Miscellaneous

Entropy vs. Life

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

“The universal tendency of things to become disordered is a fundamental law of physics—the second law of thermodynamics—which states that in the universe or in any isolated system, the degree of disorder always increases.

…it is a common experience that one’s living space will  become increasingly disordered without intentional effort: the movement toward disorder is a spontaneous process requiring a periodic effort to reverse it.

Living cells—by surviving, growing, and forming complex organisms—are generating order and thus might appear to defy the second law of thermodynamics.  How is this possible? The answer is that a cell is not an isolated system: it takes in energy from its environment in the form of food…..It then uses this energy to generate order within itself.…a direct linkage of the “controlled burning” of food molecules is required for cells to create and maintain an island of order in a universe tending toward chaos.”

Bruce Alberts, Alexander Johnson, Julian Lewis et.al., Molecular Biology of the Cell,  Garland Science Publishers, 2015, pages 52-54.

Shakespeare Reading Paul: Heavenly Fraud in The Winter’s Tale

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

A couple of days before the conference in Jerusalem for which this paper was written, I woke up before dawn to avoid the crowds and went down to the Old City to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Under a dark and cavernous rotunda, before the shrine covering the tomb from which Jesus is said to have been resurrected, priests in splendid vestments swung censers, sang prayers and placed communion wafers in the mouths of the few worshippers in attendance. During the performance of that ceremony I sensed the tangible power of their faith. Though I didn’t share it, I was alerted to the gravity of the subject of my upcoming talk. (more…)

Israel 2017–Day 17

Friday, May 26th, 2017

The knowledge that we’ll be getting up at 3:30 in the morning to go to the airport and we’ll be enroute home for 30 hours makes this last day especially precious.

We enter the Old City through the Muslim quarter at the Damascus gate, where there’s been a suicide attack on soldiers a few days ago, also mindful of the recent terrible incident in Manchester England.

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Israel 2017–Days 11-15

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

A cab took us across town to the Prima Park, a less posh but comfortable and well situated location for the rest of our stay.  We celebrated the Sabbath by resting and reflecting upon the intense and varied experiences of the last week.

Sunday morning, feeling free and a little abandoned, we walked on our own to the nearby tram stop, struggled with the ticket machine and rode the three stops to the Mehane Jehuda Market, where we mixed with local residents wandering through the stalls and found a lively restaurant for lunch.  In the afternoon we reconnoitered the path to the Hebrew University, weaving our way through a maze of construction of the new light rail line that would soon be serving it. (more…)