So Much for Evolution? Or Evolution Is Getting Personal?

1.  According to our really cool BIG THINK physicist, Michio Kaku, evolution has stopped for our species.


2. But that doesn't mean we can't change ourselves.

3. So, in the case of our species, impersonal natural evolution has been displaced by conscious and volitional evolution.

4. Natural evolution is with the flourishing of the species in mind.  Each particular member of the species is, in effect, species fodder.  That means, for example, that social mammals such as ourselves should find our fulfillment in fulfilling our desires as social animals.  But we aren't completely satisfied by that instinctual satisfaction, because we can't lose ourselves in some social or natural whole.  We know, it seems, that each of us is dissed by being reduced to a part of some whole. Have we become less social, in that sense, over time?

5. Conscious and volitional evolution is not with the species--but with ME--in mind.  My objection to nature is its indifference to my personal existence.  Nature is out to kill ME--take ME out--once I've done my social duty.

6. But I refuse to give in, I want to stay around.  So I'm working hard to indefinitely perpetuate my own existence against nature's intention.  And that's the point of all technological and biotechnological progress (against nature), as the transhumanists most emphatically point out. It's not nature, but US, that produces change we can believe in.

7. The unself-conscious, non-technological, non-personal animals are fine with living according to nature. 

8. And so we might want to say that the theory of evolution was completely true until our species--the being with infinitely complex language open to the truth about being and one's own being--showed up.

9. Or: Animals smart enough to discover the theory of evolution are bound to exhibit plenty of behavior that would prove it's not completely true--and getting less true, as we imposed our personal will on the whole planet (and maybe [who knows?] more and more of the cosmos).

I actually don't completely believe the above.  But tell me why I shouldn't.

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Accretion disk surrounding a neutron star. Credit: NASA
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The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.

Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv

Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.

The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.

While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.

One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.

"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"

Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.

The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.

Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.


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Source: Wolovick et al.

An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.

But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.

Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.

"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.

"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."

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