Monday, April 30, 2012

The Globalization Of Animal Welfare - Peter Singer

"Concern for the welfare of animals is not a new idea. In the fourth century BC, the Chinese Taoist philosopher Zhuangzi said that compassion should permeate relations not only between humans but also between all sentient beings. Buddhist teachings consider caring for all sentient beings a central ethical precept. The Indian emperor Ashoka, who ruled in the third century BC, issued edicts against the unnecessary killing and mutilation of animals, including hunting for sport. He also established animal hospitals and promoted, but did not require, a vegetarian diet. In seventeenth-century Japan, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the so-called Dog Shogun, enacted various rules protecting animals, especially dogs. The Hebrew Bible requires that the Sabbath be a day of rest for oxen, as well as for humans, and other texts command Jews to relieve the suffering of animals, even if they belong to an enemy. The Koran, too, encourages Muslims to treat animals with kindness; the Prophet Muhammad is said to have cut off the sleeve of his shirt rather than disturb a cat who was sleeping on it..."

- More


Quote of the Day

"A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence. It is instructive to see what happens to these very people as their squat strength goes up."

- Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Quote of the Day

In a poignant moment in The Beautiful and the Damned, Deb meets an unemployed accountant looking for a job at one of the hellish factories outside Hyderabad, a center of India's burgeoning information technology sector. The accountant studied history as a university student and asks Deb if he has read the work of the Indian economist Amartya Sen, who has written about hunger and inequality. "You remember what [Sen] said about famine, that it doesn't necessarily happen because there isn't enough food but because the powerful take food away from the powerless?" the accountant asks. "It is still like that in India. Are you going to write that in your book?"

- India's Broken Promise and Siddhartha Deb's new book, The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Universe From Nothing - Lawrence Krauss

Lawrence Krauss talk's about his new book, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing (it's a great book but  it's unfair to compare it to Darwin's Origin of Species).

"The most inexplicable discovery in the last century is the fact that an empty space has energy and that space weighs something. There is nothing there but it has energy and it has changed everything about the universe."

Also, DON'T MISS the latest TED talk along the same lines by Brian Greene.

Wisdom Of The Week

Andrew's enlightening post on HOW TO BE HAPPY

Be a good friend:

In a study appropriately titled "Very Happy People," researchers sought out the characteristics of the happiest 10 percent among us. Do they all live in warm climates? Are they all wealthy? Are they all physically fit? Turns out, there was one—and only one—characteristic that distinguished the happiest 10 percent from everybody else: the strength of their social relationships.

Will Wilkinson admits it's harder than it sounds:

If I had to name my single greatest flaw, I'd say it's dereliction of friendship. I don't actively cultivate new friendships. They either happen to me or they don't, and mostly they don't because I don't put in much effort from my side. I'm not sure why, but I think it's mostly because I find the idea of extending a hand stressful. Worse, I'm terrible at keeping in touch with old friends. After too much time without calling or emailing or texting or anything, I feel really embarrassed. And then, perversely, that embarrassment makes me more not less averse to reestablishing contact.

Quote of the Day

“The true scientific understanding of the nature of existence is so utterly fascinating; how could you not want people to share it? Carl Sagan, I think, said ‘when you’re in love, you want to tell the world.’ And who, on understanding a scientific view of reality, would not, as it were, fall in love and want to tell the world.”

- Richard Dawkins

Friday, April 27, 2012

Five Science Breakthroughs That Will Transform Politics

Andrew Leigh's "disruptive ideas" that could radically affect the way our society operates:
  • Driver-less Electric Cars
  • Space Elevators
  • Nanotechnology
  • Ubiquitous Data
  • Machine Intelligence 

    Born This Way Foundation - A Bottom-Up Movement Against Bullying

    Born This Way Foundation was founded by Lady Gaga (no kidding !!); Nicholas Kristof's wrote about this couple months ago.

    Lady Gaga describes her foundation as her “new love affair,” and said that, initially, she thought about focusing on a top-down crackdown on bullying. But, over time, she said, she decided instead to use her followers to start a bottom-up movement to try to make it cooler for young people to be nice.

    I asked Lady Gaga if people won’t be cynical about an agenda so simple and straightforward as kindling kindness. Exceptionally articulate, she seemed for the first time at a loss for words. “That cynicism is exactly what we’re trying to change,” she finally said.

    Quote of the Day

    "Kristian Hammond assures me I have nothing to worry about. This robonews tsunami, he insists, will not wash away the remaining human reporters who still collect paychecks. Instead the universe of newswriting will expand dramatically, as computers mine vast troves of data to produce ultracheap, totally readable accounts of events, trends, and developments that no journalist is currently covering.

    That’s not to say that computer-generated stories will remain in the margins, limited to producing more and more Little League write-ups and formulaic earnings previews. Hammond was recently asked for his reaction to a prediction that a computer would win a Pulitzer Prize within 20 years. He disagreed. It would happen, he said, in five."

    - Steve Levy's column Can an Algorithm Write a Better News Story Than a Human Reporter?

    Thursday, April 26, 2012

    Dog Domestication May Have Helped Humans Thrive While Neandertals Declined

    Domestication is a two-way street, as we know from examples such as the genetic changes that make adult humans able to digest milk. Those mutations arose several times in different human populations after the domestication of cattle. I have no evidence that the change I am about to discuss did or did not occur between 45,000 and 35,000 years ago. But it might have.

    A study by Hiromi Kobayashi and Shiro Kohshima of the Tokyo Institute of Technology showed that modern humans are unique among extant primates in having highly visible white sclerae surrounding the colored irises of their eyes, as well as eyelids that expose much of the sclerae. In other primates, the dark sclerae, similarly colored skin and concealing eyelids tend to mask the direction in which the animal is looking, according to the Japanese team. In humans, the white sclerae and open eyelids make the direction of a person’s gaze visible from a distance, particularly if that glance is directed in a more or less horizontal direction. The changes in the human eye may be adaptations to enhance the effectiveness of the gaze signal.  

