Category Archives: Science

Blue Moon contemplations

“You have to understand that it is your attempt to get special experiences from life that makes you miss the actual experiences of life. Life is not something you get; it’s something you experience. Life exists with or without you.”

—Michael A. Singer in The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

good-and-evilToday we have a second full moon in one month: a blue moon.

Those with an astrological bent would say it’s a full moon in Aquarius, opposed by a Leo Sun, with Venus in retrograde. Those without astrological interest would say hogwash to all that.

I’m not sure about astrology, but I give the moon its due. It moves our massive oceans, so it’s not difficult to believe that a force that mighty at work all around me could have an effect on me too. It find it easy to believe that the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun creates some ebb and flow in me too.

At the very least, a second full moon in a single month makes me turn aside—take a break from my usual busy-ness and preoccupations—and pay attention. It makes me take a break from trying to make special experiences happen so I can appreciate life’s actual experiences.

The blue moon is not something I create. It exists with or without me. I get to experience it—the beauty of it, the gravitational pull of it, the brief and rare glory of it.

I don’t intend to miss it.

Mistakes help us grow: The Effort Effect

best-to-comeDo you think skills are inherent, or do you believe abilities can be developed? 

How you answer that question might determine your level of success, according to Stanford psychology professor, Carol Dweck. Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Successlooks at why some people achieve their potential while others do not.

Early in her academic career, Dweck studied why some children gave up in the face of failure and why others persevered and went on to overcome obstacles. She discovered that the difference lay in the child’s belief about why they had failed: Those who believed they failed because they lacked an inherent ability gave up, but those who believed they failed simply because they hadn’t tried hard enough became even more motivated to keep trying.

Dweck’s studies apply to education, sports, careers, hobbies and personal relationships, and there’s another layer to this too.

Some students didn’t want to be seen to fail. For them, looking smart was far more important than learning anything, so they only took part in activities in which they knew they would not fail. They avoided any experiences that would require them to stretch and grow. Other students didn’t worry about appearances and took risks because their failures gave them a chance to learn. 

In other words, some people want to showcase abilities they believe to be inherent, and other people want to enhance abilities they believe they to be malleable.

The good news is, Dweck discovered that people could change their beliefs and enjoy the benefits. When they learned to embrace failure and keep trying, they improved performance.

There’s hope for all of us who have ever said, “I can’t do math to save my life,” or “I’m no artist.” Perhaps we just need a few more failures and a little more perseverance.

_________________

Read more in Standford Alumni

http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=32124

 

The world’s first sun-heated home? Something to ponder on Earth Day Eve

worlds-first-sun-heated-homeA 1949 issue of LIFE included this article about a house in Massachusetts heated without any furnace at all.

The heat collectors at the top of the house were glass panels in front of metal plates. The sun’s heat waves went through the glass and heated the metal to a temperature as high as 150 degrees F.

Fans then blew the heat down through pipes storage cans filled with a sodium compound that soaked up and stored the heat.

Huh.

Why didn’t this catch on?

The article, written on the cusp of the 1950s, promised that the sun-warmed house “could be the beginning of a big reduction in the approximately $3.5 billion the U.S. pays annually for household fuel.” At the time, architect William Hamby predicted that solar heat would replace all other types of home heating within 10 years.

Or not.

In 1949 we didn’t foresee the oil crisis or believe that fuel resources would be finite. We didn’t foresee the environmental damage of fossil fuels. We didn’t foresee the number of human lives that would be lost because of wars that had the word “oil” at the bottom of the pile of reasons for their development. We were not nearly motivated enough to adapt.

Oh, scientists of today, how about now? Something to ponder on Earth Day Eve.

Large Hadron Collider and Easter: Hail fellows well-met

On Sunday, many of us munched hot cross buns or searched for chocolate eggs while we pondered the mysteries of the day. Easter is a time for minds open to new possibilities. On the same day, scientists at CERN restarted the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and sent protons hurtling both directions around 27 kilometer-long parallel pipes while they pondered the mysteries of the day. Such an event is a time for minds open to new possibilities.

Physicists wait with impatient attentiveness to see what happens when the particles collide. They hope the LHC provides experimental evidence to support theories to explain some of our universe’s unknowns and puzzles. The Standard Model of particle physics—“the current best description there is of the subatomic world”— explains only about 5% of the universe.

People ponder the complexities of Easter with impatient attentiveness. We must rely on contradictory Bible stories as our best evidence, and they are unscientific and insufficient, at best. Do they explain even 5% of what Easter is all about?

I enjoy the association between the LHC and Easter. For minds open to new possibilities, they are hail fellows well-met.

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Read more:

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31162725

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-32160755

The Standard Model

The Standard Model explains how the basic building blocks of matter interact, governed by four fundamental forces

http://home.web.cern.ch/about/physics/standard-model

 

A tiger and the villagers; An owl and the cows

Strange bedfellows make great stories, don’t they?

This week, CBC news reported the unusual friendship between a red-tailed hawk and some cows. In case you don’t live in Canada, or have somehow not seen a weather forecast in the past few months, the Maritime provinces on the east coast of Canada experienced crazy, knock-your-socks-off, don’t-leave-your-house-for-days snowstorms—repeatedly. In early February, Charlottetown, PEI received five feet of snow in a two-week period, and the storms just kept coming.

Unusual weather makes living creatures do unusual things. To escape the wild snowstorms, a red-tailed hawk took refuge in a barn. The storms were so frequent and of such extended duration, the hawk and the cows became friends.

(Awww . . .)

A few years ago I read about an Amur tiger in the Russian Far East Primorye who actively sought out human assistance. Sadly, human activity caused him to need help in the first place; the tiger had a paw caught in a poacher’s trap. Weakened and in pain, the tiger cried out as it approached people.

(A red-tailed hawk is one thing, but a tiger?)

If only we could figure out a way to discover the kinship of strange bedfellows before a crisis. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

I don’t see what you see: The magic of subjective reality with Dan Tommater

Consider the “blue and black” versus “white and gold” dress controversy. Many people wondered, “Why are we wasting so much time talking about this?”

I think I know why: The idea that other people see the world differently from how we see it is endlessly fascinating to us. I know I marvelled when my son and I, sitting in the same room with the same lighting and viewing the picture from the same angle, saw the picture differently. I saw it as white and gold (at that time—I saw it as blue and black in other cases), and he saw it as blue and black.

Weird, and endlessly fascinating.

Around the time of the controversial social media dress discussion, I received a message from the publicity team for Dan Tromatter. The message included a link to a TED presentation Trommater made at a university. In his presentation, he used magic to demonstrate why it is possible for 7 billion subjective realities to play bumper cars each other all over the world, and he recommended one simple phrase we can use to make headway into greater understanding.

Tell me more, Dan Trommater . . .