205: Professor Charles S. Cockell | Astrobiology, And How Physics Shapes Evolution, In “The Equations of Life”

Biology will reach out to the endless openness, but it will be limited and managed by physics and the equations that govern our universe. In this episode, we discuss with Professor Charles S. Cockell of the University of Edinburgh about topics in his book The Equations of Life.

Before Professor Cockell taught in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, he was a Professor of Geomicrobiology and microbiologist with the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. He got his doctorate in Molecular Biophysics at Oxford University, and has published over 300 scientific papers in the categories of astrobiology, geomicrobiology, and life in extreme environments. As well, he has contributed to plans for Mars exploration.

In my episode with Professor Cockell, we discussed:

  • Professor Cockell’s fascination with space and biology
  • the progression he made in his career to the University of Edinburgh
  • what kind of research he performed in his time at the Antarctic
  • examining life at the boundaries of what is physically viable
  • where in our solar system may have opportunity for viability
  • what kinds of studies Professor Cockell has been part of designing
  • involving incarcerated individuals in a moon-like confinement study
  • a ladybug physics project that the professor set for his students
  • predictability of biology and physics, and thoughts on free will
  • how the things around us are not so out of place based on the laws
  • the Great Filter that Professor Hanson from episode 202 spoke about
  • the power laws connecting metabolism and energy production
  • how the sky can be perceived differently on different parts of the Earth
  • features of individuals that are taken note of, like being open-minded

You can check out his university page, look at his list of publications, or head to his book’s Amazon listing. It was great to have him on, and we connected on some key topics.

202: Dr. Robin Hanson | Career, Viewpoints And Articles From His Blog “Overcoming Bias”

Welcome to episode number 202, with Dr. Robin Hanson, co-author of The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life.

Robin Hanson is associate professor of economics at George Mason University, and research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. He has a doctorate in social science from California Institute of Technology, master’s degrees in physics and philosophy from the University of Chicago, and nine years experience as a research programmer, at Lockheed and NASA.

On my episode with Dr. Hanson, we discussed topics and tangents connecting off of his blog articles and book messages, including:

  • having a thing, whether it be a viewpoint or something you stand for
  • hidden motives and the ways they can be look at more rationally
  • the concept of the Great Filter, which is a viewpoint about the universe and lack of activity beyond our planet
  • viewquakes, and the ability to bring individuals to growth through change of their thinking that is not rigid
  • a message to young eccentrics, the value and efficiencies that they have, and how they can look at themselves
  • the way that Edward Snowden was a form of hero, and what kinds of traits Dr. Hanson might look for in relevant individuals
  • Black Mirror translating some of the scientific messages available to a broader audience
  • how stories are used by people, and if they are somewhat religious in the way that they function
  • more topics on the mindset that you take to a difficulty

You can check out Dr. Robin Hanson’s blog at Overcoming Bias, look at his faculty page, or check out his biography. You can also take a look at my past text interview with Dr. Hanson and his The Elephant in the Brain  co-author Kevin Simler.

200: Professor Scott E. Page | Modeling, Complex Systems, And Applications In “The Model Thinker”

  • welcome Professor Scott. E Page, Ph. D., of the University of Michigan, to episode 200 of the show
  • he currently teaches complex systems, computer science, and economics
  • also has taught an online course to initially 60000 people, and then a million people in its second iteration
  • on this episode, we discussed his career, many of the models presented in the book, and some applications of them in this world
  • many-models approach to modeling, that helps prevent modeling gaps
  • Markov models and their ability to represent an equilibrium state, with percentages representing transfer from one state to another
  • the impact of diversity on complex systems, which has been a large part of Professor Page’s focus, also in his earlier books The Diversity [Bonus] and Diversity and Complexity
  • how socioeconomic status is more likely to continue at the lower and upper bounds than for middle class folks, though they are 50% likely
  • discussion about entropy as representation of uncertainty, and how it differs from variance equitability of options
  • the Matthew effect of some support for something causing more support for it, causing a snowball
  • opioid models, and some of the issues with their treatment
  • we covered other topics not listed here, and it was great to speak with Professor Page about his material, which I am also interested in
  • you can check out The Model Thinker on Amazon, look at Professor Page’s Michigan webpage, or look at a listing of all his books.