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Decoding Evolution

Unless you were raise by wolves, you will not be surprised to hear that the DNA of differnt organisms contains a kind of recipe for developing and maintaining that organism over its lifetime.  Squirrel DNA has a recipe for squirrels, dog DNA for dogs and so forth. But wolves not withstanding, you might be surprised to hear that there is another extremely ancient message in DNA that comes to us over billions of years.  It is an evolutionary journal of

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On 747s, Tornadoes, and Junkyards

The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable to the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein. – Sir Fred Hoyle This is a perfect analogy. But not for what it is intended for. It suggests choosing a ridiculous hypothesis (random chance) for how a 747 might be produced and it compares that to an opinion on how probable life might have originated in the same

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What Took Us So Long?

A few years ago I had taken my family on vacation to a cabin by a lake in Maine. The mid August weather was perfect for a lakeside retreat with cool nights and dry sunlit days. Finding myself awake at midnight one night, I got up and slipped outside into the pines and walked the short distance to the shore of the lake. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash in sky, looking up quickly enough

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The Audacity of Induction

A zealous Intelligent Design proponent once offered the following proof of design in the universe. Every beautiful thing we have ever seen was produced by a creative being. The universe contains beautiful things. Therefore, those things, [that is, the beautiful things in the universe] were produced by a creative being. While are so many things wrong with this logic, my first comment to him was to say that #1 needed to be proven first.  He answered with, “#1 is arrived at

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Finding Dawkins’ Weasels

Back in the days of the Apple II, biologist Richard Dawkins wrote a small Basic program, called Weasel,  that demonstrated how the random mutation and selection in evolution could generate information.  The program used “critters” whose DNA were strings of characters.   The program is “dirt simple” but succeeds in achieving its goal after only fifty cycles of generations.  The goal is for the random mutation and selection process to end up with the given target string.  Dawkin’s choice of

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Shakespeare, Evolution, and Weasels

Note: This article contains a number of interactive demonstrations which only work in the later versions of Chrome.   They do not yet work in Internet Explorer or Edge. Monkeys With Typewriters How long would it take for an infinite number of monkeys banging on typewriters to come up with the complete works of Shakespeare? Most of us would probably answer with “never”and dismiss the question as one of those rhetorical questions that interest people with too much time on their

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Symbols, Codes, and Information

Shannon’s Theory of Information Information is Not Meaning.  It Symbolizes Meaning. What does it mean to have a theory of information? How can information be studied, categorized or quantified? How can we measure the information in a Shakespeare play or a sad message you receive about the death of a close friend? The answer starts with realizing that information is not the same as meaning. Where meaning is something experienced by a sender or receiver of information, information itself is

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Information and Meaning

What would you think if you received a text message that said; taH pagh taHbe You would probably suspect that someone ‘butt dialed” that message by mistake.  However, it might amuse to know that message #1 is one of the most recognized lines from Shakespeare written in Klingon.  The line is from Hamlet’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.   (Yes there is an actual language called Klingon developed by people related to the production of the well known StarTrek movies.)   The

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