August 31, 2009
Found this old photo the other day…
Just pour liberally… And you’ll find you can.
August 30, 2009
I found this very interesting article the other day that discusses the underlying ideal behind the very definition, OUR own definition, of Life. As any avid reader of mine by now will know, I’ve covered quite a bit concerning how most of what we take for granted came about. However, there is a big gap in the actually workings behind how Life exactly came about.
And there is good reason for this omittance. The main reason being that… While it is somewhat obvious how the substance from which cells are built might have generally came about i.e. the natural laws of physical chemistry being what they are, thereby sanctioning the formation of organic molecules near stars in nebula as well as in seemingly hostile atmospheric conditions (like RNA bases and protiens)… Plus the way lipid molecules readily form vesicles in polar solvents… The question of how they came to work together, in whatever monumental mountain of chance that “won” through the odds of all the non-functional prototypes, to produce Life as we know it, that ran rife and became the stromatolites. Well… We’re still are aghast as to what the actual definition of Life IS.
So rather than pondering deeply over this, presenting a myriad of possibilities to the reader, most of which might only serve to confuse my own vague understanding of how this “great” celestial event might actually have come about… OR perhaps exclude many pertinent issues concerning currently debated theories (mainly due to my limited reading on the subject) of what actually constitutes Life…
I’d instead like to present this germane article, writen by an expert in the field, which ‘ever-so-delicately’ skates around self-rightous cocksured presumption by precluding any arrogance from a self-pronounced, all emcompassing “universal” definition of what Life should be and/or actually is… And beautifully tackles the multifaceted view of Life from many of the varied perceptive stances the world over. For its egalitarian content eloquently covers this great topic in a way that science alone could not ever hope to: throught an equimonious flow of philosophical adage… Adage that I would hope appeals to all current, sensible and ‘open’ scientific minds alike, without tangling one’s mind in sophomoric pretentions.
Writen by Robert Hazen for New Scientist, it clarifies as best as we might currently hope for, one of the deepest and greatest challenges faced by science today – to understand where Life, as we know it, came from and how it might have come about.
No human discovery could have more profound ramifications than finding what’s known in the business as a “second genesis” – an origin of life independent of that on Earth. With our present sample of one known living world, the possibility remains that Earth is unique and that we are utterly alone in the universe. But if we find a second genesis in our own cosmic backyard, then we will know that life is a universal imperative. The unproven conviction that the cosmos teems with life drives many of us in the nascent discipline of astrobiology – a field that one wit described as “the only science without a subject matter”.
Earthbound biologists are exceptionally good at finding life. A single cell, a snippet of DNA, even an idiosyncratic collection of carbon-based molecules can point unambiguously to the presence of living beings, but those are signs of Earth life. What if life elsewhere is different, based on an exotic alien anatomy and biochemistry? Unlike Justice Potter Stewart, who in his 1964 Supreme Court ruling on obscenity boasted some proficiency at recognising pornography, “I know it when I see it”, I think the chances are good that we won’t know alien life when we see it. So what exactly is life, and how can we detect it?
About Robert Hazen:
In his laboratory, Robinson Professor Robert Hazen pursues the question of how complexity arose during the genesis of life, but the term “emergent complexity” seems to apply equally well in describing his own multifaceted career.
With a wide span of academic interests, publication of 12 books, as well as numerous popular science articles and a side career as a professional musician, Hazen’s curriculum vitae is unique not just in its length, but in its diversity.
His resume, which starts at “Scientific Research and Education,” takes on a new tone at “Professional Experience — Symphonic Trumpeter.” It becomes more colorful with each additional heading, from “Popular Writing in History and Science” (e.g., Newsweek and Scientific American) to “Selected Television Appearances” (e.g., “The Today Show,” “NOVA” and “Nightwatch”).
“Bob has a very complex life,” says fellow Robinson Professor James Trefil, with whom Hazen has written two books. “He basically has five full-time jobs.”
