The idea of this weblet is to collect pointers that might be useful or interesting to people reading Dyson's Infinite in All Directions --links to documents that enlarge upon (and sometimes update) points Dyson mentions. Items linked below are mostly the result of searches via AltaVista, and are included if they seem to me to shed some interesting light. At the moment the links are organized in very rough relationship to the order in which the ideas appear in the book. As with most WWW documents, caveat lector.

I'm keeping track of my own ruminations in a separate file.

And here's a link to some especially interesting quotations from the book.

What this seems to me to come down to (as I look back on the process of gathering) is the observation that reading leads to more reading.

The OED on 'natural theology'
Some links on superstrings

Some links on Black Holes

Perturbing the Oort Cloud (American Scientist Jan 1997)

The Comet Primer

Some links on the Science of Complexity

On The Mechanics of Star Formation: Binary Stars and Nemesis (Developed and all rights reserved by Max Domaschko, PhD; found by an AltaVista search for 'nemesis' near 'solar')

COSMIC ANCESTRY: Life comes from space because life comes from life from

A reader encounters jargon and fashions in intellectual communication, some of which can be pretty impenetrable. A recent episode in the sniping wars amongst scholars centered on the publication of Alan Sokal's Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity , which kicked up quite a stink. Not much to do with Dyson, or at least not directly.

Some Central Dogma links

In 1958, Francis Crick summarized the then dimly perceived relationships among DNA, RNA, and protein in a flow scheme he described as the central dogma of molecular biology: DNA directs its own replication and its trasncription to RNA which, in turn, directs its translation to proteins.

The peculiar use of the word "dogma", one definition of which is a religious doctrine that the true believer cannot doubt, stemmed from a misunderstanding. When Crick formulated the central dogma, he was under the impression that "dogma" meant "an idea for which there was no reasonable evidence".

Biochemistry, 2nd ed. Voet and Voet. (pg915)

Some 'origin of metabolism' links:

Pre-biotic evolution links It's not my habit to wonder about the very distant (in time or space) or the ultimate, and one of the things Dyson stimulates is just that. I often find myself muttering "so what?" as I read, but the book keeps poking at those outer edges. "God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension" (119) is often cited from this book. But cosmology is a hard row for me to hoe.

Another frequently cited bit:

An industry which is able to react in three years will find the game stimulating and enjoyable, and the people who do the work will experience the pleasant sensation of being able to cope. An industry which takes twelve years to react will be perpetually too late, and the people running the industry will experience sensations of paralysis and demoralization. It seems that the critical time for reaction is about five years. If you can react within five years, with a bit of luck you are in good shape. If you take longer than five years, with a bit of bad luck you are in bad trouble. (144-5)

Dyson's treatment of the history of nuclear energy doesn't seem to mention the problem of spent nuclear fuel. It occurred to me to gather a few links on that subject:

In his 1997 Imagined Worlds (Leyburn AC8 .D97 1997) he says this:
So long as it is allowed to fail, nuclear energy can do no great harm. But the characteristic feature of an ideologically driven technology is that it is not allowed to fail. And that is why nuclear energy got into trouble. The ideology said that nuclear energy must win. The promoters of nuclear energy believed as a matter of faith that it would be safe and clean and cheap and a blessing to humanity. When evidence to the contrary emerged, the promoters found ways to ignore the evidence. They wrote the rules of the game so that nuclear energy could not lose. The rules for cost-accounting were written so that the cost of nuclear electricuty did not include the huge public investments that had been made to develop the technology and manufacture the fuel. The rules for reactor safety were written so that the type of light-water reactor originally developed by the United States Navy for propelling submarines was by definition safe. The rules for environmental cleanliness were written so that the ultimate disposal of spent fuel and worn-out machinery was left out of consideration... (34-36)

Of genetic engineering: one appropriate question is what's happened to this domain in the 9 years since Dyson wrote? Are his comments prescient, or beside the point?

A quick YAHOO! search for 'genetic engineering' turns up several interesting-looking links across the spectrum:

For science to be great it must involve surprises, it must bring discoveries of things nobody had expected or imagined. (165)

Hubble Space Telescope

Mission History

The HIPPARCHOS (HIgh-Precision PARallax COllecting Satellite) Mission

Home Page

another summary

Knowledge Acquired from the Hipparchos Programme

Solar Sails
Benjamin Diedrich's Solar Sails page
The Physics of Solar Sailing (Christopher Neufeld)

Dyson Sphere FAQ


Intercooled Steam Injected Gas Turbine

SDI ("Star Wars')

The Strategic Defence Initiative: A Case Study in Systems Failure (Brendan Kitts)
Star Wars -- The Sequel (PBS transcript)
Space Handbook ("A War Fighter's Guide to Space" from Air University Press
Reagan Administration Documents on SDI from FAS Space Policy Project

On Debating Religion (an article by Richard Dawkins from The Nullifidian). NB that the 'Home Page' link leads to a goldmine of materials on disagreements amongst evolutionists --Gould, Dawkins, etc.