?
Tagged with “evolution” (29)
Edward O. Wilson has revolutionized science and inspired the public more often than any other living biologist. Now he is blending his pioneer work on ants with a new perspective on human development to propose a radical reframing of how evolution works.
First the social insects ruled, from 60 million years ago. Then a species of social mammals took over, from 10 thousand years ago. Both sets of “eusocial” animals mastered the supremely delicate art of encouraging altruism, so that individuals in the groups would act as if they value the goal of the group over their own goals. They would specialize for the group and die for the group. In recent decades the idea of “kin selection” seemed to explain how such an astonishing phenomenon could evolve. Wilson replaces kin selection with “multi-level selection,” which incorporates both individual selection (long well understood) and group selection (long considered taboo). Every human and every human society has to learn how to manage adroitly the perpetual ambiguity and conflict between individual needs and group needs. What I need is never the same as what we need.
E. O. Wilson’s current book is The Social Conquest of Earth. His previous works include The Superorganism; The Future of Life; Consilience; Biophilia; Sociobiology; and The Insect Societies.
Biologist Mark Pagel shares an intriguing theory about why humans evolved our complex system of language. He suggests that language is a piece of "social technology" that allowed early human tribes to access a powerful new tool: cooperation.
Award-winning zoologist, science writer and author Dr Matt Ridley (UK) delivers the keynote address at the University of Melbourne’s Festival of Ideas 2011. In it he explains how genes, culture and technology evolve to drive human innovation. Ridley has published articles and reviews in The Times, Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, Literary Review, New Scientist, Prospect, New Statesman, Time, Newsweek, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Monthly and The Economist, and written more than 10 books.
Presented by University of Melbourne, July 2011
rofessor Jean Aitchison delivers her second Reith Lecture from her series entitled ‘The Language Web’. She examines the origin of language in the human species and explains how a fresh look at the role of language has led to new ideas about how it started.
Scientists can now explain virtually every stage of the evolutionary process. But there’s a basic question that still mystifies even the best scientists: How did life first begin on Earth? Or to put in another way, how did non-life somehow turn into life? And can we say the Earth itself is alive? In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge we’ll talk with James Lovelock about his Gaia theory, and explore the question, What is Life?
This hour explores some of the fundamental mysteries of life - from how it first started on Earth to the possibility of supremely intelligent life on other planets and why technology is evolving like life itself. We begin with a rare recording of Nobel Prize winning physicist Edwin Schrodinger and comments on his book "What Is Life?" from Nobel Prize winning biologists James Watson and Harold Varmus. We also hear from Ken Miller, co-author of the most widely used biology textbook in American high schools, and Craig Venter, widely regarded as one of science’s leading innovators. Venter, who’s come as close as anyone has to creating life in a test tube, tells Steve Paulson what drives him. And we hear from some ordinary people about what they think life is.
University of Wisconsin geochemist Nita Sahai talks with Anne Strainchamps about how life might have begun on Earth. On the other hand, maybe the Earth itself is alive. That’s the remarkable idea behind the Gaia hypothesis. James Lovelock came up with it in the 1960s and at first no one would take him seriously. Lovelock, now in his nineties and one of our most celebrated scientists, tells Steve Paulson where the Gaia theory came from and how it’s evolved.
Kevin Kelly is one of the founders of Wired magazine. He’s also the author of a provocative book called "What Technology Wants." Kelly tells Jim Fleming that the sum total of our technology - what he calls "the technicum" - is taking on the properties of life itself. And anthropologist Tom Boellstorff takes us on a tour through the virtual world of Second Life. Astro-biologist Paul Davies chairs the SETI Post-Detection Task Group and is the author of "The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence." He tells Steve Paulson that alien intelligence might be stranger than anything Hollywood has dreamt up.
Everything’s going to Hell in a handbasket! Or is it?
Not according to Matt Ridley. Ridley takes a long-term view of humanity’s past to project a deeply optimistic view of our future. This program was recorded in collaboration with the Long Now Foundation, on March 22, 2011.
This program contains visual aids. A complete video version is available at: http://fora.tv/2011/03/22/Matt_Ridley_Deep_Optimism
Via trade and other cultural activities, "ideas have sex," and that drives human history in the direction of inconstant but accumulative improvement over time. The criers of havoc keep being proved wrong. A fundamental optimism about human affairs is deeply rational and can be reliably conjured with.
Trained at Oxford as a zoologist and an editor at The Economist for eight years, Matt Ridley’s newest book is The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves. His earlier works include Francis Crick; Nature via Nurture; Genome; and The Origins of Virtue.
Matt Ridley’s books have sold over 800,000 copies, been translated into 27 languages and been short-listed for six literary prizes. In 2004 he won the National Academies Book Award from the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine for Nature via Nurture.
He is married to the neuroscientist Professor Anya Hurlbert. They have two children and live at Blagdon near Newcastle upon Tyne.
Humans evolved a brain with an extraordinary knack for language, but just how and when we began using language is still largely a mystery. Early human communication may have been in sign language or song, and scientists are studying other animals to learn how human language evolved.
Cosmologist Martin Rees posits the question: What if human success on Earth determines life’s success in the universe? This program was recorded in collaboration with the Long Now Foundation, on August 2, 2010.
This program features visual aids. A complete video version is available at: http://fora.tv/2010/08/02/Martin_Rees_Lifes_Future_in_the_Cosmos
President of the Royal Society, England’s Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees brings a lifetime of cosmological inquiry to a crucial question: What if human success on Earth determines life’s success in the universe?
He thinks that civilization’s chances of getting out of this century intact are about 50-50. He is hopeful that extraterrestrial life already exists, but there’s no sign of it yet. But even if we are now alone, he notes that we may not even be the halfway stage of evolution.
There is huge scope for post-human evolution, so that "it will not be humans who watch the sun’s demise, 6 billion years from now. Any creatures that then exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or amoebae."
Appropriately, Rees’s Long Now talk was at the Chabot Space and Science Center in the hills above Oakland, in the planetarium.
Martin Rees is Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics and Master of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. He holds the honorary title of Astronomer Royal and also Visiting Professor at Imperial College London and at Leicester University.
After studying at the University of Cambridge, he held post-doctoral positions in the UK and the USA, before becoming a professor at Sussex University. In 1973, he became a fellow of King’s College and Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge (continuing in the latter post until 1991) and served for ten years as director of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy. From 1992 to 2003 he was a Royal Society Research Professor.
Stewart Brand is a co-founder and managing director of Global Business Network, founded and runs the GBN Book Club, and is the president of The Long Now Foundation.
From mayflies and digital dinosaurs to life on Mars and pre-Cambrian fossils, David Attenborough and Richard Dawkins leave no stone unturned as they discuss the state of science.
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