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Symphony Of Science

February 8, 2010

These are probably the most amazing videos on Youtube.  At least, I think so.  Thinking on the topics in these videos  makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.  All distinctions between myself and all other life disappear.  A small confined world of conflict and struggle gives way to an unbound infinite universe.

Just watch as David Attenborough walks through a field of butterflies.  Just look at his face.  That’s exactly how I feel when I walk through a state park, or look at the stars in an observatory, or crunch away at the mathematical equations of Physics, wondering what light does as it bounces around the room.  There’s an infinite universe both on the microscopic and macroscopic scales, each unique, yet at the same time governed by the same simplistic laws.  And the more Physics you study the simpler the laws become.  They’re not always easy to apply to complex situations, but the laws themselves are simple and rooted in at most a few basic concepts.

The simplicity of the laws is elegant, yet the sheer amount of phenomenon that can be explained using such simple principles is absolutely breathtaking.

My favorite part about this next video is when Feynman talks about the light bouncing around the room.  “It’s all REALLY there, REALLY REAALLLYYY there.  But you got to stop and think about it to really get the pleasure.” I also like it when he says, “I think nature’s imagination is so much greater than man’s that she’s never going to let us relax.” Every line in these videos is amazing.

Carl Sagan says, “The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it but the way those atoms are put together.”

The same applies to a computer.  You can say a computer is a hunk of metal and silicon, and that would be true, but it wouldn’t capture the entire dynamic of what a computer really is.  It’s how skillfully each component of the metal and silicon work together.  The same is true of our bodies, and all life on planet Earth.  There’s a lot of truths in the world which are true but yet don’t capture the whole picture in its entirety.  I think truths like that are dangerous.  They’re misleading.

People may know all sorts of truths, and they may even be backed by evidence, but that doesn’t mean that’s the end of the discussion.  I think real understanding comes not by knowledge of “truths” so much as the ability to create something and produce new experiences.  A sort of control of the universe and the world around you.  As Richard Feynman once said, “That which I cannot create I do not understand.”

Or as Bertrand Russell said in yet another way:

“…it is not enough to recognize that all our knowledge is in a greater or less degree, uncertain and vague, it is necessary at the same time, to learn to act upon the best hypothesis without dogmatically believing it.
– Bertrand Russell, Philosophy For Laymen

Whenever the new truths you’re learning empower you, connect you to everything around you, and lead to a sort of all-connected diversity, you’re heading in the right direction.

Also, once you’re able to create and control, the world of scarcity and struggle for resources goes away.  Two things which I find incredibly cruel in this world is our monetary system, as well as the Darwinian struggle for life.  Both are rooted in scarce resources.   The real truths that we need eliminate this scarcity and remove the need to fight one another.

These videos feature the best and brightest of humanity.  Scientists who have spent their lives studying the laws of nature, and life.   Compare this to what you see on your television.  On the news.  All the name calling.  All the fighting and bickering.  This group pitted off against that group.

Compare the “We’re all connected” message to that delivered by Hitler in this speech.  Can you see the difference?

He doesn’t see the world as a “we”, it’s only “them”.  Their party must overcome all other parties.  Their people must subdue all other peoples.  All those who are not racially pure must be removed.  All diversity of opinion must be eliminated.  They must all unite under his leadership. They must uncompromisingly be the one and only power in all of Germany and the world.

It’s not a world of equality and respect of diversity.  They don’t see any connection between themselves and others in the world.  They’re not all connected.   They must continue to struggle and fight for supremacy against any and all odds, no matter the cost of life.

Their party is infallible.  Their fuhrer, a god.  Their leaders a holy order.  Their blood, pure.  All upstanding Germans must be National Socialists.

It’s sad that people give themselves away to these sorts of ideas and passions.  They can’t seem to grasp the idea behind the tree of life, even though Darwin’s Origin of Species told all about it and had been around for a long time.

“Only then, if we in the Party with our most obedient dedication become the highest embodiment of National Socialist thought and being, then the Party will materialize into an eternal and indestructible pillar of the German people and the Reich.”

It’s hard for me to watch videos like this.  I’m closing it down.  I just can’t believe someone can say things which are so incredibly evil, and against the interests of the people, and everyone on the planet, yet every word is resounded in cheers and applause.   Watching it fills my entire person with an intense sadness and gloom.

This same irrationality exists even today.  They install nude airport scanners, which expose us to toxic, cancer causing X-rays, and completely violate not only our liberties and freedoms, but sanity, and you go on CNN.com and people in the comments are saying, ‘We need these measures.”

Hitler speaks to base instincts.  He speaks to tribal emotions.  He appeals to rituals and makes everything into a sort of religion.  He appeals to the reptile brain.  He brings out the worst in humanity with his words.  He cries out the everyone’s evolutionary baggage, and a switch flips on in the people.  Conflict and mayhem are then unleashed onto the world.

