Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I knew it...


...It produces and protects good germs for your gut. ...

... sometimes the flora of bacteria in the intestines die or are purged. Diseases such as cholera or amoebic dysentery would clear the gut of useful bacteria. The appendix’s job is to reboot the digestive system in that case.The appendix “acts as a good safe house for bacteria” ...


Well, ok... it's not THAT important allegedly, at least not in the modern society. But to know that I don't have that thing anymore always concerned me from time to time, I never could really believe that it can be COMPLETELY useless, it didn't make sense to me. I knew the day would come where I'll regret not having an appendix anymore. Today was it. I guess from now on I'll be extra careful to not get "diseases such as cholera or amoebic dysentery"...

I wonder what exactly caused me trouble with my appendix back then... It was probably because of my "normal" junk-diet but I also suspect that the whole thing might have been mostly psychological. If you want a short story of how it happened, it was something like this:

I guess I was around 12 years old. I had to get up and go to school one morning but I had absolutely no motivation. It's hard for me to say today which came first but I was also feeling some kind of pain somewhere around my stomach. Me and my brother weren't living in the same city with my parents back then. (This may be hard to grasp for some readers but it was basically because the quality of schools we were attending to were higher than the ones available in the city where my parents were working, allegedly. So they were in Bursa, we were in Istanbul.We had something like a nanny to take care of us.) I phoned my mom to tell her that I won't be going to school because I had some sort of stomach pain. Now here's the thing... I believe I really didn't really have that much pain when I told her this, it was possibly a lie, at least partially. But for some reason(guilt or true pain?) I remained in bed that day until my brother came back home from school. Meanwhile, apparently my freaky mom had been doing some research in the other city but I didn't know about that at the time. Anyway, my brother -3,5 years older than me- was on the phone with my mom and he was following her instructions and doing some kind of examination on my body; touching some spots around my stomach area and asking if it hurts or not. Without me realizing what was going on, either that evening or the next morning, my mother arrived at our home. She was telling me that I had appendicitis, somewhat proudly since she figured it out, and we went to see a doctor. (I don't know why she even suspected appendicitis. I doubt that I told her more than just a "My stomach hurts" kind of thing over the phone.) Now, after that point I clearly remember feeling real pain like a patient with appendicitis is supposed to feel. I mean it was really real pain. It felt like real pain. Then it didn't took long before the doc also did an examination and confirmed the appendicitis diagnosis, after a few hours I've been operated. I still have a cute scar. It seemed weird at first but I just got used to it in time.

This story might be highly inaccurate but this is how I was able to reconstruct it right now. And I had never told about the part with my lack of motivation to go to school that day to anyone before. So this was sort of revealing a long-hidden secret right there. :) But the main reason I didn't reveal that "secret" to anyone was probably because I didn't think it was significant. I'm still not sure if it is. Could I have been that "skillful" at literally turning myself into a sick person to a degree that an operation was necessary so that I don't have to go to school? Within a day? I can imagine it being true, since there were times when school was absolutely repulsive to me, but the overall feeling I get from remembering all the details of the story I told above -i.e. the pain- causes me to think that it's more likely that I really was in trouble with my appendix at the time.

Plus, we still keep the strange thing in a small jar to this day -like this- and it really never looked like a healthy organ to me. :) But I don't know how a healthy appendix in a jar would look like so it's hard to say how unhealthy mine really looks.

I'll never truly know I guess. Maybe my mother or brother can clarify it for me though...hmm...

UPDATE: I made a few (1 or 2) weak attempts to discuss this with them (or maybe just 1 of them) they didn't take me so seriously. Neither did I apparently; I didn't insist on talking about it and let go of it.
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Monday, December 29, 2008

Consciousness > User Interface



Norretranders compares consciousness to a concept invented by the computer scientist Alan Kay: ''the user illusion.'' Sitting at the computer dragging documents into folders or into the trash can, the operator is under a machine-induced hallucination. Inside the computer chips there are no documents, trash cans, words or letters -- just voltages and charges representing the ones and zeros of binary code. Instead of overwhelming the user with a flood of useless information, the computer projects a simple array of metaphors: icons that can be manipulated to get things done. In a similar way, the brain, throwing away unneeded data, generates its own user illusion: the interpretation called consciousness. No wonder people constantly surprise themselves as their bodies are led through an impossible turn on the ski slope or their brains are seized with an idea that seems to pop out of nowhere.

Maxwell himself marveled at this phenomenon in a quotation used as the epigraph here: ''What is done by what is called myself is, I feel, done by something greater than myself in me.'' But it was not some supernatural force using the great scientist as its instrument. He was merely in the grip of his own brain.

Why not directly act from unconsciousness instead of trying to increase communication between consciousness and unconsciousness, instead of trying to feed the "consciousness" with our richer unconscious resources? Possible to live always unconsciously? Would it be more productive? Is consciousness necessary/useful? Advantages, disadvantages?

Consciousness = Piece of Art(ificial) ? Are "we" all pieces of art?

In the future people will get over their consciousness, they'll recognize the potential their unconsciousness has and will decide to become unconscious organic robots so they can achieve greater things. Or will they? Can I consciously choose to let go of my consciousness?

"Unconsciousness in Development" ?
"Conscious Unconsciousness in Action" ?

"...we have to forget things like "I should be mindful of this or that". If you are mindful, you are already creating a separation..."

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness#Zen_criticism
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Living Without Heads, Feeding Without Mouths: Chickens and Babies

I recently heard about Mike the Headless Chicken. You can also find videos about him on Youtube.

Basically it's a rooster that lived for 18 months without a head, more or less... Most of his brain stem and the sufficient veins were still there apparently. It's sort of exciting to imagine what this would be like with humans, and what it would mean about the human nature. I offered my dad to try something like this on him, but he didn't trust me, rightfully. He said that I might end up killing him and that I should first do the necessary research to operate properly.

Anyway, one inevitable consequence of missing a head is also missing a mouth. In Mike's case he was fed with an eyedropper, right into his open gullet. This reminded me of something. I actually had the idea of making a short film about someone who has to feed through his umbilical cord for his entire life. The storyline was something like this:

A pregnant woman is kidnapped by a mad evil scientist. After the baby is born the scientist puts the baby in another room, binds both of them to different beds but there's a hole on the wall in-between and the umbilical cord is somehow still intact connecting the two. And the guy somehow also seals off the child's mouth. So he keeps feeding the mother regularly and the baby continues to live alone in a dark room feeding only through the umbilical cord. The baby is growing up. After a while the mother dies for some reason and the mad guy kidnaps a new woman. The umbilical cord is now artificially connected to this new "mother". While many "mothers" come and go, he develops a gadget for the child, something like an artificial mother: It can digest whatever food you throw into it and it has an output mimicking the women's. As the story continues the child is no longer bound to the bed-thing, he learns to live with the gadget. And one day he(she?) manages to run away, into the wild. He/she swears that he'll come back and take revenge...

