Friday, August 31, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
by Albert Frank
We know that the information given to us by the media is dangerous: Any fact can be presented in several ways, in several contexts, and can lead the spectator to different, and sometimes opposite, conclusions.
As an example, pictures of a fire, according to how the pictures are taken, the comments, the context, can lead one to think it’s just a little fire or it’s a real disaster.
Up to a few years ago, the spectator still had the possibility of saying to himself, " I’ll record these images, later I’ll look very carefully at them, and I’ll make an interpretation as near as possible to the reality,… "
Now, a big step (if we can say that) has been taken place: We all know that we have the technical capabilities - it’s possible and easy for a lot of people - to change some parts of a video, or even to fully create one, with anything on it. If it is well done, only specialists would maybe be able to realize the manipulation that has been done (for instance change one person's head with another).
I will only consider the following websites (I have read details there): Dailymotion and Youtube : If anyone accepts the conditions of utilisation (we know them: no incitation to hate, no racism, nothing pedophilic,…), anybody can send them a video, for free…and anyone can see them, also for free..
So, more and more often, we can see/hear affirmations (on any subject), together with " proofs," like this: "Look at the following video," with a reference to a video from one of the two above web sites. A big majority of spectators have no special reaction, they just say, "Here we see the facts, let’s try to understand them properly."
An example that I have seen recently (I am absolutely not into politics): A video "showing" the French President apparently a little drunk after a meeting with the Russian President (True? False? It does not matter. The video is there.)
I consider this new total possible disinformation (and the acceptance of it by most of the people) as a real horror.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Waving my dancing sleeve
in the breeze,
I behold butterflies
light pouring in unrestrained
on golden spores –
Thursday, August 23, 2007
by Richard May
The following dream segment occurred after listening to an interview with a South African (originally Jewish) physician who has been initiated into African shamanism, which he now combines with his practice of allopathic medicine. I was having some unmemorable ordinary dream, when suddenly I found myself tightly surrounded by solid substance of some sort, as if encased in cement. I was momentarily surprised and quite annoyed, but then realized within the dream that I was dreaming and was then able to escape. At the point of self-awareness of one’s dreaming condition within the dream, it had become by definition a lucid dream.
In my dream I interpreted my condition of being encased in solid matter as meaning that I was having an OBE (out of body experience). Allegedly when people have OBEs in the dream state (I mean if such phenomena actually occur), they often travel in their “dream body” downward through the bed and floor, rather than float above their bodies over the bed. Hence, apparently I incorporated my “knowledge” of this into my dream of an OBE.
I see no reason to believe that I had a genuine OBE, if such OBEs even actually are possible. Apparently I had a lucid dream, which was also an ordinary wish-fulfillment dream, focused upon the possibility of having an OBE while sleeping.
I don’t think I've created my “dream body” yet, as the Dalai Lama calls it. Creation of one’s “dream body” is supposedly necessary before one’s consciousness can leave one’s body during sleep. Do you then go to the gym in your dream body to work out?
In Tibetan Buddhism lucid dreaming is considered to be the beginning of the formation of one’s dream body. Now if only I could learn to become lucid in the ordinary so-called waking state.
One morning I looked down towards my bed and was very startled to see a guy lying on my bed asleep. An estimated fraction of a second later I realized to my relief that I was the guy asleep on my bed. As if to verify my location or presence I looked in a mirror adjacent to where I was standing and saw myself or my image smiling slightly in recognition. Then I either awakened or the dream immediately ended. The mirror actually exists in that location in the consensual spacetime world.
At first after awakening I was sure I understood the dream as "just a non-lucid dream that I had a lucid dream." I was asleep and dreamed that I was asleep and while asleep in my dream, experienced a lucid dream within my ordinary non-lucid dream, i.e., a dream in which I realized that I was asleep and dreaming. The more I analyzed it the less certain I became about it. Had I literally dreamed a dream within a dream, a meta-dream in which the second order dream was a lucid dream? This is the only dream I can recall having in which there were two copies of me, not counting the image of me in the dream mirror.
