Biocurious is a weblog about biology, quantified.

The Slimmer List of Edge Dangerous Ideas

by Andre on 12 January 2006

As you might expect from a group of academics with popular books writing on a site by a literary agent, when asked “What is your dangerous idea?”, most took the opportunity to talk about their most beloved idea. They tried to phrase their essays in such a way that their research sounded like it might have dangerous implications, but I think they largely failed. Daniel Hillis figures that people with truly dangerous ideas shouldn’t discuss them in public anyway.

The quality of the posts varies greatly and there are a lot of them (75 000 words) so to help you optimize your precious Internet reading time I’ve selected the most insightful and thought provoking* essays into three BioCurious-centric categories:


Gerald Holton: The medicination of the ancient yearning for immortality

George Dyson: Understanding molecular biology without discovering the origins of life

Robert Shapiro: We shall understand the origin of life within the next 5 years

Eric R. Kandel: Free will is exercised unconsciously, without awareness

Arnold Trehub: Modern science is a product of biology

Karl Sabbagh: The human brain and its products are incapable of understanding the truths about the universe

J. Craig Venter: Revealing the genetic basis of personality and behavior will create societal conflicts

Richard Dawkins: Let’s all stop beating Basil’s car

Freeman Dyson: Biotechnology will be thoroughly domesticated in the next fifty years


Neil Gerschenfeld: Democratizing access to the means of invention

Lee Smolin: Seeing Darwin in the light of Einstein; seeing Einstein in the light of Darwin

Jeremy Bernstein: The idea that we understand plutonium


Geoffrey Miller: Runaway consumerism explains the Fermi Paradox

Paul Davies: The fight against global warming is lost

Oliver Morton: Our planet is not in peril

Carolyn Porco: The Greatest Story Ever Told

Alison Gopnik: A cacophony of “controversy”

Sam Harris: Science Must Destroy Religion

Sherry Turkle: After several generations of living in the computer culture, simulation will become fully naturalized. Authenticity in the traditional sense loses its value, a vestige of another time.

Gregory Cochran: There is something new under the sun — us

Robert Provine: This is all there is

Jamshed Bharucha: Education as we know it does not accomplish what we believe it does

Roger Shank: No More Teacher’s Dirty Looks

John Allen Paulos: The self is a conceptual chimera

Sean Carroll and Peter Woit also discuss the Edge question responses.

*That does not imply I agree with all of them!

  1. Uncle Al    4538 days ago    #
    A dangerous idea falsifies experts. 2000 years of Euclidean geometry burped when elliptic and hyperbolic geometries surfaced. Lest their authors gloat, WP Thurston followed.

    An axiomatic system is no stronger than its founding postulates. Postulates cannot be defended. One empirical falsification collapses the contingent house of cards.

    Metric gravitation postulates the Equivalence Principle (EP): Local centers of mass vacuum free fall identically, independent of test mass composition or internal structure. Inertial and gravitational masses are then fundamentally indistinguishable.

    We know for observed fact that all compositions of matter including neutronium (binary pulsars) obey the EP to 10-13 difference/average. However, the proper challenge of spacetime geometry is test mass geometry not test mass composition.

    Does a left hand fall identically to a right hand? Do solid single crystal spheres of space group P3(1)21 quartz fall identically to compositionally and visibly identical solid single crystal spheres of space group P3(2)21 quartz? 420+ years of physics impose no constraints on an EP parity violation.

    Theory, calculation, and reduction to practice; pdf

    Is presuming to overthrow metric gravitation in favor of affine/teleparallel gravitation a sufficiently dangerous thought?
  2. Andre    4538 days ago    #
    Hi Al,

    I’ve always thought the experiment sounded interesting and was worth doing. I heard something about a Chinese group doing a related experiment? What about the Eot-Wash group?

    Also, you’re a chemist, why don’t you do the calorimetry experiment?
  3. Uncle Al    4537 days ago    #
    The “Chinese experiment” is my proposal, my calculations, and my reduction to practice. I recruited the Chinese group. Their stated enthusiasm was most profound. They immediately ordered the custom hydrothermal growth of P3(1)21 quartz. Cultured P3(2)21 quartz is commercially available by the kilotonne.

    Dr. Jun Luo told Dr. Petitjean and me to go to Hell half-way through the full parity Eotvos experiment when a signal should have peeped its head. P3(2)21 quartz vs. fused silica was a dirty null – not zero but not statistically significant. The second hemiparity Eotvos experiment should have completed in December 2005. We look forward to Jun Luo publishing without our names – followed by his exposure. I am archived and datestamped back to before 1999 in Google and Google Groups.

    Adelberger and Heckel in Eot-Wash keep promising to do it and never start it. I did an hour of face time with them both,

    Bull. Am. Phys. Soc. 49(2) 54 (2004) “Affine vs. Metric Gravitation Parity Test”

    Riley Newman at UC/Irvine declined. Discovery requires big brass clangers.

    I’m looking for a reputable chemist with two calorimeters near 45 degrees latitude to do /_\/_\H(fusion) of P3(1)21 and P3(2)21 benzil. One group is considering it. Chemists don’t do gravitation.

    Given the screaming heterodox nature of a net output, it would be better if I never came near the apparatus either way. Let a disinterested party do the unbiased work. There is ample credit and publicity to share if it works. Calorimetric volunteers are welcome, physics or chemistry.

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