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Restarting Civilisation – Episode 16

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.


You can’t have a physics of chairs.

My bottom line belief is that if you wipe out knowledge, you wipe out everything, because there’s no such thing as a chair, you know, that’s just an arrangement of stuff and it only becomes a chair because that’s how we label it, organise it, because that’s what we say it is, that’s what we use it as, and there’s a great example of, when is a chair a throne, well, when a king sits on it.  But the throne-ness isn't in the chair-ness, it isn't like the atoms express throne-ness or chair-ness, it just is, and so I suppose I would argue with that.  It’s like, you can’t have a physics of chairs, that doesn't make any sense, the chair-ness is not in the physics, and so it’s…we are at the centre of all things.  I’m not the first person to have suggested this, but that’s probably what I would go with.