Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Dawkins, Richard (2000-04-05), Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder, Mariner Books, Retrieved on 2011-09-21
Folksonomies: evolution science

Memes

21 SEP 2011

 A Noble and Enlightened Way to Spend our Short Time

After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked—as I am surprisingly often—why I bother to get up in the mornings.
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Understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it.

28 MAR 2012

 We Are Lucky Because We are Going to Die

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth ...
Folksonomies: atheism
Folksonomies: atheism
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So many people never even got to exist.

30 JAN 2015

 Science Does Not Rob Life of Purpose

Presumably there is indeed no purpose in the ultimate fate of the cosmos, but do any of us really tie our life's hopes to the ultimate fate of the cosmos anyway? Of course we don't; not if we are sane. Our lives are ruled by all sorts of closer, warmer, human ambitions and perceptions. To accuse science of robbing life of the warmth that makes it worth living is so preposterously mistaken, so diametrically opposite to my own feelings and those of most working scientists, I am almost driven to...
Folksonomies: meaning life purpose
Folksonomies: meaning life purpose
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30 JAN 2015

 Unweaving the Rainbow Makes it More Beautiful

Newton's unweaving of the rainbow led on to spectroscopy, which has proved the key to much of what we know today about the cosmos. And the heart of any poet worthy of the title Romantic could not fail to leap up if he beheld the universe of Einstein, Hubble and Hawking. We read its nature through Fraunhofer lines - 'Barcodes in the Stars' - and their shifts along the spectrum. The image of barcodes carries us on to the very different, but equally intriguing, realms of sound ('Barcodes on the ...
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30 JAN 2015

 Fortune of Conception

Moralists and theologians place great weight upon the moment of conception, seeing it as the instant at which the soul comes into existence. If, like me, you are unmoved by such talk, you still must regard a particular instant, nine months before your birth, as the most decisive event in your personal fortunes. It is the moment at which your consciousness suddenly became trillions of times more foreseeable than it was a split second before. To be sure, the embryonic you that came into existen...
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30 JAN 2015

 It is No Accident that We Inhabit a Veritable Paradise

Imagine a spaceship full of sleeping explorers, deep-frozen would-be colonists of some distant world. Perhaps the ship is on a forlorn mission to save the species before an unstoppable comet, like the one that killed the dinosaurs, hits the home planet. The voyagers go into the deep-freeze soberly reckoning the odds against their spaceship's ever chancing upon a planet friendly to life. If one in a million planets is suitable at best, and it takes centuries to travel from each star to the nex...
Folksonomies: evolution chance existence
Folksonomies: evolution chance existence
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30 JAN 2015

 Squid Skin is Like an LED Screen

Television images are sometimes displayed on giant LED (Light Emitting Diode) hoardings. Instead of a fluorescent screen with an electron beam scanning side to side over it, the LED screen is a large array of tiny glowing lights, independently controllable. The lights are individually brightened or dimmed so that, from a distance, the whole matrix shimmers with moving pictures. The skin of a squid behaves like an LED screen. Instead of lights, squid skin is packed with thousands of tiny bags ...
Folksonomies: biology explanations
Folksonomies: biology explanations
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30 JAN 2015

 The Danger of Dumbing Down Science

'Dumbing down' is a very different kind of threat to scientific sensibility. The 'Public Understanding of Science' movement, provoked in America by the Soviet Union's triumphant entry into the space race and driven today, at least in Britain, by public alarm over a decline in applications for science places at universities, is going demotic. 'Science Weeks' and 'Science Fortnights' betray an anxiety among scientists to be loved. Funny hats and larky voices proclaim that science is fun, fun, f...
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30 JAN 2015

 The Problem with the X-Files

The cult of The X-Files has been defended as harmless because it is, after all, only fiction. On the face of it, that is a fair defence. But regularly recurring fiction - soap operas, cop series find the like - are legitimately criticized if, week after week, they systematically present a one-sided view of the world. The X-Files is a television series in which, every week, two FBI agents face a mystery. One of the two, Scully, favours a rational, scientific explanation; the other agent, Mulde...
Folksonomies: science fiction criticism
Folksonomies: science fiction criticism
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30 JAN 2015

 Good Science Fiction

Good science fiction has no dealings with fairytale magic spells, but is premised on the world as an orderly place. There is mystery, but the universe is not frivolous nor light-fingered in its changeability. If you put a brick on a table it stays there unless something moves it, even if you have forgotten it is there. Poltergeists and sprites don't intervene and hurl it about for reasons of mischief or caprice. Science fiction may tinker with the laws of nature, advisedly and preferably one ...
Folksonomies: science science fiction
Folksonomies: science science fiction
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30 JAN 2015

