Sunday, July 31, 2011

Biking in 3D

Just discovered this cool Google Earth tool/toy. Here's my bike route from this morning's spin through Belle Meade, between the Mansion and Parmer Park, then up & down the Boulevard, and finally across to the new bike lane on Post Road. Fun!

But, just for the record: it inaccurately depicts me on the wrong side of the median, weaving and veering wildly off-road onto some of Nashville's most exclusive, meticulously-manicured lawns. If you know anything about the Belle Meade police you know they'd never let anyone get away with that!


Saturday, July 30, 2011


Robert Ettinger's legacy, so far. (Aubrey de Grey and Ray Kurzweil are still working on it.) Eat your organic rice and hope for the best... and be glad you weren't frozen in 1973.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Life only avails

Interesting convergence of tweets from William James and John Dewey this morning, spotlighting the indispensable contribution of real life experience to intelligence and wisdom:

 William James 

 John Dewey 

Both put me in mind of one of my favorite lines in Emerson: "Life only avails, not the having lived. Power ceases in the instant of repose..." Or, as I was saying yesterday: just get up and move, pay attention to what's around you and try to learn something from it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Just get up and move"

I forget if I've mentioned this here before (really), but like many in my Boomer demographic I fret a bit about occasional, disquieting lapses of memory. Mostly they're the niggling kind the Times Well blog calls "mundane, creeping memory loss that begins about the time our 30s recede, when car keys and people’s names evaporate."  My 30s are definitely receded. This has been a small but persistent issue for, um, for I forget how long.

So,  as a daily walker and semi-daily biker, I'm pleased by new research on this topic indicating the leveraged rewards that can come of even the mildest exertion.
“Our results indicate that vigorous exercise isn’t necessary” to protect your mind, Dr. Middleton said. “I think that’s exciting. It might inspire people who would be intimidated about the idea of quote-unquote exercising to just get up and move.”
 Just get up and move: a good mantra for us all, if we can remember it. If the years have taught me anything they've taught me this: write it down. Then, get up and move.  

And remember to think about Nietzsche's cryptic remark that "in the case of the smallest or of the greatest happiness it is always the same thing that makes happiness happiness: the ability to forget..." 

Then again, he forgot a whole lot in his last decade but doesn't seem to have been all that happy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The gift of Apollo

Atlantis has come home. The shuttle program was impressive but became redundant. The memory of its predecessor may be more inspiring, more likely to make us feel at home in the universe.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

scientists don't give a hoot for philosophy

I like Niall Shanks's abrupt clarity about the regard philosophers are given by scientists ("most scientists in my experience— exceptions duly noted—couldn't give a hoot for philosophy anyway") and why scientific (as distinct from philosophical) naturalism is a matter less of ideology than of experience and method. I'd really like to read his next book. But someone else is going to have to write it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

creationists know not what they do

Thinking about departed friend and colleague Niall Shanks today, and looking into his excellent God, the devil, & Darwin. Richard Dawkins wrote the foreword.

In Blind Watchmaker Dawkins notes something Shanks came to understand, though he didn't really get it yet back when he and I taught together at East Tennessee State University in the early '90s: creationists in our classrooms often mean well, but are simply uninformed about evolution. They know not what they do. Forgive them, teachers. Educate them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Listen first, write later

There's a nice profile of Jaron Lanier in the current New Yorker by Jennifer Kahn. It's locked to non-subscribers, but still on the newsstands. In it he's very wise, in the way (as we learned last year in the "Future of Life" course*) of You Are Not a Gadget, on the importance of actually existing and creating as a human being in your own right and not being content merely to reflect passing currents  in the enveloping cyber-sea around you. Re-tweeters, attend:
If you listen first, and write later, then whatever you write will have had time to filter through your brain, and you'll be in what you say. This is what makes you exist. If you are only a reflector of information, are you really there?
(*NOTE TO SELF, on a possible future course. "Philosophy and the Internet: Staying Human in the Information Age")

In the Chronicle of Higher Education awhile back Lanier commented on techno-Utopia and New Atheism, shaking his head at
a new sort of "nerd" religion based around a core belief that a global brain is not only emerging but will replace humanity. It is often claimed, in the vicinity of institutions like Silicon Valley's Singularity University, that the giant global computer will upload the contents of human brains to grant them everlasting life in the computing cloud.
There is right now a lot of talk about whether to believe in God or not, but I suspect that religious arguments are gradually incorporating coded debates about whether to even believe in people anymore.
That's always the most important question. He still believes. Of course he does. Look again at that little girl.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Truth, Justice, and the American Way"

Excessive intellectualism in July? Not much threat of that, around here. What we did instead of thinking too much on a Sunday afternoon in Metropolis, IL yesterday:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why go into space?

For the same reason
that makes us bring children into the world.
Because we’re afraid of death and darkness,
and because we want to see our image reflected
and perpetuated to immortality.
We don’t want to die,
but death is there,
and because it’s there we give birth to children
who’ll give birth to other children and so on to infinity.
And this way we are handed down to eternity.
Don’t let us forget this:
that the Earth can die, explode,
the Sun can go out, will go out.
And if the Sun dies,
if the Earth dies,
if our race dies,
then so will everything die
that we have done up to that moment.
Homer will die,
Michelangelo will die,
Galileo, Leonardo, Shakespeare, Einstein will die,
all those will die who now are not dead because we are alive,
we are thinking of them,
we are carrying them within us.
And then every single thing, every memory,
will hurtle down into the void with us.
So let us save them,
let us save ourselves.
Let us prepare ourselves to escape,
to continue life
and rebuild our cities on other planets:
we shall not long be of this Earth!
And if we really fear the darkness,
if we really fight against it,
for the good of all,
let us take our rockets,
let us get well used to the great cold and heat,
the no water,
the no oxygen,
let us become Martians on Mars,
Venusians on Venus,
and when Mars and Venus die,
let us go to the other solar systems,
to Alpha Centauri,
to wherever we manage to go,
and let us forget the Earth.
Let us forget our solar system and our body,
the form it used to have,
let us become no matter what,
balls of fire,
no matter what,
all that matters is that somehow life should continue,
and the knowledge of what we were and what we did and learned:
the knowledge of Homer and Michelangelo,
of Galileo,
of Einstein!
And the gift of life will continue.
-Ray Bradbury (Oriana Fallaci, If the Sun Dies) Accelerating Intelligence News