Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Queerer than we can suppose

I found this video from a Richard Dawkins's talk in which he talks about the strangeness of science.

He talks that science is about truth but that our brain is evolved to cope with every day's reality, within the scope of the reality we have to live with. He cites the example that matter is mostly composed of space but we do not perceive it like that since it is more useful for us to perceive it as solid and opaque. He argues that a living being of the size of a neutrino and capable of vision would see matter as mostly empty space only by the nature of the space it inhabits. Similarly, things that look entirely unlikely to us (the existence of life) become inevitable when considering the vast amounts of time and space the universe has been going on compared to the space and time of our human lifetimes.

More shockingly to me he claims that humans are more akin to automata than to agents seeking what they consider positive things and avoiding negative things. The reason being that evolutionarily we rather model fellow humans as people with a purpose than as systems made of components whose design and integration we ignore.

In any case this is an important issue for scientists and philosophers of science: our brains have evolved for certain purposes and with certain biases and that should impose some limitations and constraints in what things we can understand and how we chose to interpret natural phenomena.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


I will be staying one month at the Centre for Mathematical Biology directed by Philip Maini at the University of Oxford. With a little of luck I will be able to meet people interested in mathematical discrete models of cancer evolution and angiogenesis.

In the Centre they have some interesting (and relevant) research lines like "individual and collective behaviour in ecology" and of course "cancer modelling". The Centre is pioneering (with Arizona's Gatenby and Oxford's Comlab Gavaghan) the idea that glycolytic acidity promotes invasion. Maybe this could be an opportunity to test my hypothesis that this invasion comes in waves.