101 Things You Don't Know About Science and No One Else Does by James Trefil Physics Professor

By James Trefil Physics Professor

James Trefil takes the reader on an exciting journey around the borders of present medical knowledge-from astronomy to genetics, from info know-how to cosmology, the nice contested questions that preoccupy researchers this day and may develop into headlines the next day. In stylish, witty three-page summations, Dr. Trefil "makes feel of technology for the remainder of us" (Washington Post).

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This is a chaotic system. The slightest change in the initial state produces huge changes in the outcome. < previous page page_50 next page > < previous page page_51 next page > Page 51 And that's where predictability comes in. If you know with absolute mathematical precision where the wood chip is when it enters the rapids, you can predict exactly where it will come out. If, however, that initial position is even the slightest bit uncertain, the actual downstream position of the chip will be far away from the predicted position.

At the moment, evidence seems to be accumulating in favor of this view. Research on aging in humans is presently focused on understanding the chemical reactions that contribute to the aging process and the kinds of genetic defenses we have against them. The most likely villains now appear to be a group of < previous page page_19 next page > < previous page page_20 next page > Page 20 chemicals known as free radicals, which are a normal byproduct of basic metabolism (as well as of other processes).

Besides, they argue, how can you say that the extinctions that occurred were due to chance when you don't know what forces were operating to shape evolution in that early environment? Maybe those life forms just couldn't have survived anywhere. This argument will go on. Don't expect it to be solved anytime soon, and be very skeptical of anyone who claims to have a definitive resolution of it.

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