Author Topic: Alien news  (Read 3041 times)

Re: Alien news
« Reply #60 on: September 15, 2020, 05:11:30 PM »
Here's Elvis on Mars, maybe someone could use him.


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Shit Good Nose

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #61 on: September 15, 2020, 05:11:49 PM »
Damn it SGN, I just made almost the exact same thing!
What do I do now?
To the Farage thread!!

Apologies.

If it's any consolation, I'm absolutely certain your effort would have been infinitely better and more skilled than my few-minutes Paint job.

Shit Good Nose

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #62 on: September 15, 2020, 05:16:03 PM »
Here's Elvis on Mars, maybe someone could use him.


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Fixed.

Re: Alien news
« Reply #63 on: September 15, 2020, 05:29:02 PM »
My (layperson's) understanding is that evolution is a blind, frequently dogged process without conscious oversight. If we look at its history, we'd have to conclude that any 'plan' it knowingly has is for species to evolve for a bit and then go extinct (with a success rate so far of 99.9%). Perhaps it just really likes fossils.

There might well be some conscious force behind it that is impossible to comprehend. After all, we can never rule out the possibility that we live in a demon's dream or an alien's 4D screensaver. I only phrased my comment as a definite fact because I thought it a waste of sentence-space to tag it with 'in my opinion'.

Perfectly reasonable Thomas. I didn't mean to bite it's just a sort of personal bugbear I have.

I'd have to go digging for it, but I did read somewhat recently about evidence emerging through the scientific community that in certain circumstances nature is making specific adaptive decisions in the direction it sends out supposedly random mutations. Perhaps someone else can fill that in.

I like to think that once we can get a hold of at least one other instance of natural selection occurring somewhere else we might unlock a/the grander metagame. Anecdotally, I took acid once and to the question 'why is there so much death and suffering in evolution' the answer I got back was 'to prepare for the even more malevolent fuckfest further down the line'. What more proof do we need?

I'm also reading the 'The Case Against Reality' atm by Donald Hoffman. Fascinating book. The central gist is that evolutionary theory demonstrates how natural selection prefers 'fitness payoffs' far more often over what we might describe as objective awareness of actual, collective reality. So his theory goes we could well have adapted out into the time and space dimensions for 8 billion years (because cars, guns and Hollyoaks) whilst ignoring the 7 (or whatever) other dimensions suggested by string theory/quantum physics, rendering us conceptually blind to enormous data streams about how evolution works and makes decisions. If it does of course.

Re: Alien news
« Reply #64 on: September 15, 2020, 05:53:18 PM »

Alberon

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #65 on: September 15, 2020, 06:16:21 PM »
I'm also reading the 'The Case Against Reality' atm by Donald Hoffman. Fascinating book. The central gist is that evolutionary theory demonstrates how natural selection prefers 'fitness payoffs' far more often over what we might describe as objective awareness of actual, collective reality. So his theory goes we could well have adapted out into the time and space dimensions for 8 billion years (because cars, guns and Hollyoaks) whilst ignoring the 7 (or whatever) other dimensions suggested by string theory/quantum physics, rendering us conceptually blind to enormous data streams about how evolution works and makes decisions. If it does of course.

Nice idea, but I don’t buy it. The idea that these extra dimensions exist, but are infinitesimally small in this universe at least is a theory that has many followers. Now we’re actually looking for evidence I think we would have found it by now if we could. These other dimensions effectively don’t exist in the way height doesn’t in a 2D flatland.

It’s possible the other dimensions exist as large as the three we know outside the universe in what is called The Bulk where our universe might drift along with others.

As to The Singularity - it’s been called The Rapture of the Nerds and that’s basically what it is. Maybe it’ll happen or maybe technological progress will slowly grind to a halt as we run into the physical limits of the universe much like the way Moore’s Law has died.

Most likely something totally unexpected will happen instead.

Re: Alien news
« Reply #66 on: September 15, 2020, 06:17:13 PM »
Apologies.

If it's any consolation, I'm absolutely certain your effort would have been infinitely better and more skilled than my few-minutes Paint job.

Nah, mine was just Hans sitting there on a rock. Yours captured the excitement the Soviet scientists must have felt when they shat bricks all those years ago.

