Notes from the book, A Short History of Almost Everything We know surprisingly little about what lies beneath our feet. We have been building Fords longer than we have known that the continents drift. Before he died Einstein mocked the very idea. The consensus of the scientific community was that the continents did not [more …]
This section contains excerpts of books I am reading or have read and perhaps even some stream of consciousness notes I have taken while reading these books.
From the book, World Order by Henry Kissinger The Thirty Years War [Cardinal] Richelieu saw the turmoil in Central Europe not as a call to arms to defend the Church but as a means to check imperial Hapsburg preeminence. Though France’s King had been styled as the Rex Catholicissimus, or the “Most Catholic King,” since [more …]
The Deluge by Adam Tooze This book, written by an economist, offers an interesting analysis of of the period from 1916 to the Great Depression. Tooze picks an interesting moment to begin the book – 1916, The Battle of Verdun, the moment the money ran out for the Allies and America became the world’s banker (NY [more …]
Wikipedia: “The Dreyfus affair was a political scandal that divided France from its beginning in 1894 until it was finally resolved in 1906. The affair is often seen as a modern and universal symbol of injustice, and remains one of the most striking examples of a complex miscarriage of justice, where a major role was [more …]
Excerpts from the book, “So We Read On” by Maureen Corrigan. A Magnificent Yearning The Great Gatsby is one of the first modern novels to look squarely at the void, yet it stops short of taking a flying leap. Blame the lingering influences of Fitzgerald’s lapsed Catholicism and romantic bent of his sensibilities. Fitzgerald’s favorite [more …]
It’s not true that all wars are fought in the name of religion, as some atheists assert. Of 1,723 armed conflicts documented in the three-volume “Encyclopedia of Wars,” only 123, or less than 7 percent, involved a religious cause. Hitler’s genocide, Stalin’s bloody purges and Pol Pot’s mass murders certainly make the case that state-sanctioned killings do not need the invocation of a higher power to succeed.
“Why is Egypt so much poorer than the United States?” The authors argue that the dominant view held by economists is too narrow, namely they claim it is too narrow a view that “the rulers of Egypt simply don’t know what is needed to make their country prosperous, and have followed incorrect policies and strategies in the past. If these rulers would only get the right advice from the right advisers, the thinking goes, prosperity would follow.”
The whole poem has been moving toward this duel between the two champions, but there has never been any doubt the outcome. The husband and father, the beloved protector of his people, the man who stands for the civilized values of the rich city, its social and religious institutions, will go down to defeat at the hands of this man who has no family, who in a private quarrel has caused the death of many of his own fellow soldiers, who now in a private quarrel thinks only of revenge, though that revenge, as he well knows, is the immediate prelude to his own death.
In the late nineteenth century a wave of bombings and assassinations swept the civilized world. By the time of The Great War several heads of state had been taken by assassins devoted to the idea of bringing about a world without government, by violently removing it.
These are my notes from reading Churchill’s “History of English Speaking Peoples” and other histories of “Brettaniai” as the Greek merchant and explorer Pytheas named the island when he landed in 325 BC. I will be coming back to this page to fill in the gaps and flush out my learning, but for now I am tracing bloodlines…
A QUIET REVOLUTION may have taken place over the last three decades in our understanding of the history of Western philosophy. So quiet, in fact, that few have noticed it. Three recent books give us a sense of the significance and extent of this paradigm shift: Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche, by James Miller; How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, by Sarah Bakewell; and The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life, by Bettany Hughes.
Suddenly we find ourselves surrounded by people saying, “Teach us to pray.” And suddenly we become aware that we are being asked to show the way through a region that we do not know ourselves. The crisis of our prayer life is that our mind may be filled with ideas of God while our heart remains far from him. Real prayer comes from the heart. It is about this prayer of the heart that the Desert Fathers teach us.
