23 April 2005
are profound social implications to a life in which work and play are one.
When work and play merge we have a complete, unitive experience of life.
When work and play are not one, we find ourselves caught in two insidious
equations: first, that work equals drudgery, toil, and boredom, and second,
that play equals ornament, diversion, and frippery. One measure of
civilization and quality of life is the extent to which work and play are
indistinguishable or fused."
Nachmanovich, Sacred and Secular
22 April 2005
"If I had influence
with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all
children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense
of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life."
"Those who dwell, as
scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are
never alone or weary of life."
Carson, there were people who loved the natural world - poets and
artists and explorers and naturalists - but there were no environmentalists.
The idea of an organized political movement to advocate for the limitation
of civilization’s encroachment on nature’s realm was Carson’s vision.
21 April 2005
Michio Kaku is one of a
handful of physicists who have developed String Theory as a way to unify the
4 forces of nature. It is a theory with a lot of appeal because so
much mathematical structure comes from just a few assumptions. So far,
these structures can be seen to describe a world that shares some intriguing
features with our own, but there's a lot of basic physics with which String
Theory can't yet make contact. This is the physics of elementary
particles, which is presently understood in terms of a theory that has the
humdrum name, the 'Standard Model'.
which represents the highest version of quantum theory (parts of it tested
to 1 part in 10 billion) is supremely ugly. It has 36 quarks and
anti-quarks, 19 arbitrary parameters, 8 gluons, 3 weak bosons, 3 carbon
copies of quarks and leptons, and so on. It's like taping together an
aardvark, a platypus, and a whale, and calling it the product of millions of
years of evolution on Earth. It's a theory that only a mother can love!
"This raises a sticky
philosophical question: should beauty alone be a criterion for a physical
theory? Should physicists try to replace a theory, like the Standard Model,
just because it is ugly? I think so. Even the originators of the Standard
Model admit it cannot be the final theory."
-Michio Kaku, interviewed in
20 April 2005
THE WORLD is too much with
us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gather'd now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
19 April 2005
a chemist at Penn
State University thinks that the whole field of chemistry may be burst open,
as if hundreds of new chemical building blocks were available, beyond the
traditional 109 elements (or however many we’re counting at the moment).
New elements beyond the 92 that are found in nature have been synthesized in
the nuclear reactors, but they’re not very useful in practice because they
break down rapidly, and because they’re so expensive to synthesize. But
Castleman’s building blocks are clusters of atoms that stick together and
behave like a single atom. He has worked most extensively with clusters of
aluminum atoms condensed from a hot aluminum gas, and finds that clusters of
13, 23 and 37 atoms stick together tightly to form units with some of the
properties of inert gases. Removing an electron from Al13,
he was able to make the cluster behave a little like a negative ion of
chlorine. Other size units have different properties.
The promise will be realized
if someone can make stable materials – crystals – out of these clusters.
"my opinion is that one of these projects will eventually
succeed." Castleman says, because there is an "immense variety of
chemical approaches to synthesizing new materials." He looks forward to
being able to use clusters to build materials with tailor-made properties.
18 April 2005
Who is Clarence Darrow
by Douglas O Linder
"How does one begin to
explain this paradox, this sophisticated country lawyer, this hedonistic
defender of the poor and downtrodden, this honest, devious man, Clarence
Seward Darrow? It isn't easy. I can, however, offer a series of snapshots:"
Best known for his defense
of John Scopes, a high school biology teacher charged with the crime of
teaching the theory of evolution, Darrow was a lifelong defender of the
oppressed and the downtrodden. He set his life on course in 1894, when
he "gave up a lucrative job as corporation counsel for the Chicago and
Northwestern Railway to represent Eugene Debs, head of the railroad
"There will never be another Darrow. He was, like us all, a product of his
times. For him, it was a time of class conflict so intense as to border on
class warfare. It was a time during which the Radical Left-- anarchists,
socialists, communists-- were at the peak of their influence. It was a time
of Jim Crow, of lynchings, a time during which the Klu Klux Klan called the
shots in parts of our country. It was a time of unprecedented xenophobia. It
was a time of whirl and social change-- a time when the modernist notion of
asking whether a behavior pleased one's own intellect began to challenge the
Victorian way of asking whether the behavior was approved of by society..."
Darrow's power derived from
the ability to move people with his oratory. Quotes from Darrow
"I have suffered from
being misunderstood, but I would have suffered a hell of a lot more if I had
"Just think of the
tragedy of teaching children not to doubt."
"Lost causes are the
only ones worth fighting for."
"I know, Your Honor,
that every atom of life in all this universe is bound up together. I know
that a pebble cannot be thrown into the ocean without disturbing every drop
of water in the sea. I know that every life is inextricably mixed and woven
with every other life. I know that every influence, conscious and
unconscious, acts and reacts on every living organism, and that no one can
fix the blame. I know that all life is a series of infinite chances, which
sometimes result one way and sometimes another. I have not the infinite
wisdom that can fathom it, neither has any other human brain."
-Clarence Darrow, born this
day in 1857