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Saturday
Jun012013

RS88 - Mario Livio on Brilliant Blunders

Release date: June 3, 2013

Mario Livio

The next time you're kicking yourself for some stupid mistake, remember: Even history's genuises screw up! Astrophysicist and author Mario Livio joins this episode of Rationally Speaking to talk about his new book, "Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe." Learn about why Darwin's theory of natural selection "shouldn't" have worked, why Einstein was confused about the role of aesthetics in physics, why Hoyle stubbornly refused to change his mind about a "steady state" universe -- and why those mistakes are central to scientific progress.

Mario's pick: "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error" 

Reader Comments (7)

Thanks for another great podcast.

Maybe I'm not the greatest at mathematics but I'm failing to understand how a fluid theory of inheritance would make evolution impossible.

Assuming fluid inheritance without discrete genes. If you have a 8 individuals in a population, 4 males, 4 female. One red male the rest of the individuals are blue. If the red trait confers an advantage so only the red male has a chance to breed. All individuals in successive generations will be purple. If the red mutation occurs more then once the population will tend towards red.

It would not be as effective as discrete gene evolution but evolution through natural selection would still occur. I also understand as the population number approaches infinity evolution potential would approach zero but no populations are infinite.

Am I missing something that Darwin was? Any suggestions?

June 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNed

Truth is
The most important scientific blunder that science has yet to resolve is the uncertainty of measure.
And Einstein was correct, God doesn't play dice, the solution is the elegant equation itself.
True science, not the theoretical or probable grey area science of today, is clearly more simple and absolutely more beautiful than thought!
The solution is

=

June 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMJA

Ned, you're assuming a huge advantage for the red trait that prevents all blues from mating. In that case, sure, it would work. But assume that being red just allows that male to have more offsprings than the blues (also, assume a bigger population than 8.) In that case, the purpleness of the descendants would become more and more red after each generation.

June 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Reilly

Hey Steve, So if the "purpleness of the descendants would become more and more red after each generation". Wouldn't that mean evolution through natural selection was occurring even without discrete genes?

June 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNed

Oops, mistake on my part. I meant more and more blue. With each new generation the purpleness would get watered down even if red confers a benefit (assuming that benefit isn't as large as in your original model).

June 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Reilly

Ah, that is what I thought you meant.

Yes, though the redness would be diluted. Depending on how much of an advantage it conferred it would still spread and ultimately change the entire populations attributes if only slightly.

June 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNed

Mario Livio was a brilliant guest. Thank you for this excellent podcast.

June 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCurt Nelson

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