    Another way of looking at this phenomenon is that the white sclerae became universal among humans because it enabled them to communicate better not only with each other but also with dogs. Once dogs could read a human gaze signal, they would have been even more useful as hunting partners. No genetic study has yet confirmed the prevalence or absence of white sclerae in Paleolithic modern humans or in Neandertals. But if the white sclera mutation occurred more often among the former—perhaps by chance—this feature could have enhanced human-dog communication and promoted domestication. Although some genetic analyses have suggested that modern humans and Neandertals interbred, even the highest estimates of cross-breeding involve very low levels of genetic exchange that might have been inadequate to spread the white sclera trait among Neandertals.

    Humans love to look into their dogs’ eyes to “read” their emotions. Dogs apparently feel the same. Maybe—just maybe—this reciprocal communication was instrumental in the survival of our species.

    - More Here

    Quote of the Day

    "I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it's such a beautiful animal. Well, I think my mother is attractive, but I just keep photographs of her."

    - Ellen DeGeneres

    Wednesday, April 25, 2012

    E.O. Wilson's Life On Earth

    The E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation has gathered together a contributor team consisting of educators, multimedia artists, 3D animators trained in science and cinema, and textbook professionals, led by naturalist Edward O. Wilson.

    E.O.Wilson interview about his new book The Social Conquest of Earth

    Do you believe science will help us in time?
    We can't predict what science is going to come up with, particularly on genuine frontiers like astrophysics. So much can change even within a single decade. A lot more is going to happen when the social sciences finally join the biological sciences: who knows what will come out of that in terms of describing and predicting human behaviour? But there are certain things that are almost common sense that we should not do.

    What sort of things shouldn't we do?
    Continue to put people into space with the idea that this is the destiny of humanity. It makes little sense to continue exploration by sending live astronauts to the moon, and much less to Mars and beyond. It will be far cheaper, and entail no risk to human life, to explore space with robots. It's a commonly stated idea that we can have other planets to live on once we have used this one up. That is nonsense. We can find what we need right here on this planet for almost infinite lengths of time, if we take good care of it.

    What is it important to do now?
    The title of my final chapter is "A New Enlightenment". I think we ought to have another go at the Enlightenment and use that as a common goal to explain and understand ourselves, to take that self-understanding which we so sorely lack as a foundation for what we do in the moral and political realm. This is a wonderful exercise. It is about education, science, evaluating the creative arts, learning to control the fires of organised religion and making a better go of it.

    Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies

    Click on the poster (via here) !!

    Quote of the Day

    “I often begin writing columns by interviewing myself.”

    - Tom Friedman

    Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    Competition vs Monopoly

    "Competition has trumped value-creation. In this and other ways, the competitive arena undermines innovation.You know somebody has been sucked into the competitive myopia when they start using sports or war metaphors. Sports and war are competitive enterprises. If somebody hits three home runs against you in the top of the inning, your job is to go hit four home runs in the bottom of the inning.

    But business, politics, intellectual life and most other realms are not like that. In most realms, if somebody hits three home runs against you in one inning, you have the option of picking up your equipment and inventing a different game. You don’t have to compete; you can invent.

    We live in a culture that nurtures competitive skills. And they are necessary: discipline, rigor and reliability. But it’s probably a good idea to try to supplement them with the skills of the creative monopolist: alertness, independence and the ability to reclaim forgotten traditions."

    - David Brooks

    Quote of the Day

    "If you had a choice between the ability to detect falsehood and the ability to discover truth, which would you take? There was a time when I thought they were different ways of saying the same thing, but I no longer believe that. Most of my relatives, for example, are almost as good at seeing through subterfuge as they are at perpetrating it. I'm not at all sure, though, that they care much about truth. On the other hand, I'd always felt there was something noble, special, and honorable about seeking truth..."

    - Merlin, Sign of Chaos

    Monday, April 23, 2012

    Humanizing Technology

    "I think the more interesting thing that's happening is we’re evolving into a kind of meta organism, which is the whole species on the planet connected through the Web, sharing information, sharing thoughts, sharing ideas.  But more interesting than those things is also sharing empathy and sharing emotions."

    Jonathan Harris

    Big Think has five nominees for 2012 Humanizing Technology prize.. my favorites are:

    Le Chal, or "The Take-Me-There Shoe," uses a phone's GPS along with Google Maps to guide a visually impaired person to their destination using directional and proximity based vibrations. Currently the shoe is designed to interface with GPS-enabled Android phones, making this another great example of utilizing mobile technology to solve age-old problems in a practical and intuitive way.

    XTR3D - Lifted right out the movie Minority Report!!

    Quote of the Day

    "Socrates felt it was vitally important to admit that the human condition is one of profound uncertainty, deep doubt. We are in between creatures. On the one hand, we are not ignorant and un-self-aware like most other animals. We can learn much. But on the other hand, we are not omniscient and all-seeing like the gods. This is why the lust for certainty is a sin, as a former Archbishop of York put it, because certainty demands the eradication of doubts and imagining you are a god."

    - Wisdom can tolerate doubt

    Sunday, April 22, 2012

    Happy Earth Day - Welcome To The Anthropocene

    The list of human impacts on the planet is a long one. We move more earth and stone than all the world's rivers. We are changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere largely by burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests. And we now consume at least a quarter of all the sun's energy that plants have turned to food.

    That's why geologists have come up with a new name for this new era in the planet's 4.5 billion year history: the Anthropocene, or the "age of man." Future rocks will record a shift from the preceding era, the Holocene, meaning "entirely recent." Our new era may be a scant 250 years old, dating to James Watt's steam engine. Or it could stretch back to the dawn of agriculture. Either way, it’s indisputable that it’s here, now

    - More Here

    On Walking

    Brilliant five part series on The Crisis of American Walking by Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). Growing up in the Indian heat, culture et al., I despised walking.. but now I love it - this is one of the "n" number of changes Max bought with him. The social animal inside me was born again after we started walking and the social bonds we developed around the neighborhood makes our mundane days so special.

