Saturday, October 27, 2018
Friday, October 26, 2018
In the beginning, nearly fourteen billion years ago, all the space and all the matter and all the energy of the known universe was contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of the period that ends this sentence.
-Neil deGrasse Tyson, from the opening paragraph to Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
In his youth Albert Einstein spent a year loafing aimlessly. You don't get anywhere by not "wasting" time - something, unfortunately, that parents of teenagers tend frequently to forget. He was in Pavia. He had joined his family, having abandoned his studies in Germany, unable to endure the rigors of his high school there. It was the beginning of the twentieth century, and in Italy the beginning of its industrial revolution. His father, an engineer, was installing the first electricity-generating power plant in the Paduan plains. Albert was reading Kant and attending occasional lectures at the University of Pavia: for pleasure, without being registered there or having to think about exams. It is thus that serious scientists are made.
-Carlo Rovelli, the opening paragraph of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Thursday, October 25, 2018
We live on a little island of the articulable, which we tend to mistake for reality itself. We can and do make small and tedious lives as we sail through the cosmos on our uncannily lovely little planet, and this is surely remarkable. But we do so much else besides. For example, we make language. ... Some students in France drew my attention to the enormous number of English words that describe the behavior of light. Glimmer, glitter, glister, glisten, gleam, glow, glare, shimmer, sparkle, shine, and so on. These old words are not utilitarian. They reflect an aesthetic attention to experience that has made, and allows us to make, pleasing distinctions among, say, a candle flame, the sun at its zenith, and the refraction of light by a drop of rain.
-Marilynne Robinson, via one of David Kanigan's lovely blogs
"Dig deep within yourself, for there is a fountain of goodness ever ready to flow if you will keep digging."
-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7,59
Today, we could hope that goodness comes our way - good news, good weather, good luck. Or we could find it ourselves, in ourselves. Goodness isn't something that's going to be delivered by mail. You have to dig it up inside your own soul. You find it within your own thoughts, and you make it with your own actions.
-Ryan Holiday, yesterday's reading from The Daily Stoic
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
...............hmmmm. Walking speeds increasing by 10%? Wondering who did that study? Could it be just more youngsters living downtown? Inquiring minds want to know.
"We are in principle accessible anywhere, at any time; we can be texted, emailed, tagged: “The world today is faster, more scheduled, more fragmented, less patient, louder, more wired, more public.” There is not enough downtime. So Lightman argues in his brisk, persuasive essay. His snapshots of the relevant social science portray the grim effects of over-connection in our digital age: young people are more stressed, more prone to depression, less creative, more lonely but never really alone. Our time is ruthlessly graphed into efficient units. The walking speed of pedestrians in 32 cities increased by 10 percent from 1995 to 2005."
-Kieran Setiya, as culled from this Idleness as Flourishing essay
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
"To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality in fact is."
“We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other's opposite and complement.”
“He never seemed to grasp the immense mutability of human nature, nor to appreciate that behind every nondescript face lay a wild and unique hinterland like his own.”
-J. K. Rowling
“If we wish to know about a man, we ask 'what is his story--his real, inmost story?'--for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us--through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives--we are each of us unique.”
Monday, October 22, 2018
But if everyone is demonizing the other, then everyone is the enemy to someone.
We end up spending our time fighting each other instead of fighting for the things that really matter. We end up focusing on the current thing while something more important shrinks away in the background.
-Seth Godin, from this post. Could have cut and pasted the whole post. Do go read it.
In 1985 Dr. Philip Tetlock embarked on a mission to find out whether experts could predict future events. Over a span of 20 years, he interviewed 280 experts about their level of confidence that a certain outcome would come to pass. Forecasts were solicited across a wide variety of domains, including economics, politics, climate, military strategy, financial markets, legal opinions, and other complex fields with uncertain outcomes. In all, Tetlock accumulated 28,000 forecasts from these experts.
You may grade the accuracy of your guess here.
Is Warren Buffet a Guru? Maybe. But he would say no. He would say that he has a process in place that guards against magical thinking, like predicting the direction of the market. He analyzes companies better than most, and he makes huge bets on the ones he thinks will be winners in the future. But he's betting - he's not predicting. There's a difference.
-T. Erik Conley, as cut and pasted from here
|Benjamin Rush, Charles Willson Peale, 1783.|
But Benjamin Rush made quite a first impression. He was tall, lean, and handsome with active blue-grey eyes and an aquiline nose. His long blond-brown hair, tied back in a loose ponytail, accentuated his most prominent feature: an uncommonly large head. To some, the size of his skull bespoke "strength and activity of intellect." while others viewed him as having a head overfull of ideas he couldn't keep to himself.
Unlike the pedigreed doctors who had trained him in America, Scotland, England, and France, Dr. Rush was a medical and political prodigy from a middle-class family on the humbler side of Philadelphia. He had lost his father, a gunsmith, at the age of five, leaving him and his five siblings to be raised by their mother, who opened a package good store and tavern just down the street from Benjamin Franklin's print shop and post office. But because of young Rush's astonishing mind - besides total recall, he had what he referred to as the "particular happiness' of being able to synthesize and humanize disparate ideas into searing rhetoric - he had finished school at thirteen, graduated from the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton) at fourteen, finished medical training in Edinburgh and London at twenty-two, and began practicing and teaching medicine at twenty-three. He was still single in his late twenties because his family had convinced him it would be bad for his career to marry before thirty.
-Stephen Fried, Rush: Revolution, Madness & The Visionary Doctor Who Became A Founding Father
Sunday, October 21, 2018
Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. This is but saying that nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from nettles but nettles. Men understand this law in the natural world, and work with it; but few understand it in the mental and moral world (though its operation there is just as simple and undeviating), and they, therefore, do not cooperate with it.
-James Allen, As A Man Thinketh
We have had thousands of years of experience in regulation the ownership of land. We know how to build a fence around a field, place a guard at the gate, and control who can go in. Over the past two centuries we have become extremely sophisticated in regulating the ownership of industry; thus today I can own a piece of General Motors and a bit of Toyota by buying their shares. But we don't have much experience in regulating the ownership of data, which is inherently a far more difficult task, because unlike land and machines, data is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, it can move at the speed of light, and you can create as many copies of it as you want.
So we had better call upon our lawyers, politicians, philosophers, and even poets to turn their attention to this conundrum: how do you regulate the ownership of data? This may be the most important political question of our era. If we cannot answer this question soon, our sociopolitical system might collapse. People are already sensing the coming cataclysm. Perhaps this is why citizens all over the world are losing faith in the liberal story, which just a decade ago seemed irresistible.
-Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century