Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The shadow side of American democracy

 The shadow side of American democracy is always with us whether it was the Native American Genocide, slavery of black Americans, misogony toward women, child labor, discrimination against immigrants, the red scare of McCarthy, corrupt politics, the con of Donald Trump and his cult, etc.

In spite of this shadow, once it is made conscious which often takes decades if not centuries, truth, justice, goodness and beauty has triumphed. What do you make of that?

The misguided belief in “alternative facts.”

Conversely, to the extent that GPS works, its success reinforces our confidence in all the underlying assumptions, including the assumption that Euclidean geometry describes, with good accuracy, the reality of spatial geometry on earthly scales. And so far, GPS has worked flawlessly.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. 19). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Kellyanne Conway told reporters that the Trump administration worked on a belief in alternative facts. How did that work out for them and us?

Monday, October 17, 2022

Space without objects is like one hand clapping.

Direct, everyday experience teaches us that objects can move from place to place without changing their properties. This leads us to the idea of “space” as a kind of receptacle, wherein nature deposits objects. 

Practical applications in surveying, architecture, and navigation led people to measure distances and angles among nearby objects. Through such work, they discovered the regularities on display in Euclidean geometry.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. 16). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Hans said to Gretel: "What is space?"

Gretel said, “Space is the receptacle that holds objects.

Hans said, “What if there were no objects?”

Gretel said, “Then there would be no space.”

Hans said, “It’s kind of like one hand clapping.”

Gretel laughed and then Hans laughed too.

Friday, October 14, 2022

What does Wilczek mean by the term “radical conservatism?”

The method of Kepler, Galileo, and Newton combines the humble discipline of respecting the facts and learning from Nature with the systematic chutzpah of using what you think you’ve learned aggressively, applying it everywhere you can, even in situations that go beyond your original evidence. If it works, then you’ve discovered something useful; if it doesn’t, then you’ve learned something important. I’ve called that attitude Radical Conservatism, and to me it’s the essential innovation of the Scientific Revolution. 

Radical Conservatism is conservative because it asks us to learn from Nature and to respect facts—key aspects of what is called the scientific method. But it is radical, too, because it pushes what you’ve learned for all it’s worth. This is no less essential to how science actually works. It provides science with its cutting edge.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (pp. 4-5). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

As a psychotherapist I often ask my clients “How is that working for you?” Learning how to live life and be happy is often trial and error and often people have to learn the hard way. Few would call this approach to living “scientific.” 

Socrates taught that an “unexamined life is not worth living.” Living an examined life entails the willingness to learn from one’s experience. Some people would rather be right, that is hold tightly to their beliefs no matter what, while others are curious, humble, and willing to learn. This is the attitude that Frank Wilczek calls “radical conservatism” which means keep and continue what works and yet be open to new applications and possibilities.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Reality doesn’t care anything about your beliefs.

The second theme is that to appreciate the physical universe properly one must be “born again.”

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. xv). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Quantum mechanics reveals that you cannot observe something without changing it, after all. Each person receives unique messages from the external world.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. xvii). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Psychophysics reveals that consciousness does not direct most actions, but instead processes reports of them, from unconscious units that do the work.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. xvii). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Since we were babies we perceive and manipulate our immediate world. The results of this manipulation comes to be what we think we know. But as we get older we begin to realize that sometimes what we think we know isn’t so. The bumper sticker says, “Reality doesn’t care anything about your beliefs.”

Monday, October 10, 2022

We are made up of the same stuff as the stars.

Each of our human bodies contains far more atoms than there are stars in the visible universe, and our brains contain about as many neurons as there are stars in our galaxy. The universe within is a worthy complement to the universe beyond.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. xiv). Penguin Publishing Group. 

The idea that we are composed of the same stuff as stars is physically true. The poets, was it Walt Whitman, had it right.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

There is a lot of space out there.

The first of those themes is abundance. The world is large. Of course, a good look at the sky on a clear night is enough to show you that there’s lots of space “out there.” When, after more careful study, we put numbers to that size, our minds are properly boggled.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. xiv). Penguin Publishing Group. P. xiv

When you read, and watch the daily headlines we forget about the world out there. We lose a sense of reverence and awe at the majesty of creation. In relation to the awesomeness of the universe what we as humans have wrought seems infinitesimally stupid.