    Simply by going out for a walk, I had become a strange being, studied by engineers, inhabiting environments whose physical features are determined by a rulebook-enshrined average 3 foot-per-second walking speed, my rights codified by signs. (Why not just write: “Stop for People”?) On those same signs in Savannah were often attached additional signs, advising drivers not to give to panhandlers (and to call 911 if physically intimidated), subtly equating walking with being exposed to an urban menace—or perhaps being the menace. Having taken all this information in, we would gingerly step into the marked crosswalk, that declaration of rights in paint, and try to gauge whether approaching vehicles would yield. They typically did not. Even in one of America’s most “pedestrian-friendly” cities—a seemingly innocent phrase that itself suddenly seemed strange to me—one was always in danger of being relegated to a footnote.

    For walking is the ultimate “mobile app.” Here are just some of the benefits, physical, cognitive and otherwise, that it bestows: Walking six miles a week was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s (and I’m not just talking about walking in the “Walk to End Alzheimers”); walking can help improve your child’s academic performance; make you smarter; reduce depression; lower blood pressure; even raise one’s self-esteem.” And, most important, though perhaps least appreciated in the modern age, walking is the only travel mode that gets you from Point A to Point B on your own steam, with no additional equipment or fuel required, from the wobbly threshold of toddlerhood to the wobbly cusp of senility.

    Quote of the Day

    What really matters is:
    • Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn't mean anything else.
    • Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don't implement promises, but keep them.
    • Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean "More people died" don't say "Mortality rose."
    • In writing. Don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was "terrible," describe it so that we'll be terrified. Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, "Please will you do my job for me."
    • Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
    - C. S. Lewis

      Saturday, April 21, 2012

      Wisdom Of The Week

      "All animals inherit a great deal of information in their genes; some also learn more as they grow up. Humans have taken this second form of information transfer to a new level. We are born knowing and being able to do almost nothing. Each of us depends on a continuous infusion of skills, knowledge and customs, collectively known as culture, if we are to survive. And the main route by which culture is transferred is by middle-aged people showing and telling their children — as well as the young adults with whom they hunt and gather — what to do.

      These two roles of middle-aged humans — as super-providers and master culture-conveyers — continue today. In offices, on construction sites and on sports fields around the world, we see middle-aged people advising and guiding younger adults and sometimes even ordering them about. Middle-aged people can do more, they earn more and, in short, they run the world.

      This has left its mark on the human brain. As might be expected of people propagating complex skills, middle-aged people exhibit no dramatic cognitive deterioration. Changes do occur in our thinking abilities, but they are subtle. For example, response speeds slow down over the course of adulthood. However, speed isn’t everything, and it is still debated whether other abilities deteriorate at all.

      To carry out their roles in society, middle-aged people need not necessarily think better than younger adults, but they may have to think differently. Indeed, functional brain imaging studies suggest that they sometimes use different brain regions than young people when performing the same tasks, raising the possibility that the nature of thought itself changes as we get older."

      - Excerpts from David Bainbridge's new book Middle Age: A Natural History

      Quote of the Day

      "All perceiving is also thinking, all reasoning is also intuition, all observation is also invention."

      - Rudolf Arnhelm

      Friday, April 20, 2012

      Hitchens - A Tribute

      "In a short film presented to attendees of the April 20, 2012, memorial for Christopher Hitchens, documentarian Alex Gibney showcased the wit and spectacular accomplishments of the late Vanity Fair contributing editor."

      - Video Here

      Help Support The Chimps Deserve Better Campaign

      If you are eligible, please pledge your support HERE

      A recent report by the Institute of Medicine could not identify any current area of biomedical research for which chimpanzee use is essential and called for a sharp reduction in chimpanzee experiments. The time has come to end the use of chimpanzees in harmful research in the U.S. and focus limited research dollars on more valid, ethical and cost-effective research methods.

      The Humane Society of the United States is seeking endorsements from scientists, academics and health professionals to demonstrate to policymakers and others that there is support by the scientific and academic communities to end harmful research on great apes and give them suitable and permanent sanctuary. (Not a scientist? You can still help chimpanzees in laboratories—take action now »)

      Quote of the Day

      A CFO is interviewing candidates for a job as a benefits consultant. He calls the first one, an accountant, into his office and asks, “What’s two plus two?” The accountant says, “Four.” The CFO sends him away, calls an actuary into the room, and asks, “What’s two plus two?” The actuary closes the door, pulls down the blinds, then leans in and whispers, “What do you want it to be?” He gets the job.

      - Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers by Ellen E. Schultz

      Thursday, April 19, 2012

      Blood Tests Can/May Identify Depression

      The study, published yesterday in the journal Translational Psychiatry, unveiled a test that researchers say determined the presence or absence of early-onset major depressive disorder, or MDD, in a group of adolescent experimental subjects.

      MDD, which affects adolescents and young adults, is caused by both genetic and environmental factors, and each leaves different sorts of hints, or markers, in the bloodstream. By examining animal models of the disease from both these angles, the team of researchers—led by Eva Redei, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine—was able to determine which markers would be most likely to show up in humans with MDD, and to narrow it down to a set that they could use to test for the disease. When the researchers applied the test to a group of adolescents—14 with the disease and a control group of 14 without it—they found that it successfully distinguished those with the disease from those without it.

      “The idea is that a blood test can be developed—and this was the first proof—to diagnose depression,” Redei told The Daily Beast. “Just like any other laboratory test, there is a normal range, and then you’re tested and you’re either in the normal range or out of it.”

      - More Here

      The Wisdom of Repugnance - Leon R. Kass

      Revulsion is not an argument; and some of yesterday’s repugnances are today calmly accepted — though, one must add, not always for the better. In crucial cases, however, repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason’s power fully to articulate it. Can anyone really give an argument fully adequate to the horror which is father-daughter incest (even with consent), or having sex with animals, or mutilating a corpse, or eating human flesh, or even just (just!) raping or murdering another human being? Would anybody’s failure to give full rational justification for his or her revulsion at these practices make that revulsion ethically suspect? Not at all. On the contrary, we are suspicious of those who think that they can rationalize away our horror, say, by trying to explain the enormity of incest with arguments only about the genetic risks of inbreeding.

