Sunday, March 28, 2010

Street Lamp's Glow--A Well Known Allegory

A man walking down the road at night came upon a man looking frantically in the same spot ground over and over again within the circle of light cast on the ground by a street lamp.

man 1: Have you lost something?

Man 2: Yes, I've lost my keys.

Man 1: Are you sure you've lost them here?

Man 2: Not at all, but I know I shan't find them elsewhere!!

How might this allegory teach us something in these fields: theology, science.

Where are we settling for easy answers?

How can we be more honest about our limitations?

How might we venture outside of the lamp's glow?

What 'flashlights' might we bring?

Reality Junky

I was talking to my brother about how I've loved to watch Richard Feynman's talks on physics (he was a pioneer in quantum mechanics).

They're wide eyed.

He has the mind of a genius, but the playfulness of a child.  He has some how managed, though spending his life in academia, to circumvent becoming cloyed to the wonder, the novelty, the queer, the stupefying in the quotidian.  His idea of a good time is to imagine in his mind what the universe is really like on a super small or super big level.  It isn't fairy tales that captivate him.  It isn't fiction.  It's reality, because reality is far stranger than fiction.  It's much more interesting and fascinating that we are on a sphere of super nova dust spinning around a flaming ball heated up by its on crushing weight suspended in a void of staggering proportions than we are living on the back of a giant mythological turtle.

A bonfire isn't hot, bright stuff.  It's the stored energy bonds of carbon and oxygen made by photosynthesizing plants breaking and releasing energy and photons--a miniature sun created from the power of the sun--which is molecules fusing together because gravity is pulling so hard and so many molecules are bombarding each other that they reach incredible heights of temperature.

Ice isn't just slippery.  It's due to the fact that H2O is less dense as a solid than a liquid because of its unnique polar structure.  So, when you compact it under the pressure of our weight it turns back into a liquid for a fraction of a second.

When you blow on food to cool it off, you aren't just blowing away the heat.  You're hitting the fast vibrating (hot) molecules of the food with less vibrating molecules of your cooler breath.  On the molecular level there are tiny pool balls hitting each other at faster or slower rates.

Rubber bands aren't just stretchy.  They're chains of charged molecules that are atomically trying to keep a certain conformity based on their attractions.

Reality is amazing.

I want to be what I've coined as a "Reality Junky"--someone that doesn't need mythology to instill a sense of awe, majesty, wonder, the transcendent.

Reality is more than enough.

I want to be like Richard Feynman (and Richard Dawkins, Charles Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould, et al) that are humble enough to see themselves as small and the universe as bigger than we ever have and ever will know.

I want to be a Reality Junky.  Who's with me!!?!?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Best 'Religion' Answer on Facebook

I love what my cousin put as her religion:

"I am a passionate seeker after truth which is but another name for God." -Gandhi

Is the World Getting Better or Worse?


  1. Technology (the application of science--this is the easiest to see the rapid change in.  Technology is exponentially advancing by an order of magnitude every few years.  This should inspire and give us hope about the future's bright prospects.
  2. Morality--We are becoming increasingly moral.  First we were only 'nice' to family, then tribe, then nation, then race, then species and now we have people like PETA that fight for other species rights.  Watch this wonderful link for more info.  Steven Pinker is f-cking brilliant:
  3. Sciences
    • Evolution--organisms are right now creatively adapting and innovating new ways to thrive.  That's reason enough to preserve the rainforest--just so that the innovation continues!!!
    • Physics--how awesome is it that we humans are willing to spend 9 billion dollars on an experiment called the Large Hadron Collider to see how the heck elemental particles are/work.  Furthermore, fusion experiments are already super heating particles to 60 million degrees!  That's the first steps toward a fusion reactor!  Woo!
    • Cosmology--we're constantly finding new planets like ours that might hold life and tantalizing mysteries like dark energy and matter that are just waiting to be cracked!
    • Fill in your favorite field of science!


  1. Environmental destruction--'nough said there.
  2. Culture?  Or is it?  What part is getting worse?  Or, do people object that it is simply because it's changing?  If morality and technology are getting better, two of the largest facets of culture, how can we say culture is getting worse?  Perhaps we could say religion is poisoning culture.  Religion's (a possible synonym with ignorance?) numbers are expanding and their seems to be an impending future clash between secularism and Islam.  Maybe not, though.

What do you think?  Am I missing something?  Doesn't it look like there's more to be hopeful about than depressed?  O, who am I kidding.  I'm a hopeless optimist.  Please do contribute your thoughts to the above, though.

Human Lice--A Nuisance to Creationists & Awesome Evolutionary Teacher

They're hardly anything more than a rare schoolhouse pest these days, but in days gone by everyone had them.  Jesus had lice.  George Washington had lice.  Alexander the Great had lice.  Every great figure in time before industrialization and modern society had lice at one point or another in their life.  It became a major problem during the 16th century on when it became coupled with the spread of Typhus.  This happens to be the reason why gentlemen would shave their heads and wear a wig--lice protection. (Also, interestingly WWI slang for lice is the origin of the word 'cootie.')

