27 March 2005
One day in a hundred we
awaken with a vision of where we’re going and a certainty about how to get
there. Our gait is steady and assured. There is conviction in our voice,
a firmness in our will.
Nine days in a hundred, we
remember what it was like to have conviction and firmness. We muster the
will to pursue what we know to be our inspired and true direction.
Ninety days in a hundred we
rely upon habit. When the vision is obscure, when a chorus of internal
voices confounds our resolve, we feel lost and uncertain. Continued progress
depends on those routines we created on stronger days. We find our way in
the darkness because the path is familiar. We do merely what we did yesterday and
the day before.
When inspiration seems
distant and even the memory of inspiration has faded, good habits serve us
more reliably than internal discipline.
26 March 2005
Erdos, born this day in 1913, was the 20th century's most prodigious
mathematician, with over 1,000 publications to his name. He filled his
head with the relationships between numbers, with an ever-present view of
the infinite, in all its subtle manifestations. The short, insightful
proof was his stock in trade.
Erdos was comfortable owning
nothing, living nowhere. He famously traveled from city to city,
staying at the homes of other mathematicians for a few days at a time,
working with his host, solving a problem, posing two more...and then moving
on. He had no salary, and gave away the speakers' honoraria and cash
prizes which came his way. He cared only for mathematical ideas, and
was as generous with the credit for those ideas as he was with money.
25 March 2005
"It can sometimes be a
heartbreaking struggle for us to arrive at a place where we are no longer
afraid of the child inside us. We often fear that people won't take us
seriously, or that they won't think us qualified enough. For the sake
of being accepted, we can forget our source and put on one of the rigid
masks of professionalism or conformity that society is continually offering
us. The childlike part of us is the part that, like the Fool, simply
does and says, without needing to qualify himself or strut his
- Stephen Nachmanovitch,
24 March 2005
Life Vehicles Directive mandates that all cars sold in Europe starting
next year be
made of 85% recyclable materials, increasing to 95% by 2015.
23 March 2005
Erich Fromm was born this day
in 1900, and lived long enough to organize against the nuclear arms
race and advocate for an end to the Vietnam War. Emerging from
horrific experiences with Nazism in Germany and surviving McCarthyism in
America, he maintained always an uplifting vision of the possibility for
individual human realization within the context of a just and communitarian
"Man is the only animal
for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve."
"Man's main task in life
is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most
important product of his effort is his own personality."
"One cannot be deeply
responsive to the world without being saddened very often."
"Who will tell whether
one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright
morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and
effort which life implies."
"Let your mind start a
journey through a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you
knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be...Close your eyes
let your spirit start to soar, and you'll live as you've never lived
22 March 2005
There's a train moving along the track at 50 mph. Inside the train
car, a man throws a ball forward at 50 mph. How fast is the ball moving?
The "obvious" answer is 100 mph. This seems to be a self-evident fact from
pure logic, requiring no experiment to validate it. If you're already moving at velocity
V1 and you add a velocity V2 then the resultant velocity is V1 + V2.
It cannot be otherwise, or so it seemed. But 100 years ago, Einstein was
broad-minded enough to regard this as an experimental question, not a logical fact.
He proposed that velocities don't add the way numbers add...the result of
adding two velocities is almost as large as the sum of the two numbers, but
a little bit less. The "little bit" is too small to measure
for a ball thrown in a moving train, and that's why no one had noticed
before Einstein. But for satellites in Earth orbit, the difference is
a tiny but measurable effect. And in high-energy particles in physics
experiments the difference becomes substantial, crucial for explaining the
way atoms behave.
20th century science was
punctuated by other bold proposals and discoveries. How many other
"facts" that we regard as logical necessity will turn out to be not
just vulnerable but actually wrong? Two lines are each perpendicular
to a third line...therefore they are parallel to each other. They never
meet, right? Could it be
otherwise in some imaginary universe? Could that imaginary universe be
the one we live in?
Asking questions like these
lead to madness and obsession. Except when it leads to new paradigms
and new vistas of scientific insight. How much time is wasted by crazy
people dreaming of becoming the next Einstein? How much worse off
would we all be without such people?
21 March 2005
He takes the scent of the softening ground
Where the first green blade pricks through,
He takes the reddening maple bough
A-slant against the blue,
He takes the cheer of the robin's song
And the flash of the blue-bird's wing,
The joy of prisoners set free,
And of these He makes the spring.
The Creator by Annie Johnson Flint