I've had ordinary lucid dreams in which by definition the dreamer is aware that he is dreaming, while remaining asleep. In one I was being pursued and felt in danger. Suddenly, although still asleep, I realized I was only dreaming. The ‘I’ within the dream thought that this experience is only a dream, so you can easily escape the danger by just flying away! Upon awakening I distinctly remembered having thought within my dream that I wasn't sure that I really could fly away, because the scenery of hills, grass, trees and sky around me looked so real. But I simply leaped into the air and once aloft effortlessly flew away. Even while flying I remember thinking, " … but the world looked so real, as if I were awake."
But in all previous lucid dreams or "out of paradigm experiences" there was only one dream copy of me and I‘ve never before looked down to see myself lying asleep and dreaming upon the bed, and then had the ‘awake’ copy of me in the dream verify its identity in a dream mirror, corresponding in location perfectly to a real mirror.
This is an unembellished description of my experience as I remember it. Apparently even my dreams are convoluted sometimes. Perhaps I experienced a so-called “out of body experience”, an OOBE, while asleep. But maybe I only dreamed that I had an OOBE. As Chuong-Tzu wrote, "Am I a butterfly dreaming that I'm a man or a man dreaming that I'm a butterfly?"
Labels: Richard May
Monday, August 20, 2007
Click "Read More" for the solution...
Friday, August 17, 2007
You want me to slap you in the face?
Well, thinking of it..
I’m afraid, I’ll get integrated.
Integrated into what?
Labels: Justin Zijlstra
Thursday, August 16, 2007
by Richard May
The bird's song hears the listening ear.
The wind-blown flame sees the watching eye.
Looking back from the mirror world I see myself,
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
They're all masters of feline Zen, but the ginger one is the master among masters. That's Belleo, my miniature lion with the fiery mane and regal profile; he's the best of the best, the most accomplished of the accomplished. He holds the world's record for staring at nothing; he spent 53 minute and 7 seconds gazing uninterruptedly at a white wall six inches in front of him. Every time I looked at him, I wondered what was so fascinating about that wall. If I had X-ray or UV vision, would I see hundreds of critters scampering over the plaster, all with very long tails?"
Wave a hand in front of his wide amber eyes; he won't even blink. Maybe he just sleeps with his eyes open?
"No, he's meditating on the world's problems," a wise man once told me. "Cats have amazing powers. They can disappear instantly - feline teleportation. They're here, then they're not here; they're prowling up above, silent and unnoticed as shadows, hearing everything. They'd be the perfect spies, if only our linguists could decipher their language and eavesdrop on their gossip."
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
by Albert Frank
I gave the following position to the best chess software, without their tablebase (which incorporates all positions with maximum six pieces on the board into their consideration).
White (to move) : Kg7, Rb1; h7
Black : Ke6, Ra8; e4
A good chess player (minimum « first category ») will immediately see that 1.Rb5 wins (Black will soon have no valid move) and that the promotion 1. h8Q gives only a draw.
Computers, after two hours (on a 3 Gz Pentium 4 with 1 G° RAM) don’t see the winning move at all, and just stay with 1. h8Q. Thus, they see (or think?) in an incredible poor way.
Once more, these computers are sometimes like “great players, stronger than any human”, and sometimes “absolutely stupid”.
I don’t know if any conclusion can be taken out of this for the moment.
Monday, August 13, 2007
by Frank Luger
It may sound strange, perhaps even somewhat bizarre, but despite its 'normal' neutrality, science also has had its share of bloodshed throughout the turbulent course of its history. To be sure, the number of martyrs of science is very small in comparison to other endeavors of the human race; yet the tragedies involved are so much more shocking, because of the very few albeit very great names. Had these lives not had to end prematurely, and, in some cases rather brutally, humanity would have benefited a lot more than it has and civilization would be more advanced than presently.