And in the end he probably takes his revenge, or forgives the scientist, or something else, I don't know... I hadn't determined all the details. This was sort of the introduction into a bigger story. (I actually thought about combining this one with another idea I had about a tree by the river that envies the birds and wants to fly. It ends with the tree "flying" down a waterfall.) I came pretty close to start drawing a storyboard back then, but the timing wasn't right. It was too big for one inexperienced animator. So I laid it aside. Somewhere, I do have a few drawings of the grown up version of the character though, but I wasn't so pleased with the design, needs more work. (The gadget I'm talking about was attached to him like a backpack, with a funnel-like-opening on top for food entrance to throw in fruits and pieces of animals or whatever. He was sort of like a wilder version of He-man with a sealed mouth and a jet pack.)

Nowadays I'm pretty sure that I'll never keep working on this project, I just don't care so much about it, or I should rather say that I care much more about other stuff. If there's someone out there who has enough time and interest in these ideas, feel free to be inspired and use them. Even though I'm not enough motivated to work on this project, I would still be interested in watching/reading stuff like this.

Saturday, November 15, 2008



Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Flow - Positive Psychology





Thursday, October 23, 2008

Life with Testicles

I just fixed my testicular torsion:

"In testicular torsion the spermatic cord that provides the blood supply to a testicle is twisted, cutting off the blood supply... Prolonged testicular torsion results in the DEATH of the testicle...!!"

It was an interesting experience. Now I'm going to tell you all about it... :D

It'll be a little weird, so don't read if ...you know... if you think that you may feel uncomfortable and don't want to feel uncomfortable... Here it goes:

Yesterday morning I woke up and noticed a weird pain around my testicles. It wasn't a constant pain but it made me aware of itself every once in a while. I took a look, but didn't pay that much attention since it wasn't so bad. There was only some slightly intense pain when my body was in certain positions, dependent on the angle of my legs and so on... I mostly ignored it, assuming it probably is nothing and will go away by itself. I also went to see "Hellboy II" yesterday, it was a nice and entertaining piece of work, could've been longer. I had to avoid certain positions while sitting to not to feel any pain...

Anyway, today morning, as I woke up I noticed that the pain was still there. This was an unpleasant surprise, I had wished that it would simply disappear. So now really interested in what's going on down there, I began to examine it closely: It was only about my right testicle. Applying minimal pressure from many directions resulted in an intense pain, it was therefore pretty hard to touch. I also noticed that the right side seemed to be hanging higher than usual, so I began to consider that it might have something to do with the testicle slipping from its correct position. But I wasn't sure and I kept looking. After spotting a soft and little (smaller than a pea) roundish thing, I got close to concluding that it was testical cancer.

Now it might sound insane to most of you, but the idea of having cancer was sort of exciting for me because it would give me the chance to test the New (German) Medicine myself, which is generally dismissed as pseudoscience. According to the New Medicine most(if not all) testical cancers are caused by a conscious or unconscious desire to have a child (i.e. after having lost your child in an accident, or maybe even after a divorce where you don't get to see your child as much). It's sort of like the body is sending extra support to the testicles so that they're more effective, the number of cells in that area start to increase and that's what cancer is all about, according to the New Medicine: An attempt of the body to adapt and fulfill the emotional needs of a person. While looking up more about it online I found a story of a guy who claims that his testical cancer was cured as he only followed this explanation of the New Medicine, no meds no chemo. I briefly checked out this guy's story and at the same time I was also trying to figure out if and why I was feeling the need for a child somewhere deep inside me.

Then I slowly realized that the description of testical cancer wasn't really fitting to my own experience. Around that time the situation seemed to get more serious, perhaps due to what I had done during my amateur examination. There was really an intense pain, not always in all positions, but whenever I moved some pain was sure to come. While walking, the pain was so intense and so sharp, a few times I got pretty dizzy. Once I got pretty close to fainting I think, when my vision blacked out for umm... 80% and I've gotten really pale in a very short while after that. I also had a bad stomach because of the pain, I felt like I was going to vomit. Letting my head cool down under cold water helped me pull myself together.

Cancer seemed to be the result of a slower process and with less pain. Knowing that I don't really know much about how testical cancer really feels, as much as I wanted to have it(?), I was inclined to look for other explanations. I googled this and that and jumped through various links and websites, trying to find something closer to what my experience felt like. Epididymitis seemed to make sense for a while. But reading things like this was what rang the bell for me and helped me realize the situation:

" The spermatic cord shortens as it twists, so the testis may appear higher in the affected scrotum. "

As I earlier said, my right testicle seemed to be in a position higher than I thought it previously was. So I started to look deeper into the testicular torsion possibility and realized that other people's descriptions of their own pain was basically identical to mine. I was convinced at that moment. (And what I earlier perceived as a little roundish thing was probably nothing more than a part of my epididymis.)

This is where it began to get a little scary(er). Because this is what you'll read about treatment of testicular torsion online:

* "Immediate surgery - ideally within six hours of the pain starting - is the recommended treatment. The torsion that has tightened the blood vessels is removed and the failed blood circulation to the testicles is brought back to normal. In order to prevent torsion happening again, the testicles are sewn to the innerside of the scrotum (testicular fixation). It is usual to fix the opposite testicle at the same time."

* "If treated within 6 hours, there is nearly a 100% chance of saving the testicle. Within 12 hours this rate decreases to 70%, within 24 hours is 20%, and after 24 hours the rate approaches 0. Once the testicle is dead it must be removed to prevent gangrenous infection. "

*"Surgery must be performed within 24 hours to ensure the health of the affected testis. During the procedure, the surgeon untwists the cord and secures the testis in place so that it cannot rotate again. The other testicle should also be secured to deter future testicular torsion."

etc. etc....

So... Shit! After getting this first impression about the treatment, I found myself in panic. I realized that my heart was beating really fast and I had this fuzzy feeling overall, too much adrenaline. One reason was that it was already more than 30 hours for me. So losing my testicle seemed very likely at that moment. The other reason was that this meant that I had to go to a hospital as soon as possible and get surgery. This was a whole lot of work and a very time-consuming, complicated thing with various unexpected consequences, like having my testicles sewn. Who knows what that feels like? * And as someone who doesn't like to have to rely on others in life, the thought of not being able to solve this problem myself was pretty annoying to me.

But I also didn't like to panic since it was preventing me from acting efficiently and rationally. So for the next 5-10 minutes or so I just laid in my bed and listened repeatedly to a relaxing song. This helped me clear my mind and I went back to a more rational state. I could've probably done it without the song too, but it wouldn't have been as quick and effortless I suppose.

One thing I realized after that was the significance of my pain not being constant. So only certain positions caused the spermatic cord that provides the blood supply to get dangerously twisted. Which meant that if I remain in a position where I don't feel any pain, then there was no reason to worry about my testicle not getting enough blood and dying. This was possible through experimenting a little with how I sit and stuff like that. Noticing this was comforting.

After focusing on if and how it's possible to solve this problem myself I started to find things like this:

So there was hope after all. As someone who already has sufficient distrust towards authorities I decided to fix it myself. All I have to do was to reverse whatever happened down there and return the testicle to its former position.

