"When I get new evidence I change my mind. What do you do?" John Maynard Keynes
- Nelson Mandela
- Teaching Cartoon: Two On ‘Timing’ & a Tale
- THE VOID (trailer)
- Humberto Maturana & Heinz von Foerster: Meta-Science, Reflection
- Visual Experiment: On the Trail (ARK)
- Teaching Cartoons: Instrumentality 1 & 2
- Mandorla: Trailer
- A Hidden ‘Meta’
- Who Are Your Luminaries?
- Everyone is going one place or the other, ‘cept corporations
- Kippie’s Ekaya
- Free Play Softball League: Ludic Aspirations & the Blue Men Group
- Symmetry Visual Experiment
- Teaching cartoon: Preparation
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Cleveland Heights, Ohio
- If, during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organization, and I think this cannot be disputed; if there be, owing to the high geometric powers of increase of each species, at some age, season or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite variety in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each being’s own welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occurred useful to man. But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterized will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterized. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection. [Charles Darwin (1859) On the Origin of Species]
- “It is essential to such a government, that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic.” James Madison
- All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it. -Benjamin Franklin
Thinking Outside the Agora
- Here is everything we know so far about a massive freshwater lake on Mars, which existed about 3.5 b December 11, 2013Here is everything we know so far about a massive freshwater lake on Mars, which existed about 3.5 billion years ago. It was pretty damn muddy, and may have harbored life.Read more...
- The Dragon Was Plagued By Butterflies December 11, 2013Nothing could terrify the dragon whose scales were made of titanium, and whose mouth dripped with toxic smoke. Well, actually, there was one thing. He could not abide flocks of butterflies.Read more...
- Did Neal Stephenson predict the NSA spying on World of Warcraft? December 11, 2013New leaked documents from Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA and British intelligence have been spying on people in World of Warcraft and other online games. And Neal Stephenson's epic spy novel REAMDE predicted this whole mess back in 2011.Read more...
- Charles Stross gives us a sneak peek at his new novel December 11, 2013Today, author Charlie Stross, from this month's book club selection, joined us for a Q&A, where he filled us his thoughts on how new writers get traction, the skyrocketing of ebook sales (from 1% to 50% of his sales in the last five years), and gave us the first line of his new book coming up in July. Read more...
- Starpocalypse is coming! December 11, 2013Starpocalypse is coming! You chipped in over $76,000 in the Kickstarter for Starpocalypse, the zany science fiction webseries from the sketch-comedy masters SMBC. Now at last, it's coming out this Christmas. Rejoice!Read more... […]
- Here is everything we know so far about a massive freshwater lake on Mars, which existed about 3.5 b December 11, 2013
- Itsabob: New Toy Transforms Balloons into Playful Art Objects December 11, 2013
- Budget Friendly Maker Shed Gift Guide! December 11, 2013
- Book Review: The Book of Audacity December 11, 2013
- David Lang’s TED Talk: My Underwater Robot December 10, 2013
- The Magic of Northlandz December 10, 2013
Author Archives: Stephen Calhoun
Blues for a Hip King – Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya 1985
Any man that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose.
Something a martial artist would say. And, so he was, and Mandela was a man with a singular sense of time and an African sense of will.
Nelson Mandela 1918-2013 Sowetan.live.co.za
Mandela was for me, the greatest human of our time.
Only Enough Time to Get Where You Stand, Right
The captain of a ship received a message one night, “Change your direction 15 degrees North to avoid collision”.
A little indignant, the captain replied, “I am the captain of a large ship and recommend you divert 15 degrees South”.
The captain received the reply, “We are a lighthouse”.
Panoramic interactive projection, 4.0 surround sound
Loft Project Etagi gallery
Audiovisual installation “Void” is an attempt to visualize the idea of emptiness.
Emptiness here is regarded not as an absence of everything, but as an initial state when anything can appear. To see how dark room turns into the Big Bang epicenter a visitor should become “empty”. Every move and sound, captured by sensitive equipment, stops the 360 degrees audiovisual flow around.
“Void” is a social experiment, to see how long today people can stay totally calm.