Hippasus of Metapontum was drowned at sea by his fellow Pythagoreans for discovering irrational numbers. Archimedes of Syracuse was slain by a Roman legionary for disobeying authority. Hypatia of Alexandria was crucified and mutilated by a Christian mob for her 'pagan' religion. Berthold Schwarz was blown to pieces for discovering gunpowder. Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake by the Inquisition for championing Copernican heliocentricity. Antoine Lavoisier was guillotined, officially for his state activities, in reality for his scientific genius, by the French Revolution. Likewise, Évariste Galois was shot to death, ostensibly in a duel of honor, but in reality for his mathematical genius mixed with his political radicalism. Finally, Alan Turing was poisoned for his genius as well as his blatant homosexuality, as an embarrassment to the Establishment. These are just the most outstanding names that spring to mind in connection with scientific martyrdom, but no doubt, there must have been more throughout the history of science over the past two-and-a-half millennia, roughly speaking.
Science, in the currently understood sense of being that intellectual pursuit which is characterized by the scientific method, is only four centuries old. Previously, science was an integral part of natural philosophy and some practical concerns, such as geometry and astronomy. It is thus somewhat curious, maybe even paradoxical, that the 'true' martyrs belong to antiquity and their case comes to an end with the death of Giordano Bruno in 1600 A.D. Strictly speaking, the martyrs of modern science after Bruno are perhaps more appropriately designated as 'pseudo' martyrs since their deaths seem to have less to do with their science than with their nonscientific activities. However, the evidence is meager and leaves plenty of room for doubt and speculation.
Be they true martyrs or pseudomartyrs, the fact remains that they were great scientists and their untimely demise is a most regrettable and shameful scar on the history of human civilization. Their tragedies are exacerbated by the causes behind their deaths, because regardless of how they actually died, they were really the victims of ignorance and arrogance, one way or another, in each and every case. After all, frustration, anger, jealousy, envy, and all such emotions fuelling hostile thoughts and actions are but situation-specific manifestations of ignorance and arrogance, in whatever proportions.
Hippasus of Metapontum (cca. 500-450 B.C.) was thrown overboard by the frustrated Pythagoreans after he proved the horribly undeniable irrationality of √2, with which he actually discovered a whole class of numbers that cannot be expressed as the quotient of two integers and whose decimal expansions never repeat and never terminate. This was too much for the Pythagoreans, who attributed mystic significance and much else to integers and whose ignorant and arrogant dogmatism could not tolerate 'heresy'. Who knows, perhaps the Pythagoreans deluded themselves by thinking that they were the 'custodians' of the secrets of cosmic beauty and harmony, and as irrational numbers pricked their inflated egos, they thought they could suppress such offensive ugliness by drowning poor Hippasus.
Archimedes of Syracuse (cca. 287 — 212 B.C.) was the first and greatest mathematical physicist of antiquity, whose accomplishments are legendary. But he was a menace to the Roman Empire. During the siege of Syracuse he set Roman ships on fire by parabolic mirrors and smashed them on the rocks with various ingenious devices. Marcellus, the Roman commander, is alleged to have given orders that Archimedes be captured unharmed. The old man was doodling in the sand of his garden with a stick, working on various geometry problems. When his captor told him to go with him, Archimedes replied, a bit absent-mindedly: "Noli turbare circulos meos!" (Do not disturb my circles!)- whereupon the frustrated Roman soldier flew into a rage and slew him. Resisting arrest was thus the official story. Was there more? Was he, in reality, deliberately murdered? Revenge by arrogant Romans ignorant of mathematics and science?
Hypatia of Alexandria (370-415 A.D.) was the first outstanding woman mathematician in recorded history. She was teaching at the famous Library of Alexandria as head of the Platonist school, and students flocked to her from all over. She was very beautiful, charming, and witty; but, unfortunately, she practiced the ancient Greek religion of polytheism. This was anathema to some of the early Christian sects who felt threatened by her 'pagan' learning and depth of scientific knowledge. Incited by Bishop Cyril, a mob of Christian monks pulled her out of her carriage, beat her, dragged her to a church, stripped her naked and crucified her by nailing her to the church door. Her flesh was mutilated by sharp tiles, part of her body was thrown to dogs and the rest burned. Perhaps they crucified her upon her refusal to be forcibly converted to Christianity, but there can be no doubt that she was jealously perceived as a menace… with the affront of being a woman.
