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n2doc

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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 33,784

About Me

Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

From a childhood hallucination to the halls of theoretical physics.

My Own Personal Nothingness

BY ALAN LIGHTMAN

My most vivid encounter with Nothingness occurred in a remarkable experience I had as a child of 9 years old. It was a Sunday afternoon. I was standing alone in a bedroom of my home in Memphis Tennessee, gazing out the window at the empty street, listening to the faint sound of a train passing a great distance away, and suddenly I felt that I was looking at myself from outside my body. I was somewhere in the cosmos. For a brief few moments, I had the sensation of seeing my entire life, and indeed the life of the entire planet, as a brief flicker in a vast chasm of time, with an infinite span of time before my existence and an infinite span of time afterward. My fleeting sensation included infinite space. Without body or mind, I was somehow floating in the gargantuan stretch of space, far beyond the solar system and even the galaxy, space that stretched on and on and on. I felt myself to be a tiny speck, insignificant in a vast universe that cared nothing about me or any living beings and their little dots of existence, a universe that simply was. And I felt that everything I had experienced in my young life, the joy and the sadness, and everything that I would later experience, meant absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. It was a realization both liberating and terrifying at once. Then, the moment was over, and I was back in my body.

The strange hallucination lasted only a minute or so. I have never experienced it since. Although Nothingness would seem to exclude awareness along with the exclusion of everything else, awareness was part of that childhood experience, but not the usual awareness I would locate within the three pounds of gray matter in my head. It was a different kind of awareness. I am not religious, and I do not believe in the supernatural. I do not think for a minute that my mind actually left my body. But for a few moments I did experience a profound absence of the familiar surroundings and thoughts we create to anchor our lives. It was a kind of Nothingness.



To understand anything, as Aristotle argued, we must understand what it is not, and Nothingness is the ultimate opposition to any thing. To understand matter, said the ancient Greeks, we must understand the “void,” or the absence of matter. Indeed, in the fifth century B.C., Leucippus argued that without the void there could be no motion because there would be no empty spaces for matter to move into. According to Buddhism, to understand our ego we must understand the ego-free state of “emptiness,” called śūnyatā. To understand the civilizing effects of society, we must understand the behavior of human beings removed from society, as William Golding so powerfully explored in his novel Lord of the Flies.

more
http://nautil.us/issue/16/nothingness/my-own-personal-nothingness

The Dubious Sources of Some Supreme Court ‘Facts’

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court received more than 80 friend-of-the-court briefs in the Hobby Lobby case. Most of these filings, also called amicus briefs, were dull and repetitive recitations of familiar legal arguments.

Others stood out. They presented fresh, factual information that put the case in a broader context.

The justices are hungry for such data. Their opinions are increasingly studded with citations to facts they learned from amicus briefs.

But this is a perilous trend, said Allison Orr Larsen, a law professor at the College of William & Mary.

“The court is inundated with 11th-hour, untested, advocacy-motivated claims of factual expertise,” she wrote in an article to be published in The Virginia Law Review.

more

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/us/politics/the-dubious-sources-of-some-supreme-court-facts.html

Monday Toon Roundup 4- The Rest


Putin








The Issue








Football



Monday Toon Roundup 3- Race, Police and the GOP (warning N-word)

Race









Police





GOP




Monday Toon Roundup 2- Syrian mess












Monday Toon Roundup 1- Labor Day














After reaching $433,000, donations for Ferguson cop halt mysteriously

After raising more than $400,000 for the police officer who killed an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo., two online donation pages appear to have been shut down by their organizers without explanation this weekend.

On the crowdsourced fundraising site GoFundMe, "Support Officer Darren Wilson" and "Support Officer Wilson" -- two separate pages with similar names -- have raised $235,750 and $197,620, respectively, for the Ferguson police officer who shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

A similar page for Brown's family, run by the family's attorney, Benjamin Crump, had raised $314,099 as of Sunday afternoon.

The shooting triggered weeks of unrest and demonstrations against the overwhelmingly white police force in mostly black Ferguson, sending Wilson into hiding as local and federal investigations seek to determine whether he wrongfully killed Brown.

more
http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-ferguson-officer-fundraisers-20140831-story.html

No more pause: Warming will be non-stop from now on

by Michael Slezak

Enjoy the pause in global warming while it lasts, because it's probably the last one we will get this century. Once temperatures start rising again, it looks like they will keep going up without a break for the rest of the century, unless we cut our greenhouse gas emissions.

The slowdown in global warming since 1997 seems to be driven by unusually powerful winds over the Pacific Ocean, which are burying heat in the water. But even if that happens again, or a volcanic eruption spews cooling particles into the air, we are unlikely to see a similar hiatus, according to two independent studies.

Masahiro Watanabe of the University of Tokyo in Japan and his colleagues have found that, over the past three decades, the natural ups and downs in temperature have had less influence on the planet's overall warmth. In the 1980s, natural variability accounted for almost half of the temperature changes seen. That fell to 38 per cent in the 1990s and just 27 per cent in the 2000s.

Instead, human-induced warming is accounting for more and more of the changes from year to year, says Watanabe. With ever-faster warming, small natural variations have less impact and are unlikely to override the human-induced warming.

more

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26122-no-more-pause-warming-will-be-nonstop-from-now-on.html

Earth's tectonic plates have doubled their speed

SO MUCH for slowing down as you age. Earth's tectonic plates are moving faster now than at any point in the last 2 billion years, according to the latest study of plate movements. But the result is controversial, since previous work seemed to show the opposite.

If true, the result could be explained by another surprising recent discovery: the presence of more water within Earth's mantle than in all of the oceans combined.

Plate tectonics is driven by the formation and destruction of oceanic crust. This crust forms where plates move apart, allowing hot, light magma to rise from the mantle below and solidify. Where plates are being pushed together, the crust can either rise up to form mountains or one plate is shoved under the other and is sucked back into the mantle.

The planet's inner heat powers plate tectonics. That heat is ebbing away as Earth ages, and this was expected to slow plate motion. A study last year by Martin Van Kranendonk at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues measured elements concentrated by tectonic action in 3200 rocks from around the world, and concluded that plate motion has been slowing for 1.2 billion years.

Now Kent Condie, a geochemist at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro and his colleagues have used a different approach and concluded that tectonic activity is increasing. They looked at how often new mountain belts form when tectonic plates collide with one another. They then combined these measurements with magnetic data from volcanic rocks to work out at which latitude the rocks formed and how quickly the continents had moved.

more

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22329843.000-earths-tectonic-plates-have-doubled-their-speed.html

NYT Editorial: Stop Hiding Images of American Torture

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

A hooded man standing on a box, electrodes wired to his fingers. A naked prisoner lying on a cement floor, a leash around his neck held casually by an American soldier. The bloody bodies of dead inmates with their heads bashed in.

Ten years later, the photos leaked from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq remain seared into the American consciousness. But while the United States government was unable to prevent their release, more than 2,000 other photos taken at various American military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan have remained hidden under a 2009 law. By one account, the images — which officials say are a mix of snapshots by soldiers and photos by military investigators documenting allegations of abuse — are “worse than Abu Ghraib.”

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union won an important victory for transparency when a federal district judge in New York City, Alvin Hellerstein, rejected the government’s blanket claim of privilege for all the photos. Judge Hellerstein ordered the government to show why the release of the photos would endanger American lives, and to show that it had considered each photo individually.

President Obama agreed to the photos’ release after taking office in 2009 but changed his mind after pleas from