The next great disaster? Global water shortages. Good overview from phys.org

Of obvious and growing concern: water use and shortage. A good overview of current trends and possible futures.

http://phys.org/news/2014-08-scarcity.html

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Open mind silliness…

My newly adopted state of South Carolina has a bill before the legislature proposing that we teach creationism in biology class. Well not quite that exactly. They propose, that as open minded parents and scientists with a concern that our children receive all the information they need to make their mind up about academic matters (remember when teachers taught rather than mediate ideas?) we need to offer them all available information. Of course this is simplyanother way of saying ‘god did it’.

As is usual, much of the problem revolves around the use of the work theory. It’s no good that real scientist have tried ad naseum to explain exactly what a theory is. No, in these matters we always defer to the local butcher or church elder turned state representative as the expert.

But there are other scientific theories and I wonder if they are also on the docket? And what are the alternative theories we should be teaching?

  1. Germ Theory of Disease – This provides evolutionary insight into health, disease and medicine.
    There are two primary alternate theories I know of. One is more Eastern and argues that health is wrapped up the in alignment of chakras.  The other – espoused frequently by televangelists – is that god brings disease, pestilence, and a bad cold on people he is displeased with.
  2. Gravitational theory – Math and an idea that ties the entire universe together.
    Other ideas might include something like a special magnet that keeps us stuck the face of the earth? Or maybe god pulls a huge vacuum on the earth and sucks us down? Or maybe Depak Chopra is right – all is imagination – there is no physical reality? You just think you can’t  fly!
  3. Theory of cosmic expansion – We keep growing. Solves reams of cosmological puzzles.
    Other ideas? Maybe we’re just getting smaller?
  4. The Theory of Uniformitarianism and Continental Drift – The basis of modern geology that explains much of biology.
    A cosmic chess game among Greek gods?
  5. Game Theory – Math of decision making.
    Oops. Sorry. Decision making is putting one foot too close to hell fire. All you need to know is written in a book. Now you just need to figure out which one. Good luck.
  6. Quantum Theory – Explains sub-atomic behavior.
    Invite any New Ager to the classroom to explain that all physicality is just your imagination.

That should be a good start. Oh – I almost forget – the plague is immeasurably preferable to vaccines.

Relationships that contribute to health and happiness.

heartWhen we talk about family and friends in relation to health and longevity we mean enjoying the fruits of loving and respectful relationships that make us better people. I experienced an odd result of this kind of relationship recently at the hospital. I was admitted for a minor procedure and, once prepped, lay waiting alone in the surgery room starring at the heart rate monitor. Like I often do I played a little game to see how low I could bring my heart rate. I tried to shake off any concerns, inhaled and exhaled deeply, and for several minutes tried to drop my heart rate to below fifty. As much as I tried, though, I couldn’t break 53, my normal resting rate. A little while later my wife came in to wait with me. While we talked she came up behind me and rubbed my neck and shoulders. I lay still, resting with my eyes closed, just talking quietly. When I opened my eyes I saw that my heart rate had dropped to 48. I had nothing else to contribute it to except for the calm touch and care of my wife. So whether you’re playing in a hospital bed or in the front row of a rock show try to cultivate those relationships that build you up in health and happiness.

Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut

Dahl2While on the topic of Dahl I’ve always liked his little writing hut. I can imagine long days plopped into his chair and reading, writing, and then reading some more. It was just about as spare as possible with a few mementos. His daughter relates that it was lit with one bulb and a lamp and had a paraffin heater to fend off chills. On cold winter days he would ‘sit with a rug over him and his legs in a sleeping bag’.Dahl1 His hut was more than just an escape from cooking and kids as he explains in an interview. When asked about his writing process he answered: 

“It’s really quite easy,” he would say. “I go down to my little hut, where it’s tight and dark and warm, and within minutes I can go back to being six or seven or eight again.”

Read his daughter’s interview here.

Road Dahl’s Hut and the Case of the Dippy Adults, New Yorker

Picture Gallery

Ghostly and absurd, the works of Francesca Woodman

woodman2Something a little different tonight. While my first love is evolution and biology I was, for a time, an ardent art history major. True enough, the two disciplines are just about as far as you can get but there it is. For reasons that I probably shouldn’t explore my favorite photographer is Francesca Woodman. She died young and sadly and never really crossed the line into a professional art career. Her work spans her young life as a student beginning with a self-portrait at 13.woodman1

Somehow – and this is the wonder of art – she captures something for me. He photographs are typically of herself, often nude, often out of kilter and out of focus, and tinged with the absurd. Looking at her photos reminds me of watching The Blair Witch Project: though you know from the outset that it’s a ruse you are still drawn in and tempted with belief. The ghostliness of her photos carries the same theme of an in-between – is she moving or is the photo just blurred. She explores the theme again with photos of her emerging from the wall, the window, everything is caught between coming and going.

I don’t know how her vision ties to her illness. She attempted suicide, spent time in therapy, and then finally leapt from an upstairs window.

Here is her Wiki entry.

Here for a NYT review of her life and work.

A reminder: goals for the new year…

I had a Happy Birthday call yesterday from my daughter in Japan. She asked me what my goals were for the next year. Huh? She said that I always taught her that we should be trying to improve some area of our life and keep goals to track our progress. It’s good advice. Goals help us stay on track, keep us engaged in our own life, and remind us of a desired outcome. It’s common advice given for anyone wanting to be happy and healthy. They don’t have to be big. They don’t have to be grand. But they should be specific and measurable.

Here’s a few off the top of my head:

I want to ride in the Mt. Washington Hill Climb the summer of my sixtieth birthday. It’s considered the most difficult bicycle hill climb in the world and will remind me that sixty doesn’t have to mean decrepit.

I want to pass my Certified Health Physicist exam next summer and would like to join Sigma Xi and The Society for the Study of Evolution.

Mal and I had our first date-night in about two years last Friday night. We played a little tennis and had a nice time just being together. I think we should definitely ramp up the romance to at least once per year.

I have two papers I’m working of for publication, two longer projects that I want to have roughed out by next summer, and one other side writing projected to complete.

There’s talk of going to Disney World this year.

I might need a new car if my New York Rust Bucket finally snaps in half.

I am planning on running a couple 5ks this fall and would like to break 25 min for a 5k next spring. I would like to break the famous (at least for Mittons) seven minute mile barrier this fall.

There’s a start. Thanks for the reminder Rebe!

There are all kinds of sites to learn more about goal setting. I like Brian Tracy quite a bit. Don’t get too bogged down in the planning but focus on the doing. And have some fun.

Birthday thoughts on life and death.

In honor of my birthday here’s a short quote from Anne Lamont from a project I’m working on:

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65 or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written, or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools or oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy, or you were so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen to you.”

Another, much more sobering, from thinker Ray Kurzweil:

The things we can do with life – have relationships, be creative, create knowledge – are what give life  meaning. We don’t need death to give time a purpose. We rationalize this great tragedy and convince ourselves that death is a blessing, but it’s a tragedy. It’s a profound loss of knowledge and skill and humanity and relationships.  It’s a loss of the things that give life significance.

Happy Birthday!