I spent the next 20 minutes or so under warm shower where I hoped that things would loosen up a bit. (I'm not sure if the warmth made it easier or harder.) It was like trying to solve a puzzle and you're immediately made aware by an intense pain if you take a wrong step. So the pain makes it both easier and harder to solve. :) Plus, most of the feedback you get is through subtle sensations instead of visual or audial, which makes it more interesting. In the end, after playing around enough with it I was able to untwist it.

It still wasn't perfect though, and it was indeed inclined to get twisted again for a relatively long while, but there was nothing left to worry about since it was under my control this time. But I had still doubts if the problem was completely solved or if my solution was only a temporary one: Although this event took place on 23.October, the date I'm publishing this blog post is on 31.December. Initially I decided to wait a week or so to make sure that it's really over, because as I started to write this on 23rd I was still feeling a little pain down there every now and then. (It was getting drawn back up again and I had to keep it down where it really should be. And I was pretty careful in the next few days.) But after I was completely sure that I don't have a problem anymore then I was too lazy and delayed finishing this blog post to publish it. Now at the end of 2008, I wanted to get rid of this burden. :)

One final note which should actually be obvious: I would've accepted surgery without thinking if the pain I felt were constant and if I were unable to relieve the pain even temporarily through manual detorsion. Temporary relief was a sign for me that permanent relief is also achievable with more effort.

Also to quickly sum up the lessons I learned:
  • Avoid wearing underwear that is too tight. I think that was the reason in my case. It was a really tight one. I'll never wear something as tight as that one again. That in combination with whatever activities took place during the night caused me to wake up with testicular torsion one morning. Beware guys... :)
  • Informed distrust against authorities is a good thing. If I had obeyed all the advice experts give online, then I'd need to go through surgery. I don't think anyone would've really tried to avoid surgery and untwist it manually if I had gone to a hospital, only a few sources even mention such a possibility. ** And even if they did, I would probably still be in surgery. Because they claim that even if the torsion is fixed without a surgery, the testicle should get permanently fixed through surgery. This is just not so smart. It's obviously not always necessary to go through a surgery if there's no more an emergency, there can be easier ways to deal with it and stabilize it after the correction. After a while it's possible for it to return to a completely normal state anyway -as it proved to be the case with my testicle. But all this depends highly on the patient, too, probably. Naturally I'm talking only about my own experience.

So that's it. Maybe this helps somebody in the future.

* : This guy knows what that feels like: Lovely butterflies, rainbows, flowers and sunshine!

** : This is the best info I could find about manual detorsion. It would've been better if I had found this at the time when I still had the problem: Testicular Torsion: Treatment & Medication

P.S. I updated the Wikipedia entry and added some info about manual distortion, also a link to this blog post.

Update: The link to this blog post was removed from Wikipedia in April 2009 due to me providing "dangerous advice". I tried to contact the editor who made the decision for clarification to no avail. I think I was rather cautious with my "advice", as evident in my final note. I don't think I even gave any advice, I just shared my own experience. I suspect that this edit was more a result of a bias against alternative theories/treatments (e.g. New Medicine). I restored the link in May 2009.

Update 2: They removed it again. More info at the article's discussion page.

Obvious But Still Not Fully Absorbed Fact

Money ≠ Happiness

"Economies can blossom and grow only if people are deluded into believing that the production of wealth will make them happy … Economies thrive when individuals strive, but because individuals will strive only for their own happiness, it is essential that they mistakenly believe that producing and consuming are routes to personal well-being."

(Whether or not it's actually something wise or evitable to pursue happiness in life is another topic.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Michael Shermer Disappoints - Regarding HIV/AIDS Skepticism

Michael Shermer, a widely respected skeptic, is asked in 2006 :

Q: You confess in "Why Darwin Matters," "I became a creationist shortly after I became a born-again evangelical Christian in high school in 1971 and I argued the creationist case through graduate school in 1977."... What caused you to see the light about evolution?

MS: Taking a class in it by Bayard Brattstrom at Cal State Fullerton, where I got a master's degree in experimental psychology. He was an evangelical evolutionist and his class met Tuesday nights and then adjourned to the local pub and continued until closing time. He would just hold forth, like Socrates, sitting around with beer and ale, and talking about God, religion, the big bang and cosmology. He was a dynamic speaker. It was great stuff. I was just sitting there stunned, like, Oh my God, this stuff is real. I had no idea. I didn't really know anything about science.

Like most creationists, you just know what you read in creationist books. When you read them, it makes the theory of evolution sound completely idiotic. What moron could believe in this theory? When you actually take a class in the science of it, it's a completely different picture. That's also when I realized I enjoyed the company of scientists and science people much more than religious people and theologians...

That's all good... But let's examine this right here:
The AIDS Heresies - A Case Study in Skepticism Taken Too Far by Steven B. Harris
(From Skeptic: The Magazine: Back Issue: Volume 3, Number 2)

This text begins with this notice at the top:
Note from the editor: This article is unusual for several reasons: 1.) It is a monograph -longer than an article but shorter than a book [32Pages]; 2.) Skeptic usually features several voices on one subject, but because of the length we decided to allow the AIDS skeptics to respond in the next issue ...
Alright, let's check out the next issue: Skeptic: The Magazine: Back Issue: Volume 3, Number 3


There is only a small section called "AIDS Forum", where you can read a few letters from a few guys... Fair?

Yet Mr. Shermer has no problem publishing texts like this on the Skeptic website:
... Skeptic is open to exploring subjects not previously discussed in back issues and, in fact, is always in search of cutting-edge controversies and ideas worthy of further exploration. Skeptic is a science magazine, and therefore we are evidence driven, not position driven. One may be skeptical in either direction. E.g., when we investigated the HIV-AIDS controversy, the evidence led us to conclude that we should be skeptical of the HIV-AIDS skeptic’s claims, not the medical establishment’s claims. ...
Would he have been able to determine if the theory of evolution is a rational theory back then, with such unbalanced information as he lets the Skeptic publish about the HIV/AIDS theory? Apparently not... Why so confident now?

Maybe Mr. Shermer was a little too inexperienced back then for being a perfect skeptic. Maybe he should rethink AIDS with the skills he's got today, no?

Conclusion: The AIDS dissidents should get a real chance to present their arguments for the good of us all. It's the responsibility of all those who support real scientific inquiry to demand/support/organize more scientific debates and ask more questions. The dissidents I know are always open for any offer, unlike the mainstream scientists who accept the HIV/AIDS hypothesis without sufficiently informing themselves about alternative viewpoints.
... It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations. ...
From "The Value of Science - By Richard Feynman".

UPDATE: I emailed this to Mr. Shermer, he never responded. I hoped that he'll get past the title and properly respond, an open minded skeptic would've achieved that for sure...

