The sentence with most information

The supremely entertaining and smart physicist, Richard Feynman, was once tasked to giving introductory physics lectures to Caltech students. Feynman being Feynman started by posing this question:

“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?”

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What Exactly Is a Virus?

Viruses are themselves an enigma that exist on the edges of life. That’s how John Barry describes viruses in his excellent The Great Influenza, which describes the events around the 1918 Spanish Flu. Barry has the knack for explaining biological concepts. In the era of the coronavirus, I thought it would be good to know what a virus actually is and his description is one of the best I’ve read. I’ve extracted the relevant parts from the book and you’ll see what I mean:

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Life in the time of coronavirus

It’s as if we’ve crossed a threshold into a new world. If someone sneezes, you recoil. If someone reaches out their hand, you waver. If someone asks to meet, you hesitate. Wash your hands often. Don’t touch your face. Get a face-mask. Don’t get a face-mask. Welcome to the COVID coronavirus era.

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Want to know how the Big Bang sounded?!

My head hurts when I think about the Big Bang  – the moment when the universe started. How did something come out of nothing? Is there a beginning to time? Is there a multiverse? Well, I didn’t quite get the definitive answers to these questions when I attended a lecture by Professor Andy Parker, the head of Cambridge University’s particle physics department, but I did learn what the Big Bang sounded like!

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