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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

We’re in very bad trouble if we don’t understand the planet we’re trying to save.
We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology.
We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.
  —  Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 The Deep Center
2018 Oh, Heaven (Too)
2017 Now Pausing Makes Sense
2016 Just Spicy
Only One Part
2015 Positive Acts Of Creation
2014 One Thing Is Clear
2013 Corrections
See Greatness
2012 Gemutlichkeit
2011 Back On The Asphalt

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The Science of Yoga”  —  book review
Today’s book review is for “The Science of Yoga” (2012©), written by William J. Broad.  Broad is a science reporter for the New York Times newspaper.  He has received multiple awards in his career including two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting.  Broad is also a yoga practitioner for over three decades.  Broad’s basic job is explaining science to the masses.  As such, he writes in a “friendly” style without any actual references to formulas or analysis of data.  When he uses “hard” numbers at all, it’s of the “two studies” with “about half” or “mostly women / men” variety.  This is not a criticism, per se, as this is pretty much the deepest level of science / math one can reasonably expect in a “science” report for the masses.
I am not a “serious” or even moderately proficient yoga practitioner.  I have had an interest in yoga since my early teens and have gone through the normal flexibility phases most athletes and wanna-be athletes go through every decade or so of my life.  I have also been interested in yoga for breathing and meditation and, so, also had (brief) periods where I “practiced” yoga for those purposes.  My point being, I am neither a devotee nor a complete novice in my understanding of yoga.  I picked up the book at a steep discount purely by serendipity when my local “Half Price” bookstore closed to relocate.  I paid $10 for a bag you could load with as much as it could hold.  I managed to get over 30 books – which I considered to be exceptional value.  This book was one of those.
Anyway, the book is broken down as you would expect for an academic report rather than popular reporting.  There’s a prologue, seven chapters, and an epilogue.  There are also a number (4) of introductory sections (lists of illustrations, main characters, styles of yoga and chronology of yoga) and a similar (5) number of end sections (further reading, notes, bibliography, acknowledgements and index).  The chapters deal with health, fitness, moods, healing, sex and “muse” (stimulating creativity).  Not counting the before and after, the book (my hardbound copy) is 222 pages in length and it is a quick read.
The book is sub-titled: “The Risks and the Rewards“.  The “risks” are that you can hurt yourself if you don’t know what you are doing, go to an instructor who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and / or if you push yourself too hard – too fast.  So far, that’s all pretty much common sense…  By hurt yourself, the author means, have a stroke or a serious muscle / tendon tear, etc.  The rewards are “perhaps” a longer life span, a extended period of healthier life, increased flexibility / mobility, relief from depression, less stress, faster healing, better (longer and more) sex, and you may also end up being more creative in work and in your personal life.
Is Broad convincing?  No.  Not really.  There have been some studies done on yoga.  Are they scientific?  Some.  And, kind of.  Better than nothing and better than purely anecdotal.  Broad ends the book asking which direction is likely for yoga: will it be religious and mysterious, or will it be examined under scientific conditions and thereby aid in the general health and welfare of society.  He clearly favors the second option.
Final recommendation: strong.  If you are interested in the history of yoga and “some” of the risks and rewards, this book is a FAR better introduction than most of the “Illustrated” and “For Dummies” books you’ll find at your bookstore.  It will help you manage your expectations of what you may get out of yoga practice.  It is, however, not a “starter” book at all as there are very few illustrations or explanations of postures / poses.  If that is what you are looking for, this book is definitely NOT for you.  Having said all that, I really did enjoy reading this book.  The topic (yoga) is of interest to me and it was interesting to have someone else to the work of researching the history, styles and players in the field.  It was also interesting to find yoga described with common sense supported by a lack of contradictory evidence, i.e. no levitation, no stopping your heart and still living, no surviving indefinitely without food or water (or breathing).  There is a saying that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  This is a refrain which struck me over and over as I read this book.  Broad doesn’t flat out say none of the yoga “miracles” are impossible; he just states that on review of the available literature, there is no proof.  At the edges of yoga accomplishments, that is the science of yoga.
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On This Day In:
2019 #LyingDonald’s Problem With The News And Truth
2018 Oh, Hell
2017 No Welcome Mat Here
2016 Making It Up
A Missed Beat
2015 We Are All Explorers
2014 Still Trying To Cope
2013 Dear Diary (A good chuckle!)
2012 Conveniently Sequential
2011 King’s Speech Number Four
Rational Probability

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How many times in your own life did things come about thanks to accident or circumstance?  I’ll bet happenstance played a part in how you met your partner or chose your career or live where you do or a long list of other character forming events that now make you different from anybody else.  That journey from past to present, full of unexpected encounters and events along the way, has brought you to where you are and who you are at this moment, reading these words.
  —  James Burke
From the “Forward” to his book:  “Circles
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On This Day In:
2019 Sin Less Every Day
2018 Probably Only A Little Easier
2017 Stars Above
2016 Where Do You Stand?
Health Update
2015 Leaving On A Mid-Night Train
2014 Questioned Faith
2013 At Home In Fire
2012 A Tale Of Two Books
More Meaning
2011 Back At The Millstone
To Learn, Teach