Puce Moment

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #67 on: September 15, 2020, 06:20:19 PM »
My (layperson's) understanding is that evolution is a blind, frequently dogged process without conscious oversight. If we look at its history, we'd have to conclude that any 'plan' it knowingly has is for species to evolve for a bit and then go extinct (with a success rate so far of 99.9%). Perhaps it just really likes fossils.

As someone who researches and publishes around the fringes of evolution I would say that is pretty acccurate. It's an entirely incremental, brain-fuckeringly slow and shifting process with billions of outcomes. The idea that species 'win' some kind of award for evolutionary perfection fails to account for the almost limitless amount of evolutionary variables that arise with no one species coming out on top. It's not battle royale.

For me, I think part of the problem is the linguistics of science, and evolution in particular. The often used concept of nature 'selecting' the strongest and most well-adapted individuals to progress and refine a species is misleading and accounts for much of the problem. A student told me that humans are losing wisdom teeth because we keep ripping them out, as if nature looks at this from her elevated position and send down some genetic code that will lead to us not having any in 30-years. Or our mouths send a grumpy message to our brain and it starts to deconstruct millions of years of evolution.

Glebe

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #68 on: September 15, 2020, 06:22:10 PM »

Puce Moment

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #69 on: September 15, 2020, 06:23:20 PM »
I'm also reading the 'The Case Against Reality' atm by Donald Hoffman. Fascinating book. The central gist is that evolutionary theory demonstrates how natural selection prefers 'fitness payoffs' far more often over what we might describe as objective awareness of actual, collective reality. So his theory goes we could well have adapted out into the time and space dimensions for 8 billion years (because cars, guns and Hollyoaks) whilst ignoring the 7 (or whatever) other dimensions suggested by string theory/quantum physics, rendering us conceptually blind to enormous data streams about how evolution works and makes decisions. If it does of course.

Interesting, I will pick this up and give it a go. Is the 8 billion figure referring to the formation and stasis of our solar system?

Re: Alien news
« Reply #70 on: September 15, 2020, 08:01:20 PM »
^^Rumbled

I honestly plucked that figure out of my 4.54 billion year old genetically perfected derriere without thinking much. (hope this doesn't put you off the book, the Hoff is legit as I understand it).

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #71 on: September 15, 2020, 08:40:59 PM »
A student told me that humans are losing wisdom teeth because we keep ripping them out, as if nature looks at this from her elevated position and send down some genetic code that will lead to us not having any in 30-years. Or our mouths send a grumpy message to our brain and it starts to deconstruct millions of years of evolution.
Surely, then, Jewish lads would have stopped growing foreskins quite some time ago.

Re: Alien news
« Reply #72 on: September 15, 2020, 08:55:36 PM »
At 10.30 BST this evening (ie just over an hour and a half away from the time of this post) the SETI Institute will be broadcasting a live discussion about this news on YouTube.

https://youtu.be/jfN4oGeAs2k

And here's a hot-off-the-ProTools edition of the fantastic Big Picture Science podcast, which talks with several people involved in the research, plus others who are more sceptical about the import of the findings.

https://www.seti.org/podcast/life-venus

Re: Alien news
« Reply #73 on: September 15, 2020, 09:30:19 PM »
A student told me that humans are losing wisdom teeth because we keep ripping them out, as if nature looks at this from her elevated position and send down some genetic code that will lead to us not having any in 30-years. Or our mouths send a grumpy message to our brain and it starts to deconstruct millions of years of evolution.

That was the winning theory before Darwin came along, afaik. Lamarkian evolution, they called it. A giraffe keeps stretching its neck to reach the leaves at the top of the tree, and then its kids have slightly longer necks....

Would be good if that was how it worked. It would make it seem like it was organised and purposeful rather than frighteningly random and pointless. And that humans were some kind of pinnacle, rather than not as much of an evolutionary triumph as rats and cockroaches and herpes.

Thomas

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #74 on: September 15, 2020, 10:44:56 PM »
For me, I think part of the problem is the linguistics of science, and evolution in particular. The often used concept of nature 'selecting' the strongest and most well-adapted individuals to progress and refine a species is misleading and accounts for much of the problem. A student told me that humans are losing wisdom teeth because we keep ripping them out, as if nature looks at this from her elevated position and send down some genetic code that will lead to us not having any in 30-years. Or our mouths send a grumpy message to our brain and it starts to deconstruct millions of years of evolution.

