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How Predictable Is Evolution?

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the step-by-step dept.

Science 209

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "If the clock rewound, would organisms evolve the same way they did before? Humble stick insects may hold the answer to that long-running question in biology. Through studies of these bugs, whose bodies match the leaves the insects live on, researchers have found that although groups of the bug have evolved similar appearances, they achieved that mostly via different changes in their DNA. 'I think it says that repeatability of evolution is very low,' says Andrew Hendry, an evolutionary biologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who was not involved with the work."

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Bah (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014117)

I knew you were going to ask that.

Re:Bah (3, Insightful)

sillybilly (668960) | about 5 months ago | (#47014887)

Can we get a Star Trek like movie but instead of meeting human looking weirdos in outer space, let's meet species that look really weird, yet make friends with us and we commnunicate. Like Octopuses, and Snake-people, bug-looking-people, birds with intellect, Koala bear looking chess players, etc.

Re: Bah (2)

staalmannen (1705340) | about 5 months ago | (#47015061)

not imaginative enough. Life in outer space would be less similar to us than bacteria on Earth is (so bird-like and octupus like is too "tellocentric"). Having said that, certain body plans are likely to reoccur like light sensors (eyes have developed several times independently on Earth) likely close to the proccesing unit ("brain", could also be distributed like in an octopus) and feeding organs.

Re: Bah (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#47015101)

Anyone human-like advanced enough to locate us and travel to us would be cyborg anyway. A brain cased in a robot 1000 times more advanced than us.

Or, Iron Giant style. All that'd be left of the foreign civilization is AI war machines.

The sci-fi going for "unlike human" almost always goes to insect (Starship Troopers, Aliens), but nearly all Sci-Fi stays human-like for the purposes of depicting it on TV/screen.

Re: Bah (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about 5 months ago | (#47033929)

The sci-fi going for "unlike human" almost always goes to insect (Starship Troopers, Aliens),

Pierson's Puppeteer [deviantart.com] anyone? Do you want one to be your bar tender? After you realise that they prepare your drink with their mouth?

but nearly all Sci-Fi stays human-like for the purposes of depicting it on TV/ screen.

That, I would hope to see change as producers and artists explore the capabilities of CGI. Particularly "live action" CGI.

Re: Bah (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#47034243)

Not while the "live action" CGI is still guys in suits running around being filmed then digitized.

Re: Bah (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about 5 months ago | (#47034687)

What I mean by "live action" is CGI constructs interacting on screen with other CGI constructs, some of which may be completely computer based, and some of which may use humans for motion capture. Or for the human actors to interact with, while being green screened for the CGI processing.

If I want to see a guy in a rubber suit, I'll watch a diving video.

Re: Bah (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#47034929)

I was thinking Avatar, and some of the others since (Gollum), where they get a human actor to "act" the scene, then they replace the human actor with a new character that is 100% CGI, replacing it. That isn't new. Disney would generally film animated dances with people, then draw the animation to follow the human movements. Because of such biases, we'll always default to human-like characters on screen, even for bears, snakes, lions, and other animals.

Re: Bah (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about 5 months ago | (#47044731)

I don't think I saw more than a few tens of minutes of Avatar when it was on while we were waiting for a flight briefing. Blue people and dragons?

I see enough use of modelling software to, for example, understand the biomechanics of a T.rex's walk that it's clear that the understanding of how bones and muscles interact, and how to model them (how much muscle volume is needed to accelerate a lever of mass X and moment of inertia I at Y ms^-2), is good and getting better. Which can then take the place of the Disney movies of dancers, or go directly into a 3d model and thence into a render farm.

I suspect that the constraint on production is less in the skills of the 3d modellers inventing the animals, and more in the producers afraid of what the public will pay to see (Avatar was an American film, which is why I won't willingly watch it). I guess that leaves the window open to things like animation competitions and short films to slowly push back the limits of the producer's arguments with the focus groups.

I remember seeing some of the first computer modelled and rendered animation in the late 1970s - the classic anglepoise lamps playing football (sorry, "soccer") - and realising that I was seeing the future. And it is getting closer. At about one year every calendar year.

Re: Bah (4, Interesting)

Artifakt (700173) | about 5 months ago | (#47015373)

There's a great book by the artist Wayne D. Barlowe, called "Expedition". it shows the life forms of a fictional planet called Darwin 4 . With dense atmosphere and low gravity, Everything evolves big, and almost nothing has anything like eyes (sonar is both popular and often very advanced). Without giving too much away for those who still haven't run across this, there are several common body plans that tend to run through whole phyla, and which don't occur on Earth, but make really good sense on Darwin 4. The underlying science is generally sound - I base this on the way various people who have read it point to this or that creature as less probable than the others, but seem to pick out different ones. This book has become my standard for SF aliens.

 

Re: Bah (1)

bossk538 (1682744) | about 5 months ago | (#47017937)

Great book, but might be hard to find. There hasn't even been a copy available on Amazon for at least a year, and on eBay it goes for $120. There was a film version on the Discovery Channel about a year ago, so you might be able to see it on Youtube or somewhere, though I don't think it does much with the narrative and "notes" which were another great feature.

Re: Bah (1)

Agent0013 (828350) | about 5 months ago | (#47018133)

There is a tv special made based on that book called Alien Planet. I had not heard of the book before you mentioned it, but I recognized the name of the planet and the strange types of creatures on it. It was interesting even though it is all made-up speculation and there is no real science in it. It is on Netflix if any one wants to check it out. I particularly liked the ideas on how the remote AI flying rovers would be designed and programmed each with a slightly different personality so they won't all befall the same mishap.

Re: Sonar? Really? (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#47018593)

Hmm, sonar actually seems like a poor choice for one important reason: it's *active* - meaning that in order to be able to "see" something you basically have to scream at it, which would make both hunting and fleeing predators far more difficult since stealth is not an option. Meanwhile the very first creature to develop even crude imaging eyes would have a massive advantage. Also, it's considerably more complicated, so unlikely to prove a viable means of detection until the organism has independently developed both some sort of "ears" and a way to make loud sounds, whereas so long as there is light in the environment "eyes" start becoming useful as soon as an organism develops light-detecting compounds, and the benefit improves smoothly as directionality and imaging evolve.

Basically on Earth very few creatures use sonar, and typically they are apex predators (very few things hunt whales or flying bats). I suspect that's for a very good reason.

Re: Bah (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 5 months ago | (#47023039)

Dense atmosphere and low gravity is nonsense, unless you have very high molecular weight materials, which tend to boil at higher temperatures, such as sulfuric acid on Earth sized Venus at 10 bar and very high temperature. But as far as we know almost all life on Earth directly connected to the atmosphere is photosynthetic origin as it's energy core (with the exception of deep ocean volcanic eruption sulfur chemistry cycle based lifeforms), so you'd assume low molecular weight oxygen in the atmosphere, to support carbon combustion of aerobic lifeforms, and therefore not that much density of atmosphere. Earth might be on the lowest possible gravity side of possibilities for life, as Mars has a very thin atmosphere, because of both low gravity but also because of lack of magnetic field/lack of solar wind shield. So you can't really have a life connected to an atmosphere in its function on a planet the size of our Moon, because there is no atmosphere at all on such sized a thing, because of insufficient gravity to hold one. So elephants on Earth might be the largest possible land based life forms in the entire Universe, but there might be a whole lot of places with say double or triple maybe 5x the gravity on Earth, and then most likely the largest lifeforms are bug-sized, with huge leg muscles compared to total body weight. If the gravity is too high, then we run into situations like Jupiter and Saturn and Uranus, that are full of captured gaseous hydrogen, as hydrogen is the most abundant element in interstellar and interplanetary space, and the only reason why Earth is not full of gaseous hydrogen is because it does not have sufficient gravity to retain it in the atmosphere at its escape-velocity escape region temperature. So if life is possible on these gas-giants in our solar system, then there are a lot of possibilities out there, but most likely life is only possible within a limited gravity range, Earth being on the lower end as Mars and Luna can't really support life (i.e. can't hold low pressure unboiled unvented to outers space liquid water to dissolve carbon based organic chemicals in essential for life), and on the gas giant high end you have issues with atmospheric hydrogen coexisting with oxygen during a lightning flash, and the whole atmosphere exploding - even if life is possible in/on gas giants, it cannot be carbon dioxide/oxygen photosynthetic/oxygen combusting hydrocarbon based, because of hydrogen explosions, but deep ocean hydrothermal vent type lifeforms might be possible, all you need is a sufficient driving force, high enough head for a local caloric waterfall.

Re: Bah (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 5 months ago | (#47030585)

People talk about how the solar wind blows away a planet's atmosphere, and to that I've said all you need is a magnetic field and van Allen belts to deflect the solar wind. I just thought about this a little more. The wind itself does not blow away the atmosphere, as in physically blow it away, because a particle impacting the upper atmosphere at high speed is like a super fast ball inside a lottery urn, or when breaking in pool, the initial ball at high velocity, its velocity gets transferred and distributed over to the other particles of the atmosphere, raising the temperature, but not really knocking anything off the planet's surface. There is probably a dynamic equilibrium of the size of the atmosphere, a balance between particles captured and lost, particles captured by gravity from the solar wind, and lost from gravity if they ever reach the escape velocity from random thermal motions (the Maxwell Boltzmann velocity distribution of gas molecules has a sizable tail in the high velocity region) in the very upper zones of the atmosphere. The temperature in the troposphere matters the most, and the higher the troposphere the colder the temperature, the more it retains the atmosphere, and the troposphere becomes even higher, so the size of the atmosphere may be very sensitive to temperature, and has to be in a very narrow range to retain all nitrogen and oxygen and CO2, but let hydrogen fully escape (else you have an explosion in the atmosphere from a lightning strike, or can never build up much oxygen because it keeps turning to water from the captured hydrogen). Too cold a troposphere may retain too much hydrogen. In fact the gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus are probably silicate cored just like Earth, might have water too if they have lightning strikes, but they have so much gravity and sufficiently low troposphere temperature they retain all the hydrogen, increasing gravity which retains even more hydrogen, and this process would go on indefinitely weren't it for the fact that there is so little hydrogen in outer space, it takes forever to grow a millimeter for the size of the planet. These gas giants are probably growing, and the closer they are to the solar wind source, the Sun, the faster they must be growing, Jupiter growing faster than Saturn, etc, if the hydrogen concentration decreases in outer space when going farther from the Sun. In fact the silicate core of Jupiter might have started off about the same size as Earth, but because it was so much lower temperature in its troposphere, it retained the hydrogen and it grew into a massive gravity object which now heavily attracts all kinds of meteorites and comets, so its silicate core is probably much bigger now than Earth's. So anyway, what I was trying to say at first was that Venus may not need a magnetic field if its temperature is low enough, the atmosphere may absorb the impact of the solar wind, as long as the fully dispersed diffuse Aurora Borealis phenomenon across even the equator happens deep enough in the atmosphere that the hot particles impact colder ones above and lose their escape velocity, and never escape. It's very hard to create a natural magnetic field if you don't even understand why such a thing arises. It might have to do with a huge nickel-iron core, and if Venus lacks that, that's very expensive to gather in outer space and dump into Venus. If it's lava is not molten enough, it's also very expensive to find radioactive containing silicates and dump it into Venus.(It may be that simply Venus does not have the perfect size for a lava, not enough insulation to get the core hot enough, even if it has the same average concentration of radioactive trace elements as Earth, or the Moon, or Jupiter.) If push comes to shove, it's possible to put up superconducting magnets by the Lagrange point to deflect off some of the solar wind. But a cold average temperature of the planet is a must before water and oxygen and nitrogen get retained in large quantities, especially water. I just read up on the atmospheric composition of Venus, it has a 250 km atmosphere made of 96.5% CO2 and 3.5% N2. So CO2 has a molecular weight of 44 units, N2 34, O2 would have 36 but all of it seems to be combusted to CO2 and there might be more carbon waiting to eat up any more O2 that might appear, but water would be molecular weight 18, which is half as light as N2 at 34, and CO2 at 44, and it gets distilled out and off and away from the planet into outer space. Right now there is not enough water on Venus, there is some hydrogen in the form of sulfuric acid, and water possibly bound to it, but it's nothing like the huge amounts of water we have on Earth. Venus needs more water, which may take a few billion years to build up, unless humans start some cometoid shipping routes from Jupiter, and convert some of that CO2 into CH(life) and H2O. If the planet gets cold enough, either from being knocked higher in orbit(its present gravity is 8.87 m/s, Earth is 9.78 m/s2, so it could use a sizable object/extra weight to increase gravity to increase atmospheric retention which increases the dynamic size of the atmosphere, (which lowers the outer temperatures even further, this optimum gravity range might be very narrow on the low end, and also narrow on the high end before H2 and He get retained too in a self accelerating way, especially if the temperature gets too low, and in such cases a dynamic, adjustable superconducting magnetic field near the Lagrange point might be useful to increase the upper temperatures with solar wind, and ablate away hydrogen, but Venus is low in gravity not high, but planets in other solar systems may be too high in gravity)), or installing shades by the Lagrange points. There is not enough water because it's too hot and it gets distilled off. The small increase in gravity from 8.87 to 9.78 might also increase the core temperature and self start a magnetic field, if the magnetic field appears from molten lava. From what I read all you need for a magnetic field is a conducting material that rotates in its own magnetic field that gets self generated from a random instability current, so conducting lava, or higher temperature "more conducting" lava might be needed far away from the highly conducting but relatively low radius nickel iron core. They could probably start a competition with a prize for the best ideas and timings of which object to plummet into Venus, is it Ganymede, Titan, Callysto, Io, etc? All you need is a couple nukes bigger than the Tsar bomba by orders of magnitude, exploded on the surface of these Moons in a way that sends substantial high speed material into outer space, in a way that saves that material by either impacting it into another moon, or sending it in orbit into the asteroid belt, so humans can later get to it and reuse it in a low gravity circumstance, as opposed to say sending it deep into Jupiter where it'd be difficult to recover and of low value. Also the risk of sending such material into an unpredictable orbit that impacts into Earth would have to be minimized, and also any kind of ping-pong of sending Venus into higher orbit around the Sun would have to minimize the dangers to Earth, such as missing Venus and creating a huge artificial comet that goes back to Jupiter than back to Earth. And from this safety point of view, Ganymede, Io, etc might be off the table completely, instead small objects from the asteroid belt opted for, a little bit at a time, in case a tragedy happens and the object ends up impacting Earth, it still shouldn't be a big deal, so there is probably a safe maximum size we'd all be willing to play interplanetary ping pong with, and then it's a busy job, with possibly millions of such asteroid shooting star objects needed. But it's something to do, instead of sitting on Earth twirling your thumb worrying about a nuclear holocaust, let's think about how to turn Venus into a livable space with usable real estate, into a second basket not to keep all our eggs in one basket named Earth.

