Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Equally Crazy

I finally dug into Jerry Coyne's well established blog Why Evolution Is True today. I'm quite happy I did, because it's great stuff. One of his recent posts reminded me of a policy change I had a few months back.

Let me start by saying that I love Will Smith. LOVE. So it was with great regret that I began my "boycott" of him when allegations arose that he was a Scientologist. Scientology is clearly a money making cult with crazy beliefs. A danger to rationality. How could I, in good conscience, be a fellow traveler with the likes of him.

This "boycott" continued for some time, until I realized that Christianity is pretty crazy too. With the talking snakes, virgin births, and all that other impossible stuff that they believe. Why should Christianity get off the hook while I focus my scorn on Scientology? The only difference is that Scientology is much younger and its invention is much more obvious. Give it a few centuries and Scientology will look just as sane as Christianity. Which is to say, completely bananas.

All in all, Scientology should be thrown in the same lot with every other religion. And they should all be treated equally.

With contempt and mockery.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Flaccid Democracy

I have no real context for this post. I have just been feeling very disappointed with our legislative branch these days.

They just can't get anything done. They would rather resort to petty partisanship, and it's not just the republicans. We voted resoundingly for a public option when we elected Obama. That was his platform and that's what the people wanted. Despite that, our "representatives" refuse to pass it. Apparently, serving the people isn't a concern of theirs.

Our government has become so twisted and corrupted from its original intention. It's gotten so bad that most people have probably forgotten that the government is supposed to be in institution that serves us. It actually would not surprise me considering the state our education system is in these days.

I wonder how long we will allow this broken system to continue? Will we sludge along in blissful ignorance until it all come crumbling down? If that's the case, then perhaps we deserve it.

This system we have now is not the best it could be. We have the capabilities to truly give all citizens a voice. We could create a true democracy, where the ultimate goal is the betterment of all people.

The world has changed since this country was founded. And like most things, this country must change along with it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You Are A Wave

I recently had a very enlightening discussion with my (Buddhist) sister and brother in-law. After about 2 hours in the car, I think I finally came to the conclusion that death needn't be a concern because life is an illusion. More specifically, Life is merely the name we give to natural processes once they've reached a certain complexity. I'll try to explain what I mean, first in the context of Buddha and then we'll back it up with some scientific philosophy.

You (imaginary readers) must all think I've gone off the deep end... consorting with Buddhists and philosophizing. However, these are ideas I've held for a long time. My discussion with my family has merely given me a new context and a deeper understanding. The Buddha my brother in-law (Dave) presents was not a magical thinker, but more of an early scientist. Now this picture that he paints could, admittedly, be a minority interpretation of Buddha's words. For our purposes, though, it doesn't matter. In the event that Buddhism is all bullshit, we can just give Dave the credit for being wise.

Let's start with re-incarnation. I don't like using the word. To me, and to many others, it has a magical connotation. And for those of you who know me, you know how if feel about mystical thinking. But let's give Dave the benefit of the doubt, and suppose Buddha had a scientific reasoning. The idea is that, when we die, the stuff that makes us up doesn't just disappear. It decomposes in the ground, or is scattered into the ocean. It's not to hard to imagine the atoms that once made me up will become part of new life. Now this doesn't mean I get to be a cat in the future. The reason people jump to that, is because they think of themselves as a single entity.

Picture a wave. What makes a wave any different from the ocean? Nothing really. There is merely a natural event happening that we can see, and we've named it a wave. A striking parallel can be made to the life of a human being. For a short time, atoms from our environment come together in a natural process to form what we call a human. It continues along as nature has instructed until it dies. The atoms that made up that human become part of the environment again. Just like a wave merging back with the ocean. Another interesting parallel is that like waves, humans aren't even made of the same stuff at point B as they were at point A. And even though the stuff that makes us up changes all the time, we are still labeled as the same entity.

It may be difficult to understand, but it eventually brings you to the conclusion that we are all connected. The Earth and everything on it is just a cluster of atoms interacting and forming complex processes.

And if you truly want your mind blown, think of the universe as the ocean and the galaxy as the wave. The galaxy will have formed and died without much consequence to the rest of the universe. But it does matter. This galaxy is part of the universe and the natural processes it goes through makes an impact. For example, take this quote from Lawrence Kauss:

"The amazing thing is that every atom in your body, came from a star that exploded. And the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic think I know about physics. You are all stardust. You couldn't be here if stars hadn't exploded..."

What Kauss is saying is that the only thing we know that is capable of creating the heavier atoms that make us up are stars. The heat inside of stars can fuse lighter atoms together. And the
extreme conditions of supernova are capable of creating still heavier atoms. If stars hadn't created Carbon and Oxygen and then spread those atoms across the universe when they exploded, we wouldn't be here. A star is just one of the many waves that came before us.

I know the metaphor is woefully poetic, but it allows you to see the universe in a new perspective. Everything is just a cluster of particles and their natural interactions.

"We are a way for the cosmos to know itself."
- Carl Sagan

As always, I welcome your comments and challenges.

Breaking the 4th Wall

Let's start off with something light hearted.

I often complain about a movie or TV show breaking the 4th wall. For those of you who don't know, breaking the forth wall is when an actor or filmmaker acknowledges the audience in some way. Many examples of this can be seen in Jay and Silent Bob movies when the duo will look into the camera after making a witty remark.

But these are not the ones that make me cringe. Breaking the 4th wall is perfectly fine if the media is not taking itself seriously, or if it is for the purpose of narration (or both, in the case of Arrested Development). It is also fine if it is part of the character (Malcolm in the Middle or Deadpool). These forms generally achieve their intended purpose, which is either to inform the audience or make you laugh.

The kind that annoys me is when it's used to immerse you in the action. This usually comes about when the camera lens interacts with the environment. People must think they're clever having rain droplets on the screen when it's raining, but all they've done is remind me that I'm watching a movie. It's really counter productive. The whole point was to make me feel like I was there, but what they've really done is put me right back in the theater (or living room). It's the surest way to kill the mood.

Any filmmaker who wishes to truly immerse the audience in their fictitious world would do well to avoid breaking the 4th wall.

I'm gonna see what trying is like...

...So I think I may try to put some more content up here. I've had a lot I've been meaning to talk about, but I've been too lazy to write it up. Perhaps I'll put some effort in, so my imaginary readers will have something to do at work.