Posts Tagged ‘humans’

What an amazing illusion we humans have created

May 19, 2016

What an amazing illusion we humans have created. We’ve created the illusion that the computer is filled with text and text has lines. The illusion is so complete, so compelling, that we have an incredibly hard time thinking there could be anything other than text inside our computers. And we’ve build a whole tower of stuff on top of the illusion: text editors, text data formats, text programming languages, social media, and so forth.

But in fact, there is no text in the computer, just numbers. And there are no lines. The numbers inside the computer are interpreted by clever software to represent letters and those letters are displayed on a monitor. Certain numbers are interpreted to represent an end-of-line marker, the succeeding numbers (er, letters) are displayed on the next line of the monitor.

The power of abstraction – amazing!

Why are there no comments in DNA?

December 12, 2015

In Computer Science one is taught early on that sprinkling comments liberally throughout code is a good thing. Comments enable the writer to remember what was done and readers to understand the code.

If comments are so useful to understanding, then why do biological systems have no comments? For instance, there are no comments in DNA. Wouldn’t comments make it easier to unravel the mysteries of DNA?

Suppose there were comments in DNA. What language would the comments be written in? It doesn’t seem reasonable that comments would be written in English (or French, German, etc.) since those are relatively recent languages whereas DNA has been around much longer. If DNA did have comments they would likely be written in a language that we don’t understand. Unraveling that language is likely to be as difficult as understanding DNA itself. In other words, comments probably wouldn’t help.

Consider this thought experiment: suppose one day we humans receive a message from an advanced civilization from another planet. People tell me that the message will likely be in a formal language such as mathematics. Will the advanced beings include comments in their message? Or will it be written purely in a formal language? As with DNA, it’s likely there will be no comments as any comments would most certainly not be a language that we humans use or understand.

So it seems that for a thing that must span the ages, such as DNA, and for a thing that must span civilizations, such as a message from an alien planet, the thing itself must be understood and comments are useless.

The formal structure/language must speak for itself.

Humans did not evolve to be inactive

March 27, 2014

Humans evolved to do
a variety of activities,
from low to high intensity.
Most of the time, early
people were resting or
walking long distances,
but sometimes they
had to run or sprint,
climb trees, and throw
things. So a degree of
high-intensity ability was
important in terms of
natural selection. What
we did not evolve to be
is inactive.

Daniel Lieberman,
professor of human
biology at Harvard
University

The last place on Earth without human noise

January 17, 2014

Unfortunately, there is absolutely no place on Earth that is completely free from human sound all of the time.

For the past 30 years, Hempton, an acoustic ecologist, has made it his mission to discover what he calls the last great quiet places, areas that clock in at audible human noise-free intervals of 15 minutes or more.

Over the years, his list has shrunk as he returns to a previously quiet spot, only to find it now polluted by noise. Still, he says 12 such quiet places exist in the US, with more found around the world. A spot in the Hoh Rainforest in Washington is one, as are places in Grasslands National Park in Canada, Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota and Haleakala National Park in Hawaii. He identified a quiet place deep in the Ecuadorian rainforest, and there are others in South America. He suspects one might exist in Poland (he’s waiting on funding to come through to further investigate this possibility), and also more in Norway, Sweden and Finland.

More … http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140117-earths-last-place-without-noise