      The repugnance at human cloning belongs in this category. We are repelled by the prospect of cloning human beings not because of the strangeness or novelty of the undertaking, but because we intuit and feel, immediately and without argument, the violation of things that we rightfully hold dear. Repugnance, here as elsewhere, revolts against the excesses of human willfulness, warning us not to transgress what is unspeakably profound. Indeed, in this age in which everything is held to be permissible so long as it is freely done, in which our given human nature no longer commands respect, in which our bodies are regarded as mere instruments of our autonomous rational wills, repugnance may be the only voice left that speaks up to defend the central core of our humanity. Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder.

      The goods protected by repugnance are generally overlooked by our customary ways of approaching all new biomedical technologies. The way we evaluate cloning ethically will in fact be shaped by how we characterize it descriptively, by the context into which we place it, and by the perspective from which we view it. The first task for ethics is proper description. And here is where our failure begins.

      - Read rest of the Leon R. Kass 1997 essay in response to Dolly, The first cloned sheep - Here

      Vacillation on perPETuate has become part of my daily routine... the heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of...

      Quote of the Day

      We've done so many hardware products where Jony (Jonathan Ive) and I have looked at each other and said, 'We don't know how to make it any better than this, we just don't know how to make it, But we always do; we realize another way. And then it's not long after the new thing comes out that we look at the older thing and go, 'How can we ever have done that?'

      - Steve Jobs

      Wednesday, April 18, 2012

      Smorgasbord Of Courses On Coursera

      For their initial launch, Coursera is partnering with professors at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania as well as Stanford to offer versions of their courses online. These will vary by discipline--unlike Udacity and MITx, they will include humanities topics like poetry and sociology, some of which will offer live video discussion.

      "I would have to teach for 250 years to reach the same number of students that I did in one semester with this online course," says Andrew Ng, summing up the appeal for himself and the other professors on the platform: extreme impact. The pitch appealed to no less than John Doerr, the Intel billionaire and legendary Kleiner Perkins investor, who is underwriting their launch. He and other backers just invested $16 million in Coursera.

      - More Here (Signup for Coursera)

      George Soros On Euro Crisis

      "To be a little more specific, let me suggest the outlines of a European solution to the euro crisis. It involves a delicate two-phase maneuver, similar to the one that got us out of the crash of 2008. When a car is skidding, you first have to turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid, and only after you have regained control can you correct your direction. In this case, you must first impose strict fiscal discipline on the deficit countries and encourage structural reforms; but then you must find some stimulus to get you out of the deflationary vicious circle—because structural reforms alone will not do it. The stimulus will have to come from the European Union and it will have to be guaranteed jointly and severally. It is likely to involve eurobonds in one guise or another. It is important, however, to spell out the solution in advance. Without a clear game plan Europe will remain mired in a larger vicious circle in which economic decline and political disintegration mutually reinforce each other."

      - More Here

      Quote of the Day

      "The biggest lie of human memory is that it feels true. Although our recollections seem like literal snapshots of the past, they’re actually deeply flawed reconstructions, a set of stories constantly undergoing rewrites.

      The larger lesson is that, when it comes to human memory, more deliberation is often dangerous. Instead of simply assessing our familiarity with a suspect’s face, we begin searching for clues and guidance. Sometimes this involves picking the person who looks the most suspicious, even if we’ve never seen him before, or being swayed by the subtle hints of police officers and lawyers. As a result, we talk ourselves into having a memory that doesn’t actually exist."

      - Jonah Lehrer

      Tuesday, April 17, 2012

      On What We Don't Know

      In the new book Ignorance: How it drives science, university lecturer Stuart Firestein is dedicating his class to what we don't know.

      "To demonstrate the crucial role of this type of informed ignorance, Firestein highlights two well-known examples. The first, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, asserts that we cannot know the position and momentum of a particle simultaneously. That is, the more we home in on one property, the less accurately we can determine the other. His second example is Gödel's incompleteness theorems. These state that there is no entirely self-consistent logical framework for mathematics. In essence, they show that you can always formulate logical statements for which there will be no clear true or false answer. Firestein underscores how, instead of leading us to dead ends, both of these discoveries answered some questions and, importantly, positioned scientists to ask more.

      Firestein also includes more modern examples of productive ignorance. As part of his course, he invites fellow scientists to come and talk about the limits of knowledge within their particular fields. For example, psychologist and animal-behaviour researcher Irene Pepperberg discussed the question of whether animals possess consciousness. Pepperberg studied her famous parrot Alex for 30 years - until he died aged 31 - and taught the bird 100 words, which he used in simple phrases. Her research, she says, gave us "a glimpse of his brain". We may not have an answer to the wrong-headed question of whether birds possess true language, but Alex inspired new questions about how we understand animal minds."

      How Do We Heal Medicine? - Atul Gawande

      "Making systems work is the great task of my generation of physicians and scientists. But I would go further and say that making systems work — whether in healthcare, education, climate change, making a pathway out of poverty is the great task of our generation as a whole.”

      - Atul Gawande

      Quote of the Day

      If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.

      - E.O. Wilson

      Monday, April 16, 2012

      The Man Who Planted Trees

      Enlightening article from Jim Robbins is author of the new book The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet

      What we do know, however, suggests that what trees do is essential though often not obvious. Decades ago, Katsuhiko Matsunaga, a marine chemist at Hokkaido University in Japan, discovered that when tree leaves decompose, they leach acids into the ocean that help fertilize plankton. When plankton thrive, so does the rest of the food chain. In a campaign called Forests Are Lovers of the Sea, fishermen have replanted forests along coasts and rivers to bring back fish and oyster stocks. And they have returned.

