• The technologies which have had the most profound effects on human life are usually simple. A good example of a simple technology with profound historical consequences is hay. Nobody knows who invented hay, the idea of cutting grass in the autumn and storing it in large enough quantities to keep horses and cows alive through the winter. All we know is that the technology of hay was unknown to the Roman Empire but was known to every village of medieval Europe. Like many other crucially important technologies, hay emerged anonymously during the so-called Dark Ages. According to the Hay Theory of History, the invention of hay was the decisive event which moved the center of gravity of urban civilization from the Mediterranean basin to Northern and Western Europe. The Roman Empire did not need hay because in a Mediterranean climate the grass grows well enough in winter for animals to graze. North of the Alps, great cities dependent on horses and oxen for motive power could not exist without hay. So it was hay that allowed populations to grow and civilizations to flourish among the forests of Northern Europe. Hay moved the greatness of Rome to Paris and London, and later to Berlin and Moscow and New York

    Freeman Dyson
  • The beauty in the genome is of course that it's so small. The human genome is only on the order of a gigabyte of data...which is a tiny little database. If you take the entire living biosphere, that's the assemblage of 20 million species or so that constitute all the living creatures on the planet, and you have a genome for every species the total is still about one petabyte, that's a million gigabytes - that's still very small compared with Google or the Wikipedia and it's a database that you can easily put in a small room, easily transmit from one place to another. And somehow mother nature manages to create this incredible biosphere, to create this incredibly rich environment of animals and plants with this amazingly small amount of data

    Freeman Dyson
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