The False Bottom of the Pyramid

Apparently, to be a successful “public intellectual” one of the requirements is that one must invent a catchy tag line. The tag line must have emotional appeal through a reference to some deeply held belief or social conditioning. An example of one such is the title of the book by Thomas Friedman “The World is Flat” which attempts to upset your view of the world that it is round. Another example is “the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid” which the obvious connection to the phrase “the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”
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The Pleasure of Finding Out

I have never had the pleasure of meeting Richard Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988). Reading the Wiki entry on Feynman is both humbling and delightful. What a prodigious brain, what a sensibility, what delight he takes in being alive and learning. But to get a better understanding of who he is, you need to watch an interview of his The Pleasure of Finding Out Things. It is 50 minutes long. I have spent too many hours watching that video. Here was a kindred spirit, I thought to myself, when I first saw that video on public television many years ago.

Watch that video. I am doing so right now as I write this. Here is a bookmark: around time-stamp 6:15, he talks about the distinction between knowing a thing and knowing the name of the thing, which his father taught him. That idea keeps bouncing around in my head. Much too often our education system concentrates on naming things and not so much on understanding the nature of the thing. Feynman was an absolutely amazing teacher because I think he was an absolutely amazing student. It was from his father that he learnt to observe and after observing, ask questions. Continue reading

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi

OM Shri Ganeshaya Namaha!

Of the 330 million gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, my favorite is Ganesh, the Lord of the Ganas. He is Vighneshwara, the Remover of Obstacles. The story goes that Shiva, the great god, had challenged Ganesh and his brother Kartik to go around the universe three times. While Kartik took off in great haste on his peacock to complete the task, Ganesh walked his portly figure around his parents, Shiva and Parvati, and declared that he had accomplished the task as his parents were the totality of the universe. Shiva was quite pleased at Ganesh’s strategy and granted that Ganesh will be invoked before the invocation of any other gods when anyone embarks on any task. Continue reading

“Free” Energy? Not Really — Part 2

Magical thinking and wishful thinking are fraternal, if not identical, twins. Both are cognitive traps that our emotional selves stumble into. Both are characteristically childlike. While childlike behavior and mentation is adorable in small children, when adults do it, it is childish and not cute. There is no law which says that adults cannot, or should not, behave childishly if they so wish. But they should do so in the privacy of their own homes, and I suspect most people do behave childishly occasionally in private with their significant others. If they do so in public, we are justified in telling them, “Sheesh, get a room.” Continue reading