      Trees are nature’s water filters, capable of cleaning up the most toxic wastes, including explosives, solvents and organic wastes, largely through a dense community of microbes around the tree’s roots that clean water in exchange for nutrients, a process known as phytoremediation. Tree leaves also filter air pollution. A 2008 study by researchers at Columbia University found that more trees in urban neighborhoods correlate with a lower incidence of asthma.

      In Japan, researchers have long studied what they call “forest bathing.” A walk in the woods, they say, reduces the level of stress chemicals in the body and increases natural killer cells in the immune system, which fight tumors and viruses. Studies in inner cities show that anxiety, depression and even crime are lower in a landscaped environment.

      Mapping The Biosphere: Exploring Species To Understand The Origin, Organization & Sustainability Of Biodiversity

      "The time is ripe for a comprehensive mission to explore and document Earth’s species. This calls for a campaign to educate and inspire the next generation of professional and citizen species explorers, investments in cyber-infrastructure and collections to meet the unique needs of the producers and consumers of taxonomic information, and the formation and coordination of a multi-institutional, international, transdisciplinary community of researchers, scholars and engineers with the shared objective of creating a comprehensive inventory of species and detailed map of the biosphere. We conclude that an ambitious goal to describe 10 million species in less than 50 years is attainable based on the strength of 250 years of progress, worldwide collections, existing experts, technological innovation and collaborative teamwork. Existing digitization projects are overcoming obstacles of the past, facilitating collaboration and mobilizing literature, data, images and specimens through cyber technologies. Charting the biosphere is enormously complex, yet necessary expertise can be found through partnerships with engineers, information scientists, sociologists, ecologists, climate scientists, conservation biologists, industrial project managers and taxon specialists, from agrostologists to zoophytologists. Benefits to society of the proposed mission would be profound, immediate and enduring, from detection of early responses of flora and fauna to climate change to opening access to evolutionary designs for solutions to countless practical problems. The impacts on the biodiversity, environmental and evolutionary sciences would be transformative, from ecosystem models calibrated in detail to comprehensive understanding of the origin and evolution of life over its 3.8 billion year history. The resultant cyber-enabled taxonomy, or cybertaxonomy, would open access to biodiversity data to developing nations, assure access to reliable data about species, and change how scientists and citizens alike access, use and think about biological diversity information."

      - Full Paper Here

      Quote of the Day

      Just as there are odors that dogs can smell and we cannot, as well as sounds that dogs can hear and we cannot, so too there are wavelengths of light we cannot see and flavors we cannot taste. Why then, given our brains wired the way they are, does the remark, "Perhaps there are thoughts we cannot think," surprise you?

      - Richard Hamming

      Sunday, April 15, 2012

      Making Youself Indispensable - Mark Samuel

      Making yourself indispensable is made up of six key spokes: being purpose driven, playing big, being adaptable, being we centered, being priority focused, and valuing others. Ultimately, making yourself indispensable is about committing to a bigger purpose than yourself and making a meaningful difference to your organization, your team, your family, and your community.

      Making yourself indispensable is for everyone, regardless of your position, role, or lot in life. Today’s business environment doesn’t allow for satisfaction with the status quo. It requires constant growth and change. Being indispensable means that you are adaptable, learning and growing with your organization as it changes and evolves. You remain valuable to your organization, to your team, and to the important people in your life. If you aren’t changing with your organization, in essence you are becoming obsolete. So at the end of the day, you are either working to make yourself indispensable or working to make yourself obsolete.

      - Excerpts from Mark Samuel's new book
      Making Yourself Indispensable: The Power of Personal Accountability

      Quote of the Day

      "Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labeled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful!"

