18 March 2007

Cultivate an expansive sense of time. Offer yourself a reprieve from the duty of budgeting time as if it were a scarce commodity. Ascend into an expansive sense of time’s bounty.

If there is much you wish to experience and much that you aspire to give, then your lifetime will expand to accommodate your ambitions. There will be ample time for you to realize your quest for knowledge and inner development. Your mission may be pursued at a leisurely pace.

There is ample time for all mistakes and missteps.

– Josh Mitteldorf

17 March 2007

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
– George Bernard Shaw (1855–1950)

“Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own.”
– Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)


“The true purpose of education is to cherish and unfold the seed of immortality already sown within us; to develop, to their fullest extent, the capacities of every kind with which the God who made us has endowed us.”
– Anna Jameson (1794–1860)

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”
– W. B. Yeats (1865–1939)

“The man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”
– James Joyce (1882–1941)

“Our gratest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
– Oliver Goldsmith (1728–1784)

“Ever tried.  Ever failed.   No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett (1906–1989)

16 March 2007

“A person who has decided to put others before herself is known as a buddha, which means ‘awake.’ We have awakened to the best thing to do with our lives—use compassion and wisdom to move forward on the path of virtue. Once we are in tune with life in this way, making decisions isn’t so difficult. Our concern becomes how to express what we’re sure of—that we can accomplish our own happiness by choosing activities that will bring about happiness for others.”

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

Mipham’s advice on How to Make a Decision is to develop a meditation practice, get in touch with your own loving spirit, and then you’re over the hump.

15 March 2007

“15% of our genes are like those of bacteria, 25% are like those of single-celled fungi, 50% are like those of fruit flies, and 70% are like those of frogs.  How can animals be so different and yet so much the same?  The resolution of the paradox is found in the use of the same versatile adaptable components in different combinations and amounts to different ends, to generate the different anatomies and physiologies of the diverse kinds of animals.”

– from an interview of Marc Kirschner

14 March 2007


We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

~ Arthur O’Shaughnessy, born this day in 1844
(ever wonder how ‘movers’ and ‘shakers’ came to be a couple?)

13 March 2007

It is entirely possible for you to achieve immortality, and to experience absolute joy and freedom forever. The practice of undiscriminating virtue is the means to this end. Practicing kindness and selflessness, you naturally align your life with the Integral Way. Aligning your life with the Integral Way, you begin to eliminate the illusory boundaries between people and societies, between darkness and light, between life and death. Eliminating these illusions, you gain the company of the highest spiritual beings. In their company, you are protected from negative influences and your life energy cannot be dissolved. Thus do you achieve immortality. Remember: it is not that those who cultivate wholeness and virtue in themselves do not encounter difficulties in life. It is that they understand that difficulties are the very road to immortality: by meeting them calmly and openly, however they unfold, and joyfully developing themselves in response to them, they become as natural, as complete, and as eternal as the Tao itself.

– from the Hua Hu Ching of Lao Tze, tr Brian Browne Walker

12 March 2007

In 1917, Einstein published the first comprehensive theory of gravity since Isaac Newton, and for the first time it was possible to think about the large-scale structure of the Universe.  He constructed a model of the Universe based on the idea that stars were randomly distributed in space, so that if you look at the Universe on a large scale, the stars form a uniform sea.  The assumption of uniformity in the way matter is distributed through space on the largest scale came to be called the ‘cosmological principle’.

Just a few years later, Edwin Hubble discovered that stars were organized into galaxies, but the Einstein model persisted, with the assumption that galaxies were uniformly distributed in space.  Clusters of galaxies were discovered decades later, and the standard assumption shifted again.  When I went to grad school in the 1970’s, we assumed that clusters of galaxies were uniformly distributed through all space.  Then superclusters were discovered – clusters of clusters – and we held on to the ‘cosmological principle’, claiming that superclusters are uniformly distributed through space.

Cosmology has become more ambitious since then.  We seek to understand the clustering physically.  Current theories of the Universe purport to explain the way matter started out uniformly distributed except for tiny statistical fluctuations.  Gravity caused the tiny fluctuations to grow, even as the Universe was expanding, and matter came to be clustered on larger and larger scales.  Stars organized into galaxies.  Galaxies organized into clusters.  Clusters organized into superclusters.

So this is the standard picture today:  The Universe started out with a smooth, uniform density of matter.  As the Universe has expanded, gravity has simultaneously caused clumping in ever larger clumps.  The scale of the clustering grows faster than the expansion of the Universe, so that larger and larger structures are always appearing.  Yet, even today, the largest clusters of clusters of clusters are still much smaller than the whole Universe, so we can paint the Universe with a very broad brush and see only uniformity.

This standard picture is facing a crisis.  The physics of clustering can explain structures up to about 50 million light years in size.  But in the latest galaxy maps, the largest structures that appear are ten times this large.  And the maps themselves cover regions of the Universe not so much larger than the largest cluster, so that it’s a debatable point:  Are there larger clusters yet?  If there are, then the whole of the visible Universe may be one big clump. 

The largest scale we can see is a few billion light years, because light has only had time to show us this much since the beginning of time 14 billion years ago.  But if our Universe is clumpy on this largest scale, then Einstein’s elegant mathematics can’t be applied.  The theory of gravity (General Relativity) still works, but without the assumption of large-scale symmetry, the equations will be too complex to solve. 

The Big Bang is an elegant theory about how all the complexity we see arose from simple beginnings.  Observations of super-duper clusters may be a hint that the elegant theory doesn’t work.  The need for dark matter and dark energy within the Big Bang may be a further clue that something is wrong in the basic assumptions.  The cosmological principle may have to go.

New Scientist article