18 June 2006
People in distress rarely can see the path to recovery before them, but there is always an immediate irritant or antagonist, a presently-perceived need that is the person's only window, through which he or she is able to accept help; and that, of course, is the premise on which we must offer to help them, if we wish to earn their trust.
~ Josh Mitteldorf
17 June 2006
I heard a padshah giving
orders to kill a prisoner. The helpless
Who washes his hands of life
When a man is in despair his
tongue becomes long and he is like a
In time of need, when flight
is no more possible,
When the king asked what he
was saying, a good-natured vizier
He whom the shah follows in
what he says,
The following inscription
was upon the portico of the hall of
O brother, the world remains
with no one.
16 June 2006
cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is
but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness... Nature
expects a full grown man to accept the two black voids, fore and aft, as
stolidly as he accepts the extraordinary visions in between. Imagination,
the supreme delight of the immortal and the immature, should be limited. In
order to enjoy life we should not enjoy it too much. I rebel against this
state of affairs.”
15 June 2006
“You wouldn't know it from reading the newspapers, but substantial and often overwhelming majorities of Americans have repeatedly endorsed governing concepts that conventional politicians dismiss as radical or unrealistic: Universal healthcare. A job for everyone who wants to work, guaranteed by the government. Secure retirements. Stronger enforcement of environmental laws. Stronger defenses against encroaching corporate power. Union protection for workers against exploitative employers…Imagine a political agenda that sets out to give the people what they say they want.”
So, where are the
newspapers? Where is the Democratic party? Come home,
14 June 2006
“There are about 100 billion nerve cells in the brain, and on average each of these cells communicates directly with 1,000 others. A vigorous debate went on from the 1930s through the 1960s as to whether communication across the synapses between nerve cells was electrical or chemical in nature. The electrical school of thought held that the nerve impulse or action potential was propagated along the axon to the nerve ending, changed the electrical field across the plasma membrane of the postsynaptic cell, and thereby produced a physiological response. The chemical school believed that when the action potential came down the axon to the nerve terminal, it caused the fusion of neurotransmitter-containing vesicles with the presynaptic plasma membrane, releasing the neurotransmitter, which then diffused across the synaptic cleft and, through activation of a (hypothetical) receptor, produced a physiological response. The chemical school won this debate: over 99% of all synapses in the brain use chemical transmission.”
And where is the inspiration
in this? (you may ask) I have always found the homology between my
experience of thought and the firing of neurons in my cortex to be a fount
of mystery. Philosophers who relish this question call it the brain/mind
problem. But with the ubiquity of electronic computers, we have
grown accustomed to the idea of intelligence emerging from the operation of
billions of electrical switches. For me, it helps to resurrect the
mystery to hear that the brain speaks to itself in a language whose alphabet
is primarily molecules.
13 June 2006
Nor dread nor hope
~ W B
this day in 1865
12 June 2006
is the most relevant and enduring biological theme in the history of our
This is not hyperbole. We would have no biosphere but for the fact that unrelated living things have evolved to work together. Co-evolution is poorly understood in theory, but widely recognized in ecosystems around us.
Prof Stanley goes on to describe the fact that reef-building coral (a tiny animal) contain, growing within their bodies, algae cells that process light into food for the coral. The coral provides a protected environment and nutrients, without which these algae could not live.
We think of coral reefs in connection with clear, pure ocean waters. Actually, the clarity indicates that the waters are nutrient-poor and therefore sterile. The combination of coral and algae can grow there, while neither could survive separately.
photosynthetic microorganisms (symbionts) live inside an animal (host),
deriving benefits, sometimes mutual--is found today among calcifying
foraminifers and giant clams but is best exemplified in corals, the master
builders of reefs. Photosymbiosis fosters diversity and novel adaptations.
Recent studies on global change, coral degradation, and the future of coral
reefs highlight the relevance of photosymbiosis to reef evolution.”