By the way, the same Skeptic monograph is criticised here at the interesting website SuppressedScience.net for a very good reason:
... Skeptic has published an article on this subject ... that seeks to affirm the correctness of the conventional viewpoint and, in typical pseudoskeptical fashion, ignores at least one key argument of the AIDS critics. That is the argument that HIV tests are completely invalid. The Perth Group had already made that case in 1993 in a paper published in Bio/Technology (Vol.11 June 1993). Their claims were reported in a headline story on June 1, 1993 in the Sunday Times of London. Yet, over one year later, Dr. Harris does not even mention this critical component in the skeptical case against the conventional theory of HIV/AIDS in his article. Instead, he misleads his readers into believing that AIDS skeptics recognize the validity of HIV tests in the first place by stating that "critics of the HIV/AIDS hypothesis have had to struggle to keep up with sensitivity increases in HIV testing". ...
Visit this link for more on this topic: HIV = AIDS ?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Monkey See Human Do

Cool experiments confirming social pressure's role in bias:
Monkey version (Potentially fictional)
Human version (Asch's Conformity Experiment)

They're not exactly the same but they both demonstrate how the society makes people decide irrationally or dishonestly. Related to what I wrote about the "biggest obstacle" and the approach to 9/11 conspiracy theories. And also to the whole HIV/AIDS debate of course, to all the "good germans" in the AIDS research field, even if they are right...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Objective approach to 9/11 Conspiracy Theories -Milgram

There is a bias towards the government, the authority. If the answer is unclear, it's being assumed that they're the ones to believe. The general perception is that it is more likely done by terrorists than the government: "Governments don't do bad things, terrorists do."

There is no rational basis for such thinking. Not in today's world, no.

Here is a double-example for bias: SkepDic on 9/11 Conspiracies

Even if they're right about all of their points, they're only skeptical of the so called conspiracy theorists, never of the government. They don't analyze the official story, they focus only on debunking other theories.

The government is the good side by default. If you're skeptical of people questioning the orthodox views, then you're a skeptic. Once you start questioning the orthodox views yourself by becoming more skeptical, then you don't become a better skeptic in the eyes of the majority, you become too skeptical; A Conspiracy Theorist. And never mind that the orthodox views change with every generation...

Been through that myself apparently... But the reality is that even if you don't think that it's an inside job or whatever, no matter what you believe in, then still, you are a conspiracy theorist !

Anyway, one reason for this biased perception is -as in the Milgram experiment- the obedience to authority I suppose. People tend to be on the side of the powerful, the side of the majority, when they have to take sides. They feel comfy knowing that since they're doing -together with the rest of the majority- what their government tells them, the responsibility belongs to the government. And if any "enemies" were to challenge these people, their government would support them and the enemy would be crushed, while the people can still benefit from the protection under their government's wings. They also feel safer knowing that they got the support of the majority -or a community that they're attached to-, they are a part of a whole. This was also confirmed by Asch's Conformity Experiment. (Notice that these effects can also occur if a person is too deep inside the so called "truth movement", not just with non-skeptics and communities of biased skeptics. A little more here: Groupthink)

The other reason is more naive: The governments are supposed to work for the people and people want to be able to trust them, to believe in them. It's very much like the need to believe in God, an almighty force that will protect you. If you can even consider the possibility of such a treason by your own government, then this would mean you're in big trouble; it doesn't only mean that there is no God to help you, it means that the God is in fact Satan themself. So understandably people can easily ignore many significant questions while trying to convince themselves that their government couldn't possible do such a thing, also called confirmation bias. If they're right, that's good. But if they're wrong, then they become a part of the problem and make it even bigger.

So in short, don't assume the official version is more likely to be correct, don't try to defend it, be objective, skeptical, open minded.

Look at the footage alone and ignore the rest of the debate.
Ask objectively which is more probable:

Without explosives or with explosives?
Fire alone or with support from explosives?

Answer = With Explosives

Explosives mean only extra power, they would raise the probability of such a collapse significantly.

But still, there certainly was fire without doubt. Is there any evidence for explosives?
Is there any evidence contradicting the possibility of explosives?
Then go on...

BUT... also know that it's partially a waste of time, because it's impossible to know for sure just by researching and thinking. Even if it was an inside job, everybody involved might be dead already. Besides it's not all about how it happened, it should be more about the result and who's responsible for it. Even if it were really organized by Bin Laden -which seems more unlikely to me- there are enough signs to conclude that it was led happen by the US administration, so they are responsible for the result in either case. And even if somehow they were not, they abused this incident to an incredible degree and they still keep doing it, which is the most important point. So there really are more useful things to spend your time with...

(Spending time with this subject still makes more sense than to play WoW and stuff like that I guess; it's a nice thought exercise at least and it's about the reality we're currently forced to really live in...)

I personally tend to agree with the former Italian President* after doing some intensive research. With or without explosives? I don't really care... But if I were to make a guess, I'd say: With. At least WTC7... Firstly because it certainly looks that way. My primary, logical reasons are that the whole thing involved too much secrecy, was too suspicious. Some evidence has been quickly removed for example... If you inspect the entire debate surrounding 9/11, you'll definitely have enough reasons to be skeptical about many of the official claims...

P.S. Now to think, I think it's better to use the the word "Misfortune" instead of "Conspiracy" -which implies involvement of evilness- as I don't believe in evil, or good either... And of course "misfortune researchers" or something like that, instead of "conspiracy theorists"...

Irrelevant but amazing video: Miami Police Shot Protester, then laugh about it

UPDATE: Criticisms on FaceBook from William Mount and my replies

And I found this guide to be fairly reasonable and objective:
How Conspiracy Theories Work

Might be useful if you tend to dismiss certain claims without giving any thought...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bury the Spirit

I bet the religious beliefs of many people would be greatly weakened if the corpses were not buried/burned. If they had to witness how the bodies of their loved ones slowly decay, consumed by insects and bacteria and other forms of life, it would become much harder to assume that there is so much more to life than just the physical reality.



I remembered that I wanted to know how placebo exactly functions, I have high hopes for it. I dump links here as I discover new stuff that I consider relevant to the topic.
Click on the videos to watch the complete series on YouTube.


"A compassionate, hands-on approach may be more valuable than any single medical therapy.’’ In one extreme case, Dr Herbert Spiegel, of Columbia University, believes that it may have had a hand in a patient’s death. Writing in the report 'Nocebo: The Power of Suggestibility', he reports a case at a large American Roman Catholic hospital, where doctors called for a priest to administer last rites. By mistake, the priest went to the wrong bed and so the wrong patient.

“He gave this patient last rites with an impressive air of authority and a brusque voice,” says Dr Spiegel. Within 15 minutes, that patient was dead, while the other lived for a few more days."
From Times Online - Thinking Yourself Sick

"There is a small group of patients in whom the realisation of impending death is a blow so terrible that they are quite unable to adjust to it, and they die rapidly before the malignancy seems to have developed enough to cause death. This problem of self-willed death is in some ways analogous to the death produced in primitive peoples by witchcraft ('pointing the bone')."
From “Self-willed death or the bone-pointing syndrome,” G.W. Milton, Lancet June 23 1973 pp. 1436-1437

"Alarmingly, the nocebo effect can even be catching. Cases where symptoms without an identifiable cause spread through groups of people have been around for centuries, a phenomenon known as mass psychogenic illness. One outbreak (see "It's catching") inspired a recent study by psychologists Irving Kirsch and Giuliana Mazzoni of the University of Hull in the UK.
Despite the growing evidence that the nocebo effect is all too real, it is hard in this rational age to accept that people's beliefs can kill them. After all, most of us would laugh if a strangely attired man leapt about waving a bone and told us we were going to die. But imagine how you would feel if you were told the same thing by a smartly dressed doctor with a wallful of medical degrees and a computerful of your scans and test results."
From: NewScientist - The science of voodoo: When mind attacks body (Full Text)

More related links below:

The Race for Neurons

I went to see a movie today, a character in it made me think about why it is so hard to change other people.