 Science of the Rainbow

The spectrum depends upon light of different colours being slowed by different amounts: the refractive index of a given substance, say glass or water, is greater for blue light than for red. You could think of blue light as being a slower swimmer than red, getting tangled up in the undergrowth of atoms in glass or water because of its short wavelength. Light of all colours gets less tangled up among the sparser atoms of air, but blue still travels more slowly than red. In a vacuum, where ther...
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30 JAN 2015

 We Don't Know if We See the Same Colors

the colours that we finally think we see are labels used for convenience by the brain. I used to be disappointed when I saw 'false colour' images, say, satellite photographs of earth, or computer-constructed images of deep space. The caption tells us that the colours are arbitrary codes, say, for different types of vegetation, in a satellite picture of Africa. I used to think false colour images were a kind of cheat. I wanted to know what the scene 'really' looked like. I now realize that eve...
Folksonomies: perception color
Folksonomies: perception color
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30 JAN 2015

 The Sensation of Pressure

We feel pressure on our skin, when we place our hand over the outlet of a bicycle pump, for example, as a kind of springy push. Actually, pressure is the summed bombardments of thousands of molecules of air, whizzing about in random directions (as opposed to a wind, where the molecules predominantly flow in one particular direction). If you hold your palm up to a high wind you feel the equivalent of pressure - bombardment of molecules. The molecules in a confined space, say, the interior of a...
Folksonomies: perception senses pressure
Folksonomies: perception senses pressure
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30 JAN 2015

 The Brain Making Sense of an Orchestra

But our unconscious feats of unweaving and weaving are greater even than this. Think what is happening when you listen to a whole orchestra. Imagine that, superimposed on a hundred instruments, your neighbour in the concert is whispering learned music criticism in your ear, others are coughing and, lamentably, somebody behind you is rustling a chocolate wrapper. All these sounds, simultaneously, are vibrating your eardrum and they are summed into a single, very complicated wriggling wave of p...
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30 JAN 2015

 Nemesis

But why should comets become more likely to hit us every million years? Here we launch ourselves into deep speculation. It has been suggested that the sun has a sister star, and the two orbit each other with a periodicity of about 26 million years. This hypothetical binary partner, which has never been seen but which has nevertheless been given the dramatic name Nemesis, passes, once per orbital rotation, through the so-called Oort Cloud, the belt of perhaps a trillion comets which orbits the...
Folksonomies: astronomy nemesis
Folksonomies: astronomy nemesis
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30 JAN 2015

 Barcodes in Nature

I have used the barcode as a symbol of precise analysis, in all its beauty. Mixed light is sorted into its rainbow of component colours and everybody sees beauty. That is a first analysis. Closer detail reveals fine lines and a new elegance, the elegance of detection, of the bringing of order and understanding. Fraunhofer barcodes speak to us of the exact elemental nature of distant stars. A precisely measured pattern of stripes is a coded message from across the parsecs. There is grace in th...
Folksonomies: nature language barcodes
Folksonomies: nature language barcodes
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30 JAN 2015

 The DNA Prism

The standard DNA 'prism' is a gel electrophoresis column, that is, a long tube filled with jelly through which an electric current is passed. A solution containing the scissored stretches of DNA, all jumbled together, is poured into one end of the tube. The DNA fragments are all electrically attracted to the negative end of the column, which is at the other end of the tube, and they move steadily through the jelly. But they don't all move at the same rate. Like light of low vibration frequenc...
Folksonomies: dna barcodes prisms analysis
Folksonomies: dna barcodes prisms analysis
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30 JAN 2015

 Your Birth Star

Name any event in history and you will find a star out there whose light gives you a glimpse of something happening during the year of that event. Provided you are not a very young child, somewhere up in the night sky you can find your personal birth star. Its light is a thermonuclear glow that heralds the year of your birth. Indeed, you can find quite a few such stars (about 40 if you are 40; about 70 if you are 50; about 175 if you are 80 years old). When you look at one of your birth year ...
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30 JAN 2015

 PETWHAC

PETWHAC stands for Population of Events That Would Have Appeared Coincidental. Population may seem an odd word, but it is the correct statistical term. I won't keep using capital letters because they stand so unattractively on the page. Somebody's watch stopping within ten seconds of the psychic's incantation obviously belongs within the petwhac, but so do many other events. Strictly speaking, the grandfather clock's stopping should not be included. The mystic did not claim that he could stop...
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30 JAN 2015

 Mitochondria and Chloroplasts

Margulis believes that mitochondria were originally parasites (or predators - the distinction is not important at this level) which attacked the larger bacteria that were destined to provide the shell of the eucaryotic cell. There are still some bacterial parasites that do a similar trick, burrowing through the prey's cell wall, then, when safely inside, sealing up the wall and eating the cell from within. The mitochondrial ancestors, according to the theory, evolved from parasites that kill ...
Folksonomies: evolution symbiosis
Folksonomies: evolution symbiosis
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