Infective Heredity (Radio Lab)

Today, a fast moving, sidestepping, gene-swapping free-for-all that would’ve made Darwin’s head spin.

David Quammen tells us about a shocking way that life can evolve – infective heredity. To figure it all out we go back to the earliest versions of life, and we revisit an earlier version of Radiolab. After reckoning with a scientific icon, we find ourselves in a tangle of genes that sheds new light on peppered moths, drug-resistant bugs, and a key moment in the evolution of life when mammals went a little viral.

Check out David Quammen’s book The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life

Isaac Asimov Asks, “How Do People Get New Ideas?”

Consider the theory of evolution by natural selection, independently created by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace.

.. A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance. Since he occurs only rarely, he must seem eccentric (in at least that respect) to the rest of us. A person eccentric in one respect is often eccentric in others.

.. Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)

.. My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it.

.. all people at a session be willing to sound foolish and listen to others sound foolish.

.. The optimum number of the group would probably not be very high. I should guess that no more than five would be wanted.

.. there should be a feeling of informality. Joviality, the use of first names, joking, relaxed kidding are, I think, of the essence—not in themselves, but because they encourage a willingness to be involved in the folly of creativeness.

For this purpose I think a meeting in someone’s home or over a dinner table at some restaurant is perhaps more useful than one in a conference room.

.. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren’t paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues.