So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Ethnicity. that of my father and his father before him
Location Cherry Hills Vil, CO
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The Link To Zanzibar's Past
This is my page in the beloved art community that my sister got me into:
Extra points for people who know what Samarinda is.
The Phases of the Moon Module
The Tree and the Telephone Pole
I Do Not Know Their Names
Today I am Young
A Night Poem
Siren of the Sea
If I Were a Dragon
To the Dreamers Leave the Sky
The Honor of the Oyster
Return From San Diego
A Late Summer's Night
Of Dragons and Men
The Edge of the World
The Snake's Terror
Metaphysics and the Middaymoon
Of Adventures in Foreign Lands
The Rogue Wave: The Unedited Version
Adventures in the PRC
Voyage of Discovery
Drinking the Blood of Goats
Ticket for a Phantom Bus
Os peixes nadam o mar
Three Villages Far Away
The River Weser
Children I Should Have Kidnapped, Part I
Let's Get You Out of Those Clothes
If Underwear Could Speak
Croc Hunter/Combat Wombat
Only My Favorite Baseball Player EVER
Aw, Larry Walker, how I loved thee.
M: Science and Exploration
T: Cook a nice dinner
Th: Parties, movies, dinners
F: Picnics, the Louvre
S: Read books, go for walks, PARKOUR
Su: Philosophy, Religion
The Reading List
This list starts Summer 2006
A Crocodile on the Sandbank
Tales of the Alhambra (in progress)
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Lost Years of Merlin
Harry Potter a l'ecole des sorciers (in progress)
Atlas Shrugged (in progress)
A Long Way Gone (story of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone- met the author! w00t!)
The Eye of the World: Book One of the Wheel of Time
From Magma to Tephra (in progress)
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Harry Potter 7
The No. 1 Lady's Detective Agency
Introduction to Planetary Volcanism
A Child Called "It"
Is Multi-Culturalism Bad for Women?
Americans in Southeast Asia: Roots of Commitment (in progress)
What's So Great About Christianity?
Aeolian Dust and Dust Deposits
The City of Ember
The People of Sparks
When I was in Cuba, I was a German Shepard
The Golden Compass
Clan of the Cave Bear
The 9/11 Commission Report (2nd time through, graphic novel format this time, ip)
The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Elves of Cintra
The Gypsy Morph
Animorphs #23: The Pretender
Animorphs #25: The Extreme
Animorphs #26: The Attack
A Journey to the Center of the Earth
A Great and Terrible Beauty
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
To Sir, With Love
Alice in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
The Hunger Games
Shadows and Strongholds
The Jungle Book
Beatrice and Virgil
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
No One Ever Told Us We Were Defeated
The Name of the Wind
Tao Te Ching
What Paul Meant
Lao Tzu and Taoism
Sand and Sandstones
Lost Christianites: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
The Science of God
Great Contemporaries, by Winston Churchill
City of Bones
Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Old Man and the Sea
Flowers for Algernon
Au Bonheur des Ogres
The Road to Serfdom
De La Terre ŕ la Lune (ip)
In the Light of What We Know
Devil in the White City
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
How to Be a Good Wife
A Mote in God's Eye
want to read: Last Hunger Games Book, Honeybee Democracy, The Bell Jar
The Bionic Assembly Line
Sunday. 10.29.06 5:25 pm
So we are living on the edge of the future. Some professors and graduate students here Brown have developed BrainGate, a chip that can be inserted into the brain which reads and translates the electromagnetic impulses of the brain and uses these messages to do things, like move the mouse on a computer screen or turn on lights. This is beneficial for the labâ€™s guinea pig: heâ€™s a 20-something quadriplegic- just about the same age as the people who are working on the chip in his brain.
The Japanese have developed a similar chip- just by thinking about it, the demonstrator can open and close the hand of a robotic arm, sitting on a table behind a plexi-glass divider. BrainGate technology allows a person to check email, surf the web, and turn on electrical appliances (all those that can be coordinated by a computer system) with just a thought. This was done by first of all recording the brain waves and electrical impulses put out by the brain, and then devising an algorithm to make sense of all of the different signals so that they could be understood. â€śMove left handâ€ť is a signal that requires an electrical signal to be sent from the brain to the nerves in the hand, a signal that can be picked up by the chip and reinterpreted to do whatever the researchers want it to do.
The researchers at Brown have also recently constructed what they call the first â€śreal, genuine fake cellsâ€ť. That is, theyâ€™ve constructed cells that approximate the look of real cells, but are made of polymer plastics. They are used to provide a platform on which tissues can be grown outside the body, or with which regeneration of certain kinds of cells (like nerve cells or smooth tissue cells) could be stimulated inside the body.
