24 December 2005
If he were to be remembered
for nothing else, George
Fox might still be hailed for a major contribution to theology because
he gave us permission not
to celebrate Christmas. For this and other heresies, he was
reviled and jailed by truer Christians. It is a lesson we should have
learned by now that persecution of believers lends attention and credibility
to any idea, which is usually the opposite of the intended result. In
this case, it may seem that Christmas has won and the Quakers have
lost. But ambivalence
about Christmas, and the recognition that everyone else is 'doing it
wrong' remain a recurring thread in our celebrations of the season.
23 December 2005
TO BE AN ARTIST
SARK © 1990
Stay loose. Learn
to watch snails. Plant an impossible Garden. Invite
someone dangerous to tea. Make little signs
that say 'yes'! and post them all over your house. Make
friends with freedom and uncertainty. Look
forward to Dreams. Cry during movies. Swing
as high as you can on a swing set, by moonlight. Cultivate
moods. refuse to "be responsible". Do
it for love. Take lots of naps. Give
money away. Do it now.. The
money will follow. Believe in Magic. Laugh
a lot. Celebrate every gorgeous moment. Take
moon baths. have wild imaginings, Transformative
Dreams, and perfect calm. Draw
on the walls. read every day. Imagine yourself Magic. Giggle
with children. Listen to old people. Bless
yourself. play with everything. Entertain
your inner child. You are innocent. Build
a fort with blankets. Get wet. Hug
a tree. Write love letters.
good beginning, to be sure, but the last thing Sark would want is for us to
take her literally. The only way to follow the spirit of her
imperatives is to make up your own. Here's my beginning...
how to be my own person
through the sprinkler. Go to work barefoot.
upon stars. Expect your wish to come true.
intimacies to strangers. Pay your electric bill
on time. Walk along fence rails. Dig
for buried treasure. Draw your shadow in the
sand. Dance with your enemies. Run
full speed through the meadow with eyes closed. Memorize
all the digits of p. Eat
snow. Make up a song as you sing it.
22 December 2005
Humans seem to be hard-wired
for empathy. If we see someone hurting, we hurt too (or at least the same
neurons fire in our brains). Sounds of laughter make us laugh.
Evolution has prepared us with the tools we need to live in cooperative
societies, and to participate in loving families.
article by Merritt McKinney
American article by Carl Zimmer
21 December 2005
"I believe that people have a right to decide their own destiny; people own themselves. I also believe that, in a democracy, government exists because (and only as long as) individual citizens give it a "temporary license to exist"
– in exchange for a promise that it will behave itself. In a democracy you own the government
– it doesn't own you. Along with this comes a responsibility to ensure that individual actions, in the pursuit of a personal destiny, do not threaten the
wellbeing of others while the "pursuit" is in progress."
Frank Zappa was one of the most accomplished composers of the rock era; his music combines an understanding of and appreciation for such contemporary classical figures as Stravinsky, Stockhausen, and Varèse with an affection for late-'50s doo wop rock & roll and a facility for the guitar-heavy rock that dominated pop in the '70s. But Zappa was also a satirist whose reserves of scorn seemed bottomless and whose wicked sense of humor and absurdity have delighted his numerous fans, even when his lyrics crossed over the broadest bounds of taste. Finally, Zappa was perhaps the most prolific record-maker of his time, turning out massive amounts of music on his own Barking Pumpkin label and through distribution deals with Rykodisc and Rhino after long, unhappy associations with industry giants like Warner Brothers and the now-defunct MGM.
-from the AOL
Zappa would have been 65 today.
20 December 2005
Physics can explain a lot of
fundamental things remarkably well: how particles affect each other, how
they move and how they transform, spontaneously or through interactions,
into other particles. But physicists are ultimately ambitious: they would
like to explain as well why the proton is so much heavier than the electron,
why gravity is so much weaker than electrical forces, why does the universe
have 3 spatial dimensions rather than 2 or 4 or 11?
Thirty years ago, some astrophysicists
suggested that perhaps these things would never be explained through
equations, and proposed a new mode of thinking about them: suppose there are
many, many universes with many, many combinations of these numbers. Some of
these universes would be chaotic; some would be boringly uniform; some would
have just the right kind and amount of complexity that could support
processes of life and evolution. Perhaps the meaning of some of these
fundamental, seemingly arbitrary facts about physics is that ‘they had to
be that way – otherwise we’d never be here to ask the question’. This
kind of reasoning is called the Anthropic
Principle’. Perhaps surprisingly, calculations can be done that
support the idea that fundamental constants of nature had to be in a very
narrow range in order to support life – not just ‘life as we know it’,
but any phenomenon that is complex enough to be considered ‘life’ under
a very broad definition.
Many physicists thought of
this whole line of reason as ‘giving up on a fundamental scientific
explanation’, and continued to pursue theory that might offer
explanations, ultimately from pure mathematics, for the fundamental
constants of nature. Now, some of these theories actually point in the
direction of a ‘multiverse’ – hints that our ‘universe’ might be
part of a much larger entity, with wildly different physical conditions in
its different parts. That is pointing right back to the question, ‘why
does our part have the properties that it does?’ and the answer, ‘because
if it didn’t we wouldn’t be here to ask!’
New Scientist Interview
with Leonard Susskind
19 December 2005
The single species of Orcas
have divided themselves into two cultures. One has rightfully earned for
itself the name ‘killer whales’, roaming the seas in packs, ranging
widely and killing other marine mammals for sport as well as for food.
The other culture is
peaceful, cooperative and domestic, with stable communities and
well-developed language. They kill only to eat, and eat only fish.
orcas use symbols? by Howard Garrett
in Whales and Dolphins, by Luke Rendell and Hal Whitehead