8 January 2005
Today is Stephen
Hawking's 63rd birthday. More than forty years ago, when he was diagnosed with
counseled him to wrap up his life. At the time,
he was an active, playful young grad student, enjoying his body to the
fullest. He loved nature, wilderness adventures and mountain climbing. Deprived of his
body, he created for himself an extraordinary inner life of the mind.
In the process, he has showed us all by example that no physical disability
requires us to give up on life. He is a living reminder that there is always
the capacity to experience life fully and to contribute to the welfare of
others, regardless of personal circumstances that may seem
Hawking has been close to the
center of a revolution in the way physicists think about the large-scale structure of
universe, and the deep structure of space-time. He has written popular
books to share his vision with the public.
As Hawking's disease has
progressed, technology has become available to keep alive his communication
link to friends and colleagues, and even to support his thinking itself.
Hawking thus has a unique perspective on the usefulness of computers as aids
to thinking: "We must develop as
quickly as possible technologies that make a direct connection
between brain and computer, so that artificial brains contribute to human
intelligence rather than opposing it.''
He asks us to think: what if
the rest of us could enjoy a similar boost in intelligence and depth of
thought, with computer memories and knowledge bases seamlessly linked to our
brains? Hawking sees this as the most important technology of the 21st
century: "In contrast with our intellect, computers double their
performance every 18 months.'' Thus there is no question that machines
will grow to out-think humans in more and more ways. Will
computational intelligence be used to control us from the
outside, or will
we develop the technology to forge close connections between brain and
machine, so computers become a growing extension of our own intelligence?
7 January 2005
"Do not allow yourself to be imprisoned by any affection. Keep your
solitude. The day, if it ever comes, when you are given true affection there
will be no opposition between interior solitude and friendship, quite the
reverse. It is even by this infallible sign that you will recognize it."
6 January 2005
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
by Kahlil Gibran,
Lebanese philosopher and mystical poet
Born this day in 1883
5 January 2005
Ukraine has been under the thumb of Moscow for centuries, but
last week the people asserted their independence. In November, millions wore
orange and marched in the streets to protest a dishonest election. In
December they succeeded in winning the right to a new election, and this
time, with an honest vote count, the opposition leader won.
morning, a much smaller band of
Americans from Ohio are boarding buses for Washington, seeking the
4 January 2005
||The earth spins on its axis every 23
hrs 56 min 4 sec. Why isn't it exactly 24 hours? Because, by the time the earth has spun around once, it has also
traveled 1/365 of the way around the sun. So a day "noon to
noon" is longer by 1 part in 365 than the "sidereal
day". It takes an extra 3 min 56 sec for the earth to
spin a little further around, to face the sun's "new
position" after the earth has advanced 1/365th of the way around
It gets more complicated. The earth's
orbit is almost exactly a circle, but not quite. It's an ellipse
- slightly longer in one direction than the other. If you draw
the earth's orbit on notebook paper, the distortion is only about the
width of a pencil line. But this time of year, the earth is a
little further from the sun, and traveling a little more slowly.
So noon-to-noon turns out to be a little shorter in December than it
is in June.
The difference accumulates. December 21
is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. But the
earliest sunset comes the first week of December, for
mid-latitudes. And the latest sunrise - that's
Mornings will only get brighter from here on
in...until the first week of July.
3 January 2005
"We are more willing to try the untried when what we do is
inconsequential. Hence the remarkable fact that many inventions had their birth as toys."
"Creativity arises from the taproot of child’s play."
-Stephen Nachmanovich, Free Play