Visuals/ programming: A. Letcius, A. Sinica, M. Udchenko
Sound/ programming: A. Kochnev, K. Suhanov, S. Perevoschikov
(I will be posting the two additional videos of Humberto and Heinz. Their brief engagements are very dense and rewarding. One of my favorite endeavors is to dive into dialogs. Thankfully these moments betwixt Maturana and von Foerster were captured so it is now possible to point to fine examples on youtube of deep diving dialog and conversational learning.)
Given the objectives of the Reduced Bateson Set, The second protocol of systems awareness, following from the first protocol of Intentional Reflection, is: “de-location and re-location.” This move is concerned with, in actual effect, jiggling–the/available/any–context(s.)
For now, after dealing with the above video, ramble with Heinz von Foerster.
shr: Do you not think that artificial intelligence is similarly implicit in other fields?
heinz von foerster: I do not think so. The founders and proponents of Artificial Intelligence were from the beginning very much motivated and extremely competent to go after highly specialized tasks as, for instance, how to build a robot which could rearrange an arrangement of blocks into another desired arrangement.
The performance of these machines are very impressive indeed, but I see them more as witnesses to the extraordinary natural intelligence of their designers, rather than cases of “artificial intelligence.”
The anthropomorphization of these machine functions I see insofar as dangerous, because one may be tempted to believe that when we say “this machine ‘thinks’” we know now how we think, for we know how the machine “thinks.”
Syntactically, however, the distinction is clear, for when the machines “thinks” they do it between quotes: quote think unquote. Except for the name there is nothing in common between the functions “think” and think!
shr: This is somewhat reminiscent of some classical critiques of artificial intelligence, for example, Hubert Dreyfus’s critique. It seems that you are saying something along Dreyfus’s lines because you are saying that although artificial intelligence is claiming that they are working to solve the problem of intelligence at large, indeed they are working within a very narrow definition of cognition or intelligence, ignoring the larger background and context within which cognition operates. And it seems that your view of cybernetics, or your own work, strives to look at cognition the opposite direction, in its largest possible framework.
hvf: The way you put your question conjures up in my mind the image of the Roman god of the Beginnings, the Guardian of the Universe, the god Janus. He has a head with two faces that look in opposite directions. Now I see one face watching Aristotle’s way of synthesizing imitations of life: “bio-mimesis”; the other face attending to those who follow the Platonic of coming to grips with, as Bateson put it, “mind and Nature, a Necessary Unity.”
My sense is that we need to learn to look both ways, like the god Janus. Interview at SEHR; Stanford
Heinz vo Foerster: When I answered “I shall talk about Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics,” almost all of them looked at me in bewilderment and asked “What is second-order cybernetics?” as if there were no questions about ethics.
I am relieved when people ask me about second-order cybernetics and not about ethics, because it is so much easier to talk about second-order cybernetics than it is to talk about ethics. In fact, it is impossible to talk about ethics. But let me explain that later, and let me now say a few words about cybernetics, and, of course, about cybernetics of cybernetics, or second-order cybernetics.
As you all know, cybernetics arises when effectors, say, a motor, an engine, our muscles, etc. are connected to a sensory organ which, in turn, acts with its signals upon the effectors.
It is this circular organization which sets cybernetic systems apart from others that are not so organized. Here is Norbert Wiener, who re-introduced the term “cybernetics” into scientific discourse. He observed:
The behavior of such systems may be interpreted as directed to the attainment of a goal.
That is, it looks as if these systems pursued a purpose! That sounds very bizarre indeed.
But let me give you other paraphrases of what cybernetics is all about by invoking the spirit of women and men who rightly could be considered the mamas and papas of cybernetic thought and action.
First, here is Margaret Mead, whose name is, I am sure, familiar to all of you. In one of her addresses to the American Society of Cybernetics she said:
As an anthropologist, I have been interested in the effects that the theories of cybernetics have within our society. I am not referring to computers or to the electronic evolution as a whole, or to the end of dependence on script for knowledge, or to the way that dress has succeeded the mimeographing machine as a form of communication among the dissenting young.
Let me repeat that:
I am not referring to the way that dress has succeeded the mimeographing machine as a form of communication among the dissenting young.
[And then she continues:]
I specifically want to consider the significance of the set of cross-disciplinary ideas which we first called ‘feed-back’ and then called ‘teleological mechanisms’ and then called ‘cybernetics’ — a form of cross-disciplinary thought which made it possible for members of many disciplines to communicate with each other easily in a language which all could understand.