We all probably heard that children are more open to outside effects and we're all probably aware that what you feed to a child's brain makes a bigger impact on their personality in comparison to adults.

I thought about what the difference really is. I think an important factor is that the parents can determine what their children spend their time with, while adults more or less decide themselves what they want to watch, read etc... They've got no authoritive guide so to say.

So once a "deficient" adult is created, approved as an adult and given the permission to lead their own lives then there is probably no turning back. It is unlikely that such a person can make the correct decisions to better themself*, even with seemingly sufficient amount of external influence. While it is easy to change a child's mind with relatively little amount of exposure to new information.

The brainwashing("informing") needed to change a person increases as the person gets older, because the competition of information in the brain also rises. But note that changing some key views in the brain can result in accelareting the process through chain-reactions, by motivating the person to want to change themself would spare some work for example.

(See also this post to understand why the competition is really needed and why you can't just persuade people by simply using rational arguments.)

In the end, one thing becomes even clearer; as long as so much garbage -in comparison to nongarbage- will continue to be pumped from various sources into people's minds, you can't expect a significant foundational improvement in human reasoning. The negative brainwashing has to stop as soon as possible and the "authorities" should proceed with productive, useful brainwashing.

Hesh and Herm -oh no wait: THEY!


From now on, whenever I have to write "he/she", "him/her", "his/her" and "himself/herself" I'll use the bases "Hesh" and "Herm".

You know what...I'll also use those words even if I only have to say he or she alone...

Like in "Hesh gave me herm apple, because hesh didn't want to eat it hermself, but I gave it back to herm."

Let's see if I can get used to it. I hope I can, because this needs to change if English is to become more efficient. This sexual distinction causes a waste of time. That's an important thing because English is being so widely used already. Maybe I should inform Chomsky about my decision and ask what he thinks...hehehe...

Oh- just as I was about to post this I googled those and found this (it was stupid to think that I'm the first person who was bothered by this) :

Taking the gender out of language is no easy task

' The simplest solution to the problem of finding an epicene singular pronoun, linguists say, is already in the language -- use "they"..
English used to reserve "you" and "your" for plurals, and used "thou," "thy" and "thee" for the singular. But "thou" and the others dropped out, and "you" started pulling double duty. Eventually, "they" could, too, and "he or she" will be as old-fashioned as "thou".'

This one is from Wiki

That was unexpected... But I think it makes sense... It will certainly be hard to get used to and will be confusing for a while but I think in the end it really does make sense and it'll still be easier than "hesh-herm" :)

I'll give it a shot:

"They gave me their apple, because they didn't want to eat it themself, but I gave it back to them."

It's fun actually! It feels weird but I suppose that's temporary.

Hmm... I get a strange feeling... it's almost as if I'm considering to promote this usage, like by starting a Facebook group or sth. like that..! Maybe I should still ask Chomsky first though, before I go on getting people addicted to it, just to be cautious... Life just got a little more exciting, but it would be pretty hard to get the short-term-thinking, lazy people to accept such an idea. Many would rather shift the responsibility to the next generation, although the hard part is the first 2 weeks only...or 2 years... or something...

Language is the foundation of modern humanity, the fountain of thought. It's also the key to communication, and therefore cooperation and advancement. Although most of the languages are pretty useful already, there is no reasonable excuse to not to improve them.

P.S. Hopefully China won't become a real superpower and conquer the world, and hopefully they won't start making millions of high quality movies, games and sell them to the world, so that English has a better chance at becoming accepted as the world language.

Edit: What about "it"? Do I also say "they" instead? Get them? Naah, that would be too much...

UPDATE: Hmm... I don't think I can afford to stick to this decision at this point in my life, I'm having a lot of important conversations with people who won't be tolerant and patient enough for this kind of stuff... I'll make a more concentrated effort later when I think the time is right.
I can still continue it in this blog though...

The School Effect

Since I want to get others to be interested in science, I began to think about how it started for me. My interest in science has certainly an above average intensity. In the last few years it took a new shape though; this happened through getting to know people like Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan better, through internet.

(I was always interested in science actually, particularly in new technologies. There was never a time in my life when I thought of science in a negative way I guess. It was just that I found the process; mathematics, numbers etc, lack of emotional interaction and all that sort of boring and decided that it wasn't anything for me, it seemed like the result you get isn't worth the effort.)

But I gave a little more thought and realized that even before Feynman and Sagan, there were other factors in shaping my views: I remembered that I wanted to be scientist in the primary school! (How did I even forget such a thing in the first place!?) And I remember really dreaming about it, I was more interested in being an inventor I guess... If you think about it that's not so interesting, because almost every child wants to be an astronaut or something like that when they're still young and "silly". But how did I lose that passion?

Well for me it's pretty easy to explain: The school suddenly got much more complicated!

My education became more exhausting and hard after primary school. We were forced to learn a new language(German) and almost all our lectures were taught in that foreign language. That's a huge factor. We were expected to learn physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics in a language that was essentially unfamiliar to us, and the language itself isn't even so much fun to speak in the first place! That's when I had to part my ways with my education, the school became a burden and not a place where you go to learn new, interesting things. Maybe it would have been different if I were motivated to learn the language in the beginning, but I had no reason to back then.

So for years I ended up doing only enough to pass my classes, nothing more. This also involved copying homeworks of others' and cheating during the exams of course. I remember cheating once in the primary school and feeling extremely guilty. Also in the sixth grade -when I had still hope- I was shocked to hear others talking about a girl having cheated during an exam, I seriously considered telling the teacher about it. But all this had to change as school became more and more meaningless for me... I learned to cheat myself and enjoy it. (I mean it was pretty exciting sometimes, and also knowing that I was able to fool the teachers was not bad for the ego either. But I never was a hardcore cheater, I kept it under control...)

In the last 2-3 years of the high school, as the time to make decisions got closer, I decided that I want to get out of the country, sort of like an adventure... So after that decision I had to increase my efforts in school and really learn some stuff to match the required levels for my ticket out to Germany, the Abitur. I do remember even enjoying biology and mathematics a little bit during that period...

"The school effect" is also mentioned in the books of many scientists like Sagan and Feynman, also peeking into Einstein's biography might give you more insight. They're more concerned with the system and teacher's attitude I guess. An unenthusiastic teacher can make you even hate the most exciting subject after all. Although I didn't mention that above, that doesn't mean I didn't suffer from it, it's just that it was a secondary factor for me. (But Richard Feynman also seems to have understood the role of the language when he taught in Brazil, you can read about that in his books.)

