amateur cognitive scientist // island
pop culture allusion maker // machine
first-generation american // aesthete
postpostpostpost-dadaist // introvert
recovering grammar nazi // autodidact
andalusian cadence fan // tea drinker
--------------------- // symbol lover
borderline egomaniac // -------------
gluttonous bookworm // whimsy devotee
dissonance admirer // college dropout
nonsense champion // data gormandizer
irony aficionado // serial cat petter
singularitarian // ------------------
-------------- // rubik's cube solver
binge thinker // homo sapiens sapiens
tower seeker // arch linux power user
slytherclaw // mostly chaotic neutral
toposopher // dependent type advocate
--------- // ------------------------
polyglot // computational trinitarian
blogger // quantum computer scientist
------ // wannabe general ai designer
my own stuff
There’s no scientific consensus that life is important!
Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, Into the Wild Green Yonder (via thesummerofmark)
I have never had anything like a formal conversation with my parents about my conception of myself as a person, my goals in life, and what drives me. I have only recently come to understand that they are probably pretty confused about all of those things - after all, I’m a pretty fucking weird guy who’s made some pretty fucking weird lifestyle choices, and I don’t interact with either of them (or anyone else, for that matter) very much.
I intend to have that conversation with my father first - tonight, or soon. We’re past the point where he can condone or disapprove of the path I have chosen for myself. I have seen him make an effort to treat me as something like an equal, and I think he’s done well on that front. So it’s only fair that I should, in turn, treat him the way people treat people they’re close to, and not as a stranger - even if everyone has felt quite alien to me for a long time now.
What must they think of me? Surely they have observed that I spend almost all of my time reading and learning and thinking. Do they understand that nothing else interests me? That this is what I intend to do for as long as I can? That I intend to live forever and don’t see any reason to ever stop? That I know exactly what I want to do with my life and am driven by that purpose? I have no clue what they think, or if they think about it at all.
In this talk, Martin Hanczyc outlines a series of experiments where artificial protocells synthesised from oil and clay display primitive kinds of behaviour associated with life.
He begins by framing his working assumptions - that there exists a continuum between the living and the non-living - and identifies a few key features of a living system: a self-contained body, working metabolism, and inheritable information. The body coupled with metabolism allows an organism to move and interact with its environment, and all three together allow for replication and evolution.
While a cell might contain on the order of 1,000,000 different kinds of molecules, he was able to synthesise “life-like” protocells from just five. Oil disassociates with water and forms globules. These oil globules make up his protocell bodies, while a type of chemically active clay forms the basis of a metabolic system - extracting energy from the environment in order to “do something”. What can his protocells do? He shows us a few neat videos:
A single protocell moves around its environment (a petri dish)
It seek out ‘food’
Multiple protocells interact with each other - “dance”.
On a rare occasion, two cells of a different variety fuse, taking on qualities of both parent cells.
Hybridised protocells are observed dividing.
These are really cool experiments. Though his humble artificial organisms are by no means Frankenstein’s monster, they go a long way to help us understand what questions we should be asking about what makes something living as opposed to non-living. They show that certain fundamental properties of the complex life we see around us can be observed in relatively simple chemical systems.
Take wrong turns. Talk to strangers. Open unmarked doors. And if you see a group of people in a field, go find out what they are doing. Do things without always knowing how they’ll turn out. You’re curious and smart and bored, and all you see is the choice between working hard and slacking off. There are so many adventures that you miss because you’re waiting to think of a plan. To find them, look for tiny interesting choices. And remember that you are always making up the future as you go.