Archives for category: alternative ways of acquring knowledge

The whole thing raises a poignant question.
We have a business here.
The sporting tournaments live by selling advertising space. To do that, they need to grab our attention.
Given the insistence with which the organizers insist that the athletes have to attend the press conferences, which is the main attention grabber? The ‘athletic prowess’ itself or the ‘big talk’ that follows the actual ‘sports meeting’?

One of my eyes is short-sighted. Both are astigmatic.
Hence my visual relationship with the ‘exterior’ is impaired. Relative to that of a ‘normal’ person…

When I took up photography, as a hobby, there were no such things as self focusing cameras. Pictures as those you are about to see were way ‘out of range’ for me.

Because of my inability to focus a camera fast enough. And because long ranged lenses were too expensive for me, in those times.

Being conscious of my limits was no cure for my frustration!

Thankfully, technology made it possible for me to indulge in my hobby!
To overcome some of my limitations.

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And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
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Good Old Politics used to be about identifying the common ground.
And making it wide enough to harbor the foundation for a stable – as in ‘sustainable’, future.
A future where ‘everybody’ could claim a place. As in ‘fulfilling the American Dream’.

Nowadays, politics is about identifying the most effective way to pull the rug from your opponents’ feet.

How wise is this?

How sustainable is it?

We learn from Michelle Obama’s book – Becoming, 2018, that her father, a blue collar worker, was the only breadwinner who provided for the family. A family of four, leading a decent life in a decent home. Who was earning enough to send both kids to school.
Is this still possible today? In America? The Land of Opportunity?

Trump got elected after a huge number of well paying blue collar jobs had been exported.
After wealth disparity had become ridiculous.

What convinced so many people into believing that Trump, the billionaire, was the answer to their plight?

Historian Nancy MacClean has just published “Democracy in Chains”, a book in which she looks at a group of ultra free-market thinkers who have been working to change the government systems of the United States since the 1950s. While Donald Trump was not part of their plan, MacLean says “there is no way Donald Trump would be in the White House were it not for their strategy”, which includes gerrymandering and taking control of the judiciary. She joined us for Perspective to tell us more.

No, this is not yet another post about Trump.
This is about Political Science.

You see, physics and chemistry are hugely important sciences.
Physics has taught us how to build planes. And atomic bombs.
Chemistry how to make life saving drugs. And deadly explosives.

And so on.
Science is nothing but a formalized method of gathering consistent information.
What we subsequently do with the technology built around the above mentioned ‘consistent information’ is something else.
It no longer depends on ‘science’.

It solely depends on us. On what plans we have for the future.
On how we – the ‘meaningful’ amongst us, to be more precise – chose to use the above mentioned stash of ‘consistent information’.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the ‘father of the atomic bomb’, had eventually figured out that “Never before had mankind possessed destructive power that truly posed a threat to civilization“.

Nowadays we’re toying with even more powerful tools.
Tools which are able to turn back the flow of history.
To make a joke out of the fabled ‘checks and balances’.

The H bomb is such a blunt tool that nobody in their right mind would ever consider using.

Tools made possible by political science are way more insidious.
So insidious that most of those who wield them ignore the true amount of fallout their actions will unleash.

Compromise – give some to get some, is debatable to start with. But, ultimately, workable. History is full of successful examples.
Kompromat is nothing but mutually assured destruction. MAD. Made worse by its trivial appearance.

By engaging in compromise, you give hope a chance. The other has a scope. For as long as negotiation is going on earnestly, both sides have a fair chance of getting out alive.
By engaging in Kompromat, the aggressor actually sends the message: ‘I’ll stop only over your dead body’.

Sustainable?!?
Are you kidding me?

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Later additions:

“WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans blocked creation of a bipartisan panel to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, displaying continuing party loyalty to former President Donald Trump and firm determination to shift the political focus away from the violent insurrection by his GOP supporters.”

“Antonio, who wore a patch for the far-right anti-government militia group The Three Percenters, is charged with five counts, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder.
Joseph Hurley, Antonio’s lawyer, said he won’t use his client’s belief in false claims of election fraud in an attempt to exonerate him. Instead, Hurley will use them to argue that Antonio was an impressionable person who got exploited by Trump and his allies.
“You can catch this disease,” Hurley said. Misinformation, he said, “is not a defense. It’s not. But it will be brought up to say: This is why he was here. The reason he was there is because he was a dumbass and believed what he heard on Fox News.””

“Many of us have been disappointed of late by the actions of some people who’ve chosen the easy way, playing to the crowd, itching the ears of the resentful with conspiracies and accusations,” the Utah Republican said Wednesday. “I take heart in the fact that such displays are still newsworthy and are generally met with disdain.”
The domestic political squabbles are having a real impact, Romney said, by diverting the nation’s attention away from three great challenges facing the country: the rise of China, global climate change and the “degradation of the national balance sheet.”
Romney said there’s plenty of blame to go around.
“Some of us on the right infect the nation with claims of election fraud, tech and media outrages, even vaccine fantasies. From the left come hyperwoke accusations and antipathy toward free enterprise, the very means of our prosperity,” the Utah Republican added
.”