And here is the voice of her third husband, the epistemologist, anthropologist, cybernetician, and, as some say, the papa of family therapy, Gregory Bateson:
Cybernetics is a branch of mathematics dealing with problems of control, recursiveness and information.
And here the organizational philosopher and managerial wizard Stafford Beer:
Cybernetics is the science of effective organization.
And, finally, here the poetic reflection of “Mister Cybernetics,” as we fondly call him, the cybernetician’s cybernetician, Gordon Pask:
Cybernetics is the science of defensible metaphors.
It seems that cybernetics is many different things to many different people, but this is because of the richness of its conceptual base. And this is, I believe, very good; otherwise, cybernetics would become a somewhat boring exercise. However, all of those perspectives arise from one central theme, and that is that of circularity.
When, perhaps a half century ago, the fecundity of this concept was seen, it was sheer euphoria to philosophize, epistemologize, and theorize about its consequences, its ramification into various fields, and its unifying power.
While this was going on, something strange evolved among the philosophers, the epistemologists and the theoreticians: they began to see themselves more and more as being themselves included in a larger circularity, maybe within the circularity of their family, or that of their society and culture, or being included in a circularity of even cosmic proportions.
What appears to us today most natural to see and to think, was then not only hard to see, it was even not allowed to think!
Because it would violate the basic principle of scientific discourse which demands the separation of the observer from the observed. It is the principle of objectivity: the properties of the observer shall not enter the description of his observations.
I gave this principle here in its most brutal form, to demonstrate its nonsensicality: if the properties of the observer, namely, to observe and to describe, are eliminated, there is nothing left: no observation, no description.
However, there was a justification for adhering to this principle, and this justification was fear. Fear that paradoxes would arise when the observers were allowed to enter the universe of their observations. And you know the threat of paradoxes: to steal their way into a theory is like having the cloven-hoofed foot of the Devil stuck in the door of orthodoxy.
Clearly, when cyberneticians were thinking of partnership in the circularity of observing and communicating, they were entering the forbidden land:
In the general case of circular closure, A implies B, B implies C, and — O! Horror! — C implies A!
Or in the reflexive case:
A implies B, and — O! Shock! — B implies A!
And now Devil’s cloven-hoofed foot in its purest form, in the form of self-reference:
A implies A.
l would like to invite you now to come with me into the land where it is not forbidden, but where one is even encouraged to speak about oneself (what else can one do anyway?).
This turn from looking at things out there to looking at looking itself, arose — I think — from significant advances in neurophysiology and neuropsychiatry. (H.v.Foerster, ethics and second order cybernetics; SEHR; Stanford)
Paper: On Constructing Reality (pdf)
November 2013 – work-in-progress (ARK via Dreamlines)
On the Trail 2013 SCalhoun – 14 x 11″
I HAVE NO PARENTS;
I MAKE THE HEAVENS AND EARTH MY PARENTS.
I HAVE NO HOME;
I MAKE AWARENESS MY HOME
I HAVE NO LIFE OR DEATH;
I MAKE THE TIDES OF MY BREATHING MY LIFE AND DEATH.
I HAVE NO DIVINE POWER;
I MAKE HONESTY MY DIVINE POWER.
I HAVE NO MEANS;
I MAKE UNDERSTANDING MY MEANS.
I HAVE NO MAGIC SECRETS;
I MAKE CHARACTER MY MAGIC SECRET.
I HAVE NO BODY;
I MAKE ENDURANCE MY BODY.
I HAVE NO EYES;
I MAKE THE FLASH OF LIGHTNING MY EYES.
I HAVE NO EARS;
I MAKE SENSIBILITY MY EARS.
I HAVE NO LIMBS;
I MAKE PROMPTNESS MY LIMBS.
I HAVE NO STRATEGY;
I MAKE CLARITY MY STRATEGY.
I HAVE NO DESIGNS;
I MAKE INTUITION MY DESIGN.
I HAVE NO MIRACLES;
I MAKE RIGHT-ACTION MY MIRACLES.
I HAVE NO PRINCIPLES;
I MAKE NO-AVERSION MY PRINCIPLE.
I HAVE NO TACTICS;
I MAKE EMPTINESS AND FULLNESS MY TACTICS.
I HAVE NO TALENTS;
I MAKE READY WIT MY TALENT.
I HAVE NO FRIENDS;
I MAKE MY MIND MY FRIEND.
