Here ego’s nothing: Googlegangers

I just did a random search on google today to see if my blog is still around. After all, it’s been ages since I posted anything. (We parted ways when I left to split hairs and get a PhD in the process).  This is what google spat back at me!

I still remember reading Martin Gardner’s articles in Scientific American on self-referencing, and they’ve had a lasting impression on me. So this video was particularly delightful, mainly for the title, if not anything else. In the end, the trip along the Moebius strip brought me back to where I started. My tea stall.

Here goes nothing!

Nature in sync

What are the secrets behind the apparent synchronicity we find in nature? Watch these two videos. The first one talks about the weird phenomenon that happened at the opening of the London Millenium bridge in June 2000.

Any theories or explanations? Are the people consciously correcting their gaits to align with the bridge vibrations? Is consciousness necessary to synchronize? To put it in even more stronger terms, do you need to be alive in order to synchronize? Watch the following video.

Do you see any similarity in the lateral motion of the metronomes and the people on the bridge? Kroor has also posted about some aspects of natural synchrony in his blog. The case of the fireflies glowing in harmony was particularly interesting to me. While I was looking for a video on that, I found this wonderful TED talk by Steven Strogatz where he encapsulates all these ideas with a greater perspective (with obvious impacts on the way this post finally turned out or maybe it’s just a massive case of hindsight bias!). In the end it is all about simple systems following simple rules.

The theory of intelligent falling

“Do you know every creationist has a blind spot?”

– Randolph Nesse

Evolution is only a theory. Yeah, so is gravity. And germ theory. But you don’t see people carrying banners that say “Teach the controversy” for those theories. Teach the controversy! There is no controversy. All the scientists with any level of credibility and knowledge on the matter accept evolution as a fact. The disputes are only between scientists and non-scientists, and since the topic is science, the non-scientists don’t get to vote.

But the gaps in the fossil records. Show me the transitional fossils. Well, every time a scientist comes up with one, it only makes the creationists even more happy as there are now two new gaps to explain in the fossil record. Intelligent design you say. Hmm, I bet I know who your intelligent designer is going to be.  How about an intelligent theory of falling. Then you can teach the controversy in the theory of gravitation. As Nick Matzke rightly quipped :

Intelligent design is creationism in a cheap tuxedo.


More evidence? First get hold a good book on evolution. I recommend The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins. He has poured his heart out in explaining the various evidence available for evolution, not just from fossil records, but from radiometric dating, palaeontology, embryology, anatomy, genetics, artificial breeding and geography. The following is an except from the book (Chapter 11, pp.356) which shows an example of unintelligent design in mammals (that includes us).


[Recurrent laryngeal nerve] is a branch of one of the cranial nerves, the vagus (the name means ‘wandering’ and is apt), has various branches, two of which go to the heart, and two on each side to the larynx (voice box in mammals). On each side of the neck, one of the branches of the laryngeal nerve goes straight to the larynx, following a direct route such as a designer might have chosen. The other one goes to the larynx via an astonishing detour. It dives right down into the chest, loops around one of the main arteries leaving the heart (a different artery on the left and right sides, but the principle is the same), and then heads back up the neck to its destination. If you think of it as a product of design, the recurrent laryngeal nerve is a disgrace.

The following video shows the recurrent laryngeal nerve in a giraffe. As you can see the detour it takes from the brain to reach the larynx suggests anything but intelligent design. Viewer discretion is advised  as the video contains graphic images.

No engineer would ever make a mistake like that. If you are still not convinced, you can just float the hell off.

Science, Religion and Morality – Part 2.71828182845904523536….

Sam Harris recently gave a talk at TED on “Science and Morality”. Having stirred up a hornet’s nest with his audacious thesis ‘Science can answer moral questions’, he discusses how scientific precepts may be used to logically conclude whether certain actions are morally right or wrong.

I would surely post on my take on the matter real soon. For those of you who don’t quite like the reductionist attitude of Sam (that was a big giveaway) here’s a brilliant rebuttal by Sean Carrol.