17 December 2006

Temper your reactiveness. Be slow to take offense, above all from dear ones.

Most challenging to forgive are not those who have done us real harm or shown us real offense; the greatest challenge is rather to forgive those deeds that remind us of ourselves.

Without forgiveness, it is impossible to have friends. The more forgiving we are, the more intimacy we allow into our lives. 

– Josh Mitteldorf

16 December 2006

“The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever; but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to the light amid the thorns.”

~ George Santayana, born this day in 1863 

15 December 2006

The divine manifestation is ubiquitous,
Only our eyes are not open to it. . . .
Awe is what moves us forward. . . .
Live from your own center. . . .
The divine lives within you.
The separateness apparent in the world is secondary.
Beyond the world of opposites is an unseen, 
but experienced, unity and identity in us all.

Today the planet is the only proper “in group.”
Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.
We cannot cure the world, but we can choose to live in joy.

You must return with the bliss and integrate it.
The return is seeing the radiance is everywhere.
The world is a match for us.
We are a match for the world.
The spirit is the bouquet of nature. . . .

Sanctify the place you are in.    Follow your bliss. . . .

~ Joseph Campbell, as cited by Panhala

14 December 2006

“There is a silence, the child of love, which expresses everything, and proclaims more loudly than the tongue is able to do.”

Sir William Drummond, born this day in 1585.

13 December 2006

It has been known since the 1930’s that, according to quantum mechanics, even a simple electron doesn't follow a single path, but spreads out so as to explore every path within a region of space, each with its own probability amplitude, and that the amplitudes combine in a way that allows some to cancel out while others reinforce.  Thus it requires a complex calculation to decide where the electron might end up, and which outcomes are more probable than others.

It was not until the 1980’s that David Deutsch first theorized about the potential in this situation for us to use the electron to perform the calculation for us.  Of course, the electron does its own particular complex calculation, specified by the laws of quantum mechanics.  What Deutsch showed was that it is possible to use mathematics to combine such quantum mechanical calculations – each of which is the electron’s choice not ours – to combine quantum mechanical calculations to coax the electron to perform a calculation of our own choosing.

And so the quantum computer was born, at least conceptually.  It has been a tour de force for experimenters to set up such situations, even for very simple calculations, but they have succeeded in the last few years.  This holds out the promise that general-purpose quantum computers can be built that will be capable of taming problems that are too large and time-consuming for conventional digital computers.

Here is Deutsch’s own account of the significance of this potential:

“Say we decide to factorise a 10,000-digit integer, the product of two very large primes. That number cannot be expressed as a product of factors by any conceivable classical computer. Even if you took all the matter in the observable universe and turned it into a computer and then ran that computer for the age of the universe, it wouldn't come close to scratching the surface of factorising that number. But a quantum computer could factorise that easily in seconds or minutes. How can that happen?

“Anyone who isn't a solipsist has to say the answer was produced by some physical process. We know there isn't enough computing power in this universe to obtain the answer, so something more is going on than what we can directly see. At that point, logically, we have already accepted the many-worlds structure. The way the quantum computer works is: the universe differentiates itself into multiple universes and each one performs a different sub-computation. The number of sub-computations is vastly more than the number of atoms in the visible universe. Then they pool their results to get the answer. Anyone who denies the existence of parallel universes has to explain how the factorisation process works.”

Article in New Scientist
David Deutsch web site

12 December 2006

“Not a particle of life but contains poetry within it.”

« Il n’y a pas une particule de la vie qui ne soutient pas la poésie dans elle. »

“So stained are all flags with blood and with shit that the time has come when we must have no more of any of them.”

« Tous les drapeaux ont été tellement souillés de sang et de merde qu’il est temps de n’en plus avoir, du tout.»

“Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance, while all the time we long to move the stars to tears.”

« La parole humaine est comme un chaudron fêlé où nous battons des mélodies à faire danser les ours, quand on voudrait attendrir les étoiles.»

“The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments.”

 « Est-ce qu’il y a personne qui peut m’aider en trouvent l’original de cette citation? »

Quotations of Gustave Flaubert, born this day in 1821.

11 December 2006

Managing Science is an Art

“Science has always struggled to sift crackpot ideas from genuine maverick genius. If it were just a matter of combining unambiguous data with flawless theories, the task would be quite simple. Unfortunately, science is an all-too-human activity, and heroes and villains come in every possible guise.”

The scientific community remains committed to evaluating ideas based on evidence alone, but there are lots of ideas out there, and to decide which ones are worth exploring, we often rely on the charisma of acknowledged great scientific minds.  Then science becomes a dogma.

“Scientists are also very unwilling to face up to the social and financial logic that drives their choices. A tentative claim about, say, telepathy, can provoke a sort of fundamentalist zeal among some scientists refuting the claim, which in turn undermines their claims for science as an exemplar in a divided world...

“Science becomes ‘revealed truth’, obscuring the long hours of tedious work, the experiments open to reinterpretation (and failure), and theories with their infinities and arbitrary variables that can never quite be tamed. The Dawkinses and the Hawkings threaten to make the hard-won victory of science over religion a pyrrhic victory by replacing old faiths with new...

“There is no easy and sure scientific way to sift every claim, but there are good and bad judgements.” 

How then do we guard against the tendency of yesterday’s struggling maverick to become today’s scientific superhero, and tomorrow’s guardian of the orthodoxy?

Quotations are from a New Scientist editorial by Harry Collins