I HAVE NO ENEMY;
I MAKE CARELESSNESS MY ENEMY.
I HAVE NO ARMOR;
I MAKE BENEVOLENCE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS MY ARMOR.
I HAVE NO CASTLE;
I MAKE IMMOVABLE-MIND MY CASTLE.
I HAVE NO SWORD;
I MAKE ABSENCE OF SELF MY SWORD.
>>via Robert Rich Facebook; Robert is doing the music.
Life is a system of ‘now you see it,’ and ‘now you don’t.” Alan Watts
Once knowing is no longer understood as the search for an iconic representation of ontological reality but, instead, as a search for fitting ways of behaving and thinking, the traditional problem disappears. Knowledge can now be seen as something which the organism builds up in the attempt to order the as such amorphous flow of experience by establishing repeatable experiences and relatively reliable relations between them. The possibilities of constructing such an order are determined and perpetually constrained by the preceding steps in the construction. That means that the “real” world manifests itself exclusively there where our constructions break down. But since we can describe and explain these breakdowns only in the very concepts that we have used to build the failing structures, this process can never yield a picture of a world that we could hold responsible for their failure. An Introduction to Radical Constructivism, in: Paul Watzlawick (Hg.): The Invented Reality, 1984, p. 39.
In my studio, on the wall with the window, I tacked up pictures of ‘mission-critical’ luminaries. The poster-like reminder above–using an original photo collage–tops the construction.
I’m well-aware of my own personal pantheon of influential persons. One question I sometimes pitch for the sake of understanding better where a person has been is: who are your luminaries?
On Heaven and Hell, God, and the Devil:
You believe in heaven and hell?
Nino Scalia: Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?
Nino Scalia: Oh, my.
Does that mean I’m not going?
Nino Scalia: [Laughing.] Unfortunately not!
Wait, to heaven or hell?
Nino Scalia: It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.
But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe in it?
Nino Scalia: Of course not!
Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
Nino Scalia: I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t even know whether Judas Iscariot is in hell. I mean, that’s what the pope meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He may have recanted and had severe penance just before he died. Who knows?
Can we talk about your drafting process—
Nino Scalia: [Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.
Nino Scalia: Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
Nino Scalia: If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.
Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
Nino Scalia: You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
Nino Scalia: It’s because he’s smart.
So what’s he doing now?
Nino Scalia: What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.
That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the Devil’s work?
Nino Scalia: I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.
Well, you’re saying the Devil is persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Nino Scalia: Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.
Nino Scalia: What happened to him?
He just got wilier.
Nino Scalia: He got wilier.
Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
Nino Scalia: You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so,so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.
I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it.
Nino Scalia: I was offended by that. I really was.
Excerpted interview with Justice Scalia; ‘Nino’ reportedly was his nickname; or so my father told me while recounting his junior attorney at Jones, Day.
Kippie, (his new name and named in honor of South African jazz legend, Kippie Moketsi,) three months old, suffering from kitty PTSD, and looking out from the carrier after making the trip from the APL without a peep.
Life is looking up. His documentation tells his brief story: family brought in the unwanted litter three months after the births. This fine looking boy was named Jitters and he was not socialized to human touch to any normal degree.
Susan and I always knew we were headed toward a fifth and last cat of a long haired gray variety. We’re the perfect home for a little wounded kitty who has a bit of healing ahead of him.
As I wrote on the APL’s survey, “He will become the cat he was meant to become.” As Susan put it: “Our love will now expand.”
Sonny trying to get the door to the lower porch to open so he can welcome his new “half brother.”
Onset: Free Play Softball League winter blues.
As it turned out, the gentle slope in the westward direction of Forest Hills (and its Field #8) allowed us to set up an impromptu diamond in the southeast corner and play in rather decent conditions for the last four weeks.
Last Sunday’s game may well have been our last of a season begun the SUnday after tax day. It was a notable Sunday for several reasons. First, for the second week in a row Jedi Matt launched a ball over 300 feet. This time I paced off the distance when I retrieved a second 300 foot shot into foul territory. Secondly, our cast of characters allowed us once again to play the minimum type of game with at least six to a side, a game in which we slice the outfield in half, give up the right fielder, a second baseman and some times a catcher, yet retain the first baseman to avoid the dreary game dubbed ‘pitcher’s mound.’ Finally, it was our fifth game in a row in which the home team had a chance to win in the bottom of the seventh.
