Space isn’t big enough for: Soft Science

You’d think that living in infinite space with only a few other people on the entire surface of the moon meant you could do whatever you wanted, believe whatever you wished, and have no restrictions because there’s nothing around.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.Here’s the rub.  There’s no room for mistakes, no room for wishy washy, no room for fuzzy and no room for ambiguity.

Am I making myself clear?

So, for all you wannabee spacers, think about what you’re going to take up there in terms of knowledge.  Because you want to be useful, what?

What are the soft sciences?  Anything that has to do behavior.  Economics comes to mind.  Psychology, sociology, even law and religion.  Go ahead, you can name a few.

What? you say.  How can you make such crazy outlandish claim?

I’m not.  I’m repeating something Richard Feynman once said.  He was a truly smart guy who thought about a lot of things.

Here’s what he said about understanding living things.  He came to this conclusion after spending hours watching paramecia under the microscope.  He decided its behavior was far more complicated than anybody recognized.  How then can we ever hope to understand humans if we cant even understand the behavior of such a simple animal.

Here’s a quote from his book, “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman”

So my impression of these animals is that their behavior is much too simplified in the books. It is not so utterly mechanical or one-dimensional as they say.  They should describe the behavior of these simple animals correctly.  Until we see how many dimensions of behavior even a one-celled animal has, we wont be able to fully understand the behavior of more complicated animals.

So, if you plan to head for the great beyond, plan accordingly, pack light, and for heaven’s sake, take only hard science.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

Sex Assault Drill

Image

Fire drill?  Line up and file out!

Or turning the other cheek?

Nuclear war drill?  Duck and cover!

Sexual harassment drill?  Huh?

That’s right.  What happens next?  I don’t know.  So I looked it up.

I got these links, and read all of them.  Guess what?  There’s no right answer.

I was sitting by Alice, a charming young woman.  Bob sat on the other side, a large older married man.  She was scheduling a meeting with Bob at a local pub after work.  It was certainly innocent enough until he started making jokes about making sure they didn’t drink too much on a weekday.  Then he made a “joke” about her sitting in his lap.  And finally there was the “joke” about not staying out too late.

Nothing is clear cut in the real world.  First off, Bob was making bad jokes throughout the meeting.  Alice had been encouraging those jokes by laughing, or at least chuckling.  Trust me, the jokes weren’t that good.  Bob has no work authority over Alice, but as an older man she may have some respect for him.

Here’s my problem, and I’m asking you for help.

What is with Bob?  Why is he effectively hitting on Alice?  Hasn’t he heard of the #MeToo movement?  Hasn’t he ever been introduced to good taste?  At the very least, can’t he learn to tell better jokes?

Alice has a boyfriend, I heard her telling Bob that at least once.  But I can’t be sure she was offended by his “moves.”

I would have liked to confront Bob and ask him if he’d like me to sit in his lap for a change.  (I’m a big enough guy, by the way, I wouldn’t care.)  I have to be careful, he might say yes.

Or maybe I should act all coy and ask him to help me with a hypothetical situation, and then describe him in detail.  With my luck he probably wouldn’t get it.

Maybe I should just file a police report.  Ha.  Good luck with that.  They’re busy enough chasing overdoses and crooked politicians.  Well, overdoses.

Perhaps the best place to start is to ask Alice what she thinks.  I don’t mind telling her how I felt (UNcomfortable!) but if it’s some kind of game she plays with Bob, then who am I to judge?

Why can’t people make it simple?  Perhaps everyone really wishes we lived back in tribal times, where those with the biggest sticks got their way.  Everyone else simply got out of their way.

Oh well.  If you have any advice I’d love to hear it.  The only other suggestion I can think of is that we change society so that we are all far more respectful of each other.

Talk about dreaming!

Aum Versus Om

Little word with a big sound.Is it possible to turn my yoga class into a battlefield?

Sure!  Why not?  After all, as a writer, we have absolute power.  Don’t let it go to your head, however.

So, what’s the story?

The story is one of Aum.  Or Om, depending on who you listen to.

