Selected Writings

Science Writings

Evolution's Engineers: Organisms do not evolve blindly under forces beyond their control, but shape and influence the evolutionary environment itself

Aeon-Psyche Jan 11, 2021

Humans are shaping the evolutionary future of life on Earth. We’re not only causing mass extinctions, we’re also forcing animals, plants and fungi to adapt to our manufactured world: city birds, for instance, are now singing higher notes, since the pitch seems to help their song carry over the sound of traffic. But while cultural knowledge and engineering have upgraded the human capacity to catalyse environmental change, the proclivity is common to all species. Scatter a few bacteria in a Petri dish and they will produce nutrient-rich byproducts that new bacteria strains can exploit, rapidly causing a multitude of diverse microbial populations to evolve. Beavers create ponds that are used as breeding grounds for ducks; web spiders make retreats that are exploited as hibernation sites by earthbound insects; plants modify soils through substances secreted from their roots. The way these organisms change their environment in turn changes the evolutionary pressures that they and others face as they struggle to survive and reproduce. Their actions, in other words, bias what is selected for. This process is known as ‘niche construction’ and all species do it, even if their effects are sometimes more modest and localised than ours.

科學月刊2020十一月號: 免疫系統裡的「自我」是誰?

"Who is the Self in the Immune System?"
Science Monthly Nov. 2020 issue

Take home message: 談論到免疫系統時,我們總是習慣區分出「敵」與「我」的概 念,但免疫系統又是如何決定誰是自我?誰是外敵?「自身和 非自身理論」是免疫學中古典與主流的理論,認為是否排斥的 原則取決於自我分子與非自我分子的差異;後續的危險訊號模 型、非連續性理論與平衡模型等不同理論,對「免疫自我」是 誰、體內微生物究竟是敵是我,開啟了不一樣的哲學挑戰。

Writing for PhilSciComm

  • PhilSciComm Interview Series (my solo work: Sam Illingworth and Elizabeth Hannon)

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