Berthold Schwarz (cca. 1318-1384 A.D.) of Freiburg, Germany, was a Franciscan monk. His original name was Konstantin Anklitzen. He took the name of Bruder (Brother) Berthold upon entering the monastery. Schwarz, meaning 'black' in German (Berthold der Schwarze), was added later as an indication of black magic, since he was a practicing alchemist, who is generally credited with the discovery of gunpowder and the invention of artillery. Apparently he was blown to pieces by some spark or flame accidentally detonating a batch of his nefarious powder. More likely, the explosion was not accidental; he was murdered because his black arts threatened to revolutionize warfare with incalculable consequences as far as (pre)Renaissance times were concerned. Also, perhaps the hitherto undreamed of tremendous destructive potential of gunpowder was thought to represent satanic powers, wholly impermissible for a Franciscan monk. Either way, sorcery and witchcraft had to be involved, which the Church was obliged to extirpate, especially from one of its own members.
Admittedly, these are speculative points, since the existing evidence is meager and far from being unequivocal. It is possible that the Church wanted to avoid exposure of the potentially embarrassing matter, especially if the Inquisition had to handle things; so, maybe, the murder of Berthold Schwarz was simply and deliberately made to look like an accident. Or, alternatively, there could have been some secular power causing the explosion, perhaps another country hoping to monopolize the new weapon. Maybe a combination of such factors?
Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was a dangerous and subversive radical, a spiritual alchemist and a rather versatile philosopher to boot. As such a maverick, he did surely get himself into plenty of trouble wherever he went, and it was only a matter of time before he was formally denounced and the Papal Inquisition got him on charges of heresy. After several years of 'protective custody' and his stubborn refusal to recant, he was finally burned at the stake on February 17, 1600. What was his unpardonable crime? Quite simply, the effrontery of promoting the heliocentric model of Copernicus. After all, if the Sun did not revolve around the Earth, much of Church dogma could be demolished. Man's closest kinship to God as well as Man's dominion over Nature were severely threatened by such abominable ideas. Man's cosmic significance could turn into absurd insignificance…
Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) is generally venerated as the father of modern chemistry. He was also prominent in the histories of biology, economics, and finance. He is well remembered for overthrowing the phlogiston theory and with the correct assignment of oxygen and hydrogen to various processes, for the establishment of the proper theory of combustion. His laws of molecular combinations based on the law of conservation of mass are valid even today. His various accomplishments in different fields mark him as a truly outstanding scientist. Unfortunately, as a noblemen and as a statesman, he was denounced as a traitor by the French Revolution and promptly guillotined. "The Republic has no need of geniuses" (i.e. scientists) was the cynical condemnation pronounced by his judge. Perhaps this is the real clue of his martyrdom. True, many noblemen and statesmen were executed; but the scientific genius, still regarded akin to dreaded black magic by ignorance and arrogance, was most likely the underlying reason why Lavoisier was seen as a menace.
Évariste Galois (1811-1832) was also perceived as a menace by the French Establishment. True, he was a young political firebrand-radical, but that was an embarrassment in academic circles, not more. The menace was his genius, which aroused much jealousy and resentment, especially in mathematical circles. Even a mathematician of such caliber as Simeon Poisson failed to understand the work of Galois.
Yet, despite his youth and lack of formal relevant credentials, the significance of the contribution of Galois to modern mathematics cannot be overemphasized. He was shot to death in a duel, ostensibly over a matter of honor involving a young woman; but in reality for the menace of his genius, peppered with his radical views and activities. Considering the highly nervous temperament of Galois, it must have been an easy matter to provoke him to a duel. Sadly, anachronisms do not last long, no matter how brilliant they are.
His intellectual accomplishments are legendary, and without the 'Turing machine' theoretical computer science could not become a modern miracle. Unfortunately, he flaunted his homosexuality, which must have been intolerable for the conservative academic Establishment. His eccentric genius of course evoked much jealousy, which could be the real reason for his untimely demise. The official verdict of suicide is suspect. He had no reason to kill himself, for one thing. For another, he could hardly have eaten an apple laced with cyanide without noticing the characteristic bitter almond taste. Also, it would have been much simpler to take an overdose of sleeping pills. Homosexuality was then a crime, and he was charged with it. He was given the choice of prison or libido-reducing hormones. He chose the latter and underwent such treatment for a year before he died. Anyway, whatever the exact factors were, Turing may be regarded as a (pseudo)martyr of science.