      - Richard Dawkins

      Saturday, April 14, 2012

      How To Decode Body Language

      Click on Image to Enlarge (via here

      Wisdom Of The Week

      Definite Keepers
      • Department of Defense: It’s still a dangerous world and we remain the steadying Leviathan amidst all those rising powers. But we also spend way beyond the “common defense.” One radical option: kill the Air Force as we embrace drones.
      • Department of State: It’s still a world dominated by nation-states, and the ones doing best by globalization are those fielding the sharpest diplomats. Plus, the better State is, the more you can whack Defense.
      • Department of Treasury: Money makes the world go round and America still owns the planet’s reserve currency of choice. Frankly, this is the most important department going forward – just like when we were starting out.
      • Department of Justice: Nothing defines our “more perfect union” better than our judicial system, and our “federal police” (FBI, etc.) is tiny compared to most states.  Plus, the best counter-terrorism stuff is performed here.
      • Department of Transportation: In the global economy, it’s not location that matters but infrastructure, infrastructure, INFRASTRUCTURE!  Ours is crumbling and needs a lot more federal attention.
      • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: In an interconnected world, during a century when biological science will dominate, this is the primary national security threat we face – to include bioterrorism.  Seen the movie “Contagion”?  You should.
      • Government Accountability Office: Washington’s official – and sole – truth-telling entity.  They watch the watchers.
      • National Science Foundation and National Labs: Our economy lives and dies with its high-tech competitive advantages, and these agencies spend time and money on the basic research that undergirds it all – you know, the “boring stuff” the private sector doesn’t bother with until . . . cha-ching!
      Can’t Kill But Have to Radically Restructure
      • The big 3 entitlements: The Supreme Court will decide on Obamacare (or whatever you want to call it) come June, but it’s clear that an aging America (a good thing, mind you!) can’t afford Social Security and Medicare – as is. Bottom line: expect to work a lot longer before retiring.
      • Internal Revenue Service: Can’t have a government without taxation, but the complexity of our current code is indefensible, creating supreme inefficiencies throughout our economy. Tax simplification is desperately warranted.
      • Intelligence Community: Seventeen agencies, really?  The need is compelling all right, but the redundancy here – not to mention the continuing lack of coordination – is stunning. The Brits get by with two primary agencies (one domestic and one foreign), and – frankly – they routinely outperform our Keystone collection.
      • U.S. Mint: It’s time to ditch all coins except quarters. Heck, soon enough we should ditch all bills as well. Don’t believe us? Sweden, the first European country to intro bank notes (1661) is planning to move to a completely cashless economy!
      • National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Okay, we still got a thing for JFK. But NASA should focus exclusively on the stuff beyond the Moon and leave all the close-in stuff to the private sector – meaning Richard Branson.
      On the Bubble 
      • Department of Homeland Security: Hard to argue against homeland defense (“As opposed to  . . .?”), but this massive kluge job was a disaster from the get-go and still stinks today. Most experts will tell you we’d all be better off sending all those adopted agencies back to their “birth” departments.
      • Department of Commerce: Clearly, the promotion of U.S. trade is incredibly important in this “flat world” globalization, but Commerce isn’t worth the sum of its many worthy parts (National Weather Service, Census Bureau, Patent Office), most of which would be better off as independent agencies.
      • Department of Labor: The key issue of labor in this country is “continuing education,” so either kill Labor and subsume under the Department of Education or vice versa. The regulations part can be a small independent agency.
      • Department of Education: See, Department of Labor.
      Deserve the Axe
      • Department of Agriculture: We’ve got something like one Dept. of Ag employee for every dozen farmers in America – seriously. With U.S. farm exports booming, ag subsidies should be nixed in full, and this legacy department should be whacked down to a bare minimum and then shoved inside the Food and Drug administration.
      • Department of Energy: Energy is important all right, but the Department of Energy has little to do with any of that, outside of badly running the National Labs (worth keeping) and maintaining the nuclear weapon stockpile (also worth keeping). Give the nuke duty to Defense and have somebody else run the Labs – case closed!
      • Department of Interior: Hard to see why the U.S. Government should own “federal lands” across all 50 states. Harder still to understand why we need a cabinet-level department to manage them.
      • Department of Housing and Urban Development: Federal public housing in this country is a disaster, and a costly one at that. If we want to spend Federal tax funds on this, given them directly to the states.
      • Department of Health and Human Services: All social work programs, like politics, are local, so why the Federal role here?  Aren’t we always better off letting states experiment within our federal system?
      • Department of Veterans Affairs: This is mostly about a ghettoized healthcare system for veterans.  It’s not a good one and shouldn’t be continued. Yes, honor their service, but simply pay for good care in the private healthcare system. This department can be folded within Defense with no great conflict-of interest danger.
      • United States Postal Service: The time has come. Incentivize the private sector to make sure everybody’s mailbox is serviced and let’s move on to more important 21st-century matters.

      Quote of the Day

      "If you've got an event that lasts two-and-a-half hours, social order will take over and everybody will behave in a social manner. If you're going down in under 17 minutes, basically it's instinctual."

       Why Didn't Passengers Panic On The Titanic?

      Friday, April 13, 2012

      Happy Birthday, Hitch - A Letter of Advice to Young Contrarians

      "Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for your."

      - Hitchens, from Letters to a Young Contrarian (via Andrew, today would have been his 63rd birthday....)

      White Lies Affect Your Behavior

      "Those participants who were not given the chance to tell a white lie (regardless of whether they were primed to think about honesty) selected the experimenter's study about 40 percent of the time, and they were willing to donate about $35 to the experimenter if they won the raffle.

      For those participants who were given the chance to lie, the results were quite different depending on whether they were primed to think about honesty. Those who were not primed to think about honesty acted like those people who did not lie. Those people who did think about honesty, though, acted much more favorably toward the experimenter. They selected her study 88 percent of the time, and were willing to donate an average of $53 to her research. That means that these participants were actually willing to give away more money than they would keep for themselves in order to make up for having told a lie.

      These findings suggest that white lies aren't simply a form of social grease that we apply to make our social interactions go more smoothly. We really do recognize them as being lies. As a result, we need to be quite careful about how these lies affect our future behavior toward the people we have lied to."

      - More Here

      May be this social science experiment sounds mundane but Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature makes a much better and an important case on how our language affects who we are and what we become.

      And Therefore Talking About Politics Sucks...

      "Once people join a political team, they get ensnared in its moral matrix, They see confirmation of their grand narrative everywhere."

      - The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion , Jonathan Haidt

      Quote of the Day

      "From this moment forward, remember this: What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it. Efficiency is still important, but it is useless unless applied to the right things."

      - Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek

      Thursday, April 12, 2012

      What I've Been Reading

      Free Will by Sam Harris. Yet another important "Kindlet" from Sam. We have no clue about what free will is "made" of but yet most of us ardently believe it's existence. By just considering what we learned from little advances we have made on the neuroscience front plus the power of the microbes inside us - it's clear that belief is well... an illusion. Sam makes a crystal clear case against the illusion we all dwell on. Kudos Sam !!

      "Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have.
      Consider what it would take to actually have free will. You would need to be aware of all the factors that determine your thoughts and actions, and you would need to have complete control over those factors. But there is a paradox here that vitiates the very notion of freedom—for what would influence the influences? More influences? None of these adventitious mental states are the real you. You are not controlling the storm, and you are not lost in it. You are the storm."

      "This feeling of freedom arises from our moment-to-moment ignorance of the prior causes of our thoughts and actions. The phrase “free will” describes what it feels like to identify with certain mental states as they arise in consciousness."

      "It is one thing to bicker with your wife because you are in a bad mood; it is another to realize that your mood and behavior have been caused by low blood sugar. This understanding reveals you to be a biochemical puppet, of course, but it also allows you to grab hold of one of your strings: A bite of food may be all that your personality requires. Getting behind our conscious thoughts and feelings can allow us to steer a more intelligent course through our lives (while knowing, of course, that we are ultimately being steered)."

      "No human being is responsible for his genes or his upbringing, yet we have every reason to believe that these factors determine his character. Our system of justice should reflect an understanding that any of us could have been dealt a very different hand in life. In fact, it seems immoral not to recognize just how much luck is involved in morality itself."