To find out more about Robert and his work, please click here.
I found the following article, which was posted two days ago by Casey Kazan, on “The Daily Galaxy” website… As it is a subject of great importance, one who’s results might have great implications about the way We perceive ourselves here on Earth, I follow it adamantly.
How did life on Earth begin? An giant step toward solving this puzzle was taken in the 1980′s with the Nobel Prize–winning discovery by Tom Cech and Sidney Altman that RNA, the sister molecule of DNA, can catalyze certain chemical reactions inside cells, a job previously thought to be the exclusive domain of proteins. Until their discovery, RNA was thought to have just one function: storing the genetic information cells need to build proteins.
This new revelation about RNA’s dual role suggested to some scientists, including Harvard’s Jack Szostak, that RNA likely existed long before DNA or proteins because it might be able to catalyze its own reproduction. Their discovery made it easier to think about how life began, Szostak says. “They inspired me to try to think of ways to make RNAs in the lab that could catalyze their own replication.”
Szostak and his team is working to recreate a hypothetical model of this process in the laboratory. By building simple cell-like structures in a test tube, they are attempting to establish a plausible path that led primitive cells to emerge from simple chemicals. Ultimately, Szostak hopes to answer fundamental questions about evolution’s earliest steps.
Building on earlier work by other scientists, Szostak and colleagues began experimenting with a clay mixture common on early Earth called montmorillonite, which was found to catalyze the chemical reactions needed to make RNA.
So, did life originally spring from clay as some creation myths assert? Not necessarily, but it does provide a possible mechanism for explaining how life initially arose from nonliving molecules. Szostak’s team at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital showed that the presence of clay aids naturally occurring reactions that result in the formation of fatty sacks called vesicles, similar to what scientists expect the first living cells to have looked like. Further, the clay helps RNA form. The RNA can stick to the clay and move with it into the vesicles. This provides a method for RNA’s critical genetic information to move inside a primitive cell.
“It’s exciting because we know that a particular clay mineral helps with the assembly of RNA,” Szostak said. “There certainly would have been lots of environments on early Earth with clay minerals. It’s something that forms relatively easily as rocks weather.”
The researchers also found that the clay expedited the process by which fatty acids form vesicles that could serve as cell membranes. When RNA and fatty acids were mixed with the montmorillonite, the clay seemed to help transport the RNA inside the vesicles, forming a cell-like structure. Szostak and his team surmised that a similar process could possibly have led to the creation of the first cell.
When the Earth and Moon were cooling from the forces of accretion, no doubt there would have been thousands of volcanic ash plumes blooming in the proto-atmosphere, as the brittle mantle overflowed with hot magma and molten rock… And as the Earth’s surface cooled, water would have condensed out from the atmosphere and dissolved some of the ash. This would have begun the cycle of accumulation of this clay, as it deposited in ever increasing amounts over the surface of the Earth.
If you are curious about the source of this article, please click here.
August 28, 2009
What is an archer
Without a target?
It is not enough to have the philosophy of Tao. One must act. Actions, not words, are important. But mere movement is meaningless. One should have purpose.
Short-term goals help us determine each stage of our lives and experience it completely. Long-term goals give us perspective and continuity. Short-term goals help us understand the temporality of life and yet provide us with a way to benefit by that temporality. Long-term goals give focus to the experiences that we accumulate.
Our goals should be entirely personal. No one knows us better than we know ourselves. There is only one universal goal: a gracious death with no regrets.
August 27, 2009
This is a 35 minute film made by Peter Russell entitled “The Global Brain”. I would like to drop it in my blog here, as I feel it touches pertinently on many important issues concerning how our perceptive stances about the world in which we live are changing.
Many thanks for this, Peter!
About Peter Russell:
Peter Russell is a fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, of The World Business Academy and of The Findhorn Foundation, and an Honorary Member of The Club of Budapest.
