Nicely Said

When I come across something I think is particularly well written or well said, or admire for the writer’s creative choice of words and clarity of thought, I like to share it with you.

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

There is another which states that this has already happened.

Douglas Adams
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

We come from nothing, we are going back to nothing  — In the end what have we lost? Nothing!
Monty Python’s Graham Chapman

This is my new philosophy of life. I think it also explains the backend of the Big Bang theory.

Magnetism is one of the six fundamental forces in nature, the other five being gravity, duct tape, whining, remote control, and the force that pulls dogs towards the groins of strangers.
Humorist Dave Barry

Dave Barry has been making me laugh for years. He’s my favorite Boomer, proud to have him in my generation.

Here, Barry pokes fun at the crap you read on the Internet.

God knows how many people read Barry’s comment on the Net and take it as gospel. How many high school and college papers have Barry’s Six Fundamental Forces already appeared in?

I came across something that reinforces Barry’s point: “The trouble with quotes on the Internet is it’s hard to know if they’re real.” Abraham Lincoln

So true, Mr President. I’ve printed your quote on a bookmark that I keep in my Bible, the one I bought on e-Bay for a pretty penny, autographed by Jesus Christ.

Ninety percent of everything is crap.

This adage is commonly known as Sturgeon’s Law.

In 1951, science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon defended the Sci-Fi genre by stating, “Ninety percent of [science fiction] is crud, but then, ninety percent of everything is crud.”

This was at a time, the 1950s – squaresville to the tenth power — when it was uncool to be a nerd. Now, more than a 100,000 people show up for Comic-Con in San Diego, a celebration of science fiction and fantasy literature.

Sturgeon’s statement has morphed into the all-encompassing ninety percent of everything is crap.

A truism for teenagers but a belief most of us grow out of. Unless you look at social media, blogs (like this one),  and just about anything you see on the Internet (see Dave Barry and Abe Lincoln above).

Maybe Sturgeon’s Law should be amended to read: Ninety percent of everything on the Internet is crap.

I myself go by the 80/20 rule (the Pareto principle).

In any organization, twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work. Twenty percent of customers account for eighty percent of revenue. Staying in shape is eighty percent watching what you eat and twenty percent exercise. Eighty percent of traffic accidents are caused by twenty percent of drivers. And on and on. See for yourself how true the 80/20 rule is.


Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher & theologian (1813-1855)

Life’s big dilemma: We make decisions based on what we’ve learned from the past. But we can’t live in the past, we must move forward, to new experiences. It’s a bitch.

Kierkegaard’s observation is especially true of history. We don’t know where we are in the story. Oh, sure: we understand history after the fact — hindsight is 20/20. But what’s happening now is a puzzle piece we don’t know where will fit in.

Okay, this is just a cheap attempt to bump up visitors to Steve of Upland. Here’s the most popular Nicely Said post that ever appeared on my blog:

Copyright © The National Human Genome Research Institute

Something we learned from the Human Genome Project is that the entire 6 billion-member human species goes back 7,000 generations to an original population of about 60,000 people. Our species has only a modest amount of genetic variation — the DNA of any two humans is 99.9 percent identical.
Garrison Keillor, The Writer’s Almanac for June 26, 2010
“It was on this date that rival scientific teams completed the first rough map of the human genome. ”

What profound information is packed into those two sentences! Only one-tenth of one percent of my DNA makes me a distinct individual; in every other way, down to the smallest detail, I am identical (or at least my DNA is) to any other human being. When I read that, I’m reminded of Matthew Arnold’s “The same heart beats in every human breast.”

And 7,000 generations! Think of all the life stories that have happened as generation after generation unfolds, “struts and frets its hour upon the stage,” and then makes way for a new generation and new stories.

And who were these 60,000 original people?

And, most important, what’s the point? Are we just vehicles for our genes?

Just found this:

“Researchers at London’s Kew Gardens said Thursday they’d discovered that the Paris japonica has a genetic code 50 times longer than that of a human being. The length of that code easily beats its nearest competitor, a long-bodied muck dweller known as the marbled lungfish.”
Claim: White flower has world’s longest genome

This speaks to the marvelous efficiency of the human genome. Think of the early computers that would fill a room and weigh several tons, while today you can hold a computer in the palm of your hand that is thousands of times more powerful.

I’m reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. That illustration of a cell with its DNA pulled out? It could represent a normal cell in your body, or one that spells your doom:

“A cancer cell is an astonishing perversion of the normal cell. Cancer is a phenomenally successful invader and colonizer in part because it exploits the very features that make us successful as a species or as an organism.

“Like the normal cell, the cancer cell relies on growth in the most basic elemental sense: the division of one cell to form two. In normal tissues, this process is exquisitely regulated, such that growth is stimulated by specific signals and arrested by other signals.

“In cancer, unbridled growth gives rise to generation upon generation of cells.

“Biologists use the term clone to describe cells that share a common genetic ancestor. Cancer, we now know, is a clonal disease. Nearly every known cancer originates from one ancestral cell that, having acquired the capacity of limitless cell division and survival, gives rise to limitless numbers of descendants…

“But cancer is not simply a clonal disease; it’s a clonally evolving disease.  If growth occurred without evolution, cancer cells would not be imbued with their potent capacity to invade, survive, and metastasize. Every generation of cancer cells creates a small number of cells that is genetically different from its parents.”

The cure to cancer, the secret of immortality, may result from unlocking the human genome.

“And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.'”
Genesis 3:22

One thought on “Nicely Said

  1. Steve says:

    I keep seeing examples of the 80/20 rule. Here’s the latest one:

    “I talked to a decorated WW II submariner officer several years ago and he says that his research seemed to show that 20% of the American submarines in the Pacific during WW II accounted for 80% of Japanese tonnage lost. …”

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