Book of the month, Fundamentals by Frank Wilczek, " Where’s your curiosity?

The spirit of their enterprise, and mine here, transcends specific dogmas, whether religious or antireligious. I like to state it this way: In studying how the world works, we are studying how God works, and thereby learning what God is. In that spirit, we can interpret the search for knowledge as a form of worship, and our discoveries as revelations.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. xiii). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Awesome. We seldom use that word anymore unless you are a teenager describing something teenagers used to call kewl.

Awesome it is, the universe, and when we dig in and deconstruct it it just gets awesomer and awesomer. How can you say you don’t believe in The Creator, Mother Nature, a Transcendent Source?

And so I hand it to Frank, the physicist, for sharing with us his world of awesomeness.

When people tell me they are bored I get the feeling something has gone terribly wrong. How could that possibly be? Look around you! Where’s your curiosity?

October 2022 MSN book of the month, Fundamentals: Ten Keys To Reality by Frank Wilczek

There will be a book of the month on Markham's Slow News. The book will usually be non fiction which provides a frame of reference or point of view about the world we are living in. This frame of reference or point of view provides the context for understanding and interpreting the various perceptions and events occuring in our media world around us.

The book for October, 2022 is Fundamentals: Ten Keys To Reality by Frank Wilczek. Frank is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics and is a gifted writer.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Ideas worth considering - Is humility and curiosity better than love?


Robert E. Lee and Me is one of the most important books I have read in the last few years in helping me understand the history of the United States and what continues to ail us.


This quote is the basis for my conclusion that stupidity reigns in human beings. We want to believe what we want to believe regardless of the evidence. This observation is what is polarizing us as a nation. We are living in a post truth narcissistic nihilistic culture where as Kellyanne Conway said, when challenged by the GOP lies, that the GOP is not lying but believing in and espousing "alternative facts."


The belief in the viability of "alternative facts" is the death knell of democracy. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said one time, "We can have different opinions, but we can't have different facts." I don't think the position of alternative facts is worth going to war over but reality has consequences and doesn't care anything about a person's beliefs.


What the world needs now is not love, sweet love, but humility and curiosity. Give me humility and curiosity any day and the love will follow but without humility and curiosity it is difficult to muster up the emotion of love.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Ideas worth considering - Do you care about the Neanderthals?

 How have you benefited from learning about the Neanderthals?

The subject line is being changed from "Blast From The Past" to "Ideas worth remembering."

Some of us read a lot of books. What are we after, quantity or quality? Reading can be entertaining and certainly takes up a lot of spare time. However, what did we learn from our reading that helps us grow as individuals and helps us better understand the world we are living in? Is what we read useful in any way?

I liked reading Kindred because I didn't know anything about the Neanderthals except that they existed at one time and were probably a link in the chain of evolution of homo sapiens. It was interesting to learn that some of us still have some Neanderthal DNA in us and we are a product biologically, socially, technologically of what they were composed of, experienced, and learned.

What do you remember and has stuck with you after reading and discussion Kindred?

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Ideas Worth Considering - Is human nature good or bad?

 Is human nature good or bad?

What's your view of basic human nature? Is it good or bad?

Raised as a Roman Catholic I was taught it was bad. Human beings are born with Original Sin and we are sinners who need the death of Jesus to redeem us and set us right with God.

So we spend our lives trying to be good and to be worthy because we have been conditioned to believe that we are basically bad. It has taken me decades to shed this conditioning and now I believe the opposite, that we are blessed by life bestowed by our Transcendent Source who loves us unconditionally.​ As humans we make plenty of mistakes and I have learned that's how we learn and grow and mature.

It has taken me a lifetime to come to the belief that people are basically good. Having been taught the opposite by clerics who want to make me dependent on their religious powers to save my ass is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on humanity.

Bregman has done us a huge favor bringing to consciousness the most fundamental existential question of all. Is human nature good or bad? Your answer is .....?