What amazed and upset him most of all was that the majority of people of his age and circle, who had replaced their former beliefs, as he had, with the same new beliefs as he had, did not see anything wrong with it and were perfectly calm and content. So that, besides the main question, Levin was tormented by other questions: Are these people sincere? Are they not pretending? Or do they not understand somehow differently, more clearly, than he the answers science gives to the questions that concerned him? And he diligently studied both the opinions of these people and the books that expressed these answers. …
“What was the point of a bachelor of arts degree? Was it to plumb the depths and origins of Western civilization, which had after all invented the university, and to develop the student spiritually and morally? Or was it to set the kid up for a cushy job?” http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/book-drove-them-crazy_634905.html?nopager=1 “The crisis of liberal education,” he [more …]
“Teenagers shouldn’t read “great” literature because it’s good for them, but because it’s like them. ” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/books/why-teens-should-read-adult-fiction-and-vice-versa/article2371260/ But teenagers – at least the teenagers I knew and know, and the teenager I happened to be – are not so world-weary. They’re still trying to figure out this place, this land, and to assimilate all the sensations [more …]
I just posted this on a forum where they were talking about the sustained attention that is required of reading books and whether we are losing that ability, or whether it was always small minority who ever had it. Some comments included the value of reading fiction vs non-fiction and one commentator mentioned reading “The [more …]
An electron is a physical condensation of the electromagnetic field that permeates all of spacetime. Thus every electron has the same source. The electron is like the morning dew, appearing from and returning to “the thin air.” — Photons are not massless in a superconductor. They are heavy. Electromagnetic radiation does not penetrate superconductors. If [more …]
Maintain a constant mildness of temper and a tranquility of mind in all things Remain abstinent from mean and evil thoughts Refrain from fault-finding Practice a constant benevolence in nature Look carefully after the interests of friends Do not esteem yourself too highly; skill in expounding philosophical principles is the smallest of merits Do not [more …]
“The state of affairs in which ordinary people can discover the Supernatural only by abstruse reasoning is recent and, by historical standards, abnormal. All over the world, until quite modern times, the direct insight of the mystics and the reasonings of the philosophers percolated to the mass of the people by authority and tradition; they [more …]
Key concepts: Interference Patterns Defraction and Refraction Information Theory QED Holograms take advantage of some pretty amazing physics. For example, on a piece of holographic film, the entire image is recorded on every piece of the film. You can cut up the film into as many pieces as you like and it will still reproduce [more …]
Perhaps one of my favorite opening paragraphs to a book… There is a theory in physics that explains, at the deepest level, nearly all of the phenomena that rule our daily lives. It summarizes everything we know about the fundamental structure of matter and energy. It provides a detailed picture of the basic building blocks [more …]
To the students in your class who think no one would choose against salvation, you could refer them to Nietzche, or to Ivan in the Brothers Karamazov… — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — The story is told by Ivan to Alyosha, who are brothers (The Brothers [more …]
After reading the stories by the Great Author, a number of very learned, respected gentlemen declared that there was nothing in them. This was very concerning because on the one hand, these were, after all, learned gentlemen. Yet on the other hand, the stories were written by a Great Author. Something, it would seem, had [more …]
I just read a very interesting article by Malcolm Gladwell. He is a very interesting author. He has written 3 books in the last few years, all best sellers. The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers and now has a book of his best articles from the New Yorker magazine called What The Dog Saw. His [more …]
Men sometimes speak as if the study of the classics would at length make way for more modern and practical studies; but the adventurous student will always study classics, in whatever language they may be written and however ancient they may be. For what are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man?
We might as well omit to study Nature because she is old.
Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.
I copied this out of a book I read the other day callled “The Happiness Hypothesis”. The book takes ten good ideas passed down from the sages and examines them with all the modern scientific tools currently at our disposal. So while there is nothing “new” here, it is neat to watch it become a [more …]
I have not read Douglas Hofstadter very thoroughly, but I have perused some of his work and I enjoy and recommend him. He whets the appetite for something more, which is a good thing. He stirs the passion of the subject… What am I? After reading large chunks of I am a Strange Loop, I [more …]
In the preface of his book, Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity, the late David Foster Wallace talks about the power of abstraction to suck you into an abyss of insanity. Mathematicians, who deal in pure abstraction, are more prone to insanity than poets and artists, he claims. Trying to define the mathematical [more …]
The following excerpts are taken from the book, “A Short History of Nearly Everything”. These are truly awesome statements.
Astronomers these days can do the most amazing things. If someone struck a match on the Moon, they could spot the flare.
With their radio telescopes they can capture wisps of radiation so preposterously faint that the TOTAL amount of energy collected from outside the solar system by all of them together since collecting began in 1951 is “less than the energy of a single snowflake striking the ground,” in the words of Carl Sagan.