I don't complain though... Even though I don't approve of that system I'm using the advantages of the language I learned today. Being able to live in a foreign country at that age is something very valuable. (Even though I could also speak English, having an Abitur made that process much less complicated.) Apart from forcing you to overcome many obstacles it also broadens your world view and stuff like that. Also the internet connection is faster here... :) And no ridiculous censorship like in Turkey. (The nazi stuff is still censored here though.)

Plus, the time I spared from school enabled me to invest more time in other things, like art.

Anyway the current education system has to change if we are to live in a perfect world, or as close as it gets to it. Since my desire is to get us all as close as I can to that point it's important for me to keep that in mind. But it's a complex issue of course and there are some other problems, which maybe should be dealt with first. Like instead of teaching every nation in their own language, it makes more sense to me to try and use one language worldwide. That would have some huge advantages, many of them even completely irrelevant to the education system. English is a good candidate right now, even if it isn't optimal.

To get the teachers more enthusiastic about their subjects and try to invoke more interest and motivation among students would still be a very worthwhile cause though... I don't think this can have any significant disadvantages, and the advantages can have very exciting results. But also this problem can't be dealt with purely on a psychological level; politics and the whole underlying system must be considered. Maybe I'll put more thought into this issue when I can really deal with it.
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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Life": Just Another Concept

Not all humans have internalized all this, so it deserves some space:

The concept of "Life", as it is generally understood today, is just another one of those unrealistic divisive concepts. So is "death" too.

If you look close enough you'll see that everything, dead or alive, consists of the same matter.

There is no such thing as a dead/alive atom. Life begets life but death also does that, and sometimes life begets death. So there is no real distinction between "alive" and "dead" in essence. The more complex the molecular structure gets, the more fascinating it becomes for us:
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Arthur C. Clarke


I'm not exactly saying that "alive" and "dead" are the same. Obviously I can tell the perceptual difference. But we shouldn't get carried away with the concepts of our own creation and forget the underlying reality. A sane mind has to keep in mind (even if in the depths of it) that all matter is equal, in a sense.

By the way, although I think the view I expressed was more materialistic, a similar view is also existent in Buddhism as far as I know, and probably in many other similar belief systems... It can be found in "Siddartha" by Hermann Hesse for example.

The last chapter is relevant, but read the whole thing if you have time. It's a powerful little book and fairly easy to read. Basically it comes down to the answer here:

"...There may be a carbon atom in your left arm that was once part of Abraham Lincoln's head."

Maybe Buddhism can be considered the most scientific religion...

Perceiving the act of "living" as something superior to not being "alive" is also the source of abstract, baseless beliefs, like in the existence of a "purpose" or an "higher intelligence".

The "energy of life" can be found almost everywhere, at all times. The forms might change through transformations, yet it's still the same energy, no different than the one inside "dead" materials. There is no special kind of energy for alive beings: Conservation of Energy

There is no such things as "the meaning of life" that can be objectively determined. It all means just whatever your brain happens to make out of it. (Thanks to ungtss.)

P.S. As a sidethought; it's not our purpose to reproduce, it's just that we survived because we tend to do it. The desire for sexual intercourse is a part of our nature, but there is no reason to keep sticking to that instinct so heartfully even today as if it is something extremely essential. Having sex without aiming to have babies is not so much more meaningful than eating chocolate for pleasure. The priority of the act of sex is overrated in modern culture, even if eating chocolate can be considered pretty meaningful, just because of the pleasure...

(Didn't read but potentially related: Why We Do What We Do )
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Friday, July 4, 2008

About (Beta)

Since the beginning, I was planning to post something which defines my position and the purpose of these blogs, explains why I chose these titles. I began blogging more or less in a hurry, it wasn't really an organized attempt and what ought to be the first blog entry, an introduction to my world, never appeared.

Now, I just sent a message to someone, it sort of goes in that direction. I plan to create a more detailed, proper entry about this, but this should do it for now:

" ...I used to be someone who would have also reacted by saying "I'm an artist, so I lose myself in my own world" . But things have changed for me, that's why I'm trying to contact people like you -like former me- instead of joining a forum somewhere...

You see, I also don't give a shit about others as long as I can comfortably live in my own world. My plan was to enjoy losing myself in that world, while I'm also benefiting from all kinds of social, scientific advancements, which I took for granted.

The thing is, since I love living -and losing myself in my own world-, I also prefer to live as long and as healthy as possible, and through future scientific research I hope that the current limits of life expectancy will be far exceeded in our lifetime. I don't believe in afterlife, so I'll try to keep this one for as long as possible.

So far so good, that was still a part of the old artist-me. I would just wait for the advancements to come and enjoy my life.

What happened was I somehow got skeptical about what's really going on on this planet and began researching all kinds of "truths". Needless to say, it should be clear by now, many significant things turned out to be extremely wrong.

This revelation made it clear to me that my future won't be as easy as I imagined it to be and that it's delusional to believe that the humanity will keep advancing at this point no matter what. So there is a great risk of a huge decrease in our life quality in the future. I just can't afford to keep ignoring others' problems because overtime they'll all effect me in some way. The only way to ensure a fantastic future for myself is to do my best to ensure a fantastic future for everbody on this planet.

I was 100% percent apolitical in the past (until January 08), now it's sort of the opposite.

I'm not going to force you to reconsider anything, but I'll only say it's hard to know the truth while you're living in your own world, no matter how super-smart you are...

And one more thing, that truth is much more exciting than you can imagine and it's a lot of fun to deal with. :)
But that's my personal opinion. I enjoy my "new life", I don't think it'll be the same for everybody though. Yet I can assist you, if you ever change your mind... "

And a small addition to clarify the purpose of the blogs a little further, ConDeve is about my personal development through all kinds of information, while ConSelf deals with the results of the information I gather, how I use them to effect the world around me... They're both babies still, and the distinction isn't all that clear, but that was the idea basically.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Biggest Obstacle


Self-Deception / Self-Honesty
Never moral?


Tolstoy syndrome

The behavior of confirmation bias has sometimes been called "Tolstoy syndrome", in reference to Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), who in 1897 wrote:[9]
"I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life".
A related Tolstoy quote is:
"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him."[10]

Self Deception - Theorization:

...It has been theorized that an instinct for self-deception can give a person a selective advantage, based on the rationale that if a person can believe their own "lie" (i.e., their presentation that is biased toward their own self-interest), the theory goes, they will consequently be better able to persuade others of its "truth."
This notion is based on the following logic. In humans, awareness of the fact that one is acting deceptively often leads to tell-tale signs of deception. Therefore, if self-deception enables someone to believe their distortions, they will not present such signs of deception and will therefore appear to be telling the truth. ...

Why It's Hard to Admit to Being Wrong
Book - Counselling?

Instinctive defense system:
*preservation of Status Quo + lazyness + cognitive bias(denial)
*Conscience/Ego Protection(but why exactly? because it's unhealthy to feel bad?) +cognitive bias(denial)

What to do? Research. Think.