Re: Bah (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 5 months ago | (#47030645)

Bumping Ganymede or Io into Mars on the other hand might be safer than bumping them into Venus, as long as they get put into orbit with low eccentricity around the Sun that never crosses Earth's height about the Sun. There is probably still a risk from moving such large objects in our planet system, but the risks might be minute enough to be acceptable. There is probably a long way to go before Mars can be built up into a planet large enough to hold water, but vent all hydrogen. What is the gravity/temperature range for Mars for this to happen in its present orbit. If Mars gets built up to a larger size by interplanetary ping pong, it might be worth to send it closer to the Sun, and in fact you could have a trio, Earth, Mars, Venus almost sharing Earth's orbit equally spaced from each other, not across the Sun from Each other, this way they are always visible to each other and communication is easy. Almost sharing as in at different heights around the Sun, never getting close enough to each other to toss each other into random unpredictable orbits. (Note: the 3-body problem in physics is a great chaos generator, it's very unpredictable sometimes.) They could have a prize for the best analysis of the safest orbits, where the temperature/distance from the Sun is considered. The economic analysis is the most important, as it may be cheaper to put up shades and keep Venus into higher but still low orbit compared to Earth, and Mars very high with possibly a focusing Fresnel lens at it's Lagrange point, on 3 out of each other's plane orbits where the 3 never meet each other. As different height orbits around the Sun go around with different speeds, putting all 3 planets into exactly the same orbit might be the safest way to guarantee they never catastrophically or unpredictably meet each other. Also, just how expensive would it be to send the useless Mercury up into Venus, in a way that also sends the blasted off momentum conservation ejected stuff from it not deep into the Sun, but into some usable, higher area orbit where people could get to it.

Re: Bah (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 5 months ago | (#47032395)

Sending Mercury into higher orbit and ultimately into Venus would simply require speeding it up as it goes round and round the Sun, so it stabilizes in a higher and higher orbit. While speeding it up, the material ejected off its surface would still end up in the Sun, unless it has enough negative velocity to stay in orbit going in the opposite direction. So reusable material saved for later use by humans would have this issue of going the wrong way around the Sun (all planets go the same direction, there is this concept of conservation of angular momentum of the initial dust that formed the solar system, still present today, and all planets rotate in the same direction, unless they were later hit by huge asteroids in an unlucky way that made them spin the wrong way.) So the material ejected off the surface of Mercury would have to go with sufficient negative speed, negative angular momentum to compensate for the increase in angular momentum of Mercury. Such an object could be used as an energy harvesting station spinning the wrong way, or it could be consumed by sending it all the way up to Mars, and taking away angular momentum from Mars, so it comes closer to the Sun. That way no stuff would be flying about the Sun the wrong, dangerous direction. Mercury only has a 0.055 Earth's mass, Venus 0.815 Earths, and as long as the average density is the same, there is room to bring Venus to full Earth's mass. For every average density there is a specific mass (and volume to go with it) that creates the correct 9.78 m/s2 on the surface.

Also I found out why Venus has no magnetic field - it's not rotating! It has enough internal temperature

Re: Bah (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 5 months ago | (#47032903)

The Universe will manifest itself, will tell you if you're rotating or not. The principles of Galilean relativity apply against Newton's absolute space, where, if locked inside a black box such as an elevator, you cannot tell whether you're moving in a uniform rectilinear motion of constant velocity, or standing still, as standing still is nonsense, only standing still vs. another object moving with a uniform rectilinear motion is definable. Also, when inside a black box you cannot tell whether you're in a gravitational field or a uniform rectilinear accelerating field, which was the source of Einstein's general relativity principles applied to gravity. (We still don't really know what gravity in as much detail as we'd like to.) Rotation is not rectilinear uniform motion. That's all Venus really needs to jumpstart its natural dynamo and get a solar wind shielding van Allen belt magnetic field, and some Aurora Borealis at its poles. To get Venus spinning, you need to smack something into it at the correct position - to spin it toward the east, you smack something into it toward the east side, to spin it to the west, you smack the same thing on a slightly different path, on the west side. So whatever gets smacked into Venus, probably has to get its trajectory corrected right after it comes back from the Sun, as relativistic calculations apply near the Sun, plus you got solar wind, and solar flares might hit it, there is uncertainty of the path enough to miss off target. The earlier the correction, the greater the effect later, so you probably can't wait til last minute if all you have is a few tiny bombs buried inside the artificial comet, and you can set any of them off as needed to create a trajectory correction. Also its always easy to add more weight to Venus, but very difficult to take any away, because the atmosphere slows down explosions blasting stuff into outer space, and instead you need cannons + rocket like continuously firing things to get stuff off of Venus. So whatever gets smacked into Venus, should be of relatively high speed and small mass to get it spinning, and keep the mass on the low side. We probably don't wanna get a planet where we're heavier than we're on Earth, but lighter is OK - such as long distance jumps get more fun, and you'd have a world record on Venus different than one on Earth, if you're lighter there. The Asian martial art movies where the girls revenge their murder of their fathers by biting their braided pigtail hair while fighting 200 enemy soldiers and jumping up on the roof from standing still, well, those jumps would be more believable on Venus.

Re: Bah (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 5 months ago | (#47033319)

That reminds me, why don't space agencies use a maglev-like device to accelerate their rockets, at least through the initial part of the ascent? A whole lot of rocket fuel is wasted on getting the rocket from 0 mph to 1 mph, when you could easily get it to 1000 mph first on a rollercoaster-like maglev track, then ignite the rockets once you left the track at the end. There is a big altitude gradient from the ocean and the Andes, in South America, near the equator, shooting eastward up, there is some less nice but still good near the Himalayas, but a mountainside somewhere in Utah might do just fine, how much track length do you need?

The space shuttle was a marvelous invention were it not for the huge amounts of liquid O2 it had to lug around. Hydrogen is light, but the O2 was 8 times heavier, as H2O has a molecular weight of 18, out of which 2 is H2 and 16 is O, so 8/9th the shuttle weight was liquid O2 and 1/9th was H2. If you could get the O2 out of the Moon's silicate rock, you could save rocket weight by an order of magnitude. NASA had a competition challenge back in like 2002 about this, it expired a while ago, but I been thinkin about it.

Geoffrey A Landis at Nasa came to a natural conclusion that Calcium reduction is a catchall method to treat any rock, as shown at http://lib.znate.ru/pars_docs/... [znate.ru] You could do a thermite-like reaction with excess metallic calcium and get calcium oxide plus silicon, aluminum, magnesium(evaporated), iron, etc. You don't need a huge device for that, as astronauts might play around with it out in the open Moon surface as shown by this thermite reaction http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com] (thermite railroad welding) or https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] (thermite out on grass and bricks). Calcium will do a thermite reaction stronger than aluminum with everything (magnesium might be difficult, barium and calcium stay as oxides (which is OK), but aluminum and silicon, the bulk or rocks, and especially iron, should be OK.) So GA Landis' problem is still how to get O2 out of the CaO, and his best process is CaCl2/CaO melt. That has huge issues, the biggest being that it is Cl2 not O2 that comes out of that melt if electrolyzed. A CaF2/CaO mix might work, but now you're talking huge temperatures to melt that. An Iridium crucible and Iridium anode (for cathode there are many options) with a CaF2/CaO electrolyte might be workable, which might be the reason for the iridium signature from the dinosaur extinction layer is geological rocks - it might have been a spaceship full of tiny alien creatures destroying their ship Jabal al Tariq (ibn Ziyad) style (from whom Gibr Al Tar iq is named.), after some 70,000 year trip, millions of years ago, before humans or even monkeys ever stepped foot on this planet. Iridium is almost the heaviest thing in the world around us, with some uncertainty about osmium. To maintain high enough heat some of the electric energy has to be used to melt the CaF2/O mix, similar to the calcium carbide making electric furnace, and the expensive fluoride needs very careful recycling, including distillation of the metal Ca, or amalgam extraction (in which case now you got a Hg recycling problem), or who knows what.

Another option is dissolving CaO in water, as quicklime, and electrolyzing that, as Sir Humphry Davy did 200+ years ago when first making metallic calcium on this planet. The problem of this aqueous electrolysis is conductivity compared to a molten salt, therefore production rate/scale of device, but on the other hand it can be conducted at low temperature, and mercury recycling issues might be smaller than fluoride recycling issues out of calcium metal, especially once you extract the amalgam the following way: Davy distilled off the mercury, and as only like 0.5% or less can be a liquid amalgam, that's a huge amount of distillation energy waste. A cleverer way is to use the amalgam as the anode in a second cell compared to being a cathode in the original cell, kinda like the Castner Kellner caustic soda/chlorine/bleach process works, but applied to calcium, similar to US patent 3791945 Figure 2 https://docs.google.com/viewer... [google.com] The electrolyte in the 2nd cell should probably be Li-ion battery solvent, (i.e. aprotic organic ionic solvent, like propylene carbonate, etc.), but there are many choices, like molten borofluoride or fluorophosphate or hexafluorosulfoantimoniochingbang salts (as long as the anion is stable against metallic calcium at the operation temperature, 0th consideration) the most important consideration being conductivity of the calcium electrolyte 1st, and solubility of Calcium in it 2nd. There may also be other "amalgam" materials like Lead, tin, gallium, alloys of indium/bismuth, etc, but mercury is pretty good for a space mission, as it's easy to recover by vacuum distillation, cadmium being the 2nd most volatile but not that great, as shown at http://www.mcallister.com/grap... [mcallister.com] Note that calcium has quite a high vapor pressure too.

In the future probably largescale industrial mining could be started on the Moon to create metals for large scale rotating space stations, that host reality show like events, where someone gets voted off the space station and get his or her ass hauled back to Earth, and then he can make money down here, having been up there for a while. The first problem to solve is recycling food on a space station, and processes that use CO2 + H2O+solar panels -->carbohydrate, and recycling H2O by distillation from excrements, or even electrolyzing to H2 + O2 then burning it back to H2O, those would be the first steps, before farming has enough room. So anyway, there is a while to go before there are large industries on the Moon, the first step is to make it easier to send a rocket into space, and for that you need liquid O2 from the Moon for rocket fuel, and the first liquid O2 generating thing has to be a small scale device, hopefully with operating temperature below the decomposition of Teflon (which is a wonderful material), and this would probably mean outside calcium thermite reactions, and inside aqueous Ca(OH)2 electrolysis with Hg, then recovery of Ca from CaHg amalgam via a second electrolyte such as propylene carbonate, and repeat. This would be wasteful of energy, but universally applicable as a first step process, and as you build a couple acre plant, you can start worrying about energy efficiency, such as the narrowly applicable H2 reduction of ilmenite, as proposed by a myriad of previous workers, whose work has been repatented by Carbotek spamming the patent system with lunar patents around 1990 (as slight improvement patents, or small process modification patents, but good luck to Nasa fighting a patent war and coming out as the winner, as the lawyers on both sides of the courtroom would stuff their pockets full on such a BS frenzy.) Luckily such patents long expired, but expect newer ones to follow, and then it's good to have the old ones to cover your ass, even if they were BS of even older patents. Maybe they'll modify the law and extend patents beyond 20 years, then watch the chaos that ensues where there is no prior art at all, and there are intellectual property owners that chase you down and shout, STOP STOP, you can't scratch your ass that way, or wipe it with your right hand, because I own the method, the technology, the only way left is to stand on your hands, bend over backwards, and reach around and wipe it like that, with your left hand, until someone else patents and owns that method, that technology, too. If nothing else, there is good tax money(as in nobody cares about it like about their own money) to be made suing for intellectual property violations while someone else is building a space station.