I’ve been doing this long enough to notice that some people like saying “Oh-mmm” as if it were two sounds.

Then there’s the peeps who enjoy saying it as if it were more sounds.  At least three.  Maybe five.  Maybe ten.

According to the guy at the bottom of this post, you should try and say every possible vowel sound.  Sweet.

According to many of the masters, including BKS, you should hear three.

Then again, according to my teacher, it’s alright to stick the “AU” together into an “O” sound.

Who’s right?

Everyone is “right” in the sense that each person is doing it the way THEY want.  If there was some great social cause in which the sound of AUM made a difference, then we could have a more logical discussion.  Since there are no external, quantifiable objectives, then this becomes a discussion about BEHAVIOR.

Part of the issue is that people like changing things, sometimes simply to have fun or be different.  This lends itself to something linguists call linquistic drift.

Let’s check out history.  Let’s look at videos of the old people saying it.  Let’s visit all around the world and compare.  Collect lots of data, find out that it is said many different ways.  And then what?

Look at the impact of what it DOES.  Are there bona fide physical implications about this “word” and how it’s pronounced?  (Disclaimer, there are, but that’s another column.)

How does it impact the preferences of the person arguing the issue?  Fact is, if it’s important to them, no matter what the reason (for now) then that’s a factor.

Finally, how does this impact every possible combination of people?  Starting with that one person, to that person’s partner and family, to that person’s neighborhood, to their country, and to humanity as a whole.  How does this behavior impact each of those different configurations of “peopleness?”

There you have it.  A way to answer OM versus AUM.  Personally I’m going for what this guy says below.  But getting the “right” answer to the question?  It’s the same process for AUM as it would be for capital punishment, or trading off democracy for autocracy.

That’s what science is all about.  Consistency of methods in understanding the universe around us.  And that concludes today’s practice.

AaaaaUuuuuuMmmmmm…..

 

 

This excerpt from Bill Moyers site  (bottom of that page)
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, that’s what people are doing all over the place. That’s what people are doing all over the place, dying for metaphors. And when you really realize the sound Aum, the sound of the mystery of the Word everywhere, then you don’t have to go out and die for anything, because it’s right there all around, and just sit still and see it and experience it and know it.
BILL MOYERS: Explain “Aum.” That’s the first time you’ve used that.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, “Aum” is a word that, what can I say, represents to our ears that sound of the energy of the universe, of which all things are manifestations. And “Aum”, it’s a wonderful word, it’s written A-U-M. You start in the back of the mouth, Ah, and then, Ooh, you fill the mouth, and M-m-m, closes it, the mouth. And when you have pronounced this properly, all vowel sounds are in that pronunciation: “Aum”. And consonants are regarded simply as interruptions of “Aum”, and all words are thus fragments of “Aum”, as all images are fragments of the form of forms, of which all things are just reflections. And so “Aum” is a symbol, a symbolic sound, that puts you in touch with that throbbing being that is the universe.
And when you hear some of these Tibetan monks that are over here from the Rgyud Stod monastery outside of Lhasa, when they sing the “Aum,” you know what it means, all right That’s the zoom of being in the world. And to be in touch with that and to get the sense of that, that is the peak experience of all. “Ab-ooh-mm.” The birth, the coming into being, and the solution to the cycle of that. And it’s just called the four-element syllable. What is the fourth element? “Ah-ooh-mm,” and the silence out of which it comes, back into which it goes, and which underlies it.
Now, my life is the “Ah-ooh-mm,” but there is a silence that underlies it, and that is what we would call the immortal. This is the mortal, and that’s the immortal, and there wouldn’t be this if there weren’t that.
BILL MOYERS: The meaning is essentially wordless.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Yes. Well, words are always qualifications and limitations.
BILL MOYERS: And yet, Joe, all we puny human beings are left with is this miserable language, beautiful though it is, that falls short of trying to describe…
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: That’s right And that’s why it’s a peak experience to break past all that every now and then, to realize “oh, ah,” I think so.

 

Where There’s Smoke

They always seem to go together.It’s no coincidence that if you see smoke, there’s fire somewhere inside.