Long-term-thinking (Pessimism of the intellect: Nonzero Selfish) + "Pleasure of finding things out" = Antidote?

The Logic of Life
Deactivate Emotions or Abuse them ? read reviews
On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not
The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil
unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation
...suggestions for getting around the brain's flaws and achieving true wisdom
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

It is of utmost importance to create the right conditions for everybody to be able to accept the change and adapt to new developments. For military/medical industrial complex, for religious people. People should be able to welcome change and not be threatened by it (like the global warming alarmists begin to achieve)...
Hmm... I begin to sound like Henry Kissinger, but I don't mean to create the right conditions by starting wars, deceiving the public and spreading terror and horror, I mean to really make positive changes to help people adapt through financial support, by presenting them new information(correct) and by restructuring the system. You can't expect the president of a military corporation to simply shut down the factories. Even if he can afford that, what will do workers do? Same with the AIDS, cancer, Christianity, oil, meat industries and many other...

Not so relevant
- unconsciousness - one review:
Burton attacks Richard Dawkins for "believing in the myth of the autonomous rational mind," and Daniel Dennett for insisting that the secular and scientific view of the world ought to be accepted by everyone. "Try telling a poet to give up his musings and become a mechanical engineer", says Burton, in an either-or fallacious attempt to convince us that someone cannot be a poet and accept a scientific view of the world. Even the Dalai Lama tries to have a scientific view of things.
There are interesting ideas in the first eleven chapters of this book, it is unfortunate that the author did not expand on them, did not provide more elucidation and data, but chose instead to attack Dawkins, Dennett and science itself.
Questioning Technology
What Orwell Didn't Know: Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics
Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

To try and change the idols of a population instead of spending time with changing everybody in general?
To use their language while trying to persuade them, like american raw food ?
To create better idols or to idolize better people?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran

I recommend that you read this little book titled "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran. It is freely available HERE along with his other works and some information about him.

I even emailed the parts about Children and Marriage to my mother. Because what Gibran says in those chapters is extremely relevant to my mother's relationship with me&my brother and my father, they are almost like written for us. :)

After reading a chapter of the book, if you get a feeling that you didn't understand it completely, then I suggest that you try to read it over and over again and think about what the author aims to tell the reader. I'm still only halfway through the book, but I found every metaphor, every seemingly nonsense-phrase to be of a lot of meaning.

I'm not saying the book is flawless, but at least I could assert the flaws I perceived to certain conditions and was able to ignore some of them without getting upset at the author. For example: the impossibility of the author knowing back then that a mindset he defends can actually have tragic consequences under certain conditions.

That's also one of the reasons why Anthony Daniels, a psychiatrist, criticizes the book pretty harshly. But I found his criticism to be a little too emotional and biased, especially for a psychiatrist. I also watched one of his interviews, he seems to be interested in the harmful effects of lack of self-control or authority. He digs really deep to interpret the teachings in a pessimistic way and this blinds him to some points in the book.

There is one thing though: I'm not sure if someone can understand the book at all, if one doesn't already know what the author tries to say. Perhaps one has to go through the experience himself/herself* before being able to appreciate this work of art, or any other for that matter... I'll write my thoughts about art when I can find some time. About its advantages, disadvantages, limits and so on... It'll be sort of Art vs. Science I suppose. But that's it for now...

[ Interesting Fact: Did you know that there is only one word in Turkish for both he and she? : "O". Notice the unnecessary gender differentiation(sexism?) in the English language, the same in German and all other western languages I guess. The definite articles are also unnecessary for practical communication purposes, should better be removed, especially from German.]

Turkish Language - The Articles

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Value of Science - By Richard Feynman

I finished "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" today. I found the last chapter very valuable and thought that I should share it. One of Feynman's most eloquent public lectures. Also available in "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard Feynman".

Source: http://www.phys.washington.edu/users/vladi/phys216/Feynman.html
PDF Version: http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/40/2/Science.pdf

Of all its many values, the greatest
must be the freedom to doubt.

" First, the 1988 Introduction by Feynman himself (he died one month later):

When I was younger, I thought science would make good things for everybody. It was obviously useful; it was good. During the war I worked on the atomic bomb. This result of science was obviously a very serious matter: it represented the destruction of people.

After the war I was very worried about the bomb. I didn't know what the future was going to look like, and I certainly wasn't anywhere near sure that we would last until now. Therefore one question was—is there some evil involved in science?

Put another way—what is the value of the science I had dedicated myself to—the thing I loved—when I saw what terrible things it could do? It was a question I had to answer.

“The Value of Science” is a kind of report, if you will, on many of the thoughts that came to me when I tried to answer that question.

Richard Feynman, January 1988

Then the lecture itself from 1955:

From time to time people suggest to me that scientists ought to give more consideration to social problems—especially that they should be more responsible in considering the impact of science on society. It seems to be generally believed that if the scientists would only look at these very difficult social problems and not spend so much time fooling with less vital scientific ones, great success would come of it.

It seems to me that we do think about these problems from time to time, but we don't put a full-time effort into them—the reasons being that we know we don't have any magic formula for solving social problems, that social problems are very much harder than scientific ones, and that we usually don't get anywhere when we do think about them.

I believe that a scientist looking at non-scientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy—and when he talks about a non-scientific matter, he sounds as naive as anyone untrained in the matter. Since the question of the value of science is not a scientific subject, this talk is dedicated to proving my point—by example.

The first way in which science is of value is familiar to everyone. It is that scientific knowledge enables us to do all kinds of things and to make all kinds of things. Of course if we make good things, it is not only to the credit of science; it is also to the credit of the moral choice which led us to good work. Scientific knowledge is an enabling power to do either good or bad - but it does not carry instructions on how to use it. Such power has evident value - even though the power may be negated by what one does with it.

I learned a way of expressing this common human problem on a trip to Honolulu. In a Buddhist temple there, the man in charge explained a little bit about the Buddhist religion for tourists, and then ended his talk by telling them he had something to say to them that they would never forget—and I have never forgotten it. It was a proverb of the Buddhist religion:

To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven;
the same key opens the gates of hell.

What then, is the value of the key to heaven? It is true that if we lack clear instructions that enable us to determine which is the gate to heaven and which the gate to hell, the key may be a dangerous object to use.

But the key obviously has value: how can we enter heaven without it?

Instructions would be of no value without the key. So it is evident that, in spite of the fact that it could produce enormous horror in the world, science is of value because it can produce something.

Another value of science is the fun called intellectual enjoyment which some people get from reading and learning and thinking about it, and which others get from working in it. This is an important point, one which is not considered enough by those who tell us it is our social responsibility to reflect on the impact of science on society.

Is this mere personal enjoyment of value to society as a whole? No! But it is also a responsibility to consider the aim of society itself. Is it to arrange matters so that people can enjoy things? If so, then the enjoyment of science is as important as anything else.

