Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘scientists’

A Drop of Water

A teaching from Mistress Tarantino, as transmitted to Master Winnie of the Poo Chang around 44 A.D. Excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

images-1Space, the final frontier . . . it is outside ourselves and within. We are a drop of water within a mighty ocean and that ocean is a drop of water within a larger ocean. The drop of dew we see upon the grass contains an entire universe and each entity within that drop is a universe unto itself.

It’s all macro and micro, though some may mistakenly call it retro. If you think, for even a miniscule second, that you are the center of the world or that your ego exists unto itself and outside the rest of life, you are deep within the illusory world of Mara or as some like to call her Mirror.

It is quite complex and simple. We are separate, yet not. We are part of the whole, yet we are individuals. How can this be? What makes this so? Why does it work this way?

Scientists of the future will describe this phenomenon, of our co‑existence mixed with a sense of separation, as quantum theory or the Tao of physics or some such science. This reality is the yin and yang of the one, the whole, the spokes of the wheel.

Some may find it useful to ponder such a universe or try to make some sense of it all. Just accept it as our shared reality or mutually agreed upon perception and ride the waves.

More scientifically challenged stories at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Transhumanist Novel

41uUKy0oEmLThe Transhumanist Wager by Zoltan Istvan
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans
New York Journal of Books
4 February 2014

In-depth philosophical essays and visionary science dressed up as a novel.

If you enjoy philosophy, you’ll love this book. If you’re a science geek you’ll read every word. If you are religious, spiritual, or into the supernatural, you’ll probably dismiss it, misunderstand it, and/or hate it.

Author Zoltan Istvan has taken a thinly disguised autobiography and transformed it into an almost plausible new world thriller that tends to go overboard on pontification and argument by the protagonist Jethro Knights, who becomes the mover and shaker of the Transhumanist movement and literally changes the entire world.

Istvan notes on the last page, “This story, The Transhumanist Wager, is the result of two decades of thought and inquiry into transhumanism and the quest for scientific immortality. I wrote it hoping to change people’s ideas of what a human being is and what it can become.”

A Transhumanist is someone who believes that the human race can evolve beyond its current limitations and can do so by means of technology and science.

The book has its moments. The love story between Jethro Knights and neurosurgeon Zoe Bach is believable and the action sequences in the book are top notch. The philosophy, debates, insights, and vision included in these pages are thought provoking and challenging, as are the observations about the clashes between religious fanatics and fundamentalists and those who believe in science, progress, choice and technology.

From a strictly literary perspective The Transhumanist Wager is nothing more than a collection of in-depth philosophical essays and visionary science dressed up as a novel. There are too many abrupt changes, events, and conclusions taking place in unrealistic periods of time without much depth or nuance to completely engage the reader.

Read entire review and others at NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS

Honey Bee Crisis

Gabriel,

Since 2006, our honey bees have been dying off in droves. Billions of bees have disappeared in the U.S. with losses estimated at 30% per year.

And if the destruction of a species is disturbing enough on its own, the collapse of honey bee populations also threatens the security of our food supply since honey bee pollination is crucial to the cultivation of a full 1/3 of our food here in the U.S.

Urge the EPA to stop dragging its feet and take steps NOW to stem the collapse of honey bee colonies across the country.

Scientists have been scrambling to figure out what is behind this crisis – termed Colony Collapse Disorder – and believe it is probably the result of many interacting factors, including one widely used class of pesticides called neonicotinoids.

One such chemical, called clothianidin, is produced by the German corporation Bayer CropScience. It is used as a treatment on crop seeds, including corn and canola which happen to be among honey bees’ favorite foods.

Unfortunately, the EPA is refusing to make any changes until it completes its review of the safety of clothianidin in 2018 – but our honey bees (and bee keepers, rural communities and farmers) can’t wait that long.

Tell the EPA: Ban the use of this pesticide that may be wiping out our honey bees before it’s too late.

Shockingly, no major independent study has verified the safety of this pesticide. While clothianidin has been used on corn – the largest crop in the U.S. – since 2003, it was officially approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 on the basis of a single study, conducted by Bayer.

But leaked EPA documents2 expose a more sordid story. Agency scientists who reviewed Bayer’s study determined that the evidence was unsound and should not have been allowed as the basis for an unconditional approval of the pesticide.

Additional independent studies have shown that neonicotinoid pesticides like clothianidin are highly toxic to honey bees, providing compelling evidence that they should not continue to be approved by the EPA.

France, Italy, Slovenia, and Germany have already banned clothianidin over concerns of its role in Colony Collapse Disorder.

The stakes are far too high to continue the use of this chemical without independent science verifying that it is safe to use.

Thanks for helping to protect our bees.

Mike Town
Director, SaveOurEnvironment.org

2 Suns 1 Planet

Not Just Science Fiction: Planet orbits 2 suns
From Associated Press.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California (AP) — Astronomers say a bit of science fiction is now reality. They’ve spotted a planet orbiting two suns.