Re: Bah (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 5 months ago | (#47033657)

Oh, btw, if you're going to do the iridium anode/CaF2/CaO electrolysis, the calcium has to be distilled off at the cathode, otherwise it loves to dissolve back into the salt as some monovalent ion and go to the anode and react with the gaseous oxygen there. Present industrial Ca production uses aluminum vacuum distillation of the oxide, similar in concept to the ferrosilicon silicothermic Mg production named Pidgeon process, because of the redissolution issues of Ca salt electrolysis (such issues are not prevalent with alkali metals, as they can't go to half valent from monovalent, or even Mg electrolysis probably doesn't have this issue.) There is a section in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica talking about calcium electrolysis with continuously raised rods, and the Ca metal forms as a stick, as a bar, and being held above the liquid salt, it does not dissolve back too much, as long as the rate of deposition is faster than the local redissolution at the tip of such stick. So the best idea at the high melting point of CaF2 is to distill off the Ca metal instead of having it as a stick, and then if the cathode is under vacuum, the anode has to be too, and you'd get the oxygen out as a very high temperature vacuum gas. But the device may nevertheless be small scale, because of the superhigh electric conductivity of a molten salt and high reaction rates at such huge temperatures, only this vacuum consideration adds some volume, but not that much weight.

Re: Bah (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 5 months ago | (#47033863)

Also, from a calcium reduction you'd recuperate the slag that contains all the oxygen, but the metalloid residue, containing silicon, aluminum, iron, sodium, potassium, magnesium, and especially titanium(lightweight strong like steel), is valuable too. Down here on Earth we have carbochlorination to get TiCl4 and SiCl4 liquids ready for distillation purification, but up on the Moon there might be a carbon shortage, and then you can use calciochlorination instead, but you have to do the steps separately, because unlike carbon+chlorine nonreacting with each other, calcium loves to react with chlorine. Silicon, titanium, aluminum, iron, magnesium/Na/K chlorides are easy to separate by fractional distillation (magnesium+alkali metal chlorides being the bottoms), though good luck running such a process, trying to not block up the conduits with unmolten magnesium/sodium chloride crust. Water can be an aid to unblock almost blocked passages, Some of the magnesium might react with the water during the slag extraction step, so during the thermite reaction it's best to let the magnesium/sodium/potassium distill off, then collect it in a remote portion of the reaction retort (if not enough excess Ca, at the tip of the retort it may be magnesium/sodium/potassium sulfide of phosphide with free sulfur and phosphorous, but most likely S and P end up as calcium salts, then as H2S and PH3 on water extraction). Some of the aluminum will react too under high pH quicklime conditions, but it shouldn't be too bad, and if it is, there might be other solvents that are between water and alcohol that dissolve the calcium oxide, but don't react with Mg and Al, maybe not even with Na, K. It's best to distill the Na, K, Mg out as metal first before water extraction of the slag.

Some of the unreacted metallic slag could be shaped into small rods and used in a solar powered or nuclear powered nailgun propulsion system to get stuff off the surface of the Moon into outer space, then recollected for later use, so they should be built nonaerodynamic but flat impact shape so they don't bury deep into the lunar surface and can be picked up for reuse. Steering becomes a huge issue with such propulsion, because you have to shoot these things towards a predefined location, not just anywhere, so you still need gaseous steering emissions, such as high temperature/pressure oxygen gas you made out of moonrock.

Re: Bah (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 5 months ago | (#47034141)

Also the patent system's past is dynamic, and unless anyone has a record of each and every one of the millions of individual records in the patent system, it's possible to modify the past and insert patents in 2014 as if they were invented in 2013. Which is why the computing cloud is pushed so heavily, to be able to search against who has what copy of what (your mental memory does not count for much, especially if they forcefeed some memory erasing Haldol or Risperdal into you), and then it's possible to control and own intellectual property of the whole world. Which is why, like DNS on the internet with no centralized servers, it is important to have all patents mirrored at many libraries throughout the world, with local disk copies archived, to make sure the past does not get modified and edited away from everybody else as it pleases the powers that be, who like to constantly rewrite history. Old paper books are difficult to edit too, but easily editable electronic records, like medical records and ebooks stored in the Cloud are useless when it comes to defending against absolute dictatorships modifying them as they please.

Re: Bah (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 5 months ago | (#47053537)

By the way Landis' idea about CaCl2 is not totally unworkable. It's unworkable in the FFC Cambridge process sense, where you keep adding solid chunks of oxides/rocks that get reduced by the dissolved metallic calcium in the molten calcium chloride salt - there is a continuous buildup of oxygen in the melt, as CaO, which is not very fusible, and you emit the chlorine gas at the anode, so you have an unstable molten bath that needs constant replacing/regeneration. One way to recycle the bath is to bubble HCl through it, but it cannot be done small steps at a time during electrolysis, because the metallic calcium dissolved in the salt will react Ca+HCl-->CaCl2 + H2 gas, in preference to your preferred reaction of CaO+HCl-->CaCl2+H2O vapor. A more elegant way is to not mess with an unstable bath, but electrolyze pure CaCl2 for Ca and Cl2, burn the Cl2+H2-->HCl, react the HCl + CaO--> CaCl2 + H2O, dry the CaCl2, and electrolyze the H2O-->H2+O2, you got your O2 and recycle to H2 to burn more Cl2. The advantage of the CaCl2 method is that it's lower temp than CaF2, so easier material constraints, but that may be a disadvantage if you want to distill out the metallic calcium, as with a molten CaCl2 electrolysis you can never get 100% coulombic efficiency, because some metal will redissolve and wander back to the anode and react with the gases evolved there, even if you apply that stick-drawing trick to only let the tip of the metal hang into the molten salt, to save it from dissolving away, As far as the FFC Cambridge method goes, it works ok to take a fistful of oxide and reduce it to metal (after you electrolyzed enough to build up the dissolved metallic calcium concentration in the liquid salt), but on an industrial scale it's simpler to just get the metallic calcium out of a stable and productive process, granulate the calcium metal, pulverize the oxide, stir the two together and ignite the calcium thermite (Goldschmidt-like, Al-Cr-like) reaction. It's hard to get much new intellectual property innovation in inorganic chemistry that hasn't already been tried, but organometallic catalysis at room temperature is pretty promising. In particular room temperature N2 fixation from the atmosphere would be nice.

Re: Bah (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 5 months ago | (#47080323)

Also the calcium-thermite reaction may or may not suffer from the high volatility of calcium metal, unlike aluminum thermite where the liquid aluminum has a very high boiling point, So the calcium reduction may not proceed as violently as the aluminum thermite reaction, never exceeding the boiling point of calcium, quenching reaction temperatures, and then a protracted reduction in a possibly externally heated vessel may be needed, similar to the Kroll process of titanium manufacture from TiCl4 by Mg metal reduction. The Kroll process takes days to proceed, but the Mg is easily distilled out of the final metal. One wonders if it worked faster with Ca metal instead of Mg, and Ca might still be distillable enough. It would be less energy efficient, but, with a higher driving force, more time efficient, and time is money. Both the Kroll process and the lunar oxygen "calcium reduction" reaction, in absence of an efficient thermite self-reaction might benefit from the FFC Cambridge salt-dissolved calcium-reduction, with the salt periodically regenerated by venting oxides from it via HCl bubbling, venting as H2O vapor. However Mg is much more volatile than Ca, and there is documented evidence of Mg doing a thermite reaction with SiO2, ignitable with a Mg-strip, and forming some Mg2Si silicide which hydrolyzes to SiH4 silane, which is one of the easiest methods to get silane, so if the very volatile Mg works fine, Ca should have no problems.

Also, on the surface of the Moon, as there is no atmosphere, a ramp-like shooting into orbit accelerating on a track might work, not a cannon-fire, as the acceleration is too sudden, but a gradual acceleration on rollercoaster-like maglev or similar track, long enough to reach escape velocity (which is much lower on the Moon, and there is no air-drag), might be the cheapest way to launch anything into orbit. However it requires a preconstructed site, as opposed to the nailgun propulsion/gaseous steering, which can land and takeoff from any uninhabited spots on the Moon, and leave the ejected material back on the surface, later reusable, unlike a gas-emission propulsion that almost-forever wastes the material into the vacuum of outer space. By the way any forever lost to vacuum material such as gases or even vaporized metal chunks should be accelerated as high a velocity as possible before ejection, through a cyclotron or similar device, and then some ICP (inductively coupled plasma) metal vapors might be preferable propulsion agents compared to others (ie. Mg, Al, Fe, Si, K, Na - some of these might be easier to accelerate/gasify than the others). In theory it's possible to create a completely matterless propulsion, to collect light through solar panels, then form a high energy laser beam and shoot it off in a direction, and as any energy is mass, there is a momentum gained by shooting it off, but the momentum gain vs. energy expended is very low from a laser, compared to using the same energy on tangible matter harvested on the Moon's surface, and accelerating that up to very high speed and ejecting it in a direction. As long as it's in a vapor form, it should be disperse and safe enough to accidentally hit some other space station object, even if it's a condensed metal vapor flying at high speed, so you could use even the metallic gas "stuff" from the surface of the Moon for propulsion purposes, not just the gaseous oxygen, though as a first step, we are after oxygen, to combine it with cheaply lifted lightweight hydrogen, and get gaseous propulsion out of the whole thing that way.

Re: Bah (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47016035)

Right, but planets with different atmospheres intercepting different output from their local star(s) will favour the evolution of different light sensors and the features around them. We see this on Earth, with the optical pigments, crystallins, eyeball depth, gross periocular morphology, retina, and visual areas of the brain being substantially different between flightless and low-flying birds and high-flying birds, and between aves generally and terrestrial mammals, between land and marine mammals, between land and air animals and fish, between fish who occupy salt and fresh water and water with very different turbidity, and between vertebrates and invertebrates.

Something grossly recognizable as "eyes" might evolve in a planet whose atmospheric and upper oceanic environments have about the same optical window as Earth's, but even Goldilocks Zone planets around stars with, say, a reddish sun, would strongly select for large changes in any population possessing terrestrial eyes if it were left to evolve there, simply because *all* terrestrial eyes would function poorly unassisted in such an environment. Visual systems evolving natively might take a wholly different route, and might not even explore something immediately recognizable as a photopsin.

The point raised in TFA is that evolution is not highly repeatable with our biology and that therefore convergent evolution is because of strong selection pressures in the environment. If another biology (or our early biology transported to another compatible but different planetary environment) were to be similarly non-repeating, then that planet's environment might select strongly for features that are enormously different from those we see in large multicellular organisms. Likewise, if we rewound our own biology and environment to the distant past and did it over again, we might end up without grasses, flowers, insects, or vertebrates rather than seeing subtle changes to only some of those.

Re: Bah (2)

nucrash (549705) | about 5 months ago | (#47016641)

I can see this point several times over. For instance, if complex animals developed on land before sea, perhaps we would have a eye better suited for terrestrial conditions instead of one that has to work in suspended aqueous solution. A terrestrial eye would benefit a great many species. Instead we managed to get this one trait passed on from generation to generation only modified to work in the existing environment. The downside of complex evolution is once you have committed to a certain path, getting rid of a trait can be next to impossible unless that trait no longer serves a purpose. Even then, we have moles with eyes that haven't seen light for generations.

Re: Bah (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about 5 months ago | (#47019125)

What do you mean by 'terrestrial eye'? An eye filled with air instead of liquid? It won't make any difference in efficiency. You really can't make eyes to look much different than they are.

Re: Bah (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 months ago | (#47016775)

not imaginative enough.

Fine. If Star Trek were today, instead of headridge-of-the-week they'd have belly fat-fold-pattern-of-the-week.

Re: Bah (1)

Evil Pete (73279) | about 5 months ago | (#47029615)

This article itself points out that they look the same, it is the genetics that is different. On other worlds there would be strange solutions to niches but there would also be some oddly similar species as well. If you look back at the history of mammals, forgetting the understandable fascination with dinos, you will see that there have been many different kinds of mammals but certain forms are roughly similar: herbivores, large (very large) grazers, carnivores, tree dwelling. Not always but quite often there are similarities. On an alien world given similar situations then some similar forms are likely to evolve. However, sometimes a new environment may arise that creates new opportunities, if they are unique to a particular world then the creatures may not resemble anything we are familiar with. For example, the evolution of grasses and flowering plants. Some things would be universal: vision using light (IR to UV approximately), two eyes, smell sense, nervous system, some kind of brain though it may be more distributed, herbivores vs carnivores, etc. Life being Life however, there is always the opportunity for surprises.