If you live inside a house, you’re taught from an early age to save your life by GETTING OUT.

Drop.  Roll.  Know your escape route to safety.

That’s the easy way to save your life.

What if the smoke you are seeing isn’t from inside your home?

What if the smoke is coming from your society?  What if the news is full of tragic stories?  What if your family and friends are touched by random violence?

What if your planet is being harassed by unthinking newly arrived inhabitants, who litter, obliterate, and violate huge portions of its landscape?  What if the Amazon is cut down?  What if we fill the atmosphere with CO2 and methane?  Why does it matter if we drive so many species to extinction?

These are all variations of seeing the smoke inside your home.  Many people see the smoke, and are crying out as loud as they can: FIRE!

My question is this.  Why can’t more people see the smoke?  How many more cries will it take to move the majority of people?  What will it take to get governments to act?  Even more critically, what will it take to make all governments act in unison?

If you are studying any social discipline, including philosophy, these questions should be at the top of your syllabus.  Your “discipline” should have a methodology, a basis of axioms and reference in which you can answer this question.  Better yet, if your discipline is mature enough, it may even suggest an optimal route of making our world a better place.

If not, then, all I can say is…

Drop.

Roll.

And …

 

 

Multitasking Mythology

Have you ever been complimented for multitasking?

Have you ever been criticized for multitasking?

It is not multitasking - it is fast switching and good self management.

I have.  I’ve heard some people claim that they are great multitaskers.  I’ve also heard there is no such thing; humans can only focus on one thing at a time.  Therefore multitaskers are delusional.

I’m not going to choose sides.  In fact, I’m going to take the high road, and without trying to multitask, look at the arguments and put some pieces together.

First off, working on a task.  Tasks are big things, like writing memos, answering a crazy customer question.  Chewing gum and walking don’t count.

Secondly, doing quality work.  It’s agreed that the best work is done when you focus on that work.

Thirdly, doing more work.  In today’s world, we don’t get a choice to do one thing at a time.  You can be writing your memo when that customer calls.  You have to put down the memo and pick up the customer.  No choice.  You’re doing more work.  More importantly, what you’ve just done is …

Fourthly, task switching.  Stopping one task and focusing on another is switching.  Some people can do it fast.  Some people take time.  I’ve seen it.  I’ve hired people who take their time switching between tasks.  For someone like me (fast switcher) it’s agonizing waiting for them to catch up.  But switching isn’t the only problem they usually have, because there is also …

Fifthly, task choosing.  Yes, you must choose the task you switch to.  If you are “juggling” ten tasks, you have to be able to coordinate all ten so that each is finished on time, you spend as much time as necessary to do them ADEQUATELY, and switching in such a way so that it minimizes the energy you expend on switching.  This process goes by many names, but essentially is managing yourself.  Some can be great switchers, but terrible choosers.  Others might be opposite.

Guess what?  If you can manage yourself well, AND switch between tasks fairly efficiently, then people can call you a multitasker.  You know that you are working on only one task at a time, but to them it looks like you are working on ten.

For someone who switches very slowly, or for someone who can’t manage themselves very well, then multitasking doesn’t exist.  And they probably don’t want to admit it exists in other people as well.

And they are right.  It doesn’t exist.  It’s one of those derivative qualities we like to talk about while ignoring what goes on underneath.  Multitasking doesn’t exist.  Fast switching and good self-management does exist.

So the next time you hear about multitaskers, and you want to take someone to task about the subject, just point them this way.

Or do what I do.

Switch to something else.

It’s more efficient.

 

Yoga and Active Asana

Image

Getting into yoga means different things to everyone.  For most Americans, it means going into a hot room with lots of other beautiful people, moving about rather quickly.  Women in yoga pants, men without shirts, and lots of sweat.

For others, it can mean slow quiet movements, focusing on precise tuning of each muscle and muscle group so that internal stresses are in balance.  Sweat is optional, endurance and concentration are not.

However, if we go to what the original yoga master said about “sitting postures” it reads something like this:

I think...