The discovery was made by NASA’s planet-hunting telescope Kepler. Scientists describe the find in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

They are calling the new planet Tatooine after the fictional body in the “Star Wars” films that boasts a double sunset.

The alien world, about the size of Saturn, is frigid and inhospitable. It orbits two stars 200 light-years from Earth.

Though there have been past hints of the existence of other planets that circled double stars, scientists said this is the first confirmation.

Kepler was launched in 2009 to find out how common other planets — especially Earth-like planets — are in the universe.

Read more at Yahoo News.

I Am by Tom Shadyac

Went and saw I Am, a documentary by Tom Shadyac, with a friend yesterday. Very important, insightful and challenging film. The theater was packed when we got there, as the film is becoming more well known. The movie and director were both featured on Oprah last week.

In some respects, I Am is similar to What the Bleep Do We Know?. It takes different scientific studies and scientists, to explain how connected all life on the planet is (not just theoretically, but actually). He also interviews various philosophers, spiritual leaders and thinkers to get their views on “What is wrong with the world and what can we do to make it better?”

I Am is different from What the…, because it is much more personal, well photographed and edited (he had more money to do so) and it also looks closely at the cancer of consumption and wanting “more” as symptoms of the human race which may be our demise, if we do not wake up and take another path.

Mr. Shadyac doesn’t preach, but shares the insights he had after accumulating a great deal of wealth (from making movies like Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty, Patch Adams, etc.), having an accident and re-evaluating his life purpose. He also explores how other biological systems interact, cooperate and communicate. Most people leave this movie with a good feeling and a desire to do good.

The following words from the films website provides an accurate summary.

“Shadyac’s enthusiasm and optimism are contagious. Whether conducting an interview with an intellectual giant, or offering himself as a flawed character in the narrative of the film, Shadyac is an engaging and persuasive guide as we experience the remarkable journey that is I AM. With great wit, warmth, curiosity, and masterful storytelling skills, he reveals what science now tells us is one of the principal truths of the universe, a message that is as simple as it is significant: We are all connected – connected to each other and to everything around us.”

The Mindfulness Revolution

This is an excerpt of a review I wrote for The New York Journal of Books.

The Mindfulness Revolution: Leading Psychologists, Scientists, Artists, and Meditation Teachers on the Power of Mindfulness in Daily Life. Edited by Barry Boyce (Shambhala Publications, March 8, 2011).

The revolution to which this book refers is the widespread use and acceptance of mindfulness and how it has been applied throughout society. “Mindfulness” in this context refers to mindfulness meditation practice. And one of the wonderful aspects of The Mindfulness Revolution is that the essays address opportunities for mindfulness in everyday actions, such as shopping and online activities.

One of the contributors to this collection, Jan Chozen Bays, provides a simple, yet eloquent description of mindfulness: “Mindfulness means deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside yourself—in your body, heart and mind—and outside yourself in your environment.” It involves the awareness of thoughts, emotions, sensations, and behaviors without judgment or criticism. Further insight can also include investigating who or what it is that is aware of our experience when being mindful.

Historically, the most prominent practitioner of mindfulness was Siddhartha Gotama, who became known as The Buddha. His meditation practice and teachings spread around the world and have been used for over 2,500 years. Similar methods of contemplation, prayer, and concentration are also present in every major religious tradition.

In the West, one of the first pioneers in establishing mindfulness as a secular discipline was Jon Kabat-Zinn, who begin sharing it with his patients to help them manage various health issues and concerns. He called it Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This compilation looks at how mindfulness and MBSR has since been applied and the many forms and avenues it has taken.

The book is divided into four complementary sections by editor Barry Boyce and provides a comprehensive overview and specifics, with examples, instructions, research, and lessons.

Part I is titled How to Practice Mindfulness. Part II is called Mindfulness in Daily Life. The third section is Mindfulness, Health and Healing. The fourth area is Interpersonal Mindfulness. The excerpts for each section are provided by experienced and well-known practitioners that include Jan Chozen Bays, Jack Kornfield, Bob Stahl, Chogyam Trungpa, Norman Fischer, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nat Hanh, Sue Moon, Elisha Goldstein, Daniel Siegel, Steve Flowers, Peman Chodron, Susan Chapman and The Fourteenth Dalai Lama. There is also an excellent resource section and contributor bios at the end of the collection.

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Chocolate = Love & Health

Written for Valentine’s Day issue of Natural Awakenings Magazine.

It’s widely known that dark chocolate, in particular, is good for our emotional and physical health. Eating dark chocolate makes people happy, researchers have learned, because it contains phenylethylamine, the same nurturing hormone triggered by the brain when we fall in love. It’s no wonder that Madame du Barry and Giacomo Casanova both believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac. Further, according to the California Academy of Sciences, the theobromine in chocolate acts as a myocardial stimulant, dilator of coronary arteries and smooth muscle relaxant, all inducing good feelings.

