Something We Know of Aliens

On Start the Week Andrew Marr asks whether scientists have failed in their task to communicate their work to the wider public. post

The 'passionate rationalist' Richard Dawkins has spent his career trying to illuminate the wonders of nature and challenge what he calls faulty logic. But he wonders whether Darwin would consider his legacy now with 'a mixture of exhilaration and exasperation'.

The child psychologist Deborah Kelemen has been working with young children to find out what they make of adaptation and evolution with the storybook, How the Piloses Evolved Skinny Noses, and is encouraged by the sophistication of their understanding.

The mathematician Cathy O'Neil says it's time people became more aware of the mathematical models and algorithms that dominate everything we do online and in finance, and yet are increasingly opaque, unregulated and left unchallenged.

While Alex Bellos looks to improve numeracy with puzzles and brainteasers which have been entertaining and frustrating people for centuries.


The program is worth a listen for the one almost offhanded comment about alien life in the universe.

I'm reminded of Feynman who began his undergraduate physics lectures with a summary of vector arithmetic. Feynman then observes that vector sum is independent of place. The calculation is assumed to work anywhere in the universe. This alone says lots about what physicists believe to be true.

Was it Dawkins that made the alien observation? I am not sure. But the comment that woke me up and made my day is this: we are confident that should we encounter aliens, they will be the product of Darwinian evolution.