The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Politics ...

A few weeks ago I was pondering the wacky, wacky world of GOP candidate politics, and I opined that Mitt Romney might want to consider buying Rick Santorum out in return for the VP spot on his ticket. It seemed like a good way to vanquish the then-surging Newt Gingrich, and finally make peace between Romney and “the GOP base”. I myself don’t understand this “base”, nor their alleged demands for a pure, red-blooded, old-fashioned conservative; perhaps they dream of a second coming of Ronald Reagan.

But OK, I have previously noted that there is a lot of conservative sentiment reflected in the polls regarding GOP candidates. Romney still isn’t pulling better than 30%, and the total between the two remaining “base” candidates, i.e. Santorum and Gingrich, is close to 50%; the total for all of the “base” conservatives has hovered around 50% for many months now, while Romney has remained in the 20’s.

It looks like it’s now too late for a Santorum deal. Santorum seems to have caught fire, which  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:21 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Current Affairs ...

I was pondering a little factoid about world population today. Any day now, there will be 7 billion people living on the planet. It wasn’t so long ago when there were only half as many; in 1968, there were about 3.5 billion. No wonder the world seems to have changed so much over this time.

Even though most population growth has occurred in the developing nations, communications and transportation technology have brought every corner of the planet closer and closer together in terms of every day life. You can’t have a nice suburban life in America these days without worrying over affairs in Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somolia, Japan, Greece, Haiti, the Congo — you name it. And as Neil Diamond once sang, “They’re Comin’ to America”; you can’t go to the local supermarket without standing in line next to people from all corners of the world, often on a cell phone speaking their native tongues with some relative in Moscow, Karachi, Santiago or Singapore, waiting to put their diapers, chips and Pepsi on the checkout belt.

Up until about 1900, an average person living to age 70 could not expect to see  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:56 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
Monday, February 20, 2012
Photo ...

Valentine’s Day is over for another year.

Bloomfield Avenue, Bloomfield, NJ.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:16 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Outer Space ...

I see that not everyone has given up on the “WOW Signal“, a narrow-band electomagnetic radio signal from the sky that was picked up in 1977 by the on-going Search for Extraterrestial Intelligence project. This search has been going intermittently since the early 1960s, in both the USA and Russia. For the most part, nothing interesting has been found coming in from the stars beyond a lot of static. But on August 15, 1977, a signal was picked up by some radio dishes at Ohio State University that seemed to have been the real deal, an organized radio signal originating in a distant star system. Unfortunately, no one was monitoring the equipment full-time, and by the time the technicians saw the read-out for the WOW signal, it was too late. They tried pointing another antenna at the spot in the sky where the WOW signal appeared to come from, but it was gone. (Actually, another antenna came into range a few minutes later that day; but failed to pick up anything unusual.)

I thought that the whole subject had been debunked and forgotten; i.e., the signal must have been a glitch, or something from we earthlings. It was likely just another observation flaw. But not everyone gave up as quickly as me. There’s a short but interesting interview on The Atlantic web site with an amateur astronomy buff named Robert Gray who thinks that the signal could have been the real thing, some sort of signal sent intentionally by a technological civilization many light years away. Mr. Gray recently published a book on the topic, “The Elusive Wow“.

Two caveats here, of course. First, the signal might still be debunked as a mistake or human artifact  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:53 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Brain / Mind ... Science ...

There’s another thought-provoking article in Sci Am this month about an experiment to find out if reality is ultimately digital. I.e., does reality (and I mean reality as we and our sciences presently know it) ultimately come down to an “emergence”, a secondary effect, from the digital state of gad-zillians of tiny little “information boxes”? The experiment in question will look at light interference patterns, to see if they waver in tiny amounts. If they do, then maybe reality at the tiniest level is just a lot of digital boxes, and these tiny boxes, like anything else on that scale, are subject to random quantum fluctuation. If so, then REALITY is a bit more complicated than we thought.

This all relates to some thoughts that the physics folks have had in recent years about black holes and information. In a nutshell, black holes MIGHT prove (sort-of prove actually; this hasn’t been directly observed, although it is strongly implied from what is observed) that a set of 2-dimension sheets surrounding a cube (or alternately, the surface of a sphere) can hold enough information on it to define everything about what is within that 3-dimensional space within. I.e., what kind of particle, e.g. electron, quark, neutrino, what their positions are, what their energy levels are, etc. Sort of like a holograph.