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine recently reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that subjects who consistently consumed dark chocolate showed a 40 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction and stroke than those who did not.

A study published in the European Heart Journal that tracked almost 20,000 people for 10 years found that people who ate about 7 grams of dark chocolate per day had lower blood pressure and 39 percent less risk of experiencing a stroke or heart attack, compared to those who ate an average of 1.7 grams daily.

Scientists have learned that cocoa powder and chocolate contain rich sources of polyphenol antioxidants, the same beneficial compounds found in red wine and many fruits and vegetables that help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Professor Frank Ruschitzka, head of cardiology at University Hospital, in Zurich, Switzerland, comments: “Basic science has demonstrated quite convincingly that dark chocolate, particularly with a cocoa content of at least 70 percent, reduces oxidative stress and improves vascular and platelet [appropriate blood clotting] function.”

Chocolate lovers also will be glad to know that dark chocolate contains more antioxidants per 3.5 ounces than prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, plums, oranges, red grapes, red bell peppers, cherries, onions, corn or eggplant.

See more, including 4 recipes for Valentine’s Day at Natural Awakenings.

Are You Dead When You’re Dead?

How we feel, believe or think about what happens to us after we die matters. It matters because our thoughts about the after-life often effect how we react too and live in the present.

If one believes that their physical reality and what they see, feel and experience with their senses is all that exists, then the thought of its termination and our bodies decline may be frightening, if not down right terrifying. If someone’s faith tells them there is something that continues beyond the known physical realities of the world or takes them to a place of peace and happiness, they may be less inclined to fear their own mortality or that of others.

Both ideas and beliefs, that something continues beyond death and that nothing does, may also help us live more in the moment and appreciate the short, precarious lives we live or create continuing anxiety about how things are or where we would rather be.

The reason the word may is italicized, is because there is no omniscient law of nature, physics or human response, that such beliefs in life after death or solely in the material world, causes only those stated or expected reactions. We are far more infinite than the stars in our complicated, yet simple, desire for understanding, comfort and reassurance about the unknown and what happens to us after we die.

When I was a teen, I used to believe strongly in reincarnation. At the time, it made sense. As I grew older my beliefs shifted from Yoga and Eastern traditions to Quaker activism and social responsibility. Then it changed again and again, from the Catholic Church to Judaism and from Eastern Buddhist belief in transgression and karma, to natures continual recycling of all forms of matter, including human beings. Whatever I was practicing or following at the time, was my reality. Each exploration into the afterlife or spiritual nature of humanity gave me some answers and experiences I could hold onto, make sense of and say, “This is it! This is the truth! This is what happens!”

In my early work with hospice and later as a chaplain at the hospital, I met a number of people who had been clinically dead and revived or resuscitated. After hearing their stories and reading research that had been done with thousands of others who had had similar experiences around the world, I “knew” that some part of our consciousness or awareness as human beings (at least in the first few minutes) continues.

Most recently, after my acquaintances with a number of people whose cultural background and/or religious practices, has worshiped and spoken with deceased ancestors, I have begun to send blessings to and bring into the present, those in my family who have preceded me into death.

Because of my work as a grief counselor I have been granted the opportunity to explore the question of life after death with many people. Here are some of the answers, thoughts and beliefs that have been shared.

“Those who believe will find everlasting peace with Jesus and the Saints.”

“God is the only answer. I know they are with God.”

“My loved one always felt at home by the sea. When we scattered their ashes in the bay, it felt like he had been buried in his church.”

“As a Tibetan Buddhist, I know my wife went through different Bardos (spiritual worlds) and gained enlightenment. She is such a compassionate loving being.”

“When we’re dead, we’re just dead. There’s nothing more and nothing less. That’s why it’s so important what we do while we are living.”

“I believe there’s a white light and the peace and joy are indescribable.”

“The bible tells me there is heaven and hell. I hope I’ve lived a good life and go to heaven. I know my son is there waiting for me.”

“My sister has come to me several times and told me she’s alright. I have no doubt that she’ll be there to meet me when it’s my time.”

“The Lord is the way, the truth and the light. I will be with my Lord Jesus.”

“Maybe I’ll see my parents when I die, but I don’t know. I tend to believe that something better is waiting, that there’s something more than this, but I couldn’t say for sure.”

“It’s all chaos. There is no rhyme or reason. I have no idea what will happen after I die.”

What’s your experience been? What do you think happens after we die? What have you been told? What does your family believe? What does your religion teach you? What do scientists propose? How has the media portrayed the after-life? Is death less frightening because of your beliefs? Do you think anybody “really” knows before they die what happens after we stop breathing? How does your belief or thoughts about life after death effect how you live your life now? Does it matter?

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