Because I keep track of my own hitting, I can report we played 27 Sundays out of 30. We enjoyed this year the best weather and the most dynamic group relations of any season since I commenced my own participation in 2001.
Those features combine to knock out a data set about, this year and in a nutshell, ‘ludic aspirations, aging, and the interplay of masculinities.’ Ha!
Work-in-progress, November 2013
Guardian Angel Dude; S.Calhoun; 28″ x 22″ draft version, for giclee, glassless float
The display choices reflect that the symmetry experiments seems to me to demand at least a two foot, or longer, side. I have begun framing an earlier piece in a simple glassless frame and the image is not big enough. The reason size matters is that the clever visual trick of the symmetry operation creates details and the viewer’s sight really needs to be thrown right into the ‘thick’ center of the image.
Each experiment triangulates the source image and its own supporting features, the simple symmetry formula, and the element of surprise. Most experiments I’ve done are failures, yet, crucially, each failure is worthwhile too. Each failure teaches me more about how to refine my technique.
If you look closely at the top center of the top image you can pick out this clip. I’ve enlarged this clip–keep in mind my experiments are entirely digital–to 30 inches, or larger than the source image. I’ve been archiving such ‘central vertical line clips’ with an eye to making a piece out of the best of those clips.
Hey brother, why do you want me to talk?
Hey brother, why do you want me to talk?
Talk and talk and the real things get lost.
Talk and talk and things get out of hand.
Why not stop talking and think?
If you meet someone good, listen a little, speak;
If you meet someone bad, clench up like a fist.
Talking with a wise man is a great reward.
Talking with a fool? A waste.
Kabir says: A pot makes noise if it’s half full,
But fill it to the brim – no sound.
We saw 12 Years a Slave last night. Powerful.
I was interested to learn that a currently fashionable notion of Christian fundamentalists holds that Adam, being a farmer, had to be from the vicinity of modern day Turkey. Adam was the first man by virtue of having genes which allowed him to be an agriculturist right from the git-go. So, the other older ‘out of Africa’ humans were actually not humans like Adam was a human because their more primitive genes only allowed them to be hunter/gatherers. Oh, and Adam being the first human and created by God, lived to be 930 years old too.
While some understand the reference to Adam in Genesis to be a general reference to mankind as a whole or the creation of more than one couple, most conservative scholars reject such a view and understand the Genesis account to refer to the creation of a literal Adam and Eve as a single couple. This is further supported by the NT. For instance Paul understood the OT to refer to a literal Adam and Eve (see Rom. 5:14; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:12-13). He clearly understood the reference to Adam and Eve to the first man and woman.
As to incest, it was not considered a sin and was not prohibited for Adam and early man. If the race was to populate and fulfill the command of Gen. 1:28, there is little doubt that Adam’s sons and daughters had to have married their own sisters and brothers if the race was to populate the earth, but due to the purity of the race as evidenced also by the long length of life, there were no adverse effects as we see happening today. Gradually, as the effects of sin took its toll on the human race, marrying one’s own sister, etc., began to create hereditary problems.
Here is Ryrie’s comment on this issue from his book Basic Theology (1986 ed) which I would highly recommend.
Though by many inerrantists the question of where Cain got his wife would not be considered a problem at all, this question is often used by those who try to demonstrate that the Bible is unreliable in what it claims. How could it claim that Adam and Eve were the first human beings who had two sons, one of whom murdered the other, and yet who produced a large race of people? Clearly, the Bible does teach that Adam and Eve were the first created human beings. The Lord affirmed this in Matthew 19:3-9. The genealogy of Christ is traced back to Adam (Luke 3:38). Jude 14 identifies Enoch as the seventh from Adam. This could hardly mean the seventh from “mankind,” an interpretation that would be necessary if Adam were not an individual as some claim. Clearly, Cain murdered Abel and yet many people were born. Where did Cain get his wife?
We know that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters in addition to Abel, Cain, and Seth (Gen. 5:4), and if there was only one original family, then the first marriages had to be between brothers and sisters. Such marriages in the beginning were not harmful. Incest is dangerous because inherited mutant genes that produce deformed, sickly, or moronic children are more likely to find expression in children if those genes are carried by both parents. Certainly, Adam and Eve, coming from the creative hand of God, had no such mutant genes. Therefore, marriages between brothers and sisters, or nieces and nephews in the first and second generations following Adam and Eve would not have been dangerous.
