The Early Days of a Better Nation

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

'How do the cells know about the jungle?'

Joan Bakewell is a speaker who needs no introduction, and in this capacity she's been introducing and interviewing speakers on key ideas for the 21st Century. Yesterday's topic was numbers, and the speaker was Ian Stewart. She introduced him by saying that of all the topics in her series, she found mathematics the hardest to understand, but that Ian Stewart was the best person to explain it.

Professor Ian Stewart is one of the great science popularisers - and not just in his own field of mathematics. Some of his many books on science were written with Jack Cohen, reproductive biologist and oft-invited speaker at SF conventions. In recent years, the two have teamed up with the wildly popular fantasy author Terry Pratchett to write (so far) three books on 'The Science of Discworld', which cleverly exploit the contrast between the eponymous flat planet (which runs on the rules of magic and the caprice of gods) and our universe (which doesn't) to explain an astonishing range of serious scientific points ... including the ways in which magic does work in our world, through the human propensity for Story.

Read the rest, and comment, over at Genotype.

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'How do the cells know about the jungle?' is a great question, and strikes to the heart of why Lamarckism can't possibly work.

Yes, it's a good question. I'm just not sure if Joan Bakewell was asking it in a Socratic sense ...

Interesting - read Figments of reality and Does God Play Dice at Uni, but nothing since - will try and get hold of the pratchett books - sound interesting!

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