At Cambridge University (UK), he studied mathematics and theoretical physics. Then, as he became increasingly fascinated by the mysteries of the human mind he changed to experimental psychology. Pursuing this interest, he traveled to India to study meditation and eastern philosophy, and on his return took up the first research post ever offered in Britain on the psychology of meditation.
He also has a post-graduate degree in computer science, and conducted there some of the early work on 3-dimensional displays, presaging by some twenty years the advent of virtual reality.
In the mid-seventies Peter Russell joined forces with Tony Buzan and helped teach “Mind Maps” and learning methods to a variety of international organizations and educational institutions.
Since then his corporate programs have focused increasingly on self-development, creativity, stress management, and sustainable environmental practices. Clients have included IBM, Apple, Digital, American Express, Barclays Bank, Swedish Telecom, ICI, Shell Oil and British Petroleum.
His principal interest is the deeper, spiritual significance of the times we are passing through. He has written several books in this area – The TM Technique, The Upanishads, The Brain Book, The Global Brain Awakens, The Creative Manager, The Consciousness Revolution, Waking Up in Time, and From Science to God.
As one of the more revolutionary futurists Peter Russell has been a keynote speaker at many international conferences, in Europe, Japan and the USA. His multi-image shows and videos, The Global Brain and The White Hole in Time have won praise and prizes from around the world. In 1993 the environmental magazine Buzzworm voted Peter Russell “Eco-Philosopher Extraordinaire” of the year.
Today he is 23,123 days old.
For more information about Peter and his work here on Earth, please visit his website here.
August 25, 2009
I am not this fragile body.
We are not our bodies. This may seem an odd assertion. After all, there is no other object on this earth that we know more intimately. Why should we not identify with it?
What is there about our bodies that is tangible? Of course it has substance, but how do we account for volition? A corpse is jut as tangible as a living being, and yet no one would msitake the two. Something mysterious accounts for the differences between a live body and a dead body. Something animates us.
It is the mind that directs the energy. But what of the mind can we call definite? It is like a flickering flame: At no point can we determine its exact contours. The more closely we examine ourselves, the more subtle distinctions become. Everything becomes quite indistinct. We cling stubbornly but futilely to the impression that we could find something in the reduction of things.
It’s all quite confusing. But one thing is certain: I am not this fragile body.
August 24, 2009
About a year ago I came across this essay, writen by Andrew Marshall. I would like re-post it here, for I feel it beautifully ties into what I have been speaking about illusion.
It is said by some that everything we see is real. That view is taken to an extreme point by those who say that we only exist while we are alive and that clinical death means an end to existence. This is the hard view, the view that everything is solid and that the only reality is that which can be seen or otherwise experienced through the senses. It is an understandable view. Another point of view is that everything we see is only an appearance, a view that is taken to its extreme by saying that nothing really exists at all and that everything is an illusion.
What we do know is that at the basic level of physical appearances or phenomena is the atom. Nothing can appear in our physical universe without atoms. For a long time, the understanding was that the atom was the building block of everything, atoms forming themselves into molecules to result in different qualities of matter. In exploring the nature of the atom, though, physicists made some extraordinary discoveries, the most extraordinary of which was, for the layman at least, that the atom or even its nucleus is not the solid little particle it was once thought to be. Deeper investigation found that the atom itself is made up of particles and that the nature of those particles is quite mysterious and elusive. From the layman’s point of view, there is no solid building block of life. Matter, at its most fundamental state, consists of rapidly moving subatomic-particles that are not solid at all and are in a constant state of change. That which appears to be solid is not. It consists of something that is indefinable, that cannot actually be grasped and which relies on movement and the space in which movement can take place.
If matter cannot be pinned down long enough to ascertain its true nature, what we can say is that matter is, or relies upon, energy. Movement cannot arise without energy and energy can be said to be movement or the potential for movement. But where does energy come from? What is the initial source of movement or potential for movement? It cannot actually be found. If it were said to be the sun, for example, where or what is the source of the sun? If the sun were said to be the result of some atomic reaction, we come back to the question of the source of atoms and their energy. At some point in our search we might be tempted to give up and rely on a creation theory but, as we looked at in the previous article, Engineering in the Cosmic Sense*, the idea of a Creator responsible for manufacturing the universe is seriously flawed. That the source of energy and the source of atoms cannot be found is frustrating for the intellect but has the potential to be extraordinarily liberating for the mind. It requires us, if we want to understand our own nature, to look at things in an entirely different way.
Something that we can say with confidence is that there is a world of appearance. We see objects and experience them through the senses. How they appear to us depends on the signals coming through the sense organs and the interpretation the mind puts on those signals. The determination of the quality of anything depends upon judgment, an act of the mind. Together, we might call this perception.
This fact has led to some schools of thought asserting that nothing exists except in the mind. To an extent that is true in that the appearance of anything can only arise in the mind. But the “mind only” view has one major limitation and that is that objects have something about them that can be perceived by others having sensory perception. In other words, any number of beings may detect the presence of object A, even though the quality and interpretation – the perception – may arise differently to them; and that detection relies on the presence of atoms. So the appearance of objects arises in the mind but the objects themselves are not in the mind. Some phenomena cannot be seen but can still be experienced, like the wind, for example. What do we mean by “the wind”? There is no such entity as the wind when we look at things more deeply because the wind is simply the movement of air – gas molecules moving in unison through space. It is a phenomenon, not a thing, and can only be experienced or described as a result of the moving air coming into contact with other objects. We cannot actually see wind, only its effects. The causes of wind arise from other phenomena: changes of air pressure, temperature and so on (which also arise from other causes in a beginningless chain of events). All phenomena depend ..ment and they also depend on the presence of atoms, which are not self-existing permanent entities in their own right. So the original source of atoms cannot be found and the causes of phenomena are simply effects produced by other phenomena, so their origin cannot be found either.
Do we come, then, to the conclusion that everything is an illusion? If that were so, we could say when we stub our toe on a door frame, “The door frame is an illusion, my toe is an illusion and so the excruciating pain I now feel is also an illusion.” That would be absolute nonsense, wouldn’t it? The pain is real enough. Yet our toe consists of more space than atoms and so does the door frame. To the extent that nothing is solid and everything that appears solid consists mainly of space (and the same applies to liquids and gases) everything does have an illusory nature. It appears to be something that it is not, just as the weatherman can appear to be in our living room giving tomorrow’s forecast but isn’t actually there. In other words, the appearance is there and to say that it isn’t is nonsensical but its reality is something else – and that brings us back to the atom.
If the atom, and everything made from atoms, doesn’t have an intrinsic, permanent nature that can be pinned down so that we can say, “This is it!” it means that the real nature of everything is something other than physical. To put it another way, there is no beall-and-end-all that we can call purely physical. There is no permanent “stuff” of the universe. The ultimate nature of our physical world is ungraspable.
So the man or woman who says that the end of life is the end of existence is ignoring something quite profound. Their belief is based on an idea of physical reality which depends on a permanent foundation called the atom. But there is no permanent structure of any sort anywhere in the universe and so the whole physical cosmos, and every atom which comprises it, has to be the play or manifestation of something deeper – a deeper reality that some call the “unified field” and others from a more metaphysical standpoint call the transcendent because it could be thought to be beyond the physical. A better view might be that it is not a case of transcendent one side and physical the other but that everything is all part of the same, or rather an appearance of the same, whatever that same may be.
Although the ultimate reality of everything is, so far at least, ungraspable – and sages have always said that it is and will always be so – intelligence is intrinsic in everything (see Engineering in the Cosmic Sense*). From that intelligence, consciousness must also arise or perhaps one is an aspect of the other. Either way, it must be that the atom is an expression of innate intelligence; and it follows that your consciousness and mine, experienced now by virtue of the atoms of the physical brain, must also be an expression or aspect of innate intelligence. So death can only be the end of the appearance of life, the end of the appearance of an identity. To arrive at that conclusion, we must thank the quantum physicists and others who, through their consciousness and intelligence, discovered the illusory nature of the atom. Gradually, science and the understanding of consciousness are coming ever closer together and one day each will inevitably embrace the other. That will truly be a remarkable and wonderful thing.
