"You are a leaf-cutting ant from South America. You will compete against the humans across the aisle in a foraging activity. You're task is to collect as much forage as possible. There's a reason ants are so successful. They're disciplined. They follow a series of rules. The first rule is no talking. Ants can't talk so you can't talk. The second rule is no gestures, facial or otherwise. And to make sure you can't use facial expressions we're going to put a paper bag on your head. The third rule is 'Ant walking'. ...
"It turns out that when you test newborn babies—this experiment was done at the age of 24 hours old, where we had 100 babies who were tested looking at two kinds of objects—a human face and a mechanical mobile. And they were filmed for how long they looked at each of these two objects. What you can see here is that on the first day of life, we had more boys than girls looking for longer at the mechanical mobile and more girls than boys looking at the face. So you can see that these differences when they emerge, first of all they seem to emerge very early—at birth—suggesting that there may be a biological component to a sex difference in, in this case, interest in faces; and secondly, they don't apply to all males or all females, these differences emerge as statistical trends when you compare groups."
"If you look at people who sequence DNA—the original DNA sequences, which is a wonderful piece of work of course—in Watson's own DNA sequence—it's a very platonic view of what life is all about. You take a human being, an exemple, an exemplar, J.D. Watson. You've got his DNA. That's the end of the story.??"But of course it isn't like that. If there wasn't difference, then we wouldn't have genetics. We wouldn't have evolution. We'd all be stuck in the primeval slime. Genetics has moved on to think about difference. Why are people, why are snails, so different from each other?"
"I've spoken to these eggs many times and they make it quite clear...they are not a human being."
The coincidence last spring of Walter Isaacson's Einstein biography (Einstein: His Life and Universe) hitting the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list, coupled with the publication of The Endless Universe: Beyond The Big Bang by Paul Steinhardt, the Albert Einstein Professor of Science at Princeton University (coauthored with Neil Turok), created an interesting opportunity.
I invited Walter, Paul and Columbia University string theorist, best selling author and TV presenter, Brian Greene, to participate in an Edge symposium on Einstein. Walter, Paul, and Brian, showed up for the session in early June.
"One question is, can we extrapolate back from this data set to describe the most recent common ancestor. I don't necessarily buy that there is a single ancestor. It’s counterintuitive to me. I think we may have thousands of recent common ancestors and they are not necessarily so common."
"Is Earth the ideal planet for life? What is the future of life in our universe? We often imagine our place in the universe in the same way we experience our lives and the places we inhabit. We imagine a practically static eternal universe where we, and life in general, are born, grow up, and mature; we are merely one of numerous generations."
"The essential idea is that you separate metabolism from replication. We know modern life has both metabolism and replication, but they're carried out by separate groups of molecules. Metabolism is carried out by proteins and all kinds of other molecules, and replication is carried out by DNA and RNA. That maybe is a clue to the fact that they started out separate rather than together. So my version of the origin of life is that it started with metabolism only."
"Many of the people here worry about what life is, but maybe in a slightly more general way, not just ribosomes, but inorganic life. Would we know it if we saw it? It's important as we go and discover other worlds, as we start creating more complicated robots, and so forth, to know, where do we draw the line?"
"If you program a computer at random, it will start producing other computers, other ways of computing, other more complicated, composite ways of computing. And here is where life shows up. Because the universe is already computing from the very beginning when it starts, starting from the Big Bang, as soon as elementary particles show up. Then it starts exploring — I'm sorry to have to use anthropomorphic language about this, I'm not imputing any kind of actual intent to the universe as a whole, but I have to use it for this to describe it — it starts to explore other ways of computing."