Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, Charles!

Today, 12 Feb 2007, is the 198th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. I struggled to find a photo of mine that might do him honor, but no joy. I did find a nice (spliced) photo of the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct built in France, and I hope that Charles would appreciate how we humans have advanced from rock-stackers (wonderful and talented but still stackers of rocks) to elegant carvers of rock - etchers of silicon, to be exact. I find this change of scales to be an interesting metaphor of our evolution.

Two thousand years ago, it was a major achievement to build an enormous aqueduct that could channel water across miles and miles to provide a city with an essential of life and to power the fountains that would enchant their hearts. Today we can channel electrons across little cities of transistors, creating anything from pacemakers that maintain life itself or create games that fritter it away. I know two people undergoing cancer treatment now, and it is amazing they can be treated - it wasn't that long ago that cancer would have been untreatable, and now we talk about survival in years or decades. This all relates back to Darwin because it is his simple little theories that help explain how we developed to the point where we can even affect the climate of an entire planet. Let's hope we have also developed to the point where we can reverse the effects of our earlier simplicity.

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