6 February 2005
When I meditate, I resolve to put aside all thoughts of the past and the
future and focus on my experience in the here and now. Solving problems and
making plans, analysis of any kind are expressly forbidden.
Forbidden isnít really the right word. Rather they are just not the
point of meditation. When I notice my mind is in one of these modes, I
gently lift my attention out to the present moment, and recreate the self as
The paradox is that there is no greater source of creative ideas in my
life than meditation. After I forsake understanding does understanding take
root. As I resolve to take planning off my agenda, it becomes clear to me
what I need to do. My resolve to eschew problem solving allows solutions to
pop into my head.
I used to think of the ideas generated in meditation as a forbidden
fruit, a distraction from the pursuit of enlightenment. More recently, I
have come to accept them as a gift from within, a golden egg that will
continue to enrich me so long as I donít succumb to worry about where the
eggs come from, but faithfully nurture the goose.
- Josh Mitteldorf
5 February 2005
Nelson Mandela spoke to a
crowd of thousands in Trafalgar Square, London on Thursday, calling upon
them to take on the end of world poverty as a realistic, achievable
"Like slavery and
apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and
eradicated by the actions of human beings.
And overcoming poverty is
not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a
fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While
poverty persists, there is no true freedom.
The steps that are needed
from the developed nations are clear. The first is ensuring trade justice.
The second is an end to the debt crisis for the poorest countries. The third
is to deliver much more aid and make sure it is of the highest
Mandelaís life story is
well known, but always inspiring. His aspiration to end the racist dominance
of Black South Africa by a small white minority was too threatening. In
1962, he was arrested and held as a political prisoner for 28 of his prime
years. Most amazingly, when he emerged from prison in 1990, he carried no
bitterness against his captors. He continued on to become the first
president of a Black government, but insisted that tolerance and forgiveness
be the new order. An entire Black nation buried its anger and forgave
the White colonists for a century of cruelty.
4 February 2005
Rubens Gomes is working to
slow the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon while teaching community
members how to use the resources in a mutually beneficial and sustainable
way. Gomes's program develops lines of alternative certified wood
products, from musical instruments to furniture, using wood that is
naturally felled in the rainforest. Currently only 1/3 of this
precious hardwood is extracted.
The rainforest is a world
resource of enormous value for its reservoir of biodiversity and its role as
a carbon sink to forestall global warming. But as long as the land is more
productive for indigenous people as marginal farm land, it will continue to
be burned and cleared. The benefit of Gomes's program is that it
changes the economic equation locally, so that conservation is profitable.
Gomes was honored by the Ashoka
Foundation in 2003.
3 February 2005
"The best education consists in immunizing people against systematic attempts at education."
~ Paul Karl Feyerabend 1924-1994
The modern classroom is a
battlefield between those who would indoctrinate with facts and those who
would nurture the growth of thought, judgment and self-expression . We
think of the latter as modern ideas, but education as the promotion of
individuality has always had its advocates:
"It must be remembered
that the purpose of education is not to fill the minds of students with
facts... it is to teach them to think, if that is possible, and always to
think for themselves."
~ Robert Hutchins
"The function of
education is to help you from childhood not to imitate anybody, but be
yourself all the time."
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti 1895-1986
"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."
~ Albert Einstein 1870-1955
"Education is not the
filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
~ William Butler Yeats
"The true aim of everyone who aspires to be a teacher should be, not to impart his own opinions, but to kindle minds."
W Robertson 1816-1853
"Tell me and I forget. Teach
me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."
~ Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790
"We cannot teach people
anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves."
~ Galileo Galilei
"It is the mark of an educated mind
to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
Aristotle 384-322 BC
"If you would provide
for a year, sow a seed. If you would provide for a decade, plant a tree. If
you would provide for a century, educate the people."
~ Kuan Tze 4th century BC
2 February 2005
Since the dawn of human
history, those few people who thought about space at all stated the obvious:
itís a smooth, continuous 3-dimensional theater, a passive, characterless
blank slate given life only by the solid objects that inhabit it.
Einstein enriched this
concept with the notion that space and time are closely linked: one manís
space is another manís time. Later, he showed that space can be
and described gravity as warps in the geometry of space-time.
||In the last decade, physicistsí view of space has
taken a turn for the bizarre. String theory is a promising
framework for uniting branches of physics that have seemed
incompatible in the past. String theorists need to work with a world
that is not 3-dimensional, but 10-dimensional. Why, then, do we only
experience 3? The extra dimensions are knotted up in loops so small
that theyíre dwarfed by the scale of a subatomic particle. If the
extra dimensions form a Calabi-Yau shape of just the right kind, all
the strings that can live on this shape will have the properties that
we associate with all the known elementary particles.
In case you have an easy time imagining the image at left projected
out into 7 dimensions, hold one more thing in your mind: Calabi-Yau shapes are
flat, as Yau proved in a brilliant theorem in 1977.
So let me get this straight:
At every point, there are not 3 different directions you can move in, but
10. But for 7 of them, you canít get very far.
10-33 cm or so, before you
find yourself tied up in knots, and essentially back where you started. But
the shapes of these unfathomably tiny knots are what give rise to all the
elementary particles in the particle physicistsí zoo. Science fiction
couldnít get away with such lunacy.
1 February 2005
Esref Armagan is a Turkish
artist. 35 years ago, as a boy in an impoverished section of Istanbul,
he had no formal training in art, and little schooling.
Armagan has been sightless
since birth. He starts his paintings with a stylus, etching ridges
that he can feel. He applies colored paint with his fingers. But
how does he conceive of space, shape and color? Can the part of the brain
that models the geometry of the world work pretty well even with no visual
input? What is it like to be Esref Armagan?
31 January 2005
"I do not myself think
that there is any superior rationality in being unhappy. The wise man will
be as happy as circumstances permit, and if he finds the contemplation of
the universe painful beyond a point, he will contemplate something else
Conquest of Happiness