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Restarting Civilisation – Episode 10

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.

It is so uplifting, to understand why you exist.

I hadn’t thought about the question of what idea I would wish to survive if everything else was wiped out.  A practical way to think about it would be the minimum we’d need in order to rebuild civilisation, and for that you might think what would be necessary for a technology to get going, and I don’t really know what that would be, but that isn’t what I would go for as a biologist, I would go for something more academic, something more about our understanding of the universe and our place in it. I suppose as a biologist I’d probably go for the Darwinian insight because it is so uplifting, to understand why you exist. That doesn’t actually necessarily help you to make a living, and if you think about wiping out everything where you, you don’t, you can’t even…you don’t know how to do metalwork, you don’t have electricity, all these things, one could imagine something like just…the technology given us by Michael Faraday would give us a head start to getting back to civilisation. But to me that’s too mundane an answer, I think I would go for something more academic like the Darwinian insight.