30 January 2005
Do I believe in destiny? Do things happen because they’re meant to be?
Perhaps. This creed works
well when it inspires me to faith. Just the
possibility of meaning and a harmony in our world is a profound consolation.
But I will not try to read the signs, or attempt to determine whether
this or that is "meant to be".
Faith can be at once humbling and uplifting. But to pretend to know the
mind of God - this is just arrogance.
29 January 2005
Studies of global climate
change make more intensive use of computers than any other scientific
project. The world’s fastest supercomputers have been applied to the task.
Still, wide uncertainties in predictions of future climate change are due in
large part to limitations in computing power. We need an even bigger
A British research group has
the idea of using thousands of desktop computers, all working simultaneously
and coordinated over the internet. People have volunteered their computers
when not otherwise occupied. Like a screensaver, the program runs in the
background. As you read this, 28,000 computers around the world are
crunching numbers and reporting back to the climate change project.
This week, the project’s
first results were published in the journal Nature. You can volunteer your
computer at http://climateprediction.net.
28 January 2005
head of the United Nations Millennium
Project, Jeffrey Sachs has
advocated a plan that would have a profound impact on human misery and the
poverty and deprivation that is its root cause. Surprisingly, the cost of
the program he espouses is tiny by First World standards; only because of
entrenched politics in the West is it even controversial. He has been
seeking to sell the idea to a country obsessed with terrorism using the very
plausible notion of a fringe benefit: that the great majority of the
violence we fear so much is rooted in poverty, and would evaporate if we
would ameliorate some of the greatest inequities in the distribution of
wealth. In his
"I think when Americans know what could be accomplished...in the
fight against malaria or in helping farmers grow more food....they'd want to
do more....What would surprise Americans is how cost-ineffective some of our
strategies are. For example, a couple of years ago, we gave a half a billion
dollars of emergency food aid to Ethiopia. That was very noble and
humanitarian, and vital at the moment. But we'd do a lot better if we were
investing in Ethiopia's food productivity, rather than simply responding to
[Ed note: of course, the same
principle applies to tsunami relief]
"It really is pennies on the hundred dollars, 20 or 30 cents on the
hundreds dollars - absolutely a manageable sum for results that would
provide a vast boost to our security, help to stabilize a very unstable part
of the world, and, of course, do what Americans first and foremost would
like to do, which is to save lives and help people stand on their own
27 January 2005
Mozart was born this day in
1756. By his own report, he consciously composed no music, but simply wrote
down what he heard in his head: "Nor do I hear in my imagination the
parts successively, I hear them all at once. What a delight this is! All
this inventing, this producing, takes place in a pleasing, lively
dream." Yet he would have us believe that "Neither a lofty degree
of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of
genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius."
26 January 2005
if not all, discoveries are accidents that are noticed and then made meaningful by the discoverer."
- Jay Raymond
student of art and of life, Jay Raymond is the last man standing in the people's movement to keep the
Barnes Art Collection at its original location in Dr Barnes's Victorian
25 January 2005
that there is nothing to teach: no religion, no science, no body of
information which will lead your mind back to the Tao. Today I speak in this
fashion, tomorrow in another, but always the Integral Way is beyond words
and beyond mind. Simply be aware of the oneness of things."
- Lao Tzu,
Hua Hu Ching,
tr. Brian B.
24 January 2005
In an era when most political
programs address only issues of short-term survival, the UN Millennium
Project stands out as visionary. This bold document, detailed,
convincing and heavily footnoted, attacks head-on the resignation that says
"it has always been thus", and dares to say, "things can be
Millennium goals include
ending hunger and halving world poverty, in conjunction with environmental
goals of conservation and curbing fertility.
For far less than rich
nations now spend on their defense budgets, programs addressing poverty in
the third world can provide a measure of real security, while affirming the
universality of human empathy.
"In the next decade, more than 500 million people could escape from poverty and tens of millions could avoid certain death if the United States, Japan and other rich countries kept their promises to vastly increase development aid to the world's poorest countries".
For the developed world, the cost would be about half of 1% of our GDP.