One research group just succeeded in manufacturing nanostructures using a DNA code to deliver the building blueprints for what they want it to make: zinc oxide nanowires. Nanowires are attached to the top of carbon nanotubes through a process where a single DNA strand attracts a complementary strand of specific bases and the researchers combine this with heat and gold in a process that I donâ€™t completely understand, then they bake it for a while and kaboom, nanowires grow according to the instructions provided by the researcher-assembled DNA strand. This break through represents the first time scientists have been able to use an organic molecule to help them build nanostructures. This is an important step because not only are we creating something that self-assembles, but weâ€™ve also found a way to include complex instructions (which is hard for machinery to do but is what life has been doing excellently for billions of years) In the future, we could potentially use the amazing coding power of DNA, together with the light-sensing properties of some proteins, and other organic moleculesâ€™ sensitivity to temperature, pressure, and a range of other stimuli, as a way to make sophisticated detectors and perhaps even computer circuitry.
Crazy, huhn? We are living on the edge of the future. We are blurring the line between machine and man. We are crisscrossing the line between life and semi-living assembly lines. Is that so different than using oxen to drag our plows or dogs to fetch our papers?
It could be that the robots of the future will not even look like traditional robots at all, but have skin that looks like ours, cells that look like ours, even reproductive capacities like ours, the details specified by us instead of by God. They could have processors that, instead of storing information in chemicals and cells and pathways or even zeros and ones it could be stored as a series of quantum packets, the information storage regime of the future.
At Commencement they had a speaker who told us that during our years at Brown, our professors were going to lead us to the edge of a cliff. It was up to us whether or not we decided to jump off, she said. Thatâ€™s a rather interesting way of putting itâ€¦. The older grad students reassured us that yes, we would feel like jumping off a cliff because of our professors by the end of 5 years.
But I think the phrase works well when we consider the way that the future is upon us. The age of AI is fast approaching, and there is nothing that the warnings of Hollywood movies can do to stop it. Weâ€™re at the edge of the cliff. Are you going to jump?
Sunday. 10.29.06 1:02 am
I would call what happened outside today a "squall" but squall seems to imply that it was transient in nature, while this particular type of meteorological event lasted all day long, never wavering in intensity.
Then Toku and I went to the Halloween party, where we met a half-Japanese half-German guy who studies theoretical math. His goal in going to grad school here is to determine how and why one gets paid for something as useless as Number Theory. He asked the couple dressed as Bavarians hopefully if they were actually real Bavarians. But hello, it's Halloween, so no, they were just pretending.
The award for scariest costume went to the fellow in ass-less chaps. The most hilarious person was definitely drunk Audrey Hepburn, whom we ran into multiple times during the evening, and who spoke at length with Toku even though he doesn't really speak English.
Thursday. 10.26.06 10:54 pm
::Not-so-near collision with drunk girl on the sidewalk who was weaved into my path suddenly because she was drunk and looking backwards and not watching where she was going::
Me: oh! Sorry.
Her: OMG! Ride your bike on the street why don't you!
Me: Or you could not take up the entire sidewalk, you stupid, drunk bitch.
Ok, so I didn't actually say that. But I was thinking it really really hard in her direction.
Sunday. 10.22.06 10:17 pm
For some reason when I look at my "Writings" page, the text of the writing goes off the side of screen and you can't read whatever was written on the rightmost side of the page. How can I fix that? I tried adjusting the code after
But I can't figure it out.
I'm mad at my friend because he promised to come to breakfast and meet my mom today and then he totally cancelled like a loser. He didn't even call me to cancel-- he called my other friend who was coming. Funny how people you rather like make you more angry when they're flakey than people you don't like as much. It's like you like them, so you want them to do right and live up to your expectations. If you don't like them, you're just like ok, whatevs, culaterzman. Lame. The other day in Geophysics we learned about the so-called Lame Constants, named for Frenchman Gabriel Lame. HAHAHA. I couldn't help laughing until I was going to die. My geophysics prof didn't think it was funny at all. What can I say, that happens to me a lot.
My mom and I had a really fun weekend though, we went out on a motor boat in the bay with my roommates and motored all the way across the state. Then we docked the boat and had lunch, then got back on the boat and motored away. My roommates over-heated the motor, bottomed out, almost killed the battery.... it was exciting. It's always a good idea to go boating with a bunch of people who don't know anything about boats and don't have life jackets.
Pale Blue Dot
Sunday. 10.22.06 11:36 am
It occured to me, in thinking about the nature of the human soul and its place within the chemistry, biology, and genetics of the physical Earth, to think about what it would feel like to discover that the soul is just a strange artifact of a mutation in the genetic code, and, with a centrifuge and some plastic and glass lab equipment you could remove it, and grow a person without one; or remove the part of the brain that gave that impression from a person who grew up having it. If in fact God himself was simply an artifact of the odd chemistry of the human mind, which for some reason wants to make us believe that He exists.