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Circles” (2000©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for one of the many books written by James Burke, who’s claim to fame is his ability to popularize science / technology with history and biography to “create” linkages which make the world (and history) appear to be interconnected.  I believe his most well known work is the book and the BBC series “Connections“.  At least this is how I first came to know Burke (and enjoy his work).
Circles” is sub-titled “50 Round Trips through History, Technology, Science, Culture“.  The book is a collection of essays which have been gathered into this form.  Each “essay” / “trip” is about four pages and they are each fairly self-contained, so there is no inherent requirement to read them in order – or all of them for that matter.  Each starts with some action in his life: a trip to the library, beach, coffee shop, etc; winds through the “circle” of people / history / discovery he is hi-lighting and then gets wrapped up with another reference to the initial action / place.
The stories are mildly interesting.  The links are tenuous.  The author occasionally breaks the fourth wall.  But, most frequently, the author writes in a peculiar conversational form which struck me as not using full sentences or proper sentence structure.  I found it hard to discern if this was more conversational, breaking of the fourth wall or simply lazy writing.  In the end, I just found it frustrating to try to figure out the subject of a sentence by having to re-read sentences (or paragraphs).
Final recommendation: poor to moderate recommendation.  I admit to being pretty disappointed.  I was a big fan of his “Connections” series and watched it on my local Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) many years ago.  I think I also read the book (way back when), but I can’t swear to it.  I was, therefore, looking forward to more of the same.  This book mostly was “just” the same, but (surprisingly) much less interesting or amusing.  Now I think I have to go back and find the original book (“Connections“) to see if the author has changed or if it’s the reader (me) who has changed.
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On This Day In:
2019 Eureka!
2018 Learning About My Humanity
2017 Laugh Or Shake Your Head
2016 The Expected Cure
2015 Of Two Minds
2014 Pride And Remembrance
2013 Repeating Bad Memories
2012 No Sooner
2011 Just Cheesy!
Are You Illin’?

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A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions – as attempts to find out something.  Success and failure are for him answers above all.
  ―  Friedrich Nietzsche
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On This Day In:
2019 Stationary Target
2018 And Firmly
2017 Nearer My Goal To Thee
2016 Relatively Simple Actions
2015 And Yet, You Did
2014 Difficult Learning
2013 Four Things To do
2012 When I Was Young…
Emergence

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Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.  When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.  So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr.  The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.
  ―  Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 Sad Words
2018 Self-Sorted
2017 Right
2016 At Least One Step
2015 Month To Month Rental
2014 Professional Beliefs
2013 Books Are…
2012 True Distinguishing Marks
2010 Sub-300

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The emergence of the mirrorworld will affect us all at a deeply personal level.  We know there will be severe physiological and psychological effects of dwelling in dual worlds; we’ve already learned that from our experience living in cyberspace and virtual realities.  But we don’t know what these effects will be, much less how to prepare for them or avoid them.  We don’t even know the exact cognitive mechanism that makes the illusion of AR work in the first place.  [“AR” = Augmented Reality  —  KMAB]
The great paradox is that the only way to understand how AR works is to build AR and test ourselves in it.  It’s weirdly recursive: The technology itself is the microscope needed to inspect the effects of the technology.
Some people get very upset with the idea that new technologies will create new harms and that we willingly surrender ourselves to these risks when we could adopt the precautionary principle: Don’t permit the new unless it is proven safe.  But that principle is unworkable, because the old technologies we are in the process of replacing are even less safe.  More than 1 million humans die on the roads each year, but we clamp down on robot drivers when they kill one person.  We freak out over the unsavory influence of social media on our politics, while TV’s partisan influence on elections is far, far greater than Facebook’s.  The mirrorworld will certainly be subject to this double standard of stricter norms.
I imagine it will take at least a decade for the mirrorworld to develop enough to be used by millions, and several decades to mature.  But we are close enough now to the birth of this great work that we can predict its character in rough detail.
Eventually this melded world will be the size of our planet.  It will be humanity’s greatest achievement, creating new levels of wealth, new social problems, and uncountable opportunities for billions of people.  There are no experts yet to make this world; you are not late.
  —  Kevin Kelly
From his article:  “Welcome To Mirrorworld
Appearing in Wired Magazine; dtd:  March 2019
The article also appears online at:  https://www.wired.com/story/mirrorworld-ar-next-big-tech-platform/
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On This Day In:
2019 Too Difficult To Try
2018 Hold Fast
2017 The Only Real Security
2016 Time Said
2015 If Only Common Sense Were More Common
2014 PTI
2013 What Now, Then?
2012 Big C, Little B
Duty, Honor, Country

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