      "We need only acknowledge that efforts matter and that people can change. We do not change ourselves, precisely—because we have only ourselves with which to do the changing—but we continually influence, and are influenced by, the world around us and the world within us. It may seem paradoxical to hold people responsible for what happens in their corner of the universe, but once we break the spell of free will, we can do this precisely to the degree that it is useful. Where people can change, we can demand that they do so. Where change is impossible, or unresponsive to demands, we can chart some other course. In improving ourselves and society, we are working directly with the forces of nature, for there is nothing but nature itself to work with."

      Dogs Lower Workplace Stress

      US researchers found those with access to dogs were less stressed as the day went on than those who had none. The preliminary study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management looked at 75 staff.

      The researchers suggested access to dogs boosted morale and reduced stress levels, whether people had access to their own pets or other people's. The study was carried out by a team of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University who looked at a manufacturing company where people are allowed to bring their pets to work.

      Stress hormone levels were measured using saliva samples during the day. In the morning, there was no difference between the three groups. But during the course of the work day, stress levels appeared to decline for employees with their dogs present and increased for non-pet owners and dog owners who did not bring their dogs to work. The researchers also noted that stress rose significantly during the day when owners left their dogs at home compared to days they brought them to work.

      - More Here

      Quote of the Day

      "Why not assume that our humanity, including the self-control needed for livable societies, is built into us? Does anyone truly believe that our ancestors lacked social norms before they had religion? Did they never assist others in need, or complain about an unfair deal? Humans must have worried about the functioning of their communities well before the current religions arose, which is only a few thousand years ago."

      - Frans de Waal

      Wednesday, April 11, 2012

      Alone Together - Sherry Turkle

      A profound call by Sherry Turkel author of the new book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other
      • The little devices in our pockets are so psychologically powerful that they don't only change what we do; they change who we are.
      • We are setting up ourselves for trouble - trouble certainly in how we relate to each other but also trouble in how we relate to ourselves in our capacity for self reflection. 
      • Snippets of information doesn't work for learning about each other, for really coming to know and understand each other. 
      • We expect more from technology and less from each other because technology appeals to us where we are most vulnerable.
      • I share therefore I am - Before it was I have a feeling, I want to make a call. Now it's I want to have a feeling, I need to send a text. 
      • We end up isolated we don't cultivate the capacity for solitude - the ability to separate, to gather yourself. Solitude is where you find yourself, so that you can reach out to other people and form real attachments. When we don't have capacity for solitude we turn to other people to feel less anxious and in order to feel alive and we tend to use them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self. 
      • If we don't teach out children to be alone, they will only know how to be alone. 
      • Start thinking of solitude as a good thing. Make room for it. 

      Quote of the Day

      "Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained."

      - Madame Curie

      Tuesday, April 10, 2012

      Before the Lights Go Out - Maggie Koerth-Baker

      "This isn’t about planting a tree, buying a Prius, and proving that you’re a good person. Economics and social incentives got us a country full of gas-guzzling cars, long commutes, inefficient houses, and coal-fired power plants out in the middle of nowhere, and economics and incentives will be the things that build our new world."

      Kyle highly recommends Maggie Koerth-Baker's new book Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering The Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us

      In the very first pages of her book, Before the Lights Go Out, Maggie Koerth-Baker blows my mind. Not in the sense of "Wow, I never knew that!" (although I certainly thought that throughout the book), but more like "Wow, I never thought of it that way!" I’m referring to the revelation that the reasons for pursuing alternative energy don’t have to be focused on climate change. Instead, many Americans care more about energy security, conservation, or simple nationalism. This sets the tone for the whole book: let’s skip the reasons and just focus on the solutions and hard choices that need to be made.

      The book is a fast and easy read (in the good sense). If you're familiar with Koerth-Baker’s work as the science editor at BoingBoing, you know that she does a great job breaking down complicated concepts while keeping them interesting. This carries over to the book, and it reads almost like a long-form blog post, which is a good thing. Instead of links, every chapter holds a Neal-Stephenson-esque level of footnotes—52 pages of them (compared to just over 200 pages of primary content).

      As the title subtly suggests, this book focuses mostly on electricity, rather than transportation fuels or other energy sectors. This isn’t because those other areas aren’t interesting, but simply because electrical generation makes up the biggest single portion of energy use and emissions.

      Finding "Alex" In Dogs - On Canine Communication

      In 2011, John Pilley and Alliston Reid published a paper in Behavioural Processes detailing a variety of word comprehension tests that they had given to Chaser, a rock star border collie famous for knowing the names of over 1,000 objects.

      In one of these experiments, Pilley and Reid tested whether Chaser could independently understand the meanings of verbs and nouns. In this test, Chaser was asked to respond appropriately when three different commands (take, paw, and nose) were randomly associated with three different stuffed cloth toys (Lips, a toy resembling human lips; ABC, a cloth cube with those letters written on its side; and Lamb, a stuffed lamb) in 14 independent trials using a double-blind procedure. Chaser was familiar with the commands, but none of the three toys had ever been paired with any of the commands prior to the experiment.

      How did Chaser do? Perfectly.

      There was absolutely no disagreement among the raters – each judged Chaser to be 100% accurate across the 14 trials, performing the correct command to the correct toy as instructed. As Pilley and Reid put it:

      These results clearly support the conclusion that Chaser understood reference – that the verbal noun of an object referred to a particular object with distinct physical features independent of actions directed toward that object.

      - More Here

      Quote of the Day

      “Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

      - William Hutchinson Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

      Monday, April 9, 2012

      Ages Of Excess Genius

      Most economic growth has a very simple source: new ideas. It is our creativity that generates wealth. So how can we increase the pace of innovation? Is it possible to inspire more Picassos and Steve Jobses?

