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The other day I found myself killing time in Chatswood waiting for my car to be serviced. A long stay in a coffee shop seemed a good option but I would need something to read - not too heavy. In a bookshop I found the latest Dan Brown: Origin. Dan might not be le Carré but like Lee Child and Clive Cussler he's a fast and easy read.

A quick flick told me Professor Langdon was on yet another wild-goose-chase around the real churches; art galleries; palaces and tombs of Europe (in this case Spain), with another beautiful yet somehow unattainable woman. In that respect the good professor is not a James Bond nor even Jason Bourne.

I won't be giving much away by telling those of you who have not read Origin that the plot rests on a billionaire computer geek's pre-recorded 'proofs' that: life arises spontaneously as a result of the natural laws of this universe; and that with increasing intervention of technology humans are evolving - so that in a relatively short time our descendants will cease to be human.

While the thwarted multimedia presentation of these 'proofs' to the world makes for a fast paced thriller as the the bodies pile up, the presentation's eventual revelations turn out to be disappointingly mundane. 

Last century I began writing my essay for my then young children: The Meaning of Life in which both of the "breathtaking truths" (referred to on the back cover of Origin) are discussed as current ideas - two decades ago.  See the chapters on Life (particularly in respect of entropy) and Evolution (particularly in respect of technology).

So Origin is not very original. Well, what did readers expect?  This is a popular thriller not a paradigm changing scientific paper or a theological revelation (perhaps as a result of a new Marian Apparition?).

 

Post Script

Since writing this commentary the scientific world has been taken aback by the announcement a young scientist, He Jiankui, at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, that he had successfully used the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR to edit a gene in several children.  Two girls, twins, have been born and are thriving and another gene-edited baby is on the way.   Thus Human evolution has been given a small shove forward and what is now just a trickle may become a flood.

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Travel

Hawaii

 

 

 

 

 

When we talked of going to Hawaii for a couple of weeks in February 2018 several of our friends enthusiastically recommended it. To many of them it's a nice place to go on holidays - a little further to go than Bali but with a nicer climate, better beaches and better shopping - with bargains to be had at the designer outlets.

 


Waikiki

 

To nearly one and a half million racially diverse Hawaiians it's home.

 

 


Downtown Hilo

 

To other Americans it's the newest State, the only one thousands of miles from the North American Continent, and the one that's more exotic than Florida.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

More on Technology and Evolution

 

 

 

 

 

I recently read and commented on Dan Brown's latest novel 'Origin' in which the question 'where are we going?' is answered in suggesting an ever greater human symbiosis with technology.  But what if that's not all?

Regular readers will know that I have an artificial heart valve.  Indeed many people have implanted prosthesis, from metal joints or tooth fillings to heart pacemakers and implanted cochlear hearing aides, or just eye glasses or dentures.   Some are kept alive by drugs.  All of these are ways in which our individual survival has become progressively more dependent on technology.  So that should it fail many would suffer.  Indeed some today feel bereft without their mobile phone that now substitutes for skills, like simple mathematics, that people once had to have themselves.  But while we may be increasingly transformed by tools and implants, the underlying genes, conferred by reproduction, remain human.

The possibility of accelerated genetic evolution through technology was brought nearer last week when, on 28 November 2018, a young scientist, He Jiankui, announced, at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, that he had successfully used the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR to edit a gene in several children.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Climate Change - a Myth?

 

 

Recently, an increasing number of friends and acquaintances has told me that Climate Change is a myth.  

Obviously they are talking about 'Anthropogenic Global Warming', not disclaiming actual changes to the climate.  

We don't need climate scientists to tell us that the climate changes. Our own experience is sufficient to be quite sure of that. 

During my lifetime the climate has been anything but constant.  Else what is drought relief about?  And the ski seasons have definitely been variable. 

In the longer term we all have to rely on others. For example on scientists who have themselves examined ice cores or tree rings or sea level records or other physical evidence that can be dated. 

So I'm prepared to believe the scientists who have determined sea levels showing that fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago a hypothetical Australian could walk from Tasmania to New Guinea or an Irishman all the way to Java.

 

Changing sea levels during the past 20,000 years
 Source Wikipedia: Early Human Migration & Sea Level change

 

This rise has not stopped.  During my lifetime the average sea level in Sydney Harbour has risen by nearly a foot, in keeping with long term trends.  More water in the Harbour on average obviously has temperature and therefore microclimate implications.  There are thousands of well documented examples of changes that have climate impacts.

But like the tides there is great variability that masks the underlying trends.   For example 2014 was a record warm year in Sydney.  But in mid 2015 we are going through the longest cold spell in 45 years.  It is snowing in Queensland!

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