Saturday, October 6, 2007

The View from the Center of the Universe

I just finished reading "The View from the Center of the Universe." Whoah! I have always been interested in pop-astrophysics, cosmology and sci-fi but I haven't read anything on the subject in years.

I've never read anything like this book, a combination of interesting and easy-to-read science and self-help inspiration.

"The View..." is written by Joel R. Primack, a cosmologist who worked on the 'cold dark matter' theory, and Nancy Ellen Abrams, a lawyer and poet of sorts. The pair explain that humans have lost sight of our own importance because of the empty, meaningless universe of Newton and the dark humor/world view of existentialism. We've fallen from Atlas upholding the universe to an ironic and cynical post-modernism.

The book presents new developments in cosmology in an understandable and readable format. It then promotes the creation of a world/universe-centering philosophy. For example humans are embedded in the middle of all possible sizes of entities in the universe. We are made of stardust, the rarest of all matter in the universe and the amount of variables that had to be just so to get you here, reading these very words, is staggering.

The insights I got out of this book:

The future and past already exist but because the speed of light is so slow, reletive to the size of the universe, it's not in Earth's time cone yet/anymore.

The universe is not all the pictures of galaxies and stars "out there." The universe is us, is Earth, is our cells and the not-so-empty space in between the atoms of our bodies.

The book even has something to say about discipline and the attempt to do anything:
"...a theory is like a house: you can rarely find its problems and limitations-or its promising secret passageways-unless your willing to move in with all your furniture."
TheView from the Center of the Universe,
P. 180
The book ends with ways the new scientific view of the universe reflects implications for our own generation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

All I want for Christmas...

I told Kristen I want an OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) for Christmas. In case you haven't been paying attention, check this out.

Yes, I know the computers are designed for thrid-world children, but for two weeks in November, U.S. residents can purchase two laptops for $399. One laptop is yours to keep and the other goes to a less fortunate child.

Why do I want one? Let me count the ways:
  • Open source software/operating system
  • No moving parts or hard drive, uses flash memory
  • can be converted into high-visibility E-book mode
  • the mission - eventually put laptops in the hands of every child. Change the education industry. Help children teach each other.

Check out the YouTube videos:
Inside OLPC video 1
Inside OLPC video 2 - Not applications, activities
Inside OLPC video 3 - Mesh Networking

(Click to see full size image)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Interesting quote

From the New York Times Sunday Book Review:
The dialectic of creativity and reality-testing has taken us far beyond other animals and can take us farther. The next step is to dump our most natural and mistaken metaphor — education as the filling of empty minds — and recognize that we learn by extrapolating, testing, modifying and recombining mental models of the world.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thoughts on a life and a name.

Author James Oliver Rigney, Jr. died yesterday after a year and a half battle with cardiac amyloidosis. Rigney, a.k.a Robert Jordan, wrote the Wheel of Time series as well as many other books.

I used to joke with Kristen and my dad that my only goal in life was to become more famous than my published doppleganger. I never read his books, but I did play a Wheel of Time role playing game a few years back.

Hearing about his death made me feel strange. It must be the combo of him being my life's benchmark and the similar name.

Perhaps I am getting old. It's very sobering, thinking about this man, his life, his battle with a terminal disease and the family he leaves behind.

Web 2.0

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bloggers and conflicts of interest

A new trend is emerging. Individuals are expressing ideas and creating content on a new medium that can conceivably reach all of mankind. But there are bumps in the path of obliterating media barriers.

29 year old Jesse Morrison, a film video and journalism major at the University of Memphis and a projectionist for the Malco Theater chain in Memphis, Tennessee was fired after he wrote an early review of ‘Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer’ for the website Ain’t It Cool News.

I can understand part of why the movie theater fired him. He disparaged their products, and that might affect the bottom line. But this sounds like a short sighted move from the theater and movie industry.

It's true the reviewer, as an employee of a movie theater, is not independent. But in an ever more connected world, who is? How many reviewers in newspapers are connected with major media outlets?

The reviewer said the Silver Surfer movie sucks. Well, GASP! Who'd have guessed another big budget super hero movie would not hold up to criticism. Anyone see Dare Devil, Hulk, Ghost Rider or the Fantastic Four?

Best Buy, Target and other online retailers post reviews for their customers, on their own site even. You could almost call it an added value. They even post really bad reviews.

As Dave Carlson said, the Internet is a gun pointed at the head of every middle man. The free flow of information, content, comment and criticism is more than an economic problem/reality but the very fabric of our Marketplace of Ideas.

Some current rights owners will undoubtedly be disturbed. Perhaps content producers (movie studios, publishers, pop acts) will learn to quit releasing crap.

More fun quotes about free speech:

John F. Kennedy: "We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is afraid of its people."

Noam Chomsky: “Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”

Swedish file sharers: "The Pirate Bay itself has one political opinion - share your files, your culture. It's about technology that gives you your freedom."