Re:Bah (2)

dbIII (701233) | about 5 months ago | (#47015147)

Solaris (book more than movies) is IMHO just about the only popular SF that's pointed out plainly that aliens are likely to be truly alien. Most of the book is about how a vast amount of work in a century since contact did little other than reflect the views the researchers had before they even came in contact with the alien/s. Even with godlike powers the alien/s couldn't get a message through from the other direction either.
Greg Egan had another approach where a chain of cloned and increasingly altered intelligences could form a bridge to communicate with aliens.

Footnote (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 5 months ago | (#47017131)

I used "alien/s" above because in the book it wasn't even clear after a century+ of research whether the scientists were dealing with one alien creature or many.

Re:Bah (1)

bossk538 (1682744) | about 5 months ago | (#47017979)

Also, Lovecraft's "The Colour Out Of Space" dealt with an incomprehensible life-form landing in rural Massachusetts.

Re:Bah (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 5 months ago | (#47022415)

Good example.

Re:Bah (1)

Alsee (515537) | about 5 months ago | (#47016193)

Can we get a Star Trek like movie but instead of meeting human looking weirdos in outer space, let's meet species that look really weird, yet make friends with us and we commnunicate.

I can imagine a world without war, a world without hate, a world where everyone lives together in peace. I can imagine us attacking that world.

-

Re:Bah (1)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 5 months ago | (#47016253)

And don't make them all speak English...

Re:Bah (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 5 months ago | (#47017409)

Sector General: The TV Series! I'd watch the shit out of that show. There are few concepts that allow for multiple truly alien species all living and working together that don't involve exploration and warfare; a massive hospital space station built for the express purpose of intercultural contact is a brilliant way to do it.

Re:Bah (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | about 5 months ago | (#47017707)

Can we get a Star Trek like movie but instead of meeting human looking weirdos in outer space, let's meet species that look really weird, yet make friends with us and we commnunicate. Like Octopuses, and Snake-people, [and...]

No. Because biology (even xenobiology) is biology and budgets are budgets. And never shall the twain shall meet (other than via an NSF grant).

Re:Bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018337)

Can we get a Star Trek like movie but instead of meeting human looking weirdos in outer space, let's meet species that look really weird, yet make friends with us and we commnunicate. Like Octopuses, and Snake-people, bug-looking-people, birds with intellect, Koala bear looking chess players, etc.

Every episode of Star Trek involved Kirk and crew meeting human looking wierdos and having to defeat them. If you change both of those elements, how it that still "Star Trek like"?

Re:Bah (1)

metrix007 (200091) | about 5 months ago | (#47019237)

Yeah. I mean Star Trek get's a pass because all the aliens share our DNA....but the fact the most aliens in Sci-Fi are basically human is pretty sad.

What a lack of imagination.

For example, female aliens shouldn't have breasts. Human breasts are an anomaly in the animal kingdom...why would that be a common feature among aliens?

Re:Bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47021977)

Breastfeeding is hardly reserved for humans. so no anomaly at all

Re:Bah (1)

sir-gold (949031) | about 5 months ago | (#47022303)

Most female mammals only have noticeably larger breasts when breastfeeding. Compare a regular female dog to a female dog that has just delivered a litter of puppies, only the recently pregnant one has what we would call breasts. Most of the time, there is no noticeable difference between male and female dogs

This doesn't necessarily rule out breast-feeding alien females having large breasts, however. Moderen domesticated cows (especially Holstiens) show that breast size differences between genders can be achieved though selective breeding. In the case of humans, natural mating selections somehow favored women who always looked like they were breast-feeding, even when they weren't.

Re:Bah (1)

sir-gold (949031) | about 5 months ago | (#47022231)

The whole "same DNA" thing in Star Trek was just a retro-active excuse to finally justify all the cost-cutting that ST:TOS had done by using human actors for everything. The original klingons were so bad they even had to poke fun at it in the TOS/DS9 crossover episode.

Repeatable as Fuck (2, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 5 months ago | (#47014151)

Just look at how many times Eyes have independently evolved, yet they all have the same basic components.

We put water, methane, CO2, etc. in a closed system, ran some simulated "lightning" through, and got amino acids and what not forming. Various experiments show similar (even more prominently supporting) results: Nature and physics shapes the beings that exist within it.

There are plenty of other examples of evolution coming to similar results from different ends -- Just look at the shapes of sharks and whales. Not going to further dignify this anti-intellectual ignorant rubbish. Use a damn search engine, that's what we built the web for.

Re: Repeatable as Fuck (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014205)

The idea of another VortexCortex in the universe scares the hell out of me.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (5, Interesting)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 5 months ago | (#47014237)

This tells us that getting a sensor is repeatable. There are high-level design details of eyes that are divergent across species. The "blind spot" is a flaw in the eye design that is shared by all vertebrates, but cephalopods don't have it. Either it's very hard to mutate our way out of the flaw, or the flaw is by itself not important enough for the extraordinarily rare mutants who evolve their way past it to gain any ground on non-mutant populations.

It's easy to think of that as an accident of fate, and eventually such accidents are bound to build up into going a different direction in response to strong selection pressures.

I think sharks and dolphins is better than sharks and whales. That demonstrates convergent evolution -- but note that dolphins still have lungs, and sharks still have gills. They got to similar body plans but they are not fundamentally the same.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (4, Funny)

cheater512 (783349) | about 5 months ago | (#47014603)

Many people don't actually know they have blind spots so I'd say we don't need to fix it.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014661)

we fixed that in software a long time ago...

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (2)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 5 months ago | (#47015003)

One of the best Slashdot posts ever.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 5 months ago | (#47015713)

This is one of those posts that deserves +6.

An Anon Coward, too. Bravo.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

Agripa (139780) | about 5 months ago | (#47022793)

Chromatic aberration was also fixed in software.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

agm (467017) | about 5 months ago | (#47014841)

This tells us that getting a sensor is repeatable. There are high-level design details of eyes that are divergent across species. The "blind spot" is a flaw in the eye design that is shared by all vertebrates, but cephalopods don't have it. Either it's very hard to mutate our way out of the flaw, or the flaw is by itself not important enough for the extraordinarily rare mutants who evolve their way past it to gain any ground on non-mutant populations.

If an eye with no blind-spot somehow causes a person to be more likely to have offspring than a person with a blind-spotted eye then perhaps there would be selection pressure. Otherwise it won't make a bit of difference from an evolutionary point of view.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (5, Insightful)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about 5 months ago | (#47015035)

It's not that simple. Something like a blind spot can't just be evolved away. There needs to be a pathway from "has blind spot" to "doesn't have blind spot" that doesn't go through "vastly decreased eyesight" along the way. Otherwise evolution will stick with what it has, and no amount of selection pressure can cause it to change.

We're vastly suboptimal in many ways. We're not perfectly tuned machines, we're cobbled-together from evolutionary scraps, and you can see it by looking at any part of our physiology. That's precisely the thing that makes intelligent design a stupid idea. Yet, we "work", and are capable of survival, and that's enough.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

tsa (15680) | about 5 months ago | (#47015085)

There are people who say that each organism is 'perfectly adapted' to its environment. I never understood them because you don't even have to look hard to find out that that is not true. Besides, if they were they would be extinct as soon as their environment changed only the tiniest bit.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 5 months ago | (#47015195)

There are many many species that fit in that exact category.

As soon as their environment changes in the slightest, they go extinct.

Perhaps they are end nodes of more adaptable species or perhaps they thrive by being perfectly adapted and crowd out those less perfectly adapted. But when things change, they die.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about 5 months ago | (#47015513)

To be fair, though, it's possible to be perfectly adapted to your environment but also well-adapted to other environments (not that any creature is). It's also possible to be only slightly adapted to your environment but even less adapted to any other environment. Indeed, it's also possible to be well-adapted to your environment and to go extinct through just pure chance, without your environment changing at all. Darwin actually talked about that in The Origin of Species. A tree might produce hundreds of thousands of seeds yet on average only around one or two of them will itself ever become a mature tree. Survival is a delicate balance and it's easy to mess it up. That's why species are now going extinct at a rapid rate. When people say, "Oh, we don't really influence the environment THAT much", they're not objectively wrong, but even a small amount of disruption can cause huge ecological catastrophe.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (2)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 5 months ago | (#47015603)

absolutely.

But don't overrate us. Even without humans, most species would go extinct. Just much slower. And I mean really slowly. Humans seem equivalent to a major natural disaster like an asteroid strike.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (2)

tsa (15680) | about 5 months ago | (#47019695)

Yep. That's why in my opinion the efforts to save the giant panda are a waste of money and energy. The beast is at a dead end of evolution and deserved to go extinct ASAP.

Death to all pandas! ;)

Oh,and koalas. Also a useless and overrated species.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

crimson tsunami (3395179) | about 5 months ago | (#47035075)

What happened? Show me on the dolly where the Koala touched you.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

tsa (15680) | about 5 months ago | (#47035295)

No no no! I don't want to remember. It's too terrible!

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

sir-gold (949031) | about 5 months ago | (#47022333)

More extinctions happened at the end of ice ages than at the beginning, because most species can survive a single drastic change, but a second change after only a short time (even if it's back to "normal") ends up being too much to handle, and the species dies out.

My guess is that you need a fairly diverse mutant population to survive a change, but once the main population dies out, the surviving mutant population needs a mutant population of it's own to survive the next change, and that takes time to develop

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

invid (163714) | about 5 months ago | (#47017043)

The word "perfect" is meaningless outside of mathematics.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47017123)

The word "perfect" is meaningless outside of mathematics.

Good point, lol.

Mathematics is meaningless outside of Philosophy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47022167)

Mathematics is meaningless outside of Philosophy

Gotcha!

If you don't think I Gotcha!

Double Gotcha!

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

bossk538 (1682744) | about 5 months ago | (#47018031)

Or for that matter, what "perfectly adapted" even means. Almost every aspect of physiology I can think of has hard limits and has trade-offs to considered. "Perfect vision" is simply not achievable - not enough photons, number of light detecting cells in an eye, diffraction, etc.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

tsa (15680) | about 5 months ago | (#47019745)

You can even argue that 'perfectly adapted' means they don't have to reproduce because having to reproduce means that you die, and that means that the environment in which you live is not good for you. So 'perfectly adapted' is incorrect on many levels.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#47015593)

There needs to be a pathway from "has blind spot" to "doesn't have blind spot" that doesn't go through "vastly decreased eyesight" along the way.

We're vastly suboptimal in many ways.

c.f. the recurrent laryngeal nerve [wikipedia.org] . 4.5m longer than it needs to be in the giraffe, but it can't "evolve" its way to a different path.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#47015595)

Not sure why I put "evolve" in quotes...

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

Alsee (515537) | about 5 months ago | (#47016197)

Maybe you were infected by a stray creationist meme, chuckle.

-

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#47016389)

Urgh, maybe I was. And don't call me chuckle, flower.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 5 months ago | (#47016917)

c.f. the recurrent laryngeal nerve [wikipedia.org] . 4.5m longer than it needs to be in the giraffe, but it can't "evolve" its way to a different path.

Well, it just needs to go visit Abathur in the evolution pit.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47017293)

That's precisely the thing that makes intelligent design a stupid idea. Yet, we "work", and are capable of survival, and that's enough.

Congratulations on being able to say this without any sense of irony or self-contradiction. More than I could do.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

aethelrick (926305) | about 5 months ago | (#47017735)

yup, evolution implements the big ball of mud architectural pattern. http://www.laputan.org/mud/mud... [laputan.org]

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47017887)

Evolution often seeks 'local maxima' for survivability.

So what you are saying is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018565)

...God uses an Agile development process.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (0)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#47015131)

If an eye with no blind-spot somehow causes a person to be more likely to have offspring than a person with a blind-spotted eye then perhaps there would be selection pressure.

We don't know if the first human proto-eyes had a blind spot or not. It has been proposed that blind-spot gives better vision in direct sunlight, which is why the land dwellers have it, and the sea eyes (never in direct sunlight) don't have one. But you can't just invent sunglasses and get any evolutionary pressure for no blind spot.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (2)

Sique (173459) | about 5 months ago | (#47015451)

Fishes have a blind spot too, thus the point is moot.

The blind spot appears because the light sensible cells are built in reversely. Their connection to the brain leaves the cells from the outside, e.g. from the skin side of the cells. Thus this eye needs a place where the nerval connections cross the light sensible area again to get to the brain. This place, where the nerves crosses the retina is the blind spot. This is a general flaw in all vertebrate eyes.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#47015677)

Cephalopod eyes have no blind spot. Perhaps the fish that spend more time at the surface had different evolutionary pressure (more light).

The blind spot appears because the light sensible cells are built in reversely. Their connection to the brain leaves the cells from the outside, e.g. from the skin side of the cells. Thus this eye needs a place where the nerval connections cross the light sensible area again to get to the brain. This place, where the nerves crosses the retina is the blind spot. This is a general flaw in all vertebrate eyes.