Many, many generations later, by the time of Moses, incest was then prohibited in the Mosaic laws undoubtedly for two reasons: first, such mutations that caused deformity had accumulated to the point where such unions were genetically dangerous, and second, it was forbidden because of the licentious practices of the Egyptians and Canaanites and as a general protection against such in society. It should also be noted that in addition to the Bible most other legal codes refuse to sanction marriages of close relatives.
But here is another issue to consider. If one accepts the evolutionary hypothesis as to the origin of the human race, has that really relieved the issue of incest? Not unless you also propound the idea of the evolution of many pairs of beings, pre-human or whatever, at the same time. No matter what theory of the origin of the human race one may take, are we not driven to the conclusion that in the early history of the race, there was the need for intermarriage of the children of the same pair?
excerpted from The Search for Adam and Eve|John Tierney|Newsweek (1992)
To find Eve, Cann first had to persuade 147 pregnant women to donate their babies’ placentas to science. The placentas were the easiest way to get large samples of body tissue. Working with Wilson and a Berkeley biologist, Mark Stoneking, Cann selected women in America with ancestors from Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Her collaborators in New Guinea and Australia found Aboriginal women there. The babies were born, the placentas were gathered and frozen, and the tissue analysis began at Wilson’s lab in Berkeley. The tissues were ground in a souped-up Waring blender, spun in a centrifuge, mixed with a cell-breaking detergent, dyed flourescent and spun in a centrifuge again. The result was a clear liquid containing pure DNA.
This was not the DNA in the nucleus of the babies’ cells — the genes that determine most physical traits. This DNA came from outside the nucleus, in a compartment of the cell called the mitochondrion, which produces nearly all the energy to keep the cell alive. Scientists didn’t learn that the mitochondrion contained any genes until the 1960s. Then in the late 1970s they discovered that mitochondrial DNA was useful for tracing family trees because it’s inherited only from the mother. It’s not a mixture of both parents’ genes, like nuclear DNA, so it preserves a family record that isn’t scrambled every generation. It’s altered only by mutations — random, isolated mistakes in copying the genetic code, which are then passed on to the next generation. Each random mutation produces a new type of DNA as distinctive as a fingerprint. (The odds against two identical mitochondrial DNA’s appearing by chance are astronomical because there are so many ways to rearrange the units of the genetic code.)
To study these mutations, the Berkeley researchers cut each sample of DNA into segments that could be compared with the DNA of other babies. The differences were clear but surprisingly small. There weren’t even telltale distinctions between races. “We’re a young species, and there are really very few genetic differences among cultures,” Stoneking says. “In terms of our mitochondrial DNA, we’re much more closely related than almost any other vertebrate or mammalian species. You find New Guineans whose DNA is closer to other Asians’ than to other New Guineans’.” This may seem odd, given obvious racial differences. In fact, though, many differences represent trivial changes. Skin color, for instance, is a minor adaptation to climate — black in Africa for protection from the sun, white in Europe to absorb ultraviolet radiation that helps produce vitamin D. It takes only a few thousand years of evolution for skin color to change. The important changes — in brain size, for instance — can take hundreds of thousands of years.
The babies’ DNA seemed to form a family tree rooted in Africa. The DNA fell into two general categories, one found only in some babies of recent African descent, and a second found in everyone else and the other Africans. There was more diversity among the exclusively African group’s DNA, suggesting that it had accumulated more mutations because it had been around longer — and thus was the longest branch of the family tree. Apparently the DNA tree began in Africa, and then at some point a group of Africans emigrated, splitting off to form a second branch of DNA and carrying it to the rest of the world.
All the babies’ DNA could be traced back, ultimately, to one woman. In itself that wasn’t surprising, at least not to statisticians familiar with the quirks of genetic inheritance. “There must be one lucky mother,” Wilson says. “I worry about the term ‘Eve’ a little bit because of the implication that in her generation there were only two people. We are not saying that. We’re saying that in her generation there was some unknown number of men and women, probably a fairly large number, maybe a few thousand.” Many of these other women presumably are also our ancestors, because their nuclear genes would have been passed along to sons and daughters and eventually would have reached us. But at some point these other women’s mitochondrial genes disappeared because their descendants failed to have daughters, and so the mitochondrial DNA wasn’t passed along. At first glance it may seem inconceivable that the source of all mitochondrial DNA was a single woman, but it’s a well-established outcome of the laws of probability.
