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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fwd: Edge 358: Lynn Margulis 1938-2011; A Rough Mix: Brian Eno & Jennifer Jacquet; Universe on the Larger Scales: Raphael Bousso; Cities as Gardens: Mark Pagel

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From: "Edge" <editor@edge.org>
Date: Wed, Nov 23, 2011 9:29 am
Subject: Edge 358: Lynn Margulis 1938-2011; A Rough Mix: Brian Eno & Jennifer Jacquet; Universe on the Larger Scales: Raphael Bousso; Cities as Gardens: Mark Pagel
To: <wthompsonctems@gmail.com>

Edge.org - November 23, 2011



Biologist Lynn Margulis died on November 22nd. She stood out from her colleagues in that she would have extended evolutionary studies nearly four billion years back in time. Her major work was  in cell evolution, in which the great event was the appearance of the eukaryotic, or nucleated, cell — the cell upon which all larger life-forms are based. Nearly forty-five years ago, she argued for its symbiotic origin: that it arose by associations of different kinds of bacteria. Her ideas were generally either ignored or ridiculed when she first proposed them; symbiosis in cell evolution is now considered one of the great scientific breakthroughs.

Margulis was also a champion of the Gaia hypothesis, an idea developed in the 1970s by the free lance British atmospheric chemist James E. Lovelock. The Gaia hypothesis states that the atmosphere and surface sediments of the planet Earth form a self- regulating physiological system — Earth's surface is alive. The strong version of the hypothesis, which has been widely criticized by the biological establishment, holds that the earth itself is a self-regulating organism; Margulis subscribed to a weaker version, seeing the planet as an integrated self- regulating ecosystem. She was criticized for succumbing to what George Williams called the "God-is good" syndrome, as evidenced by her adoption of metaphors of symbiosis in nature. She was, in turn, an outspoken critic of mainstream evolutionary biologists for what she saw as a failure to adequately consider the importance of chemistry and microbiology in evolution.

I first met her in 1995 when I interviewed her for my book The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution (1995). Below, in remembrance, please see her chapter, "Gaia is a Tough Bitch". One of the compelling features of The Third Culture was that I invited each of the participants to comment about the others. In this regard, the end of the following chapter has comments on Margulis and her work by Daniel C. Dennett, the late George C. Williams, W. Daniel Hillis, Lee Smolin, Marvin Minsky, Richard Dawkins, and the late Francisco Varela. Interesting stuff.

As I wrote in the introduction to the first part of the book (Part I: The Evolutionary Idea): "The principal debates are concerned with the mechanism of speciation; whether natural selection operates at the level of the gene, the organism, or the species, or all three; and also with the relative importance of other factors, such as natural catastrophes." These very public debates were concerned with ideas represented by George C. Williams and Richard Dawkins on one side and Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge on the other side. Not for Lynn Margulis. All the above scientists were wrong because evolutionary studies needed to begin four billion years back in time. And she was not shy about expressing her opinions. Her in-your-face, take-no-prisoners stance was pugnacious and tenacious. She was impossible. She was wonderful.  

[ED NOTE: I am asking participants in "The Third Culture" as well as other interested Edgies for comments which we will post as they are received.]

LYNN MARGULIS was Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She was the author of Symbiotic Planet, The Origin of Eukaryotic Cells,Early Life, and Symbiosis in Cell Evolution. She was also the coauthor, with Karlene V. Schwartz, ofFive Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth and with Dorion Sagan of Acquiring Genomes, Microcosmos, Origins Of Sex, and Mystery Dance.

Conversation Page Permalink: http://edge.org/conversation/lynn-margulis1938-2011

Raphael Bousso
Edge Video (38 minutes)

by Leonard Susskind

Andrei Linde had some ideas, Alan Guth had some ideas, Alex Vilenkin had some ideas.  I thought I was coming in with this radically new idea that we shouldn't think of the universe as existing on this global scale that no one observer can actually see, that it's actually important to think about what can happen in the causally connected region to one observer, what can you do in any experiment that doesn't actually conflict with the laws of physics, and require superluminal propagation, that we have to ask questions in a way that conform to the laws of physics if we want to get sensible answers.

RAPHAEL BOUSSO, Professor of Physics at the university of California, Berkeley, is recognized for discovering the general relation between the curved geometry of space-time and its information content, known as the "holographic principle." This principle is believed to underlie the unification of quantum theory and Einstein's theory of gravity. Bousso is also

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