And it made me realize something.

If I want to go for a long walk, or even a run…

Or if I want to jump rope, or do some crunches…

… I can still meet this definition of an asana.

Breathing?  Heart rate?  Concentration?

That’s right.  Up to a certain point, I can be doing all these crazy “aerobic” exercises and still be doing yoga.  Why not?

True confessions.  Let’s face it.  I’m a self-pusher.  I’m not happy unless I go a little bit harder, a little bit further, every time I exercise.  So after a while I’m not doing yoga anymore – I’m running, or jumping, or crunching.  And I’m probably grunting, breathing hard, and sweating.  Definitely sweating.

That’s not the point.  Even these non-sitting non-peaceful postures can themselves be yoga.  In point of fact, no single exact posture is called out by the ancient yoga masters.  Nada.

Everything we are doing today is an add-on invention.  And that’s a good thing.

So if you come up with an asana that works for you, use it.  Work it.  Own it.

As long as you can do it with precision, concentration, and peace, it’s yoga.

Enjoy it while you can, because the more you enjoy it, the longer you can enjoy it.

It’s time for me to jump some rope.

 

Greatest Tool in the Hardware Store

There is one tool that is more important than all others.  And you can find it in any hardware store.

and gave us fire.

I’m lucky in that my hardware store dates from the mid-1800s.  It should be a national historic landmark.  One of these days it will be, if it doesn’t turn into a restaurant first.

Back to the tool.

This tool wasn’t so much invented.  It was discovered.

As you move among the many things you can get in our hardware store, you’ll probably miss the boxes of matches.

That’s the tool.

The tool is fire.  Not just any fire, but fire on command.

If you’re putting a tool box together for yourself, or for a friend going off to college, make sure you include matches.

Powerful stuff.

Fire on Command gave us the ability to cook food, ward off the night, and ward off predators.

Fire on Command gave us the incentive to create families.

Families started learning to cook, store food for long periods, live off the local land, and finally how to farm.

Fire on Command gave those families a reason to start forming tribes.

Not just any tribes, but tribes that would stay together for generations.  Tribes that would work together to gather metal ores, fashion them into better tools, and work together to keep their enemies away.  Those tribes also started customs they followed to make living together easier.

Fire on Command gave those tribes a reason to start forming a nation.  The nation created armies that defended all the tribes.  The customs became laws.  The smelting of ores became chemistry and physics.  The nations improved to have internal combustion, nuclear power, rocket ships and mobile phones.

Thanks to Fire, Fire on Command.

So, the next time you wander the hardware store, pay your respects to the fire.  It’s the reason everything else exists.

Silly Songs

and alcohol streams, who could resist?

Everything about behavior should tell us something about ourselves.

This one is silly.  It’s called “Big Rock Candy Mountains

I’m learning to play the piano.  Much more fun than watching TV, for me, and one of the songs is a shortened version of this.  You can find the tune several places online, click on the title below.  Here are the lyrics:

Big Rock Candy Mountains
One evening as the sun went down
And the jungle fire was burning,
Down the track came a hobo hiking,
And he said, “Boys, I’m not turning
I’m headed for a land that’s far away
Besides the crystal fountains
So come with me, we’ll go and see
The Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
There’s a land that’s fair and bright,
Where the handouts grow on bushes
And you sleep out every night
Where the boxcars all are empty
And the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees
And the cigarette trees
The lemonade springs
Where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
All the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth
And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
The farmers’ trees are full of fruit
And the barns are full of hay
Oh I’m bound to go
Where there ain’t no snow
Where the rain don’t fall
The wind don’t blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
You never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol
Come trickling down the rocks
The brakemen have to tip their hats
And the railroad bulls are blind
There’s a lake of stew
And of whiskey, too
You can paddle all around ’em
In a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
The jails are made of tin
And you can walk right out again,
As soon as you are in
There ain’t no short-handled shovels,
No axes, saws or picks,
I’ma goin’ to stay
Where you sleep all day,
Where they hung the Turk
That invented work
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
I’ll see you all this coming Fall
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains”

Songwriters: Harry Mcclintock / Sterling Sherwin

==================

Finally, purely for fun, here are the updated lyrics I’m proposing.  I’d love to hear your ideas.  After all, isn’t it time to update this?

