14 May 2006

To be a scientist is to explore the natural world with systematic observations, and create models (conceptual, mathematical, computational) that render the results comprehensible.

To be a scientist is to apply ruthless logic and maintain absolute honesty in evaluating the agreement of any theory with reality.

To be a scientist is constantly to marvel at the unreasonable success of our mathematical structures in accounting for the fundamental processes of nature; and to catch glimpses of a transcendent mystery each time nature offers one of her exquisite surprises.

~ Josh Mitteldorf

13 May 2006

Before you indulge
in the act of renunciation,
what you renounce.
Have you lain on a bed
of combed-cobweb down
electing, instead, a bed of thorn?
Have you tasted ambrosia,
drunk the dew of the gods,
choosing instead dry bread and salt?
Have you flown with the eagles,
run with the wolves,
fleeted, gazelle-footed,
before wearing your shackles?
Have you heard love's whisper?
Felt its molten melting,
and its sharp, acid recall?
Feel it, ere you deny it,
for the celibate's
thin cell.

Gladys N. Koppole - The Renunciation

12 May 2006

Using a previously described mouse model of cancer resistance, scientists in the Comprehensive Cancer Center have described new findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA in which they demonstrate the ability to cure cancer in normal mice by transferring purified immune cells (white blood cells) from cancer resistant mice.  These studies show that specific types of innate immune cells, such as macrophages, can migrate to the site of cancer in a normal mouse and selectively kill all of the cancer cells without harming normal cells.  Such studies suggest that this type of mechanism might one day be used to help design a new strategy for cancer therapy in humans.

(from a research description on the scientists' web page)
New York Times Science Times article
Research article in PNAS 

11 May 2006

Richard Feynman had the gift of seeing through complex matters to a simpler underlying reality.  

His signature contribution to the world of physics was his prescription for computation in the theory of relativistic quantum fields.  The actual calculations are multi-dimensional integrals so complex that each one can tie up the world’s best physics minds (and their computers) for months on end; yet Feynman saw them as the embodiment of a few simple pictures.  Look!  he told us.  The particles do everything that it’s possible to do, and each of the possibilities can be represented with a few squiggly lines – a “Feynman diagram”.

A great mystery of his era (largely understood today):  What holds an atomic nucleus together and keeps all those positively charged protons from flying apart?” Must be some new particle that we haven’t yet discovered, Feynman reasoned, dubbed it the “glue-on”, and continued to deduce its properties.  The name stuck.

Late in life, he was assigned to the commission to investigate the misfiring of the Space Shuttle Challenger in January, 1986 that killed seven astronauts.  On national TV he used a glass of ice water to demonstrate the way that rubber gaskets get brittle in the cold, and can’t do their job.  It’s not that no one else could have understood this, but would we have believed it if anyone else but Feynman had tried to tell us it was so simple?

We loved him because he was plainspoken and unpretentious.  The Man of the Big Brain had no use for intellectual finery, and had the stature to expose phoniness wherever he found it. Everyones favorite physicist, Richard Phillip Feynman was born this day in 1918.

10 May 2006

Now that a huge diversity of news sources is available on the Internet...

Now that mainstream news sources have been thoroughly infiltrated with stories that are there because it serves some corporate or political interest for us to believe them...

And since we find ourselves at a unique juncture in human history when limits to unsustainable technologies are becoming manifest... 

It is our challenge, our responsibility, our mission as independent thinkers 

  • to choose what we read and what we hear; 
  • to consider the source and assess the inherent credibility of all that is reported;
  • to select facts and ideas that make us wiser, and that empower us to live fuller lives and to be agents of the kinds of change that we wish to see in our world.

~ Josh Mitteldorf, born this day in 1949

9 May 2006

Discard morality and righteousness, and the people will return to natural love.
Abandon shrewdness and profiteering, and there won't be any robbers or thieves.
These are external matters, however.
What is most important is what happens within: look to what is pure; hold to what is simple; let go of self-interest; temper your desires.

~ from the Tao Te Ching, Walker translation

8 May 2006

MY soule, sit thou a patient looker-on;
Judge not the play before the play is done:
Her plot hath many changes;  every day
Speaks a new scene;  the last act crownes the play.

from the Emblems of Francis Quarles, born this day in 1592