1. Always remember that your ‘ride’ doubles up as your home.
And as your pantry!
‘Redecorate’ with extreme caution and be extra careful when it comes to ‘waste disposal’. For the simple reason that today’s stool will, sometime in the near future, become tomorrow’s lunch. No ‘ride’ is infinite, you know… “all come from dust, and all return to dust“, remember?

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) recently captured a unique view of Earth from the spacecraft’s vantage point in orbit around the moon.

2. Treat the entire ‘crew’ as your family. For the simple reason that no mutiny has ever ended well… Even the winning parties have been presented with huge ‘cleaning up’ bills… while there is a very short supply of desert – but habitable – ‘islands’ where the loosing parties might be left to fend for themselves. So, in the end, all those interested in continuing their lives must – the sooner the better – find where is the middle ground between them.

Another fantastic thing to see at the fortified church of Biertan is the marital prison, precisely what its name suggests. Legend has it that whenever a married couple in Biertan wanted to divorce, they had to go through a particular test first. They were locked inside a room within the fortified church walls, and they were forced to use one bed, one chair, and one set of cutlery for two whole weeks. 
After this time period, if they still wanted to divorce, they were free to do so. However, in 400 years, only one couple is said to have gone through with the divorce in the end. If that’s not exemplary couples therapy, I don’t know what is.  

3. ‘I’ll be dead long before the hit shits the fan’ is no longer a viable option.
If Covid hasn’t taught you that already…
There’s a huge difference between dying comfortably in your bed, with a cold glass of water just a wish away, and gasping for air, alone, with other moribund people as your only company!

“Beyond the images, the cremation grounds bear a painful routine of trauma that will weigh on families long after the headlines fade. The pandemic has stripped the final rites of their usual space and dignity.
Instead, this intimate ritual has become both a public display, with the world watching India’s crisis, and a lonely burden.”

When I’ll learn what ‘the book’ should contain, I’ll stop looking for it.
And start writing.

A story opens a space.
An explanation sets limits.

A story empowers.
An explanation tells how those powers are to be used.

Neither are true. Each wants to be true but neither will ever reach the exact place.
‘Bull’s eyes’ are safe. We keep trying, although those of us who know their way around words are aware how elusive truth is.

The downside of the whole thing being that words, ‘storied’ words, might kill.
As in actually! And uselessly…

Unless accompanied by a valid explanation, of course.

We happen to be born.

Then we start exploring the world our parents – and all their ancestors, have prepared for us.

At first, we’re like sponges. We absorb, unconsciously, everything which takes places around us. Some according to what our parents had in mind for us, some not.

After a while, on our own and/or under our parents’ supervision, our attention starts to focus. More and more of the things which are stored in our memory are learned. Increasingly a consequence of focused labor and less and less a happenstance.

Almost simultaneously, we start adding our transformative efforts to those already effected by our predecessors. Minute at first, more and more significant as we become more experienced.

At some point, we reach something called ‘maturity’.
That’s when ‘play’ ceases being a legitimate manner of learning for us.
We are allowed to continue playing but only for recreational purposes…

At least we’re still allowed to explore… but from now on, we’re expected to do it in a serious manner. According ‘to plan’, that is.
From now on, wandering is considered to be a sin!

‘You’re an adult, for God’s sake. Act like one!’

I’m sure most of you have experimented things. Either as an experimenter or, mostly in school, as a learning apprentice.
How many of those experiments had been ‘blind’? As is neither you nor anybody else present had any idea about what was going to happen?
And how many had a more ‘modest’ goal? Just to convince the ‘students’ that the ‘theory’ was valid?

If you think of it, the second sentence covers quite a lot of ground.
From the second grade teacher pouring water over some sugar ‘Look, it has disappeared’, to the scientists anxiously watching the gauges at the CERN laboratory…

A few short generations ago, people had to decide whether that plant was edible or not. And had developed methods to accomplish that task. They survived, right?
Nowadays we design new plants/animals and ‘cook up’ fancy snacks to be sold in supermarkets…

During our parents’ ‘watch’, Popper had come up with a test for what belonged to the realm of science – and had to do with ‘reality’.
Nowadays, we brag about being able to create VA. As in virtual reality… Enhanced virtual reality, even!

Nothing good or bad about all this.
For as long as we keep our eyes open… and, at least one of them, focused on the ‘hard’ reality… that which makes us possible!

Simple high-school physics teaches us about radio-active elements.
And about the fact that some of them can start a so called ‘nuclear chain-reaction‘.
For said chain reaction to start, a certain ‘critical mass’ must exist before-hand.

As soon as that ‘critical mass’ is achieved, the reaction starts by itself. No ‘trigger’ is required since it actually triggers itself.

But there’s one more thing which has a certain relevance here.

“Concentration”.

It’s not enough for the critical mass to exist, it also needs to be concentrated enough.

If the radio-active nuclei are positioned far enough one relative to the other, the decay of each of them goes ‘unnoticed’ by the rest. None of the individual ‘explosions’ can trigger the chain reaction.
But if the nuclei are crammed together – as in an A-bomb, a split second after detonation, the reaction accelerates itself until the whole shebang goes bang.

