The Life of Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov was one of the greatest science fiction writers in history, as well as a professor of biochemistry and a prolific author of non-fiction. His best loved works include the Foundation series set in the distant future where humans have colonised the galaxy, and a book of interlinked short stories called I, Robot which he developed into an extensive series of humanity and morality tales during the dawn of the robotic era.

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Are We More Than Biological Machines?

Are humans more than biological machines? From an empirical view, we breathe, digest, grow, and die on autopilot. We are biologically programmed by our DNA, and psychologically programmed by our experiences, all of which is beyond our control. But it feels like there’s something a bit special about being human, right? Some conscious spark that makes us more than just fleshy automatons?

It was once thought that life could not be reduced to a nuts-and-bolts explanation by science. Yet that’s exactly what happened – scientists ditched the notion of a mysterious life force when it became clear that our existence is based on numerous biological, physical and chemical observations. Now, the same revolution is occurring with the science of consciousness. While plenty of laymen believe in an ethereal mind or spirit, neuroscientists are discovering clear evidence for consciousness as a physical property of the brain.

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Helium Could Save Our Planet

Helium could become the clean energy source of the 21st century. Colossal reserves of the gas are waiting to be mined from the moon’s surface, and returned to Earth as a fuel for 100% green, radioactive-free nuclear power. So what are the hurdles to this endeavour? And why isn’t mainstream media screaming about this revolutionary answer to the world’s energy and climate crisis?

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We’re Going Multiplanetary

Theoretical physicist and one-man-phenomenon Stephen Hawking contributed a wealth of knowledge to mankind during his lifetime. One of his recommendations was that humans would need to colonise other planets in the next hundred years to avoid annihilation. His fears took the form of deadly viruses, nuclear war, asteroid impacts, and global warming. In order to avoid another Dark Age – or altogether extinction of the human species – we need to become a multi-planetary civilisation.

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The Philosophy of Happiness

Our modern culture is really bad at portraying a realistic philosophy of happiness. The picture it paints is founded on consumer-driven advertising and fictional movie portrayals of life. It tells us that happiness is hedonistic: becoming a multi-millionaire mega-consumer, having a private jet, living on a tropical beach with a cocktail in hand, and having zero life stress to upset the apple cart. What utter crap. After one month of living on a beach with a steady flow of Margaritas, you wouldn’t be happy. You’d be an alcoholic. Meanwhile all your friends would be running their busy lives back in the real world, oblivious to your sense of emotional isolation. Your days would become hollow and pointless, and you’d have nothing to talk about with your equally bored spouse. So if lavish consumption isn’t the answer, what is the recipe for happiness?

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The Origins of Language

For an awfully long time, hominids lived in hunter-gatherer societies. This highly social way of living is thought to have evolved the origins of language, culminating in our species, Homo sapiens, coming to dominate all others. Was it our language that set us apart? How can we find out?

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What Happened to Gene Therapy?

When we think of scientific advancement, Hollywood has taught us to envisage the obsessed scientist working alone in the lab late at night, hunched over a microscope or painstakingly pipetting chemicals into test tubes. Suddenly, one of the tubes turns green and starts fizzing and he’s got his breakthrough formula made.

Scientists lovingly call this the Breakthrough Myth.

The unsexy reality is that it usually takes the work of multiple teams of researchers, operating out of different labs around the world, over the course of decades, for new treatments to be developed and introduced safely into medicine.

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How Does DNA Work?

How does DNA work – and what exactly does it do? DNA is a chemical molecule that forms the basis of all life on Earth. It stands for deoxyribonucleic acid – because it’s comprised of the building blocks: nucleic acids, ribose sugars, and phosphate groups. On the surface it’s a simple yet beautiful molecule and yet it creates the complexity of all living things: plants, bacteria, fungi and animals. The process of evolution has created some mind-boggling systems to record this biological data, replicate it in all living cells, and execute that code in order to create and maintain life. Today I want to give you a glimpse of the amazing facility of DNA. How DNA works, what it looks like, and how it replicates.

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The Psychology of Facebook

Facebook has taken a lot of flack lately. First there are the revelations that most user profiles (representing about 2 billion people) have been scraped and sold for commercial and political ends. And now the very nature of social media is being exposed as potentially damaging to your mental health. So how does this work? How does a social media website cause psychological harm, when all it’s apparently doing is populating your screen with news and photos from your friends?

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