Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 22

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Sunday April 6, 2008 (diary)

Flower Another nice and sunny day. I sit on Paul Hedrick's veranda and spot a couple of tiny Bee eaters in bushes right in front of me, but by the time I have got my camera they have disappeared. More luck next time. I photograph a few flowers instead.
It is "Sushi Sunday" at Bar Zushi, all plates just $3.50 each and the place is packed. It is much quieter at the Wharf were I get a good chunk of reading done.   Back at Paul's home I start to sort out some clothes I will take with me to Germany. I also prepare a few illustrations on my old Mac computer for a couple of upcoming blog episodes I intend to write.
In the evening I take Paul out to dinner at the Tracy Village Tavern. This used to be the reconstruction camp after Cyclone Tracy destroyed Darwin back in 1973. It is now a popular Club, with reasonable meals at very affordable prices. Back at Paul's we watch a bit of footy, before I retire.

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Monday April 7, 2008 (diary)

Another beautiful sunny day. Paul is keen for me to use his high pressure water gun to clean my car. So I oblige him by doing this half yearly event in the morning. The car does look a lot nicer after it I must admit.
Paul is a good cook, his savoury mince tonight is very nice. After dinner off to bridge where I play with Mairead again. We have some good games. Later back home I read Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" until deep into the night. Having seen the first TV series, the book greatly enhances that experience.

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Tuesday April 8, 2008 (diary)

It is a warm 32° C, sunny and rather humid today. I can't stop reading Jane Austen's book and find little inclination to writing myself. To my usual trip to Bar Zushi and the Wharf I today add the Nightcliffe swimming pool, right on the beach front. I don't swim, resting my left arm, but soak in the pool for half an hour or so.

For dinner I take Paul again to the Stokes Hill Wharf where we share a dozen Oysters Kilpatrick, then some grilled seafood, washed down with a few beers. It is already quite busy on the Wharf for the time of year.
Back home I finish "Pride and Prejudice", often reading through tears in my eyes. I am becoming a very nostalgic romantic (really always have been). It especially affects me to think that Jane died so very young (age 42) and never herself experienced marriage or the bliss she conveys to the characters in her book.   We must be truly grateful in this modern age with healthy living conditions and good medical help to be able to live so much longer and have so many different experiences and feelings in life.

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Wednesday April 9, 2008 (concept, awareness, DNA, genes)

Awareness 12 continues from April 2
I have to describe the nature of genes and memes as defined by Richard Dawkins in order to include these concepts in my awareness philosophy further down the track. So please bear with me. Today genes first.

It is amazing how simple and accidental life on earth may have started when you read Richard Dawkins' hypothetical explanation for it (in "The Selfish Gene").

It was perhaps simply a question of a number of small molecules floating around in the primeval sea ("primeval soup") connecting up together (perhaps energised by the ultraviolet light from the sun) into a stable much larger molecule, called a replicator. Other small molecules floating by with an affinity for the replicator joined up by attaching themselves to it. Successively added molecules would also become stable by mimmicking the pattern of the original replicator, then eventually split off from it forming a second replicator. Once this happened replication gradually spread.

As the replicators in the primeval sea increased, the number of smaller molecules decreased. Replicators, as protection against being cannibalised by other replicators, started to build protective protein coatings around themselves. These coatings became increasingly more elaborate and complex survival vehicles. Through a process that continued (and still does) over the span of more than 3,000 million years, the replicators are the present DNA strings located within each cell of our body, and all plant, animal and human life are the very sophisticaled protective vehicles.

We in this role therefore ensure the propagation of the DNA and through this the continued evolution of our species.   This evolution process is driven by the principle of natural selection : survival of the fittest, or as Dawkins puts it the survival of the stable.

Think of the following metaphore to gain a better idea of this proces of natural selection
Imagine a DNA string to be the plan and building instructions for a house. There are two types of strings, one for building a house of straw, the other for building a house of stone. Inside each house (in a cupboard) are also a complete copy of the building plans ("DNA"). A number of both house types are being built and completed.

Sooner or later there will be a few storms or bush fires. The houses of straw will of course not survive those conditions and will blow to pieces or burn down together with everything in it.
The houses of stone on the other hand are doing fine. They withstand all weather conditions and don't burn down in a bush fire. In due course there will only be stone houses in the region and all straw houses have dissapeared. Natural selection has taken place.

23 pairs of chromosomes, x= male sex, y= female sex The DNA string in humans consists of 46 chromosomes. Of these 23 chromosomes are derived from the father, and are complemented by a compattible 23 chromosomes from the mother. But only half of this total (= 23 chromosomes) are passed on to the next generation (child) via a single sperm or egg. Every single sperm and egg carry their own unique DNA combination. Therefore every single sperm or egg of the same donor is different from the other.

Chromosomes are not passed on in their entirity, only small segments, bits and pieces of it. Each male DNA segment competes with the corresponding female DNA segment for a spot on the sperm's (or egg's) DNA string.
Dawkins defines a gene as a (usually small) segment of DNA that is succesful in being propagated through numerous generations.

Awareness continues on April 10

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Thursday April 10, 2008 (concept, awareness, DNA, memes)

Awareness 13 continues from April 9
In short, genes (assembled in strings of DNA) are the building instructions of all life on earth. So without genes there can be no life. But likewise without life forms to carry and protect genes, there can be no genes either. For most of the past however life has been all about the replication and propagation of genes with the life forms simply being convenient protective carriers which could be discarded (die) after they had completed their task of reproduction.

With the emergance and evolvement of the human species on earth however a dramatic change in the process of evolution may be about to commence. We are continuously increasing our consciousness of the world around us. We also have an ability to think ahead, and develope culture (in the broadest sense of the word).

Mona Lisa, by Leonardo Da Vinci As a consequence of this "awakening" a new replicator has emerged. Dawkins calls this the meme. A meme is an idea, thought, concept, image, even song, born in the human mind and passed on ("copied" or "imitated") to other minds through many generations even thousands of years (just like genes).
The image in your mind of the Mona Lisa for example, is a strong meme, so are the concepts of "God", "Heaven" and "Hell".

The Geek culture produced an avalanche of most valuable memes, produced by Socratus, Plato, Pythagoras, Archimedes, etc. which are still around and being used and copied today.
After the Greeks, there was a long period of little meme development, but since the Renaissance meme creation has increased again, and these last 200 years or so is going through the roof. New memes are being created but also built on or extended from older versions.

Like genes, some memes are good for us and contribute to a positive evolvement of our species. Others are bad, forms of indoctrination (like some politics and most religions, I believe) which are holding us back, even intent on destroying us. So there is (like in the "gene pool") fierce competion amongst memes in the "meme pool". Which ones will survive and which ones won't ? Therefore a form of natural selection exists too amongst our memes, the survival of the fittest, the stable.

We as humans have the ability to think ahead into the future, what is best for us in the long term, raher than the short term. This fills Dawkins with hope that we can turn the selfish process of present evolution around to a more unselfish, "altruistic" process, which in the long term will benefit the human race as a whole.
At present the human species is still very much the servant to the master replicators, genes and memes alike. I believe that in due course this relations ship can reverse, so that we are in control of our genes and memes, rather than the other way around.

Awareness continues on April 11

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