You can get a feel for the mathematics by considering a similar phenomenon: the disappearance of family names. Like mitochondrial DNA, these are generally passed along by only one sex — in this case, male. If a son marries and has two children, there’s a one-in-four chance that he’ll have two daughters. There’s also a chance that he won’t have any children. Eventually the odds catch up and a generation passes without a male heir, and the name disappears. “It’s an inevitable consequence of reproduction,” says John Avise, a geneticist at the University of Georgia. “Lineages will be going extinct all the time.” After 20 generations, for instance, it’s statistically likely that only 90 out of 100 original surnames will disappear. Avise cites the history of Pitcairn Island in the Pacific, which was settled in 1790 by 13 Tahitian women and six British sailors who had mutinied on the Bounty. After just seven generations, half of the original names have disappeared. If the island remained isolated, eventually everyone would have the same last name. At that point a visitor could conclude that every inhabitant descended from one man — call him the Pitcairn Adam.
So thus there must be a mitochondrial Eve, and even traditional anthopologists can’t really argue against her existence. What shocked them about Mitochondrial Mom was her birthday, which the Berkeley researchers calculated by counting the mutations that have occurred to her DNA. They looked at the most distant branches of the family tree — the DNA types most different from one another — and worked backward to figure out how many steps it would have taken for Eve’s original DNA to mutate into these different types. They assumed that these mutations occurred at a regular rate — a controversial assumption that might be wrong, but which has been supported by some studies of humans and animals. Over the course of a million years, it appears that 2 to 4 percent of the mitochondrial DNA components will mutate. By this molecular calculus, Eve must have lived about 200,000 years ago (the range is between 140,000 and 290,000 years). This date, published this past January by the Berkeley group, agrees with the estimate of a team of geneticists led by Douglas Wallace of Emory University.
2013 S.Calhoun; 22″ x 8″ dye giclee
A keeper from the symmetry experiments using photographs from the back yard as source material, then FX wizardry.
I asked by email for twelve and twelve came.
There’s more to it than that. First: MONSTER SLAM BY JEDI MATT! Estimates as to length of home run varied from 375 feet to a parsec; still, a top five mash for sure.
My research focus is on serendipity and this also means that I am ensnared on a good day with the problem of contingency as it happens in causal chains of human action. I told Dave B. as we departed the parking lot on Sunday that it was his own email to me earlier in the morning that compelled me to bring the equipment and learn whether or not we would gather enough Free Players together for a November game.
Before his email I was ambivalent and leaning toward announcing by email that the field was too wet, the day too cold, and the season too aged, to play. Earlier in the week Francis, acting as our scout, reported the field would be playable on Sunday. Except this was in the middle of the week and Friday came a day-long, soaking, rain.
The Dave’s email arrived in my in-box. I leaned the other way and shot out an email and stated I would be doing my darn duty and hoping we could play with enough forces to have a first baseman for each team. And, my colleagues made it so.
A close game, the fourth in a row, unfolded on a day past the ending of the real world series. Mark us down for one of best seasons whenever we’re playing in November. We tucked our improvised diamond in the southeast corner of the park and except for scattered miniature ponds in left field, the field was in fairly decent shape.
The ball was leaping off the bat. Monster blast! It came down to the last at bat. With one out I laced a shop into the gap, Stacey zoomed and grabbed it, darn kid! It didn’t matter we came up short, but everybody won the day.
To our neighbors:
What a beautiful fall! Everything shimmering and golden and all that incredible soft light. Water surrounding us.
Lou and I have spent a lot of time here in the past few years, and even though we’re city people this is our spiritual home.
Last week I promised Lou to get him out of the hospital and come home to Springs. And we made it!
Lou was a tai chi master and spent his last days here being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature. He died on Sunday morning looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician hands moving through the air.
Lou was a prince and a fighter and I know his songs of the pain and beauty in the world will fill many people with the incredible joy he felt for life. Long live the beauty that comes down and through and onto all of us.
Lou Reed remembered by me, but mostly a post recounting how long it took me to find my way to his artistry: The Murshid of the Underground