An uplifting news item, poem, thought or quotation each day.
Archive of past entries

3 April 2005

One reason the practice of forgiveness is so satisfying is that we are practicing in order to be able to forgive ourselves.

-Josh Mitteldorf

2 April 2005

Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer, was convicted of treason on secret evidence, exiled from his beloved France, and imprisoned on an island off Argentina from 1895.  As it gradually became known that Dreyfus was innocent and had been framed, the government avoided a pardon or retrial for fear of embarrassment.  Novelist Emile Zola marshalled public opinion to pressure the government to reverse its course with his famous essay, J'accuse!

The Dreyfus Affair officially concluded on July 21, 1906 when Dreyfus was honored by a dress parade military ceremony.

«Je n'ai qu'une passion, celle de la lumière, au nom de l'humanité qui a tant souffert et qui a droit au bonheur.»

"I have but one passion: to be a lantern for humanity, which has suffered so deeply, and has a right to happiness."

«Quand on enferme la vérité sous terre, elle s'y amasse, elle y prend une force telle d'explosion, que, le jour où elle éclate, elle fait tout sauter avec elle.»

"If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way."

Emile Zola was born this day in 1840.

1 April 2005

Christian charity is alive and well in the city of San Francis.  Some homeless people are too anxious to sleep at night, so they wander the streets of the city until dawn. St Boniface Church allows them to sleep all morning in the pews.

"More than 100 homeless wanderers find slumbering solace every day at St. Boniface, a pink-and-yellow-walled fortress of spirituality amid the hardscrabble street scene on Golden Gate Avenue near Leavenworth Street. It is believed to be the only place in America where this happens. Many churches let themselves be used as nighttime shelters, but no other lets the homeless sleep in its pews while its daytime functions go on all around, according to both the National Coalition on Homelessness and national Catholic officials."

from article in San Francisco Chronicle

31 March 2005

One of the most stunning astrophysical calculations of all time was done by Jim Peebles in his 1966 PhD thesis at Princeton, working with Robert Dicke, and based on the work of Ralph Alpher, Robert Herman and James Follin a decade earlier.

The calculation gave confidence in the Big Bang picture of the Universe for the first time.  Since the 1930's, it was known that everything in the Universe was flying apart, the most distant galaxies receding faster than nearby galaxies.  But there was no confirmation that the Universe had been born in a Big Bang age (now pegged at 13 billion years ago).

The sun and all stars that we see are made of about 3/4 Hydrogen and 1/4 Helium.  It's true, they're all burning Hydrogen into Helium, but they haven't had time in just a few billion years to convert more than a tiny amount.  It would have taken hundreds of billions of years to convert 1/4 of the Hydrogen, and the Universe just wasn't that old.

What Peebles's calculation did was to calculate what happened in the first 3 minutes after the Big Bang.  He used data from the newly-discovered Cosmic Microwave Background to extrapolate the temperature at the time.  The early Universe was a hot mix of every kind of particle known to man.  But as the Universe expanded and cooled in those first few minutes, the most stable particles froze out of the mix:  electrons, neutrons and protons.  The calculation confirmed that, emerging from the first 3 minutes, just enough of the neutrons and protons would be stuck to each other to make 1/4 Helium, leaving the rest of the composition as Hydrogen.

The story is best told in Stephen Weinberg's book, The First Three Minutes.

30 March 2005

Subtle awareness of the truth of the universe should not be regarded as an achievement.
To think in terms of achieving it is to place it outside your own nature.
This is erroneous and misleading. 

Your nature and the integral nature of the universe are one and the same: indescribable, but eternally present.
Simply open yourself to this.

Lao Tse, Hua Hu Jing
translation by Brian Walker

29 March 2005


"A self-replicating 3D printer that sawns new, improved versions of itself is in development at the University of Bath in the UK.

"The 'self replicating rapid prototyper' or RepRap could vastly reduce the cost of 3D printers, paving the way for a future where broken objects and spare parts are simply 're-printed' at home. New and unique objects could also be created.

"3D printing - also known as 'rapid prototyping' - transforms a blueprint on a computer into a real object by building up a succession of layers. The material is bonded by either fusing it with a laser or by using alternating layers of glue. When it first emerged in the mid-1990s, futurists predicted that there would be a 3D printer in every home...

"The machines could evolve to be more efficient and develop new capabilities, says Adrian Bowyer. Once he has the software to guide the self-replicating process, he plans to make it freely available online, allowing users to contribute improvements, just like the open-source Linux computer operating system, he says."

- New Scientist, 18 Mar 05

28 March 2005

The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest—
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:—
        Not for these I raise
        The song of thanks and praise;
    But for those obstinate questionings
    Of sense and outward things,
    Fallings from us, vanishings;
    Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realized,
High instincts before which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
        But for those first affections,
        Those shadowy recollections,
        Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
   Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake...
    Hence in a season of calm weather
        Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
        Which brought us hither,
    Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

- William Wordsworth (1770-1850)