Of all the planets that we know,
The furthest is Pluto,
Around our big ball of fusion,

Astronomers they say,
Would make it go away,
So let’s give them all contusions.

====================

More to come!  Thanks for reading.

 

Space isn’t big enough for: God

Yes, you heard it here first.  As infinite as outer space is, and as powerful and willfully teeny tiny any god can be, there is no room for it.  Or him.  Or her, as the case may be.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.

Are you shocked?  Are you a true believer who also has dreams of seeing humanity colonize the big bang?

Then, consider this.

 

God, or gods, or powers that be, are fine and dandy when you need to explain the unexplainable to those who can’t handle much explaining.

God is great for kids.  God is great for people who don’t have time or energy for deep thoughts.  God is great for trying to keep families together, especially during times of crisis when everything seems to be going wrong.

On Earth, that works fine.  There is time for those kids to grow up and find their own answers.  On Earth, even if every last possible thing goes wrong for a family, they still have themselves, and at the very least they still have air.

Those don’t come free on the moon, or anywhere else in space.  There is no time for anyone to pray that a solar flare might miss.  The stakes are much much higher than they ever have been for the human species.  Anyone who thinks they can mitigate the risks by taking time out for prayer is fooling themselves.  And by association, increasing the risks for everyone else.

To be clear, if a Moonster (or Lunite?) wants to pray on their own time, and invoke a deity on the sly, that’s their business.  It’s not like god will be outlawed.

But anyone who is hoping that the almighty intervene in lieu of doing actual work to protect the colony, that’s what this is all about.

The colony is going to be filled with the smartest people this planet can collect.  And if they can’t make it on their own, then there isn’t a god on Earth who can make up the difference.

Strike me now if I’m not telling the truth.

Amen

 

Happy Birthday Dr. Frankenstein

Image

The novel Frankenstein was published 200 years ago this year, on January First.  I don’t think google did a doodle on it, but they should have.  Today (30 August) is the anniversary of the birth of the author, Mary Shelley.

Science magazine devoted a whole special section on the impact Frankenstein has had upon popular culture. [1] There’s more Franken-things than you can shake a stick at!  Each of which denotes something scary that has been created by humankind.

Try it out.  Pick any noun, say, tomato.  Stick a “franken” on it – and voila – you have a:

Franken-tomato.  Sounds like something that was genetically modified.  Could be tasty.  But our first reaction is, ugh.  Get it away from me.

That’s the whole point of Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein.

It’s not the monster that is the bad guy.  It’s us.

We create things with our knowledge, our technology, our science.  And then we abuse it, we deny it, we argue that it doesn’t exist.  Yet it does exist.

And in our active ignorance, it ends up causing harm.  In the end we may think we have won because we defeat it, but perhaps we are no better off than we were before.

This theme has been used so many times since she rediscovered it that it’s hard to pick the best examples.  Try Colossus, the Forbin Project.  Or Skynet of Terminator, or Adromeda Strain, or; do I need to continue?

The Ancient Greeks created the first rendition of this story.  They talked of Prometheus, who brought forbidden fires to humans.  Without fire we would still be running from the lions, instead of looking at them in the zoo.

What does this have to do with behavior?  Are you kidding?  What doesn’t it have to do with behavior?  This is exactly the kind of stuff we should be talking about, for every new technology: Nuclear power, DNA editing, CO2 sequestration, and more.

Even more importantly, as students of behavior, we should have a framework that allows us to understand and discuss ANY new technology regardless of what that technology may be or how it impacts us.  How’s THAT for a challenge?

Enough for today.  I wanted to make sure SOMEONE said Happy Birthday to Mary.  After all, she did something many activists have been dreaming of doing for years.  I only wish people would read her book and discuss it, intelligently.

Instead of just going, UGH.

 

[1] Science magazine, 12 January 2018, Volume 359, Issue 6372.