Had the eye been intelligently designed, you could run them radially out, then around the back to the brain, rather than making a blind spot. Well, that and the issue of the light blocked by the connections running in front if the sensors, a problem the Cephalopod eyes don't have.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#47019135)

Or, you know, take a further lesson from the cephalopods and reverse the retinal cells so that the sensors are directly on the imaging surface instead of being buried under several layers of infrastructure. That would allow you to use much less sensitive detectors as well.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#47020695)

The problem with less sensitive is that they are less sensitive. Ours are about as sensitive as physically possible. It doesn't take much for a rod to fire. So what happens when you have less sensitive ones? To they fire exactly 1/10th of the time for the same amount of light? Do they increment their hit counter once every 5-20 photons, with a random sensitivity variation that could result in new and unexpected artifacts? Does the greater covering (by wiring) around the dense areas work well with density of receptors?

And what about the effect of the wiring on the inside blocks light, but on the outside blocks blood? You'd end up with restricted blood flow to the receptors if you reversed the location of the sensor wiring.

I think I come back to the idea of the blind spot being around the edges, outside the visual field. But I haven't got funding to reengineer the human genome and perform my experiments on the Island of Dr Moreau.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#47023431)

I'll admit I'm no biologist, but my understanding is that cephalopods have evolved a structurally very similar retina to our own, except that instead of having the sensor cells covered by several layers of assorted support tissue, the tissue is all underneath, and presumably the blood vessels have no trouble intermingling with the nerve fibers. And given the fact that octopi seem to have no particular trouble seeing above water in daylight I'm inclined to believe we wouldn't have any trouble with a more intelligently designed retina either - the simplest solution would be for our irises to restrict further to reduce the amount of light making it to the retina.

As for sensitivity - really what difference would you expect it make whether the sensor was 10% as likely to respond to an individual photon, or if it responded to every photon that reached it, but 90% of them got absorbed by the layers of other tissue between it and the light source instead? Either way you're responding to 10% of the photons that make it to the retina. (though I would guess the actual number is higher than 10%)

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#47023665)

As for sensitivity - really what difference would you expect it make whether the sensor was 10% as likely to respond to an individual photon, or if it responded to every photon that reached it, but 90% of them got absorbed by the layers of other tissue between it and the light source instead? Either way you're responding to 10% of the photons that make it to the retina. (though I would guess the actual number is higher than 10%)

Some people already have significant issues with flicker. And a non-detrministic result would have other effects (our eyes trigger on every event), perhaps it would decrease speed estimation or motion detection.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#47025177)

Hate to break it to you - but which photons make it through your cornea, much less the top layers of non-transparent cells on your retina, is already a non-deterministic event. Clearly our eyes cannot trigger on every photon, because not every photon that enters the eye makes it all the way through the eye to the rods and cones.

Also our rods and cones don't respond to every event that reaches them either - the detecting molecules get destroyed by light and need to be steadily repaired/replenished, which is why you can see so much better when you wake up in a dark room in the middle of the night than when you first turn the light off - the light-sensitive molecules have built up to much higher levels than are present during the day. It's also the mechanism behind flash-bombs - the intense light "bleaches" the rods and cones, rendering the person blind until fresh molecules get produced

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (2)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 months ago | (#47015705)

It's not a big flaw since it makes it easier to have and maintain the tapetum lucidum or retinal pigmented epithelium and still have relatively high resolution.

Thing is even intelligent designers can create optical stuff with flaws.

For example reflecting optical telescopes have flaws since the detector (or secondary mirror) part is in between the mirror and the target AND the detector also needs support structures. These block and distort light. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
But most astronomers accept and cope with these flaws- quote wiki: "Nearly all large research-grade astronomical telescopes are reflectors."

FWIW I'm a Christian and I think most of the Intelligent Design believers arguments are ridiculous.

But if there's one thing in this universe that should give you pause and make you wonder, it's consciousness - the actual subjective experience itself (not talking about "free will" which is a different thing). You can have all the laws of physics explain how things move etc, but how will they ever explain this consciousness? And it's the very first "observation" all scientists ever make :).

But is this phenomena even "necessary"? Couldn't the whole universe work like it does without it existing?

I can't even prove beyond all doubt that others experience this phenomenon and are conscious. And I can't prove my consciousness to others. I just have to take it by faith that these "imaginary friends" called "you" and "I" exist.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

kbg (241421) | about 5 months ago | (#47016117)

To me consciousness is just memory and the ability to make decisions based on old memories. "Couldn't the whole universe work like it does without it existing". Yes sure it could, for simple lifeforms you really don't need consciousness, just look at plants they don't have consciousness and are just programmed with specific reactions to specific circumstances. But for complex lifeforms that need to adapt and survive in complex environments I think consciousness is a necessary trait to have to be able to react to unknown circumstances correctly.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 months ago | (#47021359)

To me consciousness is just memory and the ability to make decisions based on old memories

Really? A trivially simple program could do that- have memory and make decisions based on old memories. Are you so sure such a program would experience consciousness?

Or are you actually one of those entities that don't actually experience consciousness, you merely behave almost as if you are conscious? And that's why you can say such a thing?

What I do know is I experience consciousness, there's a "me" in here, observing myself and the external world - I can only claim it but I can't prove it to anyone.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

kbg (241421) | about 5 months ago | (#47022515)

Really? A trivially simple program could do that- have memory and make decisions based on old memories. Are you so sure such a program would experience consciousness?

If it is complex enough yes. For example if you could make a program with as many neural connections as our brain then yes I think you could define it as having a consciousness. In fact I think if we could duplicate our brain in software then that software would have a consciousness.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 months ago | (#47023891)

First you claim that "consciousness is just memory and the ability to make decisions based on old memories". Now you add a requirement that the system needs to be complex enough. What do you mean by complex enough? And which laws of physics in this universe apply for that? Is there some law that goes if you have the equivalent of X logic functions work to do process Y, consciousness arises?

What I mean by consciousness is known by all conscious creatures - they experience and observe it for themselves. But why and how does this happen?

Remember I'm not talking about _behaving_ as if you have consciousness. As I already said previously it's "the actual subjective experience itself".

Do not confuse the ability to behave as if you have consciousness with the actual phenomena itself, unless you have proof that the universe is such that one requires the other. Someone could make a puppet behave as if it experienced consciousness, does that act of doing so magically generate a new consciousness in the puppet?

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

kbg (241421) | about 5 months ago | (#47024725)

What do you mean by complex enough? And which laws of physics in this universe apply for that?

There is no specific line that says this creature is conscious and this creature is not. Consciousness is just a world we like to use to describe a state. Just like when a creature on an evolution path from a specific kind to another kind does not have one specific time when the actual change takes place. Let's say we have a simple bacterial life form. Does that have a consciousness? No I think we can agree on that. Let's say we can evolve that creature to be bigger and bigger and more complex until at some point that creature has a brain and a memory and communications skills and has a consciousness. At what point did that creature evolve "consciousness"? There is no specific point when that happened.

Remember I'm not talking about _behaving_ as if you have consciousness. As I already said previously it's "the actual subjective experience itself".

But if there is no difference between behaving as if you have consciousness and actually having consciousness, then how could you tell the difference? You couldn't, so that means that there is actually no difference, if something behaves as having consciousness then that something actually has consciousness.

Someone could make a puppet behave as if it experienced consciousness, does that act of doing so magically generate a new consciousness in the puppet?

Yes.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 months ago | (#47027221)

But if there is no difference between behaving as if you have consciousness and actually having consciousness,

Say what? There IS a difference to me.

There's no difference for you? Are you're saying that you personally can't tell the difference between you having consciousness or not? You're not a conscious creature and merely behave like one?

Someone could make a puppet behave as if it experienced consciousness, does that act of doing so magically generate a new consciousness in the puppet?

Yes.

Well I'm doubtful about that, but hey perhaps everything in this universe has consciousness.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

kbg (241421) | about 5 months ago | (#47027601)

There's no difference for you? Are you're saying that you personally can't tell the difference between you having consciousness or not? You're not a conscious creature and merely behave like one?

I know that I have a consciousness, but I really can't tell if other people have consciousness or just behave like they do. But even so this distinction is just silly and has no value.

Well I'm doubtful about that, but hey perhaps everything in this universe has consciousness.

You have to realize we are just biological machines. We are made of matter and molecules arranged in a certain way. If you could clone yourself by just replicating how your molecules are arranged then your clone would have a consciousness too.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 months ago | (#47033117)

I know that I have a consciousness, but I really can't tell if other people have consciousness or just behave like they do. But even so this distinction is just silly and has no value.

So you actually know you have a consciousness. Do you not even find that experience remarkable? Why would and should we be able to "be", to experience and know?

You said: "To me consciousness is just memory and the ability to make decisions based on old memories" but assuming a universe with just our current known laws of physics, couldn't you/something have memory and the ability to make decisions WITHOUT having this consciousness that you know you experience? There is no need for it to "magically" be there right? Something could do 1+1=10 without requiring consciousness. Matter and molecules arranged in a certain way could do all the same things our bodies do without it too right?

What in our current scientific knowledge explains consciousness existing? Note, I'm not saying we will never explain it, but I'm saying it's one of the peculiar things in this universe. The first peculiar thing is that the universe exists at all - but without the second peculiar thing called consciousness, we won't be wondering about it - we'd just appear to be wondering about it ;).

Lastly if the distinction is silly and has no value does that mean you don't value your consciousness? And make no distinction between oblivion and consciousness?

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

kbg (241421) | about 5 months ago | (#47033817)

So you actually know you have a consciousness.

Well since I am talking about it, I believe I have a consciousness, I think therefore I am.

Do you not even find that experience remarkable?

Not really no, I think it is just a side effect of our intelligence.

You said: "To me consciousness is just memory and the ability to make decisions based on old memories" but assuming a universe with just our current known laws of physics, couldn't you/something have memory and the ability to make decisions WITHOUT having this consciousness that you know you experience? There is no need for it to "magically" be there right? Something could do 1+1=10 without requiring consciousness. Matter and molecules arranged in a certain way could do all the same things our bodies do without it too right?

I think your problem with all this is that you think your consciousness is something special and is somehow like a "soul" or something magical, but it isn't because we are just biological creatures.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 months ago | (#47035721)

I think your problem with all this is that you think your consciousness is something special and is somehow like a "soul" or something magical, but it isn't because we are just biological creatures.

I think your problem is you say it's a "side effect" and stop there. Scientists are often curious about unexplained "side effects".

I said:

Someone could make a puppet behave as if it experienced consciousness, does that act of doing so magically generate a new consciousness in the puppet?

And you said:

Yes.

You believe in magic? If you don't then it should be remarkable from a scientific point of view that consciousness exists. Since by the current human known scientific laws of this universe it doesn't have to exist! BUT it does, and we know it.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | about 5 months ago | (#47017181)

You can have all the laws of physics explain how things move etc, but how will they ever explain this consciousness?

May I introduce you to the concept of "argument from ignorance [wikipedia.org] ". It might be well that it can be perfectly explained by natural laws, just you and me are not (yet) able to.

I can't even prove beyond all doubt that others experience this phenomenon and are conscious. And I can't prove my consciousness to others. I just have to take it by faith that these "imaginary friends" called "you" and "I" exist.

If you go the solipsism [wikipedia.org] route, nothing is certain any more. Even those physical laws you say explain how things move (etc), become totally uncertain in a solipsistic worldview. After all, it could all be just your mind and nothing truly exists.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

david_thornley (598059) | about 5 months ago | (#47019147)

Suppose you provide some sort of scientific definition of "consciousness". Right now, the word is used extremely vaguely, and it's really hard to tell what it means. If your definition is good enough to tell whether a cat does or does not have it, it's probably good enough to see if there's any evolutionary advantage and what path it took.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 months ago | (#47021713)

I already defined it - consciousness is the very first observation all scientists make (at least I assumed so anyway - maybe not all scientists are conscious). The "I am" experience.

I can't be sure whether you or a cat experience it. All I know for sure is I experience it. And it's actually the only thing I can be sure of - everything else could be an illusion (unlikely I guess)

But why and how? What laws in this universe could cause consciousness to occur? Would merely performing a suitable advanced algorithm by hand with pencil and paper generate the consciousness phenomena? If yes, where would this generated consciousness reside? Or does it need some extra "nonnewtonian" stuff? Do we need something like a multi-worlds quantum simulator recursively trying to predict itself and the future? Or it's due to something different?

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 5 months ago | (#47022403)

Hmm... It seems like you're talking about consciousness only as it applies to humans but to me it applies to most animals as well and it's only different in them by degree, not any fundamental difference.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 months ago | (#47023827)

Where did I even say that?

