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

4 September 2005

Our friends need us in different ways at different times.  They prompt and inspire us to expand, to find new parts of ourselves.

If only we could respond to our own needs wih as much dedication and flexibility!

-Josh Mitteldorf

3 September 2005

The miracles that are daily before our senses come to be discounted as commonplace with time and familiarity. Sometimes it takes an illness to restore to us a fitting sense of wonder and gratitude. Dickens put it thus:

"I found every breath of air, and every scent, and every flower and leaf and blade of grass, and every passing cloud, and everything in nature, more beautiful and wonderful to me than I have ever found it yet. This was my firs gain from my illness. How little I had lost, when the wide world was so full of delight for me."

Bleak House, Ch 36

2 September 2005

Sometimes we put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down.

         (I've found these words quoted anonymously.  Is there anyone who can tell me whose they are?)

1 September 2005

If a salamander loses a leg, it can grow a new leg. A flatworm that is cut in half can grow into two whole worms. This process is called epimorphic regeneration, and we don’t have it. Mammals have limited power to heal. Large wounds are covered over with scar tissue and the body does not attempt to recreate the shape and function of what was there.

But in her lab at University of Pennsylvania, Ellen Heber-Katz has identified a mutant strain of mice (MRL) that have the power of epimorphic regeneration. Cut off their tails, and they grow new tails. What’s more remarkable - and potentially clinically significant - is that ordinary mice can be given this same ability, with injections of cells from these MRL mice.

"When we injected fetal liver cells taken from those animals into ordinary mice, they too gained the power of regeneration. We found this persisted even six months after the injection."

After a humans heart attack, the heart never recovers. But MRL mice are able to regenerate a heart, good as new. Heber-Katz is identifying the genes responsible for the powers of the MRL mice, and investigating ways to transfer this gift to humanity.  This has the potential to transform the way we think about recovery from injury, from surgery, from amputation, spinal injury and disease.  

Article from The Australian  

31 August 2005

This week in Poland, there is a 25th Anniversary celebration of Lech Walesa and the birth of Solidarity.

In the summer of 1980, Walesa was an electrician, working in a shipyard in the port of Gdansk. He encouraged his fellow workers to form a labor union, and led a strike against the Polish government.

Poland was, at the time, a Communist client state of the Soviet Union. The Communist party line says that their government is a "dictatorship of the proletariat". Workers were supposed to be king, according to Communist ideology, though in fact labor organization was suppressed, infiltrated, and disrupted by the Secret Police. A genuine labor uprising was an embarrassment that had to be treated gingerly by the government rulers.


The Solidarity movement had the vision to demand not just a pay raise, not just improved working conditions, but the basics of democracy: freedom of speech and assembly, the release of political prisoners.  Dictatorship cannot tolerate such.

25 years ago today, the Polish Government acceded to Walesa’s ‘31 Postulates’. This was the four years before Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, but in retrospect it was the beginning of the collapse of dictatorship and Russian domination of Eastern Europe.

Today, Poland has a representative government, and is struggling toward prosperity.


30 August 2005

Our common misconception is that science is a plodding work of logic, collecting evidence and stringing syllogisms together. We forget that the whole enterprise is driven by intuition: the inspired guess that forms the germ of a theory whose consequences are duly worked out and that ultimately leads to satisfying explanations of diverse phenomena.

It was fifteen years ago that one such flash of intuition came to Constantino Tsallis, a Greek physicist who had emigrated to Brazil. He was musing on phenomena that are poorly explained by the 19th century brand of thermodynamics, with its standard definition of entropy: turbulent fluid flows, spontaneous self-organization, life. He toyed with a small mathematical modification of the standard equation for entropy. The new equation has proven to be a rich source of new insight, and thousands of papers have been written in the intervening years, exploring its consequences and debating its applicability.

New Scientist article

29 August 2005

Giving birth, nourishing life, shaping things without possessing them, serving without expectation of reward, leading without dominating: These are the profound virtues of nature, and of nature's best things.

-Lao TzuTao Te ChingWalker translation