This info would have to be stored in the tiniest boxes possible, i.e. boxes that were a Planck’s length or two in width and height. That’s really tiny,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:53 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Health / Nutrition ...

Like most people concerned with fueling the body with healthy stuff so as to delay its big decline and fall off as long as possible (which still won’t be all that long, no matter how healthy the stuff), I have become interested in omega fats. This is the whole fish oil thing, the idea that fish oil delivers a rich mix of omega 3 long-chain fatty acids that offset the potential inflammation caused by eating too much omega 6 fat. The typical American diet is quite rich in omega 6 fat and deficient in omega 3. And there just aren’t all that many foods that are good sources of omega 3. The best source appears to be fish, especially oily fish like mackerel and tuna. Most people don’t want to eat these kinds of fish every day, so the main alternative is to gulp down some fish oil, which provides enough omega 3 to help the heart and other major organs.

Being a vegetarian, I’m not going to gulp down fish oil. Veg-heads unwilling to compromise on refusing to participate in the slaughter of sea animals have limited options with regard to omega 3. There is flax seed and flax oil, which are pretty good providers of a certain type of omega 3 (ALA, which the body can convert to the beneficial EPA, i.e. eicosapentaenoic acid). However, they are almost totally lacking in the best of the omega 3 fats, called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). An older male body like my own has almost no chance of converting ALA in to DHA, even if does OK with EPA. But there is one more option, albeit a rather expensive option. I.e., algal oil – an oil processed from specially cultivated algae – yes, just like the green slime that forms on stagnant water. Well, I checked various web sites and found a brand of algal oil on Amazon that wasn’t totally ridiculous in price (about $24 for 90 daily doses).

Algal oil can be consumed two ways – either in capsules to be swallowed, akin to the most popular way that fish oil is taken these days; or as a liquid  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:27 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Religion ... Web Site/Blog ...

Like most other people who use the internet for reading and research (even if my own research isn’t too important), I rely a lot on Wikipedia. In fact, I used to be a minor contributor; I started entries for one topic and greatly expanded two others. I haven’t stayed up with that, but I still go there a lot as to get a rough overview on an unfamiliar topic when needed.

The question is, how accurate and unbiased is a “crowd-sourced” library out there on the cloud? According to a short review on this topic, a 2005 article in Nature magazine said that Wikipedia is about as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica. Another article in “Reference Sources Review” (not a very popular and well known periodical, but it sounds authoritative nonetheless) said that the big Wiki is roughly 80% accurate versus 95% being the gold standard of professional publications. Not bad for what you don’t pay for, although I’d like to think that Britannica is closer to the 95% mark than Wikipedia’s 80% (given all you have to pay for a Britannica set or even its website and CD’s)(although you probably could still walk into a library and find a dusty copy of the Britannica ready on the reference shelf for your perusal)(but who goes to libraries anymore? I don’t, but I honestly do miss them; maybe when I retire . . . )

Up to now, I haven’t found any obvious mistakes on Wikipedia. My biggest complaint to date  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:57 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Spirituality ...

At my zendo, I fill the role of the ‘science guy’. The majority of our sangha are either artists, therapists, teachers, or are at least hugely interested in arts and culture. I’m more interested in evolution and quantum physics. But we all like to sit quietly in meditation. And even during our discussion sessions, no one seems to object when I bring up something from the scientific perspective (thus far, anyway).

So, it seems to be my responsibility to verse myself in the literature regarding the connections and interplay between Eastern spiritual tradition and modern science. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a lot of good, thoughtful writings on that topic. There is of course Capra’s “Tao of Physics” and Lukav’s “Dancing Wu Li Masters”, but those seemed kind of mushy. They note the surface similarities between certain ancient Buddhist and Taoist doctrines and the wavy, abstract views of reality that science has developed over the past 80 years or so between relativity theory, quantum mechanics, chaos and fractal analysis, and the study of large on-going systems with their complexity, emergence and self-organization. But these authors beg the question as to whether the ancient sages were really on to something about the true nature of reality (and just how and why they gained such wisdom), or did they just get lucky in espousing a philosophy of life that worked in the world that they knew.

Not long ago, I got a recommendation from a sangha member who I greatly respect regarding the writings and thoughts of a Buddhist teacher named Wes Nisker. I checked out some of his  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:03 pm       Read Comments (4) / Leave a Comment
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