As my (layperson's) interest in (very basic) evolutionary science developed, I had to sort of train myself to think of 'selection' in the correct way. 'Selection' as we usually think of it is an illusion when it comes to evolution; a retrospective way of looking at how an organism came together.

A storm doesn't select where its raindrops land, or where ditches in the ground should be placed - but very specific (almost designed-looking) puddles and streams do form in the end.[1]
 1. my tenuous analogy between a puddle and an evolved organism ends here.

touchingcloth

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #75 on: September 15, 2020, 11:14:31 PM »
As someone who researches and publishes around the fringes of evolution I would say that is pretty acccurate. It's an entirely incremental, brain-fuckeringly slow and shifting process with billions of outcomes. The idea that species 'win' some kind of award for evolutionary perfection fails to account for the almost limitless amount of evolutionary variables that arise with no one species coming out on top. It's not battle royale.

For me, I think part of the problem is the linguistics of science, and evolution in particular. The often used concept of nature 'selecting' the strongest and most well-adapted individuals to progress and refine a species is misleading and accounts for much of the problem. A student told me that humans are losing wisdom teeth because we keep ripping them out, as if nature looks at this from her elevated position and send down some genetic code that will lead to us not having any in 30-years. Or our mouths send a grumpy message to our brain and it starts to deconstruct millions of years of evolution.

In fairness to your student,[1] this is just Lamarckism, which was fairly widely entertained by pre-mid-19th Century scientists because one aspect of evolution being so ridiculously slow is that the evidence is really quite difficult to come across, record and review. Even with people being familiar with the idea of selection causing changes in animals (via farmers, dog breeders, pigeon fanciers, etc.), it took not just people like Darwin and Wallace to find and collate the evidence that animals do seem to undergo changes in populations over time to make it plausible, but also the idea that earth is more than a few thousand years old to really take hold to make the mad idea compelling enough not to ignore. One of the most quoted bits of Darwin by creationists is him talking about the absurdity that something like an eye could evolve by chance, so people were well aware of the philosophical implications of taking the idea of evolution to its logical conclusion that life may have begun with nothing.

As my (layperson's) interest in (very basic) evolutionary science developed, I had to sort of train myself to think of 'selection' in the correct way. 'Selection' as we usually think of it is an illusion when it comes to evolution; a retrospective way of looking at how an organism came together.

A storm doesn't select where its raindrops land, or where ditches in the ground should be placed - but very specific (almost designed-looking) puddles and streams do form in the end.[2]
 2. my tenuous analogy between a puddle and an evolved organism ends here.

I read or heard somewhere once that the part of "natural selection" to focus on is not "selection", but "natural". Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker is a good read for making the case that evolution can, does and did take place without the need for any intelligent intervention.
 1. And not to suggest this is news to you.

Re: Alien news
« Reply #76 on: September 15, 2020, 11:20:13 PM »
Hmm, I'm not sure I'm on the same page as everyone here.

I found this review gives an interesting summary of how environment affects the random mutation process and concludes:

Quote
Many scientists may share Dobzhansky's intuitive conviction that the marvelous intricacies of living organisms could not have arisen by the selection of truly random mutations. This minireview suggests that sensitive, directed feedback mechanisms initiated by different kinds of stress might facilitate and accelerate the adaptation of organisms to new environments.

So essentially they're saying that in response to pressures in the environment a cell might target particular genetic areas to hyper-mutate, expanding the probability that it refines it's approach to survival in very specific, productive areas. Which is not quite random random until the end of time.

I've always understood natural selection to be a long cumbersome process but to then take that all the way to 'we're happenstance cosmic flukes with no obvious purpose' is, I think, and correct me if I'm wrong, a skewed way of looking at evolutionary theory.

Evolution = random genetic mutations PLUS natural selection. They are separate things. One is chaotic but the other is definitive and brutally precise. But combined together.... iz a plan no? Even if it's just a plan shaped by time and teeth to survive and be pain-free.

Zetetic

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #77 on: September 15, 2020, 11:45:50 PM »
Quote
a cell might target particular genetic areas to hyper-mutate, expanding the probability that it refines it's approach to survival
Not the microorganism's chance, but the population of which it is a member, presumably, since most mutations of genetic material that you're currently having to use a lot will fuck you up. (Not clear how this mechanism expands to anything with gametes, but more epigenetics is available, I guess.)