There are four species of lice that are specialized to live off humans--one for the scalp, one for clothing, one for pubis hair and one specific to America.

How do creationists view this?  Well, most have no clue of it, but they'd have  to believe that God made not one, not two, but three species for no other purpose than to bother humans.  That's too bad because their's a better that can not only help us track when we most most of our body hair, but also when we first started to wear clothing (yes, before the proverbial fig leaf)

we've been nude for around 3.3 million years based on genetic marker dating of when pubic lice diverged from other ape lice.

We've been wearing clothing for at least 107,000 years based on genetic work done on clothing lice.  That's awesome.

Really interesting article about how lice might even have something to tell us about our ancestors contact with extinct species of hominids based on a 4th species of lice in the Americas:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Clarion Call to Environmental Protection

For we cannot command nature except by obeying her.

--Sir Francis Bacon

How People Gain Status

So, humor me.  This may be simplistic, but it has been majorly important in our reproductive history and is therefore worth going over.  Also, I'm a firm believer that we ought to think about whether or not the method we're using to gain status is so worthwhile.

Lekking is when a number of male animals display themselves to a female in order to gain approval for mating (lekking is Swedish for play, but it can be quite a serious game).

How do humans 'lek'?

Often by gaining status.  I was intrigued when Frans de Waals in his book "Good Natured" went over how chimpanzees unlike their other simian cousins aren't organized by who is strongest.  They're hierarchy is dependent upon respect.  As in, if you're a good leader, have character, know how to mediate disputes, fair to various factions then you can gain status and mating rights.  Fascinating and o-so human like.

it's also interesting to think about where the power lies in bestowing of status.  Does the power lie with the individual to influence the group's opinion?  Or, does the power lie with the group to attribute and give power to a certain individual?  Interesting that it's both...

So, a couple ways we sapiens gain status:
  • Power (power to hurt specifically.  All of these listed are technically types of power.)
    • Manipulation
    • Guilt
    • Associations
  • Respect
    •  Character
  • Utility
    • Humor/Entertainment

So, what method are you using?  Is that the most effective long term?  Is that method the one that is going to get you the kind of status you want?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Reasons Nervousness is Good

I've seen people vomit from stage freight.  I've seen them literally tremble from nervousness.  Their minds freeze.  They go blank.  A perfectly fluent person can only stutter out 'uhs' and 'ums'.  It makes me have to use the restroom sometimes.  My hands get deathly cold.  I can even get a tooth chatter.  


Why is it often so easy to talk to individuals, but when you put those same individuals together it can make people so scared that they go to extreme lengths to avoid it.

1) Evolutionarily, group size matters.  

There are many species of birds and mammals that need to maintain a certain flock, pack or group large enough to pack hunt, protect themselves from predators and maintain a high mating population for genetic diversity.  If the group gets in an argument or skuffle and separates, then everyone in the group loses.  So, how do they avoid separating?  With intense attachments and high desires to reconcile.  We happen to be one of the species that this was important in during our evolutionary history and therefore we have an build-in system of reward and punishment that keeps us on the track of social conformity so we aren't ostracized.

2)  Status is everything for mating.  Status determines how desirable we are with the opposite sex and determines how we'll compete with others of the same sex for power and resources (since we don't bash our heads together like rams or inflate a giant red pouch like a frigate bird).  Status is also interesting, because it can't really ever be given by an individual.  Only groups an give status.  Even if a ruler is selected by his progenitor he can only be ruler if there are people to rule.  This might be why our subconscious knows that speaking to a group is so important.  So much of our status is riding on this situation.

...On the other hand, there weren't many times in our ancestral past that Cro Magnon man got up in front of his peers and gave a Power Point presentation.  It could be that our brains simply get overwhelmed when trying to calculate what so many people may be thinking, judging, wanting.  Since we don't know how to think about it and the unknown is scary, we wig out...

Other reasons it's good:
3)   Sharpens you--the pressures on and every sense is heightened.  you may have been tired before, but now it's like you've got Redbull intravenously injected.  You're on.

4)  They audience can empathize with you.  No matter where you are speaking, you have something in common with your audience.  Everyone dreads public speaking.  Great!  Admit you're weaknesses and they are on your side!

5)  It creates an obstacle to overcome. If it was easy everyone would do it, but it isn't.  It's hard!  Think of how great you'll feel after facing your fears!  It'll be great!

Why Do All Birds Have Beaks?

I had never thought about that before.  Think of it.  Birds came from dinosaurs, right?  Jawed, snaggle toothed dinos.  Where'd the jaws go?  Why do ALL birds have beaks!?

Simple answer:
Lightweight--it's made up of keratin (some thing as fingernails and the exoskeleton of bugs/lobsters/crabs and even the baleen in whales, etc.) which is far lighter than the dense calcium of bones and teeth.  Isn't that something.  Evolution is so purging of the superfluous that teeth got smaller and smaller until they finally disappeared and never came back, even for flightless birds that weight isn't as much of a factor.