I am a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh working toward my Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology. I study behavioral ecology, which means I am interested in how behavior influences the fitness of organisms. More specifically, I am interested in animal personalities in social organisms, how they are maintained, and context specific fitness consequences. I mainly work with social spiders and paper wasps. Apart from my academic work, I am an atheist, humanist, and broadly interested in religion and philosophy. This blog serves as a repository for my ideas and criticisms of anything I find interesting or important.
What is the significance of a warm little pond? Charles Darwin, in a letter to the acclaimed botanist Joseph Hooker in 1871, speculating on the origin of life wrote:
It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are present, which could ever have been present. But if (and Oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etc., present, that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present-day such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed.
This is a significant quote of Darwin’s, because since then experiments have been done where many of Darwin’s speculative ingredients (ingredients that were thought to be present in the young earth) have been mixed, heated, and had electricity flow through them. The results of the experiment created many of the complex amino acids that we correlate with living organisms. Darwin’s reference to a “warm little pond” is one of the most ponderous of ponderings ever. He was being purely speculative, and yet he may be found to be completely right in the near future. Therefore, to me, the concept of a warm little pond represents not only an incubator for the origin of life, but of ideas as well.