Quote
definitive and brutally precise.
No, for the most part? Most selective pressures are fuzzy and ever-changing. Fairly chaotically from most perspectives.

(And of course it's not a one way street. Atmospheric carbon dioxide being a neat example, to loop back towards the topic.)

Quote
pain-free.
Hmm.

Re: Alien news
« Reply #78 on: September 16, 2020, 01:26:32 PM »
Not the microorganism's chance, but the population of which it is a member

Sure. I'm not saying there's a giant meta-brain per se (although I will entertain the idea), but in this context that there is a mechanism driving, enhancing even, the process towards its goals. That may well be a product of random mutation itself, but if it's sticking around then a selective process has occurred and it's not meaningless anymore. It has a goal: refining the survival mechanism.

No, for the most part? Most selective pressures are fuzzy and ever-changing. Fairly chaotically from most perspectives.


If I mutate a gene that is allergic to oxygen on Thursdays, I don't last very long. That's the brutality of it. Terrible iterations will die out very quickly so from that perspective it is extremely precise. I understand the language of evolution needs to be codified and contextualised (and I may need to tighten up). I understand most of my DNA is classified as junk. But I also know that every sentence I write into this screen could only be possible because of all the random, seemingly ephemeral experiences of my life that have accumulated to this point (+ 4 billion years of evolution).

If we landed on Europa and it's full of alien fish, we would say that those fish are the current 'surfers' of that ecological game tree. They might not be the peak, but their existence is the latest iteration of a refining process specific to that environment - however chaotic that process is in the micro. And even if their environment becomes hostile, the genetic process is hardwired to try and adapt to it.

TLDR; We're all survival organisms - I'm not sure it gets any more meaningful than that - but that's much more than incidental nothings in my mind.

Zetetic

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #79 on: September 16, 2020, 03:37:24 PM »
I don't think I could agree that we're all "survival organisms" even. (Some organism are more clearly propagation-y than they are survival-y, I reckon. But setting that aside, populations can produce an contain individuals that are neither.)

But I think I understand the view. Our general type is fundamentally defined by being the type of thing that's good at existing over and over again. Or something like that.

NoSleep

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #80 on: September 16, 2020, 03:43:53 PM »
Some organism are more clearly propagation-y than they are survival-y, I reckon.

Because it's a successful survival strategy perhaps.

Zetetic

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #81 on: September 16, 2020, 07:25:06 PM »
For something's survival, certainly, but not the organism. The units upon which selective pressures work their influence are diverse.

(But perhaps this is a distraction from the more important point that "natural selection" frequently tolerates the generation of stuff - individuals, spandrels within organisms - that simply doesn't add to any kind of fitness at any level because the costs of opposing this rise steeply enough.)

Re: Alien news
« Reply #82 on: September 16, 2020, 08:11:30 PM »

NoSleep

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #83 on: September 16, 2020, 08:26:04 PM »
For something's survival, certainly, but not the organism. The units upon which selective pressures work their influence are diverse.

(But perhaps this is a distraction from the more important point that "natural selection" frequently tolerates the generation of stuff - individuals, spandrels within organisms - that simply doesn't add to any kind of fitness at any level because the costs of opposing this rise steeply enough.)

Case in point being the defective mutation that has been inherited by all humans of not being able to produce vitamin C within their bodies (like every other animal). Fortunately there must have been ample vitamin C in their prehistoric diet to make up for this.

touchingcloth

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #84 on: September 17, 2020, 12:42:26 AM »
Case in point being the defective mutation that has been inherited by all humans of not being able to produce vitamin C within their bodies (like every other animal). Fortunately there must have been ample vitamin C in their prehistoric diet to make up for this.

And what's cool with evolution is that these "defective" mutations often turn out to only really be defective when viewed with human biases. Some mutations of certain genes lead to people's bodies producing "defective" haemoglobin - sickle cell disease - but evidence shows that carrying that gene has a protective effect against malaria, and incidences of sickle cell are higher in parts of the world with large amounts of malaria, presumably at least in part because your chances of surviving are higher if you do have sickle cell but don't get malaria.

