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Restarting Civilisation – Episode 12


Richard Feynman once said: ‘If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms-little particles that that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.’

So, we asked the people featured in this app what scientific idea they would like in their back pocket in the event we had to restart civilisation.

Make a lot of experiments

If all human knowledge about physics were destroyed and I can only pass along one piece of advice for the future people who are trying to start over from scratch, I would tell them to make a lot of experiments and try to use mathematics to model everything that they find.  Because we have discovered that nature is full of mathematical clues in the form of patterns and regularities which can be captured nicely by our minds using equations and then used to both predict the future and develop all kinds of amazing technologies.