And there’s the ‘cherished’ middle of the road. When the ‘environment’ moderates the reaction. Slows it down to ‘self-sustaining’… as it happens in the (well managed) nuclear power-stations.

And, but very rarely, in the good old nature

‘Yeah… very interesting… but… what on Earth has any of this to do with your professed interest?
“Exploring the consequences of our limited conscience”…’

Trolling.

Very few individual humans are naturally ‘radio-active’.
And, in normal settings, they are ‘well taken care of’.

Before going forward, I’m going to return, briefly, to the ‘nuclear’ chapter of physics.
I’m sure the word ‘plutonium‘ does ring a bell with most of you.

Plutonium is a mostly ‘artificial’ – as in man-made, chemical element. A few scattered atoms can be found in nature – plutonium occurs when uranium atoms absorb ‘extra neutrons’, but the vast majority of the plutonium which exists on Earth has been produced in our nuclear reactors.

Said plutonium can be used to fuel reactors. And to make bombs.
Actually, it is far easier to concentrate plutonium for a bomb – if you have enough spent nuclear fuel, than to achieve the same result – a nuclear explosive device, starting from uranium ore.

Let me wrap this up.

Playing God can be dangerous.
We’ve been tinkering with Nature for a while now.

At one time or another, we’ve turned various naturally occurring ‘things’ into weapons.
From sticks to rocks, then metals… now chemical elements!

At first, we just picked them up and used them as they were.
Then we’ve shaped them to better fit our purpose.
And ended up changing the sub-atomic composition of Mendeleev’s elements…

Now, that we’ve reached “MAD“, we’re looking for something new.

Physics, chemistry, metallurgy and so on had not been invented for the sole purpose of building weapons.
But each piece of technology, once invented, had been used for improving whatever weapons were already had.

The latest piece of technology, the Internet, is the latest addition to our Arsenal. To our weapons making factory.

Forgetting that the by-products of our previous ‘explorations’ have already proven themselves as being extremely dangerous.
The Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, the huge stockpile of ‘residual’ plutonium we need to somehow dispose off…

Yep. The Internet is being used to distribute – sometimes very exactly targeted, weaponized information.
Which information actually transforms the susceptible individuals into time-bombs.

Tell a guy that his freedom is constantly challenged by the government.
Then tell him the mask isn’t 100% effective.
And end up by asking him ‘why does the government demands you to wear something which is not foolproof’?

Each of those three are legitimate.

Put together, they become explosive.
They actually blow up people’s heads.
Derail people’s ability to think straight.

What will happen when the ‘deranged people’ will reach the ‘critical mass’?

Only God knows.
But it will certainly be far worse than whatever the ‘troll farmers’ have in mind!

The sole difference between the living and the non-living is the fact that only the living is able to die.

Which death is the prerequisite for evolution!

Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Get a vaccine, wear a mask…

“You can’t deprive others of their liberty without forfeiting your own. Liberty is lost with every person seeking to control others for their comfort and sentiment.”

Getting a vaccine and wearing a mask are sensible things to do, right?

Establishing a free environment, where all individuals might enjoy their liberties, is also a sensible thing!

For the simple reason that even a casual examination of history provides ample proof that freer societies fare far better than those which curtail individual freedoms.

Simpler said than done…
Mention the mandatory mask and the imperative advice to get vaccinated to those passionate about individual liberty and you have a hornets’ nest on your hands.

Or maybe this is an excellent occasion to discuss the ‘gap’ we constantly need to bridge between individual freedoms and a free society?

Can you have a free society composed of slaves?

The answer depends on who gives it to you.
I’d spent the first 30 years of my life under communist rule.
My country, Romania, was declared, by those who were ruling it at that time, as being free. Both domestically and internationally.
The only free individual was the ruler. Nicolae Ceausescu. He was the only guy who could do as he pleased. And only for a while… Until 25 December 1989…
In the end, the regime had crumbled and the only ‘free’ individual had met with the consequences of how he had chosen to use his freedom.

So no, you cannot have a free society when one individual, or a group of individuals, impose their will on everybody else.

‘Your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins’

Otherwise put, if you refuse to get vaccinated/wear a mask you might be instrumental in getting me sick. Or dead.

‘Might’! It’s the ‘might’ part which troubles you!
Why should you shoulder a minimal risk/discomfort for my safety? Specially when you’re not convinced that my safety is in danger… Or, maybe, you’re thinking ‘let him take whatever precautionary measures he considers to be necessary!’

Because of India, that’s why!

Do you consider present day India to be a free society?
Do you consider that people currently living in India are truly enjoying their freedom? Today?!?

And no, I’m not going to contrast what’s going on in India with what the Chinese government had done.
First pretend nothing had happened then lock up the entire population.

No!
I’m going to contrast what’s going on in India with how the ‘other’ China had reacted to the Covid pandemic. Or with the South Korean response.

Different economic realities… Different cultures…
Maybe!
But also different levels of economic and social disruption!

Don’t tell me that what’s going on in today’s India won’t have repercussions!