I really try to keep myself away from that sort of thing as much as possible.   I’ve always dreamed of building a cabin out in the middle of nowhere, and having a sailing boat.  If I marry one day, I could give up the cabin and live in the city or a suburb, but if that never happens, the cabin is best for me.  The cabin is my home base, whereas the sailing ship is my mobile base.  I’d sail all around the world, and visit a lot of remote locations like David Attenborough did.  I’d dive into the oceans and view the life down there.  I’d visit scientists all around the world, and maybe spend a few years here, a few years there, contributing to their research and volunteering to work with them.

I priced out that I’d need around 20 million dollars to live that lifestyle.  A lot of it is to live on for the duration of my life, living rather modestly, not “paying myself” much more than what you’d make on a normal job.  The cabin, with the large amount of land around it, would cost like 5 or 6 million.  The sailing ship also costs millions.  I’d also need fuel for the ship, and other expenses related to it.

Unfortunately it’s not easy to come into that kind of money without spending a lot of time doing business and pursuing it.  Also, when you do end up making money you have to fight off the government’s mass printing of money, constantly devaluing the currency.  It makes it almost impossible to save up the kind of money you need to do something like that, even if you can make a lot.  By the time you make some new money, your old savings has been devalued by half due to the Fed’s monetary policies.

In an ideal world I’d also construct myself a science lab.  But that’d cost even more.  I could give up the sail boat I guess, and maybe rent one, or sail with someone else, but in an ideal world I’d have it all  🙂   I’d like to live on the boat as I traveled to different countries and their ports.  I’d keep all my books and research material there with me.  I wouldn’t have to lug it around.  I also never would have to worry about being robbed.  Who would want my mathematics books, or my physics texts?

I could see pirates boarding my ship.  “Where’s the jewels?  Where’s your cash?”  … “I don’t have such things.”  … Then they go down into the ship and all they find is a library.  “What are these books?” … “Oh these?  Well, that’s John Maynard Keynes The General Theory Of Employment, Interest, and Money.  Oh that?  That’s Richard Feynman’s lecture set on Physics.  Over there you find the complete works of Sigmund Freud.  There’s John Locke’s Letter on Toleration.  Over there’s A library of letters written by President Thomas Jefferson.  Oh, there’s my complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  There’s Foucault’s Discipline and Punish.  There’s Einstein’s book on Special and General Relativity.  There’s Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  There’s William James Psychology textbook.  There’s Plutarch’s Lives and Edward Gibbon’s history text on the rise and fall of the Roman empire.  You know, maybe you should read some of these books.  You can borrow them, if you like?”

Though I will admit not all my desires revolve around such noble scientific pursuits.  I wouldn’t mind owning a large collection of Harley Davidson motorcycles.  Haha.  The rumbling engine.  The open road.  Ride through the barren desert on an isolated highway and floor it on the straightaway.  Cruise the strip in Vegas late at night.  Ride along the beach and eat some crab legs.

A man has to have a dream, hasn’t he?  That’s mine.

But yeah.  These days I’ve been busy learning new things and reconnecting to the universe.  Somehow I’d been unplugged.  I don’t know how or why that happened, but I’ve slowly been re-soldering myself back to the universe’s mainboard.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
— Carl Sagan

“We must ask ourselves
We who are so proud of our accomplishments
What is our place in the cosmic perspective of life?”

– Robert Jastrow

“Are there things about the universe
That will be forever beyond our grasp?
Are there things about the universe that are
Ungraspable?

– Richard Dawkins

It’s so deep.  They’re both humble, yet pillars of intelligence.  They know so much, yet their knowledge leads them to exclaim how they know so little.  And they do so with great joy!  They don’t live in a box!  Their minds have opened up to a bigger world.  They have come to learn how little they do know, and reach and see just how much they can discover about this universe.  They’ve immersed themselves in infinity and eternity.

In this last video, I love it when Sagan talks about the brain and how it processes information.  He shows an excerpt from Principia Mathematica.  The logic the brain uses to compute numbers, and analyze the structure and consistency of the world.  Well, I can’t say whether the brain really uses the same operations, but it goes into a lot of details into how a logical mind could do such operations.  I’ve read a lot of that book.  Well, it’s 3 volumes!  🙂  It gets to where it’s mostly just symbols, each one standing for various logic operations.  You get to where you can read it if you spend enough time with it.

I think the best line from the video is:

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”
– Carl Sagan

Speaking of the brain, lately I found a set of lectures on neuroscience, which I’ve been watching lately.  Study Physics by day, then when I get tired of that, study history, economics, and neuroscience.  And I’ve been studying a little psychology, but not a whole lot.

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