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

Sique (173459) | about 5 months ago | (#47024317)

Reflectors have this general flaw, yes, and thus there are reflectors built in a way not to have this problem. Sometimes the second mirror is built in slightly slanted (Kutter-Schiefspiegler-Reflector) or the first one is slanted (Herschel-Reflector). Sometimes the astronomers just accept the flaw, because other advantages are more important (easier mirror geometry and thus optically better quality). Nonetheless, the obstruction actually is a flaw, and only for the astronomer's use (observation of very slowly moving objects, which are far away and pose no imediate danger), it is acceptable. But for instance, neither hunters nor the military use reflectors. They prefer lense based refracting telescopes, because for them the flaw with the rainbow effect is not as important as the obstruction free view.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47015441)

Yeahhh... doesn't that prove parallel evolution of high level structures will converge regardless of variety in low level structures? I.E. that organisms may not evolved in the exact same way DNA wise, but that they would end up looking and functioning incredibly similarly anyway.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

Pino Grigio (2232472) | about 5 months ago | (#47015683)

Though it might not be a flaw. As Nick Lane points out, evolution is cleverer that you are. For example, the nerves that cross the front of the retina could have evolved to act as wave guides improving vision, not making it worse compared to say, the eye of an octopus which is "correct" as you might design it.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014249)

You misinterpret the question.

It was not "would the end results have similar function", but "would the function be achieved the same way".

It is repeatable as any random process (i.e at the detailed level it's not).

Look at your own examples. All of those eyes are different, and whales/sharks have some fundamental differences (the main propulsion being the most obvious)

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (5, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#47014255)

you are silly, vast differences in eyes in the animal kingdom. the spookfish eye has a side chamber with mirrors and a second retina, and works like a reflecting telescope. The Tarsier can't even move its eyes in the sockets, has to turn its head, besides night vision can see in ultraviolet but can't see color. The collosal squid has a built-in headlight, a photophore, in each eye to illuminate what it is focusing on, the dragonfly has 30,000 eyes that can see polarization of light as well as ultraviolet let, and moreover has 3 additional eyes of another type that are hypersensitive to extremely fast movements a human can't perceive. How about four-eyed fish with eyes to see in air and another pair for water?

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (2)

gewalker (57809) | about 5 months ago | (#47014355)

Don't forget lobster eyes, very cool design - lots of square mirror boxes. They are even planning an x-ray analog of them at Nasa [nasa.gov]
And the lowly scallop has a very nice set up to about 100 reflectors 1 mm in size.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (4, Interesting)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#47014575)

also could have mentioned some bird's eyes that can see the earth's magnetic field; and goats with their horizontal rectangular pupils, which combined with the eyes position on the skull gives them a 340 degree field of vision without even having to move their eye. they can see you coming up behind them!

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (2)

Camael (1048726) | about 5 months ago | (#47014915)

I have to say as a complete layman that I find this whole discussion fascinating. I had no idea there was such a wide variety of eyes in this world.

Which makes me wonder though why we haven't actually been seeing any/many inventions making use of these principles to augment our own vision. For example, I can see that a physical analog for the goat's vision may have some application in the field of law enforcement, or vehicle HUDs or anything for that matter where a larger field of vision would be an advantage.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

dargaud (518470) | about 5 months ago | (#47016351)

Which makes me wonder though why we haven't actually been seeing any/many inventions making use of these principles to augment our own vision. For example, I can see that a physical analog for the goat's vision may have some application in the field of law enforcement, or vehicle HUDs or anything for that matter where a larger field of vision would be an advantage.

...It's called a side mirror in your car !

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

tsa (15680) | about 5 months ago | (#47015087)

My rabbits have that too and they have round pupils. They can even see you coming from above.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#47031665)

but rabbit's system has issues the goat doesn't, there is 10 degree blind spot in front of the rabbit.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

tsa (15680) | about 5 months ago | (#47033293)

but rabbit's system has issues the goat doesn't, there is 10 degree blind spot in front of the rabbit.

Yes. That's so you can keep them apart ;)

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

nbritton (823086) | about 5 months ago | (#47018585)

also could have mentioned some bird's eyes that can see the earth's magnetic field

Why does everyone overlook the fact that the eye is a device that leverages quantum mechanics? The simple fact that we can observe the electromagnetic spectrum is proof of this. By extension, it would be reasonable to conclude that the brain also leverages quantum mechanics.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019759)

Maybe I'm overlooking something here, but don't the photoreceptors in the eye "leverage quantum mechanics" by absorbing a photon to change the conformation of an opsin molecule, resulting in a functional shift? Every single protein in your body that undergoes a functional shift does so by absorbing or releasing energy. Take, for instance, the next step in the photoreceptor cascade: the dephosphorylation of a GTP molecule that results in a G-protein activation. This is, I suppose, leveraging quantum mechanics, but so is every chemical reaction in your body.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#47031671)

there is no system in your body that doesn't use quantum mechanics

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47021435)

Well from what it seams human eyes have a much better depth of field perception than most other creatures as a tradeoff. We also have "claws" that can finely manipulate things using depth of field on occasion with things finely manipulated using depth of field. Coincidence?

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 5 months ago | (#47015733)

The tarsier and 4 eye fish are remarkbaly cool, but they are variations on the vertebrate eye, which means they're much more similar even to each other than the various types of invertebrate eye. The interesting thing of course is that the various ranched all evolved eyes from very different starting points.

Also if you want awesome eyes, look at the the mantis shrimp. Hyper spectral, polarisation sensitive and capable of independent depth perception (trinocular, not binocular like us mere vertebrates) with each eye independently.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47016275)

Mantis Shrimp - 16 color cones compared to the 3 humans have.

you are silly, vast differences in eyes in the animal kingdom. the spookfish eye has a side chamber with mirrors and a second retina, and works like a reflecting telescope. The Tarsier can't even move its eyes in the sockets, has to turn its head, besides night vision can see in ultraviolet but can't see color. The collosal squid has a built-in headlight, a photophore, in each eye to illuminate what it is focusing on, the dragonfly has 30,000 eyes that can see polarization of light as well as ultraviolet let, and moreover has 3 additional eyes of another type that are hypersensitive to extremely fast movements a human can't perceive. How about four-eyed fish with eyes to see in air and another pair for water?

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (3, Insightful)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 5 months ago | (#47014301)

The key question is whether the same results would come from different ends, again.

And the key evidence is that parallel evolution uses different changes from different genes to achieve the same end.

The question that I have to ask is, if different changes result in the same end, can the follow-on changes result? Or are they stopped?

Flippers turn into hands, but using different gene combinations - does that stop the thumb from differentiating? Or would evolutionary pressure still reward the mutant with the thumb?

I haven't read the whole thing, but I'm not swayed on any part of the question other than someone is now thinking about this. It is far from the foregone conclusion you think it is. In fact, in your statements, it stops at the interesting point. Will eyeballs that evolved differently be able to further evolve in similar ways? Or are they forever doomed, due to their makeup of different proteins, to be different? Or is it somewhere in the middle, which sounds plausible pending further research?

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (3, Insightful)

plover (150551) | about 5 months ago | (#47014433)

I think the answer is self-evident: alternate reality results would be just as diverse as species are today, and while they would bear superficially similar results, they would be "different animals." Commenters above have noted that vastly diverse organisms in a common environment still successfully evolve common features: they may have similar means of locomotion, means of food detection, means of sexual partner selection, and on and on, yet the specifics for any given species will be completely different from the other species.

Would the appearance of an opposable thumb on a flipper cause the lengthening of the appendage into something more useful, like an arm? Maybe, because arms are a useful advantage for food gathering; or maybe not because arms aren't as hydrodynamic as flippers. Or maybe there'd be a fork with two successful species resulting. I don't think the follow on changes would stop, they just would be different changes.

But as to the original article, why would anyone think that if we rewound the clock that a chaotic process would repeat? It's not like the universe called rand() with a common seed when it started mutating DNA.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (2)

Chikungunya (2998457) | about 5 months ago | (#47014891)

But as to the original article, why would anyone think that if we rewound the clock that a chaotic process would repeat? It's not like the universe called rand() with a common seed when it started mutating DNA.

It's a valid question, when looking to the simplest organisms such a viruses or bacteria you can observe repetition of specific adaptations when under the same environmental pressures (up to a certain point). You neutralize several strains with monoclonal antibodies or a compound against a specific protein and the escape mutants frequently show the same changes. The question is "how much of this is conserved in more complicated organisms?" It would not be the first time that an apparently chaotic process was actually following some hidden rules.

So yes, it seems that adaptation is quite chaotic in macroscopic life, but since there was a possibility that this was not the case it has value to confirm it.

Driving analogy (1)

Camael (1048726) | about 5 months ago | (#47014985)

Forgive me for trying to boil this down into more simplistic terms to understand the concept:-

So what you're saying is that just because 2 different drivers drove from Town 1 to Town 2 (similar results), it does not necessarily mean that they took the same route. Driver A had to buy groceries, pick up his daughter, visit the video store so he drove a certain route. Driver B had to top up his gas, return a library book and buy dinner so he took a different route (evolutionary pressures). But both of them ended up in Town 2.

Would this be a reasonably accurate metaphor?

Re:Driving analogy (2)

Sique (173459) | about 5 months ago | (#47015461)

Actually no. Because both drivers had to use their respective route again if they drive again from Town 1 to Town 2. After some generations you would have two different tribes of drivers, one that drives along the grocery store and the kindergarden, the other one via the gas station and the library. And if the video store closes, some drivers of the first tribe cease to drive at all because it doesn't make sense to them anymore while the new hardware store causes other drivers of the first tribe to morph into a subtribe that drives to the hardware store instead.

Re:Driving analogy (1)

crimson tsunami (3395179) | about 5 months ago | (#47017073)

Maybe they were thinking more along the lines of the trip being the evolution, and the stops being the mutations. In the end both creatures (town2) are quite similar. But one has a closer knit family and a smaller brain,as he takes better care of its offspring but watches too many dvd's. And the other is smarter because of all the reading.

Re:Driving analogy (1)

Sique (173459) | about 5 months ago | (#47024643)

No. Evolution has no target, no goal. Town2 was the goal for both drivers from the beginning, and this is not evolutionary. If both drivers end up randomly at Town2 having taken different routes, then maybe the analogy is more fitting, but then the picture itself doesn't make much sense (except for some guys doing a road movie).

Re:Driving analogy (1)

crimson tsunami (3395179) | about 5 months ago | (#47030453)

Where did anyone say town2 was a goal and not just a random destination that 2 creatures happened to arrive at independently and looking superficially similar to each other?

Re:Driving analogy (1)

plover (150551) | about 5 months ago | (#47016809)

That's not really a good analogy, because your drivers have "goals", and evolution doesn't drive towards goals. It selects for adaptations that work better in the organism's environment.

Driver A isn't trying to get to Town 2. Driver A simply is trying to survive. Now, if your Driver A randomly developed a vision mutation that caused him to identify grocery store signs, that's a beneficial survival trait in his environment - he'll be big and healthy and not starving, which might make him a more successful parent. If he passes the trait of grocery-store-sign-recognition to his offspring, then it's a beneficial mutation.

Meanwhile, Driver B also isn't interested in Town 2, but she's developed a mutation that permits her to smell the pumps at gas stations, and so she can fill up her tank. She similarly passes this trait on to her children.

Let's say there are two roads between the towns. Road 1 has grocery stores nearer the first town and gas stations nearer the second. Road 2 has gas stations near
the first town, and grocery stores near the second. Driver A's big-eyed kids will cluster around the grocery stores along Road 1, while Driver B's long-nosed kids cluster around the gas stations on Road 2. Driver A's kids might continue crowding each other out, and as they head further down the road, they discover gas stations. Because of their big eyes, they and their children learn to see both grocery store and gas station signs, and now have bigger, more adaptable eyes. Driver B's kids similarly get crowded down their road, and start smelling out grocery stores along with gas stations. As a result their noses grow even longer and more sensitive.

Eventually, both have offspring that end up in Town 2. If they haven't diverged too far from each other by the time they both arrive there, so they're still the same species, they can interbreed and produce children that have both big eyes and long noses that can both see better and smell better. But if it's been millions of years, the differences may be too great. You'll have two different species that arrived in the same place, doing the same things, but in completely different ways.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47015951)

But as to the original article, why would anyone think that if we rewound the clock that a chaotic process would repeat? It's not like the universe called rand() with a common seed when it started mutating DNA.

That's part and parcel of the question in TFA. The question rephrased is: Does evolution follow some sort of deterministic function, or is it truely random?
A lot of theoretical physicists believe (yes believe, because there's not a shred of evidence to back it up) in something called determinism. The idea that once the big bang happened, everything was set into motion with specific information that is merely being decompressed-- playing out over time, into what we know as reality. If this were true, evolution would be repeatable not only into a finite set of possibilities (likely), but into a set of one possibility, regardless of any appearance of randomness.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47016565)

This was addressed, in beautiful prose, by Loren Eisley in his book "The Immense Journey", in a chapter called "Flying Saucers and Little Green Men".
He ended the chapter by arguing, lucidly and beautifully, that humans are what we are due to our genes, AND the long, winding road of our evolutionary
past, including its unique accidents and serendipity. As to whether "aliens" would look like us, he argues, no way. They may be alive, intelligent, build telescopes, and seek alien life just like us, but they have had their own unique evolutionary history, and therefore, "there may be life, there may be intelligence, but of men,
there will be none, forever". It's worth reading. It had an influence on Carl Sagan, and Sagan quoted in frequently in his and I.S,. Shklovski's "The search for intelligent life in the universe".