      Jonah Lehrer gives few great and simple theories, my personal favorite:

      "All of these flourishing cultures pioneered new forms of teaching and learning. Medieval Florence saw the rise of the apprentice-master model, which let young artists learn from veteran experts. Elizabethan England made a concerted effort to educate its middle-class males, which is how William Shakespeare—the son of a glover who couldn’t sign his name—ended up getting free Latin lessons. We need to emulate these ingenious eras and encourage rampant experimentation in the education sector, whether it’s taking the Khan Academy mainstream or expanding vocational training. As T. S. Eliot once remarked, the great ages did not contain more talent. They wasted less."

      Where Does Best Books Come From?

      Judy Blume says from deep inside

      The best books come from someplace deep inside. You don't write because you want to, but because you have to. Become emotionally involved. If you don't care about your characters, your readers won't either.

      Quote of the Day

      "The human impact on the planetary ecosystem is now so palpable that geologists have proposed a new chronological era, the anthropocene, and biologists already call this "the sixth great extinction". Campaigners for decades have been trying to slow, halt or reverse the process, but effective conservation starts with precise and reliable knowledge: life's library, sadly, has not yet been indexed. All of which is why a consortium of distinguished scholars, in the Systematics and Biodiversity journal, has outlined an ambitious initiative to classify, name, describe and map the astonishing variety of life on earth, and catalogue 10m species by 2050. Digital technology means that, for the first time, specimens can be examined and knowledge shared at a distance. The authors want to build on the 3bn specimens already in the world's great museums, universities and botanic gardens to establish a global, comprehensive cyber-museum of life; they want to bring in historians and philosophers of science, engineers and climate scientists and enthusiastic amateurs as well as professional zoologists and botanists.

      Good intentions are easily declared, especially with a 40-year horizon. The cost of an encyclopaedic Book of Life would not be negligible. The price of not completing the catalogue could be catastrophic; and the dividend from its completion could be limitless. Nature is not a luxury: it is literally all we have."

      - More Here

      Sunday, April 8, 2012

      Good Bye Mike Wallace

      I just happened to read the following lines last night...

      American television news is increasingly driven by the hosts' celebrity rather than accurate reporting of important events. Media channels frequently feature outspoken blowhards, offering borderline offensive commentary that subscribes to a political platform. "Geraldo Rivera, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly [and Ed Schultz] are the middle-aged and male equivalent of Kim Kardashian, in that they became famous for being self-parodies and must continually up the ante of their own ridiculousness in order to maintain their fame." These commentators' reactions to the Trayvon Martin shooting, for example, became stories in themselves.

      This isn't the legacy Mike Wallace dreamed of. May be technology will find an alternative this nonsense and bring us a new Mike Wallace. Check out his top then interviews here and if possible, please do this civilization a favor and stop watching cable news.

      What We Wish To Become - E.O. Wilson

      Short and brilliant commencement speech at the University of North Carolina by E.O. Wilson - a must watch. I am yet to read his new book, The Social Conquest of Earth

      We will have to evolve a better world order than the one we have now, which I like to call our Star Wars Civilization. I mean we have stone-age emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology. In the case of emotions they evolved in pre-history over millions of years. In the case of our institutions, especially within religions and ideology, we are in constant conflict. And in the case of our technology, we are seeing things going almost beyond the control of our imagination. These three stanchions of current civilization explain why we are constantly in trouble. They are dangerous. They are very serious problems for the rest of life and, ultimately, with that, ourselves. And today we are still (far) from even at the margin of solutions.

      At the base of the problem, I would like to suggest, are the three still mostly unanswered fundamental questions of religion, philosophy, and science. They are Where do we come from?, What are we?, and Where are we going? You graduates have dealt with aspects of these questions, the great riddle, here at this university, in parts and pieces, but everywhere our best thinkers are confounded by them. It is still the case, as the French writer Jean Bruller put it during the dark days of the 1930s. He said, for then as well as for today, “All of mankind’s problems are due to the fact that we do not know what we are and cannot agree on what we wish to become.”

      Quote of the Day

      “The crisis of liberal education is a reflection of a crisis at the peaks of learning, an incoherence and incompatibility among the first principles with which we interpret the world, an intellectual crisis of the greatest magnitude, which constitutes the crisis of our civilization.”

      - Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

      Saturday, April 7, 2012

      Think The Unthinkable

      As particle physics revolutionizes the concepts of "something" (elementary particles and the forces that bind them) and "nothing" (the dynamics of empty space or even the absence of space), the famous question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is also revolutionized. Even the very laws of physics we depend on may be a cosmic accident, with different laws in different universes, which further alters how we might connect something with nothing. Asking why we live in a universe of something rather than nothing may be no more meaningful than asking why some flowers are red and others blue.

      Perhaps most remarkable of all, not only is it now plausible, in a scientific sense, that our universe came from nothing, if we ask what properties a universe created from nothing would have, it appears that these properties resemble precisely the universe we live in.

      Does all of this prove that our universe and the laws that govern it arose spontaneously without divine guidance or purpose? No, but it means it is possible. And that possibility need not imply that our own lives are devoid of meaning. Instead of divine purpose, the meaning in our lives can arise from what we make of ourselves, from our relationships and our institutions, from the achievements of the human mind.

      Imagining living in a universe without purpose may prepare us to better face reality head on. I cannot see that this is such a bad thing. Living in a strange and remarkable universe that is the way it is, independent of our desires and hopes, is far more satisfying for me than living in a fairy-tale universe invented to justify our existence.

      - Lawrence M.Krauss author of the newbook A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing

      Wisdom Of The Week

      • I don’t care about someone being intelligent; any situation between people, when they are really human with each other, produces “intelligence.” 
      • “I don’t claim my opinions are right,” or “just because I have opinions doesn’t mean I’m right.” 
      • Being in love = addiction, obsession, exclusion of others, insatiable demand for presence, paralysis of other interests and activities. A disease of love, a fever (therefore exalting). One “falls” in love. But this is one disease which, if one must have it, is better to have often rather than infrequently. It’s less mad to fall in love often (less inaccurate for there are many wonderful people in the world) than only two or three times in one’s life. Or maybe it’s better always to be in love with several people at any given time.  
      - Excerpts from Susan Sontag's new book As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980 (via MR)