Thursday, 1 March 2012

Dialogue between RD and RW

This conversation between Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams is worth a listen to. The tone of the discourse is good and some key points come out.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The consequences of 'a beginning'

Quote taken from a New Scientist article

While many of us may be OK with the idea of the big bang simply starting everything, physicists, including Hawking, tend to shy away from cosmic genesis. "A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God," Hawking told the meeting, at the University of Cambridge, in a pre-recorded speech.

For a while it looked like it might be possible to dodge this problem, by relying on models such as an eternally inflating or cyclic universe, both of which seemed to continue infinitely in the past as well as the future. Perhaps surprisingly, these were also both compatible with the big bang, the idea that the universe most likely burst forth from an extremely dense, hot state about 13.7 billion years ago.

However, as cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston explained last week, that hope has been gradually fading and may now be dead. He showed that all these theories still demand a beginning.

Read it all here

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Non identical twins

There have been a few recent items in the news concerning 'twin' planets for our very own earth. They centre discoveries in other solar systems of planets of similar size and composition to the earth together with speculation that perhaps we could live there one day, or perhaps they contain life too.

Actually what they highlight is how special the earth is. For example these two recent discoveries are 'hot as hell'.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

By faith

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Hebrews 11 v 3

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Early days

It is truly amazing that we know so much now about our early days. For example, Africans do not have DNA which is specifically derived from Neanderthals, whereas people in the rest of the world do carry a small amount. This confirms the picture of human history derived from studying fossils. Neanderthal bones have not been found in Africa, so it isn’t surprising that their DNA is not there either. The fact that non-Africans have some of the DNA found in Neanderthal bones confirms that which geneticists knew from other studies: we have two distinct groups of human ancestors—those who left Africa in ancient times and those who stayed.

Quoted from an essay on Biologos

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Twist on life

This TED talk describes an interesting twist on studies into the origin of life.

Cronin and his team are looking at inorganic matter (i.e. chemicals that don't contain carbon) for answers. There are, of course, huge quantities of speculation involved, and Cronin's willingness to carelessly indulge should make us wary.

This is unlikely to go anywhere. It is widely acknowledged that it is the unique properties of carbon that make complex life possible. The only other possible contender is Silicon but it is nowhere near as flexible. Organic (carbon based) chemistry has an unparalleled diversity in the compounds it can generate and it has the critical ability to be to form polymers. As an added bonus it is the fourth most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen, helium and oxygen.

The only life we have evidence for is intrinsically tied to the unique nature of Carbon.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Evolution of birds

The development of birds from theropod dinosaurs is one that captures the imagination. It has also been captured in the fossil record with a 'warehouse full' of specimens available for consideration

A new find from Canada has uncovered a range of different feather configurations trapped inside amber. The beauty of fossils found in amber is that in comparison to their compressed counterparts in rock they are voluminous and three dimensional. They even preserve the colours.