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about 5 months ago | (#47014419)

Not taking into account interaction between random changes in different species. Change is random, but natural selection is not, if your random changes make you survive and breed, they may remain enough time to become evolution of your species. But if a random change in a prey (or a predator) turns into viable a random change in a predator (or viceversa) then you could get something new, same for environmental changes. Is not a butterfly effect, but is enough to not make very predictable the course of evolution.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck becuase porn is repeatable (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014853)

Just look at how many times Eyes have independently evolved,

You have proof? (I mean actual not falsifable digital video proof) becayuse from my viewpoint they haven't. There were created numerous times by a single individual. I could say the same thing.

Just look at how many times Cars have independently evolved,

smh

Re:Repeatable as Fuck becuase porn is repeatable (1)

able1234au (995975) | about 5 months ago | (#47015521)

A god botherer interested in proof? That makes a change but then again you only throw out those statements since you will not read any proof

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... [wikipedia.org] "Complex, image-forming eyes evolved independently some 50 to 100 times"

>There were created numerous times by a single individual.

I thought your imaginary friend was a trinity? so shouldn't it be three individuals (i could never work out who the holy spook was though)

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

StrangeBrew (769203) | about 5 months ago | (#47017057)

Convergent Evolution.

Re:Repeatable as Fuck (1)

Agent0013 (828350) | about 5 months ago | (#47018175)

Sharks and whales are interesting in that they look similar, but are quite different. One breaths air while the other has gills to breath water. Also, the whales have a horizontal tail-fin and their propulsion motion is an up and down wave while the sharks are based on a fish body plan with a vertical tail-fin and their propulsion motion is a side to side wave.

Repeatable as Fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47022719)

You are referring to convergent evolution. It's a good point but we must be careful not to overstate what convergent evolution tells us.

Physics and physical environments will definitely tend to reward certain body designs. However never neglect the fact that all known life on Earth is related. We all descend from a common ancestor, and nature preferentially adapts existing shapes and designs. Truly independent evolution of similar body parts from different antecedents in evolutionary ancestors is rare. So far as I know, extremely rare.

Thus the body plan of one head, two arms/fins/wings, two legs/fins is a recurring theme throughout the biome. At an even higher level of abstraction, most multi-cellular organisms are either bilaterally or radially symmetrical. There are really only 2 body plans at that level.

For extraterrestrial life, if it developed entirely independently, we cannot necessarily expect Earth's basic body types. Any body plan that is successful enough to survive and adapt is possible.

It would be different but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014173)

Some themes would very likely recur. Birds and mammals are both warm-blooded, but there last common ancestor was a long time before either were warm blooded. Male and female are likely to be the norm too as they will out compete the other sexes. Human evolution in particular really is a phenomenal collection of responses to a long string of seemingly random and dramatic environmental changes.

Re:It would be different but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014471)

This discussion is the same as "Is the mind a machine" discussion. I support the other side. I believe the mind is a machine, when it is understood that given the same exact state (memories, input, chemical balances, et cetera), the next state will always be the same.

If two universes are in the exact state, then I would expect the next step in time would result in the exact same result. Thus, no matter how many steps are taken, the results will be the same. Note that this system simply says that other timelines, or as a parallel to the mind, other reactions, will not result, not that they could not be considered in a meta sense, but that they would not occur in the first place outside of a thought experiment.

Re:It would be different but... (1)

NoOneInParticular (221808) | about 5 months ago | (#47019215)

Determinism of state is fundamentally at odds with quantum mechanics. But that doesn't preclude the fact that the mind is a machine, as also machines are not deterministic for the same reason.

Seems somewhat predictable ... (4, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | about 5 months ago | (#47014227)

Convergent evolution suggests it is somewhat predictable, unrelated species having evolved similar solutions to similar problems. If a solution is clearly better nature will tend to go there given sufficient time and experimentation (mutation).

The fact that a trait may be expressed by different DNA sequences doesn't really seem to undermine this. The DNA sequences are implementation details. Evolution is about solutions and environments not DNA sequences.

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014287)

The fact that you have widely different 'implementation details' solving similar problems suggests that it's NOT as deterministic a process as your'e suggesting.

Nature exerts a strong evolutionary pressure on animals that can *sense the environment around them.* One good way of sensing the environment around you is a complex "camera eye" - but there are many ways of implementing this in multiple organisms, which means that minute variations in environment can have a large effect on evolutionary outcomes.

If we lived underground in permanent darkness, eyes would be irrelevant - but our hearing, smell, taste, and touch would probably be MUCH more sensitive.

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 5 months ago | (#47014531)

Who said it is a deterministic process? Evolution is based on random mutations. All that is being suggested in that given a large number of experiments a more optimal solution tends to be found, if one exists. That similar environments can independently converge (discover) upon such a solution. Its not unlike multiple independent runs of a Monte Carlo simulation finding the same maxima.

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014667)

> Who said it is a deterministic process? Evolution is based on random mutations.

All chaotic systems respond to random perturbations, so the question is really moot.

"If we turned back the clock, would EVERYTHING turn out the same way it did before" is the crux of the matter. And there's no way to test it, so why ask?

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (1)

crimson tsunami (3395179) | about 5 months ago | (#47017243)

There is a simple way to test it. Do the experiment, grow many generations of something, (bacteria would be helpful here) in 2 or more separate locations and check at the end if they are the same or not.
I'm sure this has already been done, and I'm quite sure they would be different, and yes I'm too lazy to check.

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47017951)

I say it is a deterministic process. Are you suggesting that the mutation of DNA is a causeless event?

If you were to rewind the universe (to any arbitrary point), the exact same forces that caused these "random" mutations would cause them again, and in precisely the same way. You'd have the same mutations and the same selection pressures, with the eventual result of the same population discussing this subject on a site called Slashdot without a single word of difference.

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018293)

>> If you were to rewind the universe (to any arbitrary point), the exact same forces that caused these "random" mutations would cause them again, and in precisely the same way. You'd have the same mutations and the same selection pressures, with the eventual result of the same population discussing this subject on a site called Slashdot without a single word of difference.

Assuming the universe is deterministic, which is questionable given QM.

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47023487)

You wouldn't get the exact same anything. What makes you think that you would?

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#47015397)

One good way of sensing the environment around you is a complex "camera eye" - but there are many ways of implementing this in multiple organisms

I wonder if an insect-like compound eye is competitive at a larger scale. It seems to me it may be more damage-resistant in that it fails incrementally (spots), where-as a single-chamber design like ours can be taken out of commission if just one part fails.

Well, we do have 2 eyes such that we have 1 spare, but we lose stereo sensing if one goes out. In compound eyes, you only lose stereo in the individual damaged spots.

But I wonder if compound eyes can be good at "center focus". Tetrapod eyes can be very keen in the center of focus due to density of cells and the large lens. That may be tricky to duplicate using bunches of direction-specific cells with little independent lenses. Light waves diffract too much with small lenses if I'm not mistaking because of their size relative to the wavelength of light. It's a general rule of thumb of nature that your "antenna" should be roughly at least the size of the wavelength of the radiation (light) you are sampling.

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (3, Insightful)

richtopia (924742) | about 5 months ago | (#47014653)

Convergent evolution also depends on how you define two features similar. For example, the convergent evolution of oxygen carrying blood in Cephalopods could be a counter example to the prediction argument, as their blood has oxygen bind to copper.

So both bloods were evolved to perform the same task of moving oxygen, however they use two different mechanisms to perform the task.

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47017943)

Not to mention flight has evolved multiple times, but compare the wings of birds, insects, and bats and you get very different appendages.

And just to get this one out of the way, marsupials also evolved external testicles, but they protrude above the penis. Same result, getting outside with a view, but also quite different.

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014671)

I always wondered about how insects and mammals both have legs, or insects and birds wings. Even though they did not have any of those when their spieces parted ways.

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47015059)

Since the eye evolved independently dozens of times [nyas.org] , why not the leg?

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (1)

Urkki (668283) | about 5 months ago | (#47015153)

I always wondered about how insects and mammals both have legs, or insects and birds wings. Even though they did not have any of those when their spieces parted ways.

That's only because of the broad, vague meaning of "leg" and "wing". The examples you list are vastly different structurally and functionally.

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47015301)

Molecular evolution != predictable
Evolution == somewhat predictable

Re:Seems somewhat predictable ... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 5 months ago | (#47016379)

I think in this situation, by "is evolution predictable" they mean "is evolution reasonably deterministic with respect to creating a given set of genetic code given a set of starting code and a certain environment".

The answer is "no".

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Re: pluso 1, Troll) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47015829)

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It depends... (5, Interesting)

radtea (464814) | about 5 months ago | (#47014243)

The degree of molecular similarity in the DNA changes to achieve a particular result will depend strongly on the type of change one is looking at.

For the case of toxin-resistance, which is much closer to the molecular level, the odds of similar changes to the DNA are much higher than for complex morphological changes.

Molecular changes like toxin-resistance are more likely to involve a single gene that codes for a single enzyme, changing the enzyme so that the toxin is no longer metabolized in a harmful way. There are going to be a very limited number of ways to do this because it's pretty close to a one-gene/one-enzyme mapping in many cases.

Morphological changes, on the other hand, involve a whole network of genes that are turned on over the course of development, and the network can be altered in many different ways to get to the same result. Think about it like a road network where you're used to taking a particular route to get from A to B. If a bridge goes out on your your usual route, you may choose different alternatives depending on time of day, the kind of vehicle you drive, etc. Networks create choices.

Even then it will depend on the kind of morphological change we are talking about.

For example, there is a lizard in Mexico, which was studied in the '80's or '90s. There were several related species living inland, and a couple of isolated species on the coast near the Yucatan peninsula. Both the coastal species had an extra cervical (neck) vertebra, and it had been assumed on the basis of this similar morphology that their evolutionary history had been a general migration to the coast, an adaptation to coastal environments that involved having a longer neck, followed by a general die-back that resulted in the two existing but separate populations.

It turns out based on their genes the two coastal species hadn't had a common ancestor for millions or tens of millions of years, and the adaptation to coastal living had happened independently but fairly recently. In this case, because certain aspects of body plan are controlled by a highly conserved and relatively simple set of genes, the additional vertebra were the result of similar sets of genetic changes.

Things like body width, which is what TFA is talking about, are a lot more complicated in their regulation, so more likely to be achieved via different genetic changes that have the same morphological outcome.

I'm going to throw in a shameless plug here because it seems relevant to the topic at hand. I've just published a hard SF novel that's premised on a what-if about the role of mathematics and law-like descriptions in evolution. If you're interested in that sort of thing you should check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-... [amazon.com]

Re:It depends... (1)

wattersa (629338) | about 5 months ago | (#47014929)

Is your book available in print form? I only see the kindle edition. Also, it would be great if you could put your email address on your profile so I don't have to reply to your comment in order to contact you :P

Re:It depends... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018299)

I hope the Sample Requestors won't hate it, because I'm one of them.

What? (4, Interesting)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 5 months ago | (#47014245)

If I'm reading this wrong, and I hope I am, please let me know.

...researchers have found that although groups of the bug have evolved similar appearances, they achieved that mostly via different changes in their DNA. 'I think it says that repeatability of evolution is very low...

I read this as "Stick bugs have reached similar appearances through different means thus the same change probably won't make the same result".

Is this equivalent to "People can change their appearance to include a hole in the abdomen through different means (bullets and knives). Thus shooting or stabbing people are unlikely to produce holes in people"?

It may make it more difficult to guess which DNA change caused them to look like that (without an actual DNA test), but it in no way implies that those DNA changes won't necessarily cause them to look like that.

Re:What? (2)

SillyHamster (538384) | about 5 months ago | (#47014627)

Because there are multiple paths to the same result, "selecting for the same result" is not guaranteed to follow a specific path.

That is, if evolution is driven by random mutation, where the selection of a particular path is a random result.

Re:What? (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 5 months ago | (#47015109)

So they are saying the path (mutations) may be different even if we got the same result. Makes much more sense.

Re:What? (1)

SillyHamster (538384) | about 5 months ago | (#47019037)

To be a little more precise, we don't have the same result - we have different results with the same effects.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47015845)

But they're talking about predictability and repeatability, not inferring evolutionary path from phenotype. If different paths arrive at similar adaptive solutions, this actually suggests high repeatability, but of course not in the somewhat silly sense that every mutation would happen exactly the same.

Re:What? (1)

SillyHamster (538384) | about 5 months ago | (#47019027)

... but of course not in the somewhat silly sense that every mutation would happen exactly the same.

Thus, that evolutionary path is unrepeatable and unpredictable. It's not silly to notice how random mutation interacts with evolutionary theory.

What? (2)

ianchaos (160825) | about 5 months ago | (#47014635)

Yes you are reading that wrong. What they are saying is that since you can end up with similar looking creatures that took different DNA routes to get there, it's only the results that matter and not the DNA framework.

If you can end up with the same body style with different DNA then if you rewind the clock and started over there would be no reason to believe that you would end up with the same creatures we have today.

