Saturday, February 28, 2009

Jack Nicholson's Hydrogen Car in 1978

Jack Nicholson was driving a hydrogen car in the 70's. That was over 30 years ago!

read more | digg story

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

5 Things You Think Will Make You Happy (But Won't)

According to experts, almost everything we think we know about happiness is dead wrong.

read more | digg story

Monday, February 16, 2009

Making the Connection

The issue of global warming and the possibility that it may, in fact, be man made and not a result of regular changes the earth is accustomed to, brings one face to face with the realities James Burke discusses in the final episode of Connections, "Yesterday, Tomorrow and You".
"In the absence of knowledge [on a scientific issue that affects our lives deeply] what is there to appeal to except our emotions? Then the issue becomes: national prestige or good for jobs or defense of our way of life - and suddenly you're not voting for the real issue at all."

I think that's how it's gotten waylaid all these years.

The people who are looking at the evidence and trying to attract our interest in it, realize, because they are scientists, that one can never be positive of anything.  There's been too much of that in the past.  Someone makes a ground breaking, world view changing discovery that doesn't agree with the currently accepted body of knowledge and he gets himself persecuted and silenced.  

Not that I think all scientists are humbled by what they don't know... there are egomaniacs in every profession.  I'm inclined to believe, however, that as far as thoughtless egomaniacs are concerned there would be more of them in politics and big business than in the field of science.

Lets face it, the average politician isn't going to tackle an issue unless he's going to get something out of it: more votes, a big name, a donation. 

Big business? Honestly. Name just one that puts anything in front of profit on its to-do list. You can't be a big business if you do!!

The funny thing is, I've heard people remark that the apparent dangers of global warming were dreamed up - or beefed up - by Al Gore in a vain attempt to get himself elected president...or because of his disappointment at not getting elected.  Did Carl Sagan do the same? Did James Burke? 

What, exactly, was on the agenda of scientists who started putting all this data together and said..."Holy shit!"

Guess what?

Nobody wins if the effects of the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is changing the climate.

Nobody wants it to be true.

It means we can't just go along business as usual.

And how are you going to convince people to do that?  

1. Appeal to their emotions.
  • Put a kid on a train track and tell everybody that its all our fault that she's there.
  • Show a video of cuddly little polar bear cubs whose mommies can't find them enough to eat 
  • Rant and rave about how scientists are always telling us what to do and we should stand up and fight for our right to buy as much as we want when we want it and throw it away as soon as the next model comes out.
2. Present the facts in a comprehensive, understandable manner. 
  • Put the data in a chart that anyone can understand.
  • Come up with a lists of possible causes, effects, scenarios.
  • Instead of wailing about the polar bears, come up with some real, practical, implementable solutions.
The problem lies in the gap that exists between the man on the street and the eggheads with the data.  Bridging that gap is a media that is always anxious to broadcast the latest information as soon as its available.  The unfortunate result of that, however, is that too much conflicting information makes its way into the minds of people who are just trying to make it through the day and the scientific process becomes just so much noise.

And I have to admit, I'm becoming one of them.

But I've seen and heard enough to realize that if my body can only handle so much toxic waste before it shuts down, why should the earth be any different?  Did we really think we could go on doing this forever?

For someone like myself, with limited scientific knowledge, the way I look at it is this... 

Who's to benefit if our lifestyle is, in fact, killing the planet?
Who benefits by denying it?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Joy of a Clean Floor

I am very fond of walking around barefoot. At work, at friends houses, in the car, I have been known to unconsciously remove my shoes.  Something in me hates the restriction that shoes...even flip-flops imply.  I want my feet on the ground.  Hence, I am very fond of clean floors.

The reason I wear shoes at all, is not simply because it is a convention established by society, although without a doubt, that plays a serious part.  But, I don't want my feet to get dirty. When I walk outside, as much as I enjoy the feel of grass on my feet, I know there is a serious consequence to being barefoot outside... that is, when I walk inside, I'll get my floors dirty, because I can't take my dirty feet off at the door. 

Yes, I have been known to wash my dirty feet off after running quickly through to house to get to the bathtub.  But most of the time I don't because I love to have clean floors and no matter how fast I run, I'll get crud on the floor.

To appreciate the Joy of Clean Floors, one must know and fully appreciate - THE DIRTY FLOOR.

People who spend their lives in shoes and slippers will never understand this.  

Now the home I currently reside in is 95% hard flooring.  I have very little carpeting.  Carpeting is popular for many reasons, but the one thing I've come to appreciate about carpeting is the way it hides the dirt.  Dirt, sand, and other stuff, wriggles its way down through the carpet fibers and away from the surface until such time as I can vacuum.  In a house with wall to wall carpeting it takes a while before an individual walking barefoot would notice that the surface they are walking on is dirty.  But with hard flooring... the dirt just sits there.

To make matters worse, my house with 95% hard flooring, is also inhabited by two cats and two dogs.  One dog is incontinent and leaves frequent stains of various varieties of excrement. One cat is prone to seizures (and if you've never experienced that, consider yourself very fortunate) and as a consequence leaves puddles of urine, saliva and blood in wild unrestrained unexpected patterns all over the floor.  Needless to say, I'm grateful I'm not trying to clean this out of the carpet.  But in the best circumstances a hard floor will get dirty in a day.  Mine, gets filthy in mere hours.  When I walk across the floor in bare feet, I know what I'm stepping on.

This is how I've come to appreciate the joy of a clean floor. I know dirty.

The point may seem trivial or even pointless.  But think about it from a Taoist perspective and you'll understand where I'm headed with this.

If you've never experienced a truly dirty floor in bare feet, then the joy of the clean floor is just something that is done to keep visitors from making unpleasant remarks, or something that is done out of a dedication to the conventions of housework. To truly appreciate a clean floor, just as to truly appreciate anything in life,  you must know and fully experience its opposite.  There is no joy without suffering, no life without death, and no satisfied smile on the face of the person walking across a scrubbed and disinfected floor who is wearing shoes!!

Dive into the experience of life with your shoes off!

Monday, July 7, 2008

"to stir up a race of rebels who shall refuse to be confined to limited Dimensionality..."

That is the hope of the unfortunate hero of Flatland's brighter moments. 

Flatland, by Edwin Abbot is the tale of a two dimensional square who, despite his best efforts, cannot convince his two dimensional society about the existence of "upward not northward" and is imprisoned for his assertions of the third dimension's existence.

His adventures into this third dimension with his able guide the sphere (not Carl Sagan's apple!!) provided him the knowledge and understanding of just how limited Flatland was, but there was no convincing any other Flatlander of such a thing.

Edwin Abbot, in this story, exposes the danger of limiting ourselves to attempting to understand only those things for which empirical evidence is easy to acquire. The poor square was unable to convince any of his fellow two dimensional creatures to even attempt to imagine what he was describing, or to consider the possibility that, despite their inability to see for themselves, that what he said was true!

But its easy for us to see that the square was right, after all, because we live in the third dimension.  So to thumb our noses at their prejudice for two dimensions is hypocritical, because human beings as a society do the same thing all the time.  Its difficult not to!  We have a bias and affinity for those things which are evident to us, and a suspicion and skepticism about those things that are not.

Suspicion and skepticism are good things, they keep us from believing all manner of ridiculous things that just aren't so, but just as imagination must be tempered with skepticism, so skepticism must be tempered with imagination.  One cannot work without the other.  Alone, each of those attributes will lead you away from the truth rather than toward it.  They will lead you to be confined to "limited dimensionality".  And that, is what I  hope to help you avoid.