It is not only tragic, but ironic as well, that science, the only neutral pursuit of the human intellect, has its own 'pantheon' of martyrs. Some of the above mentioned tragedies, such as those of Hippasus and Archimedes, could perhaps be suffered, one way or another. Less tolerable were those of Hypatia, Schwarz, and Bruno. This ends the list of 'pure' martyrs. The 'pseudo' martyrs of modern science died under nebulous circumstances, but in each case, they must have been perceived as threats to the hostile and jealous Establishment. What runs through each martyrdom as a red thread since antiquity to the present, is the ignorance and arrogance of lesser intellects. That such intellects still run society is not only the real tragedy but the deplorable irony of all times as well.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
The United States of America is a very young country. Much is made of its mishmash of citizens, and in truth it is an amazing thing that entire peoples leave behind the weight of the histories of their old world countries and reinvent themselves entirely once settled here. Reborn, that’s what they are, and it is a good analogy. In many ways US citizenry are like kids, with a child-like view of life and their place in the world.
People are preferably energetic and smiling and friendly and eager to be loved. At the same time, fearful to the point of unreasonableness, imagining a boogeyman in every shadow. Emotional displays in any public or private arena are condoned, even encouraged, self-discipline not so much. And truly quite naive and unsophisticated about the rest of the world. “I’m the king of the world!” - the sentiment shows up everywhere: little towns calling themselves the so-and-so capital of the world, politicians advocating the US judicial system as the best in the world, tiny restaurants that bake the best pizzas in the world. Really! Is this hubris or dumbassness?
The older, more settled countries look at all this and wonder, what are we to make of it? Yes, they are adorable, these Americans, with their toothy smiles and eagerness to be friends (except, of course, if they decide we are Evil, then we don’t get to play). They have great toys and cool clothes and sugary foods. But they sure do break a lot of stuff. Is it not odd that one country so disproportionately uses up the planet’s natural resources and fouls up air, land and sea for all of earth’s people just because, it seems, this is the American way? Or that voters let their government run unchecked across the planet, trampling all over ancient civilizations without understanding or taking into account their histories, their intricate relationships with each other, their dreams for the future?
But we can take the analogy one step further. Because if the USA is the over-indulged child running amok, then Europe is the curmudgeonly pedantic old aunt. If you ask the average American what he knows of the Netherlands - my home country - he will somewhat shamefacedly admit: nothing. Adding: I wish I knew more. His counterpart in the Netherlands will not respond similarly. He will have a whole rant of opinions about the USA (though he has never visited the place and may never encounter a real live American). He will list all of the US’ problems and announce solutions, growing more and more irritated with this young country that will not pay attention to or respect its elders, who so obviously know better.
What is it that Europeans base their opinions on – why do they presume to know so much about their neighbor on the other side of the ocean? The American way of life has inundated the free world. It is fair to say that most households across the planet find that the USA enters their lives every single day through whatever media they have access to. CSI, the OC, the Jerry Springer Show on TV. Local magazines discussing the latest escapades of Ms. Hilton and pals. Newspapers full of the Iraq War, US energy conservation policy (or lack thereof) and whatever interesting thing Mr. Bush said today. Blockbuster Hollywood movies hit theaters all over the world simultaneously with LA. Look around you in the streets of Europe (and far beyond): Coca Cola, McDonalds, Levis, Nike, Harley Davidson, Stephen King ... the USA is everywhere. It is a bit much, actually. And perhaps it makes people everywhere think they somehow also have a voice about this place that is increasingly infiltrating every aspect of their lives.
The USA has simply grown too big for its citizens to continue to be oblivious to what is going on outside its borders, and the stakes are too high – so much economic and military power must be applied responsibly. Having good intentions or being uninformed can no longer be accepted as an excuse for misguided actions. On the other hand, blind US-bashing by people who unwittingly base their opinions on media entertainment or politicians’ sound bites is not helpful. Adult skills such as education, communication, negotiation and an honest attempt to keep an open mind in the face of unfamiliar cultures will be required by every person who is serious about helping the world become a more peaceful, clean and equitable place.
Labels: Jolanda Dubbeldam