linking back to

My lab:
I've just hung up the phone and need to write a short note to mark the occasion. Bob Doyle had contacted my PhD supervisor Martin Heisenberg about his Nature article on free will with a blog post on the article. Heisenberg then introduced Bob to me and our work on spontaneous behavior. After a few exchanges, we quickly realized that we had come to very similar conclusions from basically opposite starting points, concerning the problem of free will. In a nutshell, Bob's approach entails to separate the 'free' from the 'will' and we think  we have found evidence for a biologically plausible mechanism. So we scheduled a phonecall for this afternoon and it was amazing.
We covered not only free will and found that a bunch of people seemed to have been thinking along the same lines as we only that they neither knew of each other or had the possibility or the education to combine thoughts from such disparate fields as philosophy, physics and biology. We concluded that it is the internet which now brings all these ideas together. We went on and covered the ergodic hypothesis, Schrödinger's cat, and eventually got back to the internet and how Bob was involved in the first podcast, and in the development of open source content management systems (he even knew e107, the CMS which this blog runs on) as well as collaboration software such as Wiggio which his sons are developing. The latter was especially interesting to me because we have just submitted a grant to develop collaboration systems for scientists. From there we went onto the semantic web (a semantic organization is at the core of our grant proposal) and how he had introduced the memetic web back in 2005, a sort of crowd-sourced version of the semantic web. The whole time the evolution of the term "information" was weaved into the conversation, not surprisingly given his domain name. As such, entropy, of course, was also a recurring topic.
Finally, Bob confessed he was now also thinking of getting his hads dirty: he was thinking about ethics! He thinks (and I tend to agree) that there probably is a pretty good correlation between acts we generally consider "good" and how well these acts preserve information (or generate negative entropy). I really liked that concept.
In total, I'm very energized and enthusiastic about the potential future of science in general. Now we just need to reform scholarly publishing to make it all a reality

At the very end of the conversation was a neat little event. I mentioned how much I had enjoyed our conversation and how quickly time had passed. I quoted the saying from the Drosophila community that "time's fun when you're having flies". Bob then told me that he had a flashback to his undergraduate university, Brown University, and a line that was written on one of the bathroom doors, which he hadn't thought about in 40 years but which was brought back with my little line:
Time flies
You can't - they go too fast


BTW, you can all congratulate Bob on his 73rd birthday it was exactly 5 days ago!
Posted on Wednesday 24 June 2009 - 21:56:04 comment: 0

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