What if Life on Earth is alone in the great expanse of the Universe (or multi-verse! that's for another post!), and our feelings that we aren't alone here are as accidental as life itself. It would be ironic, really, for life to arise, live for several billion years, and then be eventually extinguished in another 4.6 billion years when the Sun becomes exhausted and dies. Why? Because no one would be around to witness it. No one would laugh at us for thinking that life had a purpose. No one would chortle at the idea that we believe our emotions were our own and not the result of a short-lived chemical imbalance. No one would witness the passing of a billion lifetimes, the births and deaths of a trillion individual people.... not even to come here too late and examine what we left behind.
I don't think that's true, but it's trippy to think about it that way, isn't it?
Thinking like that recalls for me some things that Carl Sagan said. If you meet pretty much any astronomer, chances are that he's obsessed with Carl Sagan. The people of my generation don't really understand the obsession, but Carl Sagan did have some interesting things to say. I'll just rip the thing I found just now when I was looking for the exact quote for the name of this entry whole-sale from where I found it, which was http://www.bigskyastroclub.org/pale_blue_dot.htm
On October 13, 1994, the famous astronomer Carl Sagan was delivering a public lecture at his own university of Cornell. During that lecture, he presented this photo:
The photo above was taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 as it sailed away from Earth, more than 4 billion miles in the distance. Having completed it primary mission, Voyager at that time was on its way out of the Solar System, on a trajectory of approximately 32 degrees above the plane of the Solar System. Ground Control issued a command for the distant space craft to turn around and, looking back, take photos of each of the planets it had visited. From Voyager's vast distance, the Earth was captured as a infinitesimal point of light (between the two white tick marks), actually smaller than a single pixel of the photo. The image was taken with a narrow angle camera lens, with the Sun quite close to the field of view. Quite by accident, the Earth was captured in one of the scattered light rays caused by taking the image at an angle so close to the Sun. Dr. Sagan was quite moved by this image of our tiny world. Here is an enlargement of the area around our Pale Blue Dot and an excerpt from the late Dr. Sagan's talk:
"We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.
The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."
Sunday. 10.22.06 11:06 am
Indeed, the fact that so many different kinds of life share so much genetic code is one of the main reasons that scientists believe that life only originated once, and therefore that all life has descended from a single ancestor. If life had originated more than once on the Earth in different places, there is a high probability that a lot of our genetic code (especially the "filler" code, that is there but doesn't appear to actually do anything) would be different depending on which group you and your species was descended from. But then the question has to be- why didn't life arise several times?
The Earth was born about 4.6 billion years ago. Signs of life on the Earth appeared soon thereafter... in fact, signs of life, in the form of trace fossils, can be seen in the record almost as far back as the record goes. Now of course the record doesn't go back until 4.6 billion years- because of the Earth's extremely active lithosphere, old rocks are eroded, metamorphosed, buried, melted, and subducted to the point that we can't find many rocks much older than about 3.5, and most of those are metamorphosed igneous rocks, meaning that they were rocks cooled directly from magma, which wouldn't contain evidence of life anyway, which were then distorted so much that even if it did it couldn't be recognized.
The point of this whole discussion being that in the conditions of early Earth, life must have arisen fairly quickly, in terms of geological time. I mean, we're talking a couple hundred million years after the Earth was formed. Plus, you have to reserve a fair amount of time for life to evolve to its simplest form: the one-celled organism. A one-celled organism, though much simpler than say, a human being, is so complex in its use of DNA, RNA, permeable membrane and all of their counterparts, that it must have taken a fair amount of time to develop that level of complexity itself. It must have taken time to, as they hypothesize, absorb structures like mitochondira and chloroplasts from being independent organisms into the cell as we know it today. That suggests that life, in the environment of the early Earth, was fairly easy to make. Otherwise, statistically, we would have to call upon long time scales to explain how something that is not easy to do by chance ended up happening anyway. So if life was fairly easy to make in this environment, why was it made only once? It would make more sense that in the time where it was easy to make life, life originated in many places at several difference times. It could be that it did arise several times, and our style of life (using DNA and RNA and so forth) was so much more successful that it outcompeted every type of life into extinction before we even had a record of it.
It could just be that yes, it was a huge longshot and life isn't really that easy to create, and it just so happened that things went just right and life was created early on in Earth's history. I mean, it only has to happen once. We don't have any other case studies right now. The key would be to find a banana that didn't share 50-60% of our genetic coding- that would be the truly amazing discovery, because then it would suggest that that banana evolved and originated completely separately from all other forms of life. But no such banana has ever been found.......
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