Saturday, October 26, 2013

Denis Noble updates his Q&A - partly in response to Jerry Coyne

Denis giving his Presidential Lecture
The great Denis Noble emails me that he's updated the Q and A document on the Music of Life website in response to some vituperative, even libellous, language from the more dogmatic neo-darwinists. They are shooting from the hip without taking the elementary precaution of checking what he wrote and said.

It turns out that the main culprit is that prize chump Jerry Coyne who has as so often made a complete idiot of himself by a post on his blog.

I don't have time to go through Coyne's crass scientific errors but arguably the most comical aspect is that he says Denis is:

a blundering tyro when it comes to evolutionary biology. He might try discussing his ideas with other evolutionists and listening to their responses. He obviously hasn’t done that, and yet travels the world trading on his expertise in physiology to show that the edifice of modern evolutionary biology is rotten.
As so often what is "obvious" to Coyne is simply untrue. Denis has been engaged with evolution since before he was Dawkins' PhD Examiner (!) and has been writing very eloquently and persuasively on the foundations of evolutionary biology since at least 2005 when The Music of Life was published. Furthermore he has indeed been travelling the world debating these ideas. For example he was an invited participant at the EMBL/EMBO conference in 2008, speaking on his work. Coyne has heard of EMBO (he was cock-a-hoop when someone there made a nice remark about his blog!) but of course would never be an invited speaker there because he simply isn't a good enough scientist.

In addition he  had a keynote debate on the issues with Sydney Brenner in 2012 - and Brenner was basically agreeing with everything Denis said. Even Coyne will admit that Brenner knows a thing or two about biology and evolutionary biology.  Why - Denis even presided over a debate on some of these issues with Dawkins (who Jerry believes to be some kind of an expert).

Ah well - the invincible ignorance of the dogmatic 3rd-rater knows no bounds.

PS Denis says "I have continued interaction -- debate, planning -- now with around 30 evolutionary biologists of various kinds, all interested in exploring where we go on from here. A focussed issue of a major journal is in preparation as a consequence of a very successful symposium at the Birmingham Congress."

If Coyne has anything of scientific substance to say on this matter maybe he could contribute a paper to this.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Back from Barcelona

Daughter with Master (Greg Winter) being inducted
Back from 2 days in Barcelona (work) which is a great city I'd like to visit again. Managed to get some time sailing.

I'd been a very busy few weeks. Daughter was inducted as a Senior Scholar at Trinity, thus becoming (I think) the 5th member of our family to be a Senior Scholar as well as the 12th member to go to Trinity.  She's certainly the 4th since my father and I and Son were - I suspect my grandfather was but haven't been able to check.  Had interesting conversations with the new(-ish)  Master and with Matt Ridley - neither was aware of Denis Noble's latest work which just goes to show...

Also caught up with the brilliant Roz Picard while she was in London.

And lots of work. You can see why I've had little time to blog - sorry!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Higgs - rejection is good for you

Higgs at Atyah's 80th. Image courtesy
Wikipedia - std licence. 
Frantically busy so hardly been able to blog at all.

Great to see that Peter Higgs has got his Nobel. Also great that he emphasises that it;s the Brout Englert Higgs mechanism. What I didn't know was that his original paper was rejected by the referees and it was only in the revised version that he added the reference to a particle.  So if his paper hadn't been rejected he probably wouldn't have got a Nobel.

It's a beautiful, short paper. It begins:
In a recent note it was shown that the Goldstone theorem, that Lorentz-covariant field theories in which spontaneous breakdown of symmetry under an internal Lie group occurs contain zero-mass particles, fails if and only if the conserved currents associated with the internal group are coupled to gauge fields.

The "recent note" is "P.W. Higgs, to be published" Those were the days.  Goldstone taught me when I was an undergraduate - although I knew he was very bright we didn't appreciate what a Great Man he was. The key paper Higgs references is Goldstone, Salam and Weinberg. The last time I saw Goldstone was when I was for some reason in Trinity Library a few years after I left and he greeted me warmly with "and what are you doing here?" - but it turned out he'd mistaken me for someone else he's supervised.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Mother's 82nd Birthday

Back from Cornwall where we celebrated my mother's 82nd birthday. They sang "Happy Birthday" to her at the end of the service in the local Church and we then took her to the Headland Hotel - which has a great view and is showing an admirable entrepreneurial spirit, investing heavily in excellent new facilities.  My mother was by no means the oldest celebrating her birthday, there was a lady who had reached 100.

The day before we had all gone surfing - great that she is still able to do it at 81.99 and I hope she'll be surfing again next year.

Really sorry I have been too busy to blog much - things may calm down in a week or so.