It's actually more complicated than that because people who have sickle cell disease rather than just carrying the disease which causes it do not seem to be protected from malaria, and people with the disease have high morbidity and shortened life expectancy, but evolution doesn't care if people in the population who are suffering the effects of a disease if others in the population have the gene responsible for that disease and are merrily going around not catching malaria. And it's more complicated still because while it shortens life expectancy, it decreases infant mortality, meaning that even people with the disease have a very good chance of becoming old enough to fuck and pass on the trait.

Zetetic

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #85 on: September 17, 2020, 02:02:17 AM »
And what's cool with evolution is that these "defective" mutations often turn out to only really be defective when viewed with human biases.
Nah. There's some interesting just-so stories[1], but we are laboured with tonnes of shit just because the fitness gradients or what-have-you around various issues are too steep.

In a fairly decent proportion of cases, we can't even make it past conception without a chromosome or two falling to pieces, saddling survivors with all unhelpful stuff to deal with.[2]
 1. Maybe a single ΔF508 was really useful fifty thousand years ago???
 2. Ah, but maybe miscarriages and Patau syndrome provide opportunities for costly signalling within human societies and ADFSDFDHKFJSDHFKJSDHFSDBFDSBF

touchingcloth

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #86 on: September 17, 2020, 03:28:52 PM »
Nah. There's some interesting just-so stories[1], but we are laboured with tonnes of shit just because the fitness gradients or what-have-you around various issues are too steep.

In a fairly decent proportion of cases, we can't even make it past conception without a chromosome or two falling to pieces, saddling survivors with all unhelpful stuff to deal with.[2]
 1. Maybe a single ΔF508 was really useful fifty thousand years ago???
 2. Ah, but maybe miscarriages and Patau syndrome provide opportunities for costly signalling within human societies and ADFSDFDHKFJSDHFKJSDHFSDBFDSBF

My point was more that it's rare for organisms to just pick up and run with a truly defective trait, because selection tends to be effective at preventing that sort of thing. On NoSleep's example of humans being unable to synthesize vitamin C, by hunch is that either the ability to do this has no effect on fitness and so losing it wasn't selected against, or that the genes/pathways involved in synthesis underwent some mutations which while stopping us from producing our own vitamin C was selected for because it conferred some other kind of fitness.

Re: Alien news
« Reply #87 on: September 17, 2020, 06:40:54 PM »
my tenuous analogy between a puddle and an evolved organism ends here.

"If you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!'

"This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for."

- Douglas Adams

Zetetic

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #88 on: September 17, 2020, 10:58:08 PM »
My point was more that it's rare for organisms to just pick up and run with a truly defective trait
Sure, if by "truly defective" you mean "massive impairment to reproductive fitness" and by "trait" you mean "one or two mutations in a gene".

But we're chock-full of stuff that doesn't work very well, either from a reproductive fitness or human experience perspective or both, down to the most basic aspects of reproduction at the cellular level, because we're a complex organism cobbled together by billions of years of local maximisation.

touchingcloth

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Re: Alien news
« Reply #89 on: September 18, 2020, 04:58:49 AM »
Sure, if by "truly defective" you mean "massive impairment to reproductive fitness" and by "trait" you mean "one or two mutations in a gene".

I do.

But we're chock-full of stuff that doesn't work very well, either from a reproductive fitness or human experience perspective or both, down to the most basic aspects of reproduction at the cellular level, because we're a complex organism cobbled together by billions of years of local maximisation.

The two things aren't necessarily the same, is the thing I am trying to express and doing a bad job of. On the vitamin C example, the gene[1] which would allow us to synthesise the vitamin is "faulty" from a human experience perspective because we can't produce it ourselves, but it would seem that it's not faulty from a reproductive fitness one because, well, here we are (as well as the other hominids, who all also lack the ability).

From what I can tell it looks like there's no prevailing consensus on whether that mutation had specific helpful consequences that would tend to make the mutation selected for rather than just not selected against, but it's a possibility. The mutation made the gene non-encoding so I wouldn't suggest it became responsible for the ability to use tools or anything, but there's the possibility that it has positive effects either epigenetically, or because not encoding for the protein is in some way helpful even considering the loss of vitamin C synthesis.
 1. From a quick search, it is a single gene in the synthesis pathway which is affected in humans.

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