Thursday, 2 March 2017

Life may be getting better at evolving

In 1996, a young graduate student called Richard Watson sat down to read a paper on evolution. The article was provocative. It tackled a long-running problem in evolutionary biology: we do not fully understand how organisms can adapt so successfully to their environments. Creatures do not seem to be merely at the mercy of random changes, or mutations, in their genes over time. Instead, they actually seem to "improve" their ability to adapt. It seemed this ability was not explained solely by the process of natural selection, in which the best traits are passed on by the most successful organisms. So the paper's authors, Gunter Wagner at Yale University and Lee Altenberg at the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology in Honolulu, decided to look for answers in a surprising place: computer science. Watson, a computer scientist, was hooked. In the 20 years since he read that paper, he has been developing a theory based on the ideas it contained. His ideas could help explain why animals are so good at evolving: a trait called their "evolvability". What's more, it might even help to solve some long-running curiosities in evolutionary biology.  March 2

News about the surprising discovery of how organisms evolve comes just after the solar eclipse of Feb. 26. At Southampton where Watson resides, the eclipse chart has the Jupiter-Uranus opposition aligned very significantly with the meridian. This combination is associated with scientific and technological breakthroughs. The eclipse which is conjunct the stars of Pegasus is anchored to the Jupiter-Uranus opposition through hard aspects.  So the  eclipse is actually hinting at the nature of the breakthrough in understanding.  The Flying Horse Pegasus represents the evolved genetic vehicle, purified and refined  becoming able to rise above genetic patterns of weaknesses.

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