Re:What? (2)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 5 months ago | (#47015115)

The summary was a little confusing. When they said "wound the clock back", I thought they were talking about re-implementing the same mutations and expecting a different result, not animals conforming to similar situations via different mutations.

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014715)

no, a better example is - we handed the spec to a bunch of different developers...

They each gave us wildly different code to achieve the same goal.

If we give the same specs to other developers, we expect the same result. That the code will be wildly different each time for the same goal - so we can't predict what it will look like.

Re:What? (2)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 5 months ago | (#47015105)

Ok, I think I get it now. So they're not saying we probably wouldn't end up with animals that look like they do today, but that we would likely end up with the same looking animals with different DNA than we have now. That actually makes a lot more sense.

Re:What? (1)

david_thornley (598059) | about 5 months ago | (#47019257)

Now, we watch all the original developers quit, and we hire more developers to deal with changed specs. What they do is likely to depend heavily on which version of the code we give them. If the specs are more like "Make the code do this general thing", we're likely to wind up with different-looking solutions.

Very similar. (1)

dicobalt (1536225) | about 5 months ago | (#47014309)

There are humans similar to us on other Earth type planets. Dinosaurs too. Maybe even some sentient avians and aquatics?

Re:Very similar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014547)

Yeah, and their must be some planets where they evolved into a higher form of life like pure energy - why in the world a life form would evolve into pure energy in the first place and remain an individual without dispersing its energy in every which way is beyond me.

And according to Star Trek, evolution isn't for adapting to ones environment to survive, evolution is for attaining "higher forms of life".

I think every every evolutionary biologist should make it a point to punch Star Trek writers' lights out.

Re:Very similar. (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about 5 months ago | (#47014875)

Yeah, and their must be some planets where they evolved into a higher form of life like pure energy - why in the world a life form would evolve into pure energy in the first place and remain an individual without dispersing its energy in every which way is beyond me.

And according to Star Trek, evolution isn't for adapting to ones environment to survive, evolution is for attaining "higher forms of life".

I think every every evolutionary biologist should make it a point to punch Star Trek writers' lights out.

Why? Because they are wrong and you are right? How do you know that dinosaurs didn't attain "higher forms of life". You don't. Don't presume you know more than them about something that can't be proven.

Re:Very similar. (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 5 months ago | (#47015663)

What's a "higher form of life"?

Re:Very similar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47021897)

l
i
f
e

Environment shapes evolution (5, Insightful)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 5 months ago | (#47014369)

Looking at cows, dolphins and horses genetic proximity [ucsc.edu] shows unexpected results, as cows and horses are not the closer in the trio, despite their similar features.

That suggests environment drives evolution in a predictable way, while the genetic evolution is not. This is the really amazing point: evolution find similar solutions to similar problems, but it does so through different ways.

Re:Environment shapes evolution (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#47014593)

oh? what about aquatic animals(and mammals at that!) that used to be land animals, that went back to the sea?

Re:Environment shapes evolution (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 5 months ago | (#47014617)

They still look very similar: environment shaped their evolution.

Re:Environment shapes evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47015799)

Whales, like dolphins, are an example of land animals that went back to the sea. It has to be said that changes in an environment are not predictable either, which any dinosaur living today would agree with.

Re:Environment shapes evolution (1)

Rashdot (845549) | about 5 months ago | (#47015761)

> That suggests environment drives evolution in a predictable way, while the genetic evolution is not.

Of course. For many generations the insects that didn't well enough resemble the plants that they lived on, they got eaten before they could reproduce. So eventually this insect will end up looking exactly like the plant to its predators.

Re:Environment shapes evolution (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 5 months ago | (#47018347)

This is the really amazing point: evolution find similar solutions to similar problems, but it does so through different ways.

This is a common problem when talking about evolution. We can't help invoking metaphors of "design," even if we don't mean it -- and that clouds our understanding.

Evolution is not "finding" anything. It is not a conscious process. If we truly believe that evolution works through random genetic mutation, that it is simply a matter of randomness and survival of random things that fit the environment better.

If I program a robot to randomly drive around a maze, it will eventually get to the end over a long enough period. If there are multiple routes that will get to the end, different robots drawing on random data may end up using different routes.

This result is hardly "amazing" if you already accept the basic idea of evolution as occurring through random genetic mutations. It's only if you think of it as some sort of "force" trying to "find solutions to problems" that these result here seem significant, since it implies some sort of "force" that is capable of "solving problems" in different ways. But nothing is "solving" anything... it's just randomness, reproduction, and survival.

Re:Environment shapes evolution (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 5 months ago | (#47019455)

I could say that evolution finds solution to environmental challenges like water finds the way out of a bucket.

But let me rephrase what I find amazing : evolution leads to the same solutions for the same environmental challenges, but through different genetic setups. That suggests the optimum is always reached. This is amazing.

Re:Environment shapes evolution (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 5 months ago | (#47028959)

But let me rephrase what I find amazing : evolution leads to the same solutions for the same environmental challenges, but through different genetic setups.

Allow a long enough time span, and constrained randomness can always get to a goal. Again, this is not surprising at all -- it just requires a long enough time for the process to work.

That suggests the optimum is always reached. This is amazing.

Who said it is always reached? The present study suggests that in some cases where similar "solutions have been found," different paths were used to reach them. I don't get the sense that anyone was claiming that the "optimum" was "always" reached, or even that it was reached most of the time. The diversity of life present on the planet pretty clearly demonstrates that there is a great variety of possible "solutions" that are relatively "good" (though not necessarily "optimal"). While some of that variety is due to an optimal fit to a similar variety in environmental conditions, I think it's a huge thing to claim that that's ALWAYS the case -- sometimes (most of the time?) differences are probably more random.

Re:Environment shapes evolution (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 5 months ago | (#47029001)

But let me rephrase what I find amazing : evolution leads to the same solutions for the same environmental challenges, but through different genetic setups. That suggests the optimum is always reached. This is amazing.

By the way, one further thing -- it would actually be rather disturbing to the theory of evolution if what you said DIDN'T happen.

That would suggest that there's only ever one best pathway to the best gene. And billions of years of there only EVER being ONE pathway to a solution would be pretty strong evidence that someone or something must have guided the process or put significantly more constraints on it.

Take my robots randomly wandering around a maze example again. Assume that multiple possible paths to an exit exist. Over a long enough time, we'd expect different robots to follow different paths to the exit... if they did not, either (1) the maze had been "fixed" so that other paths weren't possible, or (2) the robots weren't actually acting randomly -- they had additional constraints that "pushed" them in certain directions for some reason.

Either way, if multiple genetic pathways are AT ALL POSSIBLE to generate similar solutions, it would be necessarily the case that a truly random process should be expected to "find" these alternative solutions.

The alternative -- always following the one optimal path -- would truly be "amazing," since it would suggest that evolution is wrong and the world is not anywhere as random as we think.

momkind (r)evolutionary new clear options (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014377)

we can bet our honor & compassion restoration on these earthbound representatives of creation.... creation remains undefeated since/until forever

determinism is for cowardly philosophers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014429)

...who atheistically welcome the implied lack of design, but fear the potential for chaos. Fear not, naturalistic cowards. Indeterminism in the details within an overall environmental structure is the reality, as the biologists and physicists know.

Re:determinism is for cowardly philosophers... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014921)

How do people like you even have the brain power for breathing?

Re:determinism is for cowardly philosophers... (1)

crimson tsunami (3395179) | about 5 months ago | (#47023501)

Easy, they don't waste any of it on thinking.

Burgess Shale (2, Interesting)

Kittenman (971447) | about 5 months ago | (#47014501)

Refer to Stephen Jay Gould and his "Wonderful Life" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B... [wikipedia.org] also. Gould mentions that there were a range of various paleobiological doohickeys bopping around at the same time, and we come from one group that happened to swim better, or whatever. Next time round, we'll have five eyes.

Well, I'm not explaining it right, but that's why there's books...

Insufficiently large sample (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#47014549)

We need to see how things evolved on other worlds, evolving entirely independently of the life forms on this planet, which may have in some way influenced eachother, in order to even begin to gauge how predictable evolution is.

Ig Nobel Prize (0, Flamebait)

gargleblast (683147) | about 5 months ago | (#47014583)

a lot of the changes are random

And here's me thinking that all random mutations [berkeley.edu] are random. Give these guys a Nobel Prize.

Re:Ig Nobel Prize (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 5 months ago | (#47014745)

Sorry sir, I'm not in charge of the Ig Nobel Prices. Tell you what, I'll give you a "contextomy of the month" price.

Re:Ig Nobel Prize (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 5 months ago | (#47017983)

I forgot to mention, the prize comes with a job offer from a major US political campaign group or media outlet (right, like there is any difference).

No Shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47014905)

Genetic Drift - it's what's happening mofos.

Not Enough Information (2)

kenwd0elq (985465) | about 5 months ago | (#47014975)

We know precious little about how evolution proceeded here, and we know nothing at all about how it might have proceeded elsewhere.

We can guess that it would be carbon based, because carbon has four covalent bonds and would have been formed sooner than silicon (with 4 bonds, but lower energies) would have. Beyond that, we'd need a few dozen D20 dice to calculate the odds.

But any real scientist knows that at some point, we have to admit WE DON'T KNOW how it might turn out. Wild-assed guesses aren't science, even if some people who claim to be scientists are sometimes wild-assed guessers.

Australia and other isolated environs. (1)

jimmydevice (699057) | about 5 months ago | (#47015167)

Wrong, Duh!

Keep trying (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#47015341)

It's mutant ninja turtles all the way down

There is no evolution. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47015427)

There is no evolution. No scientific evidence exists. Just a bunch of idiotic theories that people have believed. Now that belief shapes their perception of the evidence. Watch Kent Hovinds movies.

Re:There is no evolution. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47015485)

Plenty of scientific evidence exists. [scientificamerican.com]

It's not our fault if you don't like it.

Re:There is no evolution. (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 5 months ago | (#47015673)

oh dear, another deluded fool. Kent Hovinds is part of a group of complete idiots.....

Re:There is no evolution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47016907)

Just a bunch of idiotic theories that people have believed.

There is your evolution, right there.

Consciousness and Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47015935)

What is really baffling about evolution is the appearance of consciousness: what sense does it make? Millions of years passed and we do not have any evidence of appearance of consciousness before our own. Is it going to desappear? What if our children become less and less intelligent and, at the end, lose consciousness? It is hard to immagine like the idea of ones own death. Is it logically impossible? Of course, there always remain the possibility of human self-destruction or destruction by a natural catastrophe in order for consciousness to be lost on Earth. Can we build self assembling rational robots able to outlive us? Does rationality make any sense?

Any ideas?

Re:Consciousness and Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47016949)

My cat has a very observable transition between the states of conscious and unconscious.

If you think yourself all that much different from my cat you probably have deluded visions of grandeur. People are animals. Special animals, in certains ways, but animals none the less. Other animals are special in their own way as well. We're not the only ones to use tools, but we sure as shit are the best at it.

The rest of your philosophical bullshit is meaningless rambling. It's nice to kick back once in a while and be in a state of wonder and awe. If you write it down and make it into a sci-fi novel it can even be productive. But please do not pollute a public forum with this sort of low-quality navel-gazing.

Re:Consciousness and Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47017337)

Plenty of other animals have consciousness. What makes you think they don't?

Answer: very predictable (1)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | about 5 months ago | (#47016921)

the one who is better adapted will always win. That's as predictable as it gets. Everything else is just variations on the theme.

Re:Answer: very predictable (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 5 months ago | (#47018765)

no, the only criteria is survival to reproduce. "fittest" and "better adapted" have nothing to do with anything. good enough wins

Re:Answer: very predictable (1)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | about 5 months ago | (#47024277)

that depends on your definition of fitness (for a situation) ... usually that involves an optimization of both the inputs (food, ...) and results (speed, agility, camouflage, sensory, ...), so "good enough" might very well be "fittest for the situation" because you found a local maximum.

Breaking News! (1)

OrtegaPeru (1201867) | about 5 months ago | (#47016927)

Mutation is random.

Re:Breaking News! (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 5 months ago | (#47018247)

Mutation is random.

For sufficiently abused definitions of "random," perhaps.

Anyone besides me ever do the high-school biology experiment where you zap some fruit flies with Xrays and observe well-known malformations in their offspring? While there are random mutations, some are far more likely than others under any specified conditions.

Re:Breaking News! (1)

kcdoodle (754976) | about 5 months ago | (#47018773)

The position of a single Nitrogen atom in a jar is RANDOM.

However, the properties of a mole of Nitrogen atoms in a jar has extremely PREDICTABLE properties.

So it is not inconceivable that a LARGE number of organisms undergoing RANDOM changes may have PREDICTABLE traits at the end of a long period. Mutations that cause DEATH will be quickly weeded out of the population, for one thing. Mutations that do not support survival would go away after a short time as well.

Diversity would occur from DIFFERENT mutations that INCREASE survival chances, maybe there would be a lot of these, maybe there are only a few. This is where the real question lies.

no (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 5 months ago | (#47017155)

We don't actually know how mosquitos evolved in the first place so my guess would be probably not.
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