But I would like not to underestimate the value of the world view which is the result of scientific effort. We have been led to imagine all sorts of things infinitely more marvelous than the imaginings of poets and dreamers of the past. It shows that the imagination of nature is far, far greater than the imagination of man. For instance, how much more remarkable it is for us all to be stuck—half of us upside downby a mysterious attraction to a spinning ball that has been swinging in space for billions of years than to be carried on the back of an elephant supported on a tortoise swimming in a bottomless sea.

I have thought about these things so many times alone that I hope you will excuse me if I remind you of this type of thought that I am sure many of you have had, which no one could ever have had in the past because people then didn't have the information we have about the world today. For instance, I stand at the seashore, alone, and start to think.

There are the rushing waves
mountains of molecules
each stupidly minding its own business
trillions apart
yet forming white surf in unison.

Ages on ages
before any eyes could see
year after year
thunderously pounding the shore as now.
For whom, for what?
On a dead planet
with no life to entertain.

Never at rest
tortured by energy
wasted prodigiously by the sun
poured into space.
A mite makes the sea roar.

Deep in the sea
all molecules repeat
the patterns of one another
till complex new ones are formed.
They make others like themselves
and a new dance starts.

Growing in size and complexity
living things
masses of atoms
DNA, protein
dancing a pattern ever more intricate.

Out of the cradle
onto dry land
here it is
atoms with consciousness;
matter with curiosity.

Stands at the sea,
wonders at wondering: I
a universe of atoms
an atom in the universe.

The same thrill, the same awe and mystery, comes again and again when we look at any question deeply enough. With more knowledge comes a deeper, more wonderful mystery, luring one on to penetrate deeper still. Never concerned that the answer may prove disappointing, with pleasure and confidence we turn over each new stone to find unimagined strangeness leading on to more wonderful questions and mysteries—certainly a grand adventure!

It is true that few unscientific people have this particular type of religious experience. Our poets do not write about it; our artists do not try to portray this remarkable thing. I don't know why. Is no one inspired by our present picture of the universe? This value of science remains unsung by singers: you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this silence is that you have to know how to read the music. For instance, the scientific article may say, “The radioactive phosphorus content of the cerebrum of the rat decreases to one-half in a period of two weeks.” Now what does that mean?

It means that phosphorus that is in the brain of a rat - and also in mine, and yours—is not the same phosphorus as it was two weeks ago. It means the atoms that are in the brain are being replaced: the ones that were there before have gone away.

So what is this mind of ours: what are these atoms with consciousness? Last week's potatoes! They now can remember what was going on in my mind a year ago—a mind which has long ago been replaced.

To note that the thing I call my individuality is only a pattern or dance, that is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms. The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out - there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.

When we read about this in the newspaper, it says “Scientists say this discovery may have importance in the search for a cure for cancer.” The paper is only interested in the use of the idea, not the idea itself. Hardly anyone can understand the importance of an idea, it is so remarkable. Except that, possibly, some children catch on. And when a child catches on to an idea like that, we have a scientist. It is late—although not too late - for them to get the spirit when they are in our universities, so we must attempt to explain these ideas to children.

I would now like to turn to a third value that science has. It is a little less direct, but not much. The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn't know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty darn sure of what the result is going to be, he is still in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certaintysome most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.

Now, we scientists are used to this, and we take it for granted that it is perfectly consistent to be unsure, that it is possible to live and not know. But I don't know whether everyone realizes this is true. Our freedom to doubt was born out of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle: permit us to question—to doubt—to not be sure. I think that it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained. Herein lies a responsibility to society.

We are all sad when we think of the wondrous potentialities human beings seem to have, as contrasted with their small accomplishments. Again and again people have thought that we could do much better. Those of the past saw in the nightmare of their times a dream for the future. We, of their future, see that their dreams, in certain ways surpassed, have in many ways remained dreams. The hopes for the future today are, in good share, those of yesterday.

It was once thought that the possibilities people had were not developed because most of the people were ignorant. With universal education, could all men be Voltaires? Bad can be taught at least as efficiently as good. Education is a strong force, but for either good or evil.

Communications between nations must promote understandingso went another dream. But the machines of communication can be manipulated. What is communicated can be truth or lie. Communication is a strong force, but also for either good or evil.

The applied sciences should free men of material problems at least. Medicine controls diseases. And the record here seems all to the good. Yet there are some patiently working today to create great plagues and poisons for use in warfare tomorrow.

Nearly everyone dislikes war. Our dream today is peace. In peace, man can develop best the enormous possibilities he seems to have. But maybe future men will find that peace, too, can be good and bad. Perhaps peaceful men will drink out of boredom. Then perhaps drink will become the great problem which seems to keep man from getting all he thinks he should out of his abilities.

Clearly, peace is a great force—as are sobriety, material power, communication, education, honesty, and the ideals of many dreamers. We have more of these forces to control than did the ancients. And maybe we are doing a little better than most of them could do. But what we ought to be able to do seems gigantic compared with our confused accomplishments.

Why is this? Why can't we conquer ourselves? Because we find that even great forces and abilities do not seem to carry with them clear instructions on how to use them. As an example, the great accumulation of understanding as to how the physical world behaves only convinces one that this behavior seems to have a kind of meaninglessness. The sciences do not directly teach good and bad.

Through all ages of our past, people have tried to fathom the meaning of life. They have realized that if some direction or meaning could be given to our actions, great human forces would be unleashed. So, very many answers have been given to the question of the meaning of it all. But the answers have been of all different sorts, and the proponents of one answer have looked with horror at the actions of the believers in anotherhorror, because from a disagreeing point of view all the great potentialities of the race are channeled into a false and confining blind alley. In fact, it is from the history of the enormous monstrosities created by false belief that philosophers have realized the apparently infinite and wondrous capacities of human beings. The dream is to find the open channel.

What, then, is the meaning of it all? What can we say to dispel the mystery of existence?

If we take everything into account—not only what the ancients knew, but all of what we know today that they didn't know—then I think we must frankly admit that we do not know.

But, in admitting this, we have probably found the open channel.

This is not a new idea; this is the idea of the age of reason. This is the philosophy that guided the men who made the democracy that we live under. The idea that no one really knew how to run a government led to the idea that we should arrange a system by which new ideas could be developed, tried out, and tossed out if necessary, with more new ideas brought in-a trial-and-error system. This method was a result of the fact that science was already showing itself to be a successful venture at the end of the eighteenth century. Even then it was clear to socially minded people that the openness of possibilities was an opportunity, and that doubt and discussion were essential to progress into the unknown. If we want to solve a problem that we have never solved before, we must leave the door to the unknown ajar.

We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on. It is our responsibility to leave the people of the future a free hand. In the impetuous youth of humanity, we can make grave errors that can stunt our growth for a long time. This we will do if we say we have the answers now, so young and ignorant as we are. If we suppress all discussion, all criticism, proclaiming “This is the answer, my friends; man is saved!” we will doom humanity for a long time to the chains of authority, confined to the limits of our present imagination. It has been done so many times before.

It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations. "


Make sure you read Cargo Cult Science too. Here more of that sort.
Actually read everything Feynman has ever said/written...especially if you're a scientist and want to be a better one...