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TagPaul Davies

Twisted clock face. Time concept

The Central Mystery of the Universe Is Time

Physicists assume everything is reversible in principle — yet time isn’t. Why not?

Physicist Paul Davies unpacks it, so far as anyone can: Physicists first got to grips with the problem of the arrow of time in the middle of the nineteenth century by considering the behavior of gas molecules rushing around and colliding. Imagine a box of gas with a barrier down the middle. Suppose the gas on the left is hotter than on the right. If the barrier is removed, the faster-moving molecules on the left collide with the slower ones on the right, redistributing the energy. Soon the gas reaches a uniform temperature, a condition known as thermodynamic equilibrium. This process is irreversible. You never see the opposite happening. Without external interference, heat always flows from hot to cold. It’s…

Science and research of the universe, spiral galaxy and physical formulas, concept of knowledge and education

Why Did Stephen Hawking Give Up on a Theory of Everything?

Daniel Díaz and Ola Hössjer continue their discussion of the fine tuning of the universal constants of nature with Robert J. Marks

In a continuing conversation with Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer and Colombian biostatistician Daniel Díaz on the fine-tuning of the universe — and Earth — for life, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks asks them about why a Theory of Everything eludes us and about the life-permitting interval — the narrow window for life that the constants of the universe permit. This is the second part of Episode 3, “The universe is so fine-tuned!” (September 16, 2021). Earlier portions, with transcripts and notes, are listed below. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-Episode-152-Hossjer-Diaz.mp3 This portion begins at 12:36 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: In truth, there’s a lot of fundamental constants — the electric charge of an electron,…

Flu. Influenza viruses with RNA, surface proteins hemagglutinin and neuraminidase,  medically 3D illustration

Astrobiologist: ET Viruses Likely Exist on Planets That Host Life

Paul Davies points to viruses as “mobile genetic elements” that transfer information between life forms — for better or worse

University of Arizona astrobiologist Paul Davies, author of many books, including the recent What’s Eating the Universe? (2021), told The Guardian, recently that if cellular life exists on other planets, something like viruses probably also exist — to transfer genetic information from one life form to another. Viruses, said Davies, can be thought of as mobile, genetic elements. Indeed, a number of studies have suggested genetic material from viruses has been incorporated into the genomes of humans and other animals by a process known as horizontal gene transfer. Nicola Davis, “Viruses may exist ‘elsewhere in the universe’, warns scientist” at The Guardian (September 6, 2021) Horizontal gene transfer, by which life forms “swap” genes, are common in bacteria and have…

man inside man

But Do “Hidden Webs of Information” Really Solve Life’s Mystery?

Cosmologist Paul Davies won an award last year for an attempt that left “more questions than clean-cut answers (Physics World)

Last year, State University of Arizona’s cosmologist Paul Davies won a Best Book award from Physics World for Demon in the Machine: The book’s subtitle is “How hidden webs of information are solving the mystery of life.” But are they? The book deals with established physics concepts (such as the second law of thermodynamics), but also delves into Davies’ thoughts on topics such as the emergence of human consciousness (while making sure the reader is aware of what is speculation). Readers, though, are likely to be left with more questions than clean-cut answers about the laws of nature. “Just in the last 10 years or so, I suppose, I’ve begun to see a confluence of different subjects. Partly, this is…

Choose your way

How Did “Wanting” Things Emerge?

Agency (“wanting” or “deciding” things) is as hard a problem in physics as consciousness

Rocks don’t resist becoming sand but plants resist, by various strategies, becoming insect food. All life forms seem to need and want things; the most intelligent ones want more complex and less obviously necessary things. At New Scientist, we are told that wanting things is a “superpower” that physics can’t explain. But are we asking the wrong questions?

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