brain, dinosaurs, education, evolution, GOP, humans, life, meaning, philosophers, physics, quantum mechanics, teabaggers, War, what you should read, words
See that’s me. I mean, imagine a woman instead of a man, and that’s me. I’m spend hours reading just so that you don’t have to. I mean you can if you want to of course. God forbid that fine education goes to waste, but I have burned up the Intertubes in an effort to find all the news that you missed.
And I read it all. And some of it was crap upon further inspection, and so I ditched it. And the rest, well you gotta know this stuff. Especially if you want all your friends and aunt Tilde to think you are just a real smart ass. (meant in the kindest way of course)
So, let’s get to it, in no particular order.
Paul Krugman has a fine op-ed in the NYTimes detailing the crazy party, AKA, the GOP. What he says is very true. The GOP argument for deliberately toying with the very health of our economy goes something like this: I have put a gun to your head and demanded your money or your life. If you refuse to give me your money, it’s your fault that you’re dead. I gave you the option to live after all!
On the other hand, this may all go to prove that one can actually get admitted to Harvard and get through it with flying colors and still be utterly and profoundly stupid. Ted Cruz may be set to be one of the most spectacular blazing super nova that sputtered out in record time in the history of horses asses, err, super novae.
If it is true that humans have an individualized predisposition to violence, is it equally true that humans in community have a predisposition to violence in the form of war? It seems many assume this to be true. But evolutionary biologist, David P. Barash argues that this may in fact not be true. The latter may be only a capacity rather than an adaptation. Want to learn more? If you don’t think it matters, think again. We base our defense systems on assumptions of what other groups are likely to do. If we assume all people are driven to war to achieve ends, we build a different defense system than if we do not. And we’ve sure got the tax bills to reflect that.
I know that most of you are just thrilled every time you get a chance to read about quantum mechanics, I mean what self-respecting grease monkey or grocery check out lady isn’t obsessed with the working of the universe at the extra-tiny scale? Ever heard of an aplituhedron? I bet not. It all means that all the complicated mathematical twists and turns are eliminated as well as the super computer to do the computations. Now little Bobby can explain the most complicated sub-particle interaction with nothing more than a pencil and paper again!
If you are going, uhh, okay so what? Well, you all know that physicists have been since the beginning of time, trying to join the big universe with the small universe (macro and micro forces?) and it has just never fit well, and well, the don’t call it the elegant universe for nothing. Everybody who knows this stuff figured the answer would eventually be simple. This might be it. I’m not a physicist as you might have guessed by now.
I mean this is simply delicious early fall reading. Get to it. 🙂
Now I know you will love this one. There is a new book out there that you probably will want to get. I can imagine about half a dozen of you will be on Amazon in moments. It’s called Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing, by Melissa Mohr. Colin Burrows review of the book is worth the reading. Now read it your grouthead gnat snapper!
Steven Pinker from Harvard has written a book that details how we are becoming less violent as societies over time. He also argues that the world would be better led by science than by the humanities. Some beg to differ. A great essay from The Berlin Review of Books, and Gloria Origgi, A Reply to Steven Picker’s Scientific Manifesto.
Love words? Lots of words? Okay.
The American Scholar has a fun essay called Is There a Word for That? Words are being made up all the time, but you knew that. Want to know who created some words we now take for granted? Who is responsible for katydid? Or neologize ? Or Anglophobia? Blurb? Gerrymander? Bromide? Oh I bet I got your attention now.
Similarly, if you have ever remembered the quote but not the quoter, and the more you looked the harder it got? Who Really Sad That? You would be surprised at how often we get the attribution wrong. Amaze your friends by correcting their quotes!
“Whoever is not a socialist when he is 20 has no heart; whoever is not a conservative when he is 30 has no brain.” Usually attributed to Churchill. Actually? Nobody knows.
Enter the fine world of WAS–Wrongly Attributed Statements.
I betcha thought that the human mind created the gear, that round thingie that has “teeth” and meshes with other objects similarly constructed? That together makes things turn and other things go up and down and maybe side to side? You would be wrong. Scientists have found a gear in nature for the very first time. And YOU are some of the first non-specialists to know that, so don’t you feel so very proud?
A cute little guy called a planthopper (he has a very important scientific name you need not memorize) has a couple of gears in his back legs that mesh together and then when he calls on them to, spin backward sending him off on a leap across the earth that looks pretty fun. I’m sure it made sense to him too in terms of escaping predators or getting up as high as he wanted to feed. It’s called evolution folks. There is a little embedded video so you can watch him go!
Must a life be meaningful in order to be happy? Do we prefer meaningfulness over happiness if we can’t have both? They are not the same by the way. Happiness in part is getting what you want or need in life. Meaningfulness can have zero to do with this. Similarly happy people report that health is essential, yet health has nothing to do with meaningful lives. Happiness is apparent in the now, while meaningfulness tends to be a future assessment. This is a long article but one that raises lots of questions to think about. Well worth your time.
Nautilus brings us the ever-beloved essay on dinosaurs. The discovery and explanation of our bird predecessors have had a varied history as scientists working from small numbers of bones, continually revised their thinking of these creatures over time. As is usual, it is the unsung tiny dinosaurs that have done the most to correct our understanding over time of what these cuties looked like and how they lived. For the kid in all of us, this article will satisfy. I still wish there had been Brontosaurus, they were so neat!
With the advent of all the cute devices we have now from phones to tablets to readers to computers, all with calendars and reminders of one sort or another, there is less and less reason to have to memorize things. Nobody has to write down a phone number or address. The call is registered, switch it to contacts and it’s saved forever. Enter an address in your Google maps app, and you don’t need to record that address again. And maybe, just maybe that’s a good thing. Memorization may be a much over-rated thing. Curious? Read on.
How many late night gab fests have lingered long into the night over the ever-present question– Why was Spinoza excommunicated anyway? I mean this guy was ostracized with a big O, like in members of the congregation being order to be no closer that four cubits to the man. That’s some serious excommunication! Worse, payment of a fine served to dissolve most bans. Spinoza’s was life long. Spinoza himself never spoke of the harem, most of his works and fame came long after it. What is as interesting as why is by whom: Jews who had escaped forced Catholicism in Spain and Portugal and once free in Amsterdam, practiced a form of Judaism that was anything but normative. All in all, quite fascinating.
Happy reading everyone, and to all a good day!