If you would like to know where I sourced this article from, I found it here.
Also… I would like to take the chance to draw the reader’s attention to Professor Jim Al-Khalili’s BBC series entitled “Atom.” Here in the third and final part of the documentary, he investigates the “The Illusion Of Reality…” Which, I feel, pertinently follows on from where this entry leaves off…
And… Lastly… I would like to draw the readers attention to a pertinent idea that David Bohm brings to light when discussing aspects of perception.
August 24, 2009
Is a mirrored,
We surround ourselves with the reflections of our own identities. We think only of ourselves, not of Tao. All we care about is survival and gratification. When will we see that all we have done is to surround ourselves with our own illusions?
We do not see the world as it truly is. We ignore the dilemma of our existence. We are like preening iditos inside a mirrored casket. As we build upon our illusions, the box gets smaller. Soon it develops spikes – the spears of our won egotism – only we are so self-absorbed that we do not notice the points. We are too in love with ourselves. We prance around, we fluff our hair. And still the casket gets smaller, and smaller.
Some succeed in getting out of this trap, but they are so attached that they drag their casket behind them for a long time. Those who drag their illusions with them are only a step better than those who are trapped in them. Only when we realize our true nature does the casket disappear.
An illusion is a distortion of the senses, revealing how the brain normally organizes and interprets sensory stimulation. While illusions distort reality, they tend to be generally shared by most people. Illusions may occur with more of the human senses than vision, but visual illusions, a.k.a. optical illusions, are the most well known and understood. The emphasis on visual illusions occurs because vision often dominates the other senses.
Now I will present you with the illusion in question:
Right… What do we see? Well… What I see (and hoefully all of you see too) are two colored spirals, one blue one and one green one in alternate sequence, that are hatched by orange and pinky-red lines, all swirling out from the center. But as we know it’s an illusion, let’s zoom into the details somewhat and see if we can spot what’s “wrong” with this first impression.
Hopefully, you can now see that the apparently green and blue spirals are really just green spirals. If you look at the two larger parts of the “green and blue” spirals in the left and center, you’ll notice that they are really green. However, if you pull away suficiently from the picture, you’ll notice that the “green and blue” spiral in the right hand corner is still blue. So let’s zoom in some more to see without a doubt what the colors really are.
As you can see… There is no blue… Just green.
Still not sure… Let’s remove some of the surroundingly loud orange and pinky-red colors.
Pretty cool, huh? Here’s another version of it using straight lines this time:
Now we’ve seen it… Let me expand on the idea of an optical illusion.
An optical illusion is always characterized by visually perceived images that, at least in common sense terms, are deceptive or misleading. Therefore, the information gathered by the eye is processed by the brain to give, on the face of it, a percept that does not tally with a physical measurement of the stimulus source. A conventional assumption is that there are physiological illusions that occur naturally and cognitive illusions that can be demonstrated by specific visual tricks that say something more basic about how human perceptual systems work. The human brain constructs a world inside our head based on what it samples from the surrounding environment. However, sometimes it tries to organise this information in a way it thinks is best or easiest to understand, while at other times it simply fills in the gaps. This way in which our brain works is the basis of an illusion.
Just like many other words often used in a different sense in spiritual philosophy, the word “illusion” is used to denote different aspects in Hindu Philosphy. Many Monist philosophies clearly demarcate illusion from truth and falsehood. As per Hindu advaita philosophy, Illusion is something which is not true and not false. Whereas in general usage it is common to assume that illusion is false, Hindu philosophy makes a distinction between Maya (illusion) and falsehood. In terms of this philosophy maya is true in itself but it is not true in comparison with the truth. As per this philosophy, illusion is not the opposite of truth or reality. Based on these assumptions Vedas declare that the world as humans normally see is illusion (Maya). It does not mean world is not real. The world is only so much real as the image of a person in a mirror. The world is not real/true when compared to the reality. But the world is also not false. Falsehood is something which does not exist. If we apply this philosophy to the above example, the illusion is not actually an illusion but is false. This is because, in general usage, people tend to consider lllusion is the same thing as falsehood. As per Adishankar’s teachings, the world we think is true is not true. Rather it is an illusion, which is not true and not false. The truth of the world is something which can only be experienced by removing the identity (or the Ego).
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
On the same note of Illusion, I’d like to bring to your attention an experiment that was conducted by the BBC in order to demonstrate just how susceptible we all are to the effects of “priming”.
So… What is Priming?
Priming in psychology refers to activating parts of particular representations or associations in memory just before carrying out an action or task. It is considered to be one of the manifestations of implicit memory i.e. a type of memory in which previous experiences aid in the performance of a task without conscious awareness of these previous experiences. A property of priming is that the remembered item is remembered best in the form in which it was originally encountered. If a priming list is given in an auditory mode, then an auditory cue produces better performance than a visual cue.
Priming is also an experimental technique by which a stimulus is used to sensitize the subject to a later presentation of the same or similar stimulus. For example, when a subject reads a list of words including the word “table,” and is later asked to complete a word that starts with “tab,” the list “primes” the subject to answer “table,” meaning that the probability that the “primed” subject answers “table” is higher than for non-”primed” subjects.
Priming can also be demonstrated in the following way. Subjects are shown an incomplete sketch and asked what it is. If they fail to identify the sketch, they are shown another sketch that is slightly more complete. This process continues until they eventually recognize the picture. When subjects are shown the same sketch at a later date, they will identify the sketch at an earlier stage than was possible for them the first time.
Priming can be conceptual or perceptual. Conceptual priming is based on stimulus meaning and is enhanced by semantic tasks. For example, when primed with the word table, the subject will show priming effects on the word chair, because table and chair belong to the same category. Perceptual priming is based on the stimulus form and is enhanced by the match between stimulus form at study and test. Perceptual priming is sensitive to the modality and exact format of the stimulus. An example of perceptual priming is seeing the same sketch in the experiment mentioned above.
An important feature of a priming task is that amnesic subjects perform as well on it as control subjects do, indicating through their performance that they, too, remember what was on the previous study list, even though they report no conscious recollection of ever having seen the list. This is taken as one kind of evidence that implicit and explicit memory are different.
Priming of amnesic subjects with words that were unknown to them prior to the injury is impaired, which has been argued to demonstrate that priming depends on the activation of existing memory, however this interpretation is undermined by normal or near normal priming using nonverbal materials in amnesic subjects.
In the near future I will post a blog that will address the extent to which We all, as human beings, have already been primed by the societies in which we live. Again I cannot stress how careful we should all be before presuming we know something i.e. what is real and what is not real…
“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
August 24, 2009
Mind in the center
Radiates to eight legs,
Creating a supreme web
To sift Tao.
A spider is a perfect creature of Tao. Its body is an elegant expression of its mind: It spins beautiful htreads, and its legs are exactly suited to create and walk its web. From its center, a spider radiates its world out with a spare economy.
A spider’s posture in regard to Tao is to set up a pattern. Its mind determines this pattern. It realizes the flow of Tao and does nothing to interfere with it. It simply creates its pattern and waits for Tao to bring it sustenance. That which comes to it, it accepts. That which does not come to it is not its concern.
Once its web is established, a spider does not think of expanding unnaturally. It does not make war upon its neighbors, it does not go for adventures in other countries, it does not try to fly to the moon, it does not build factories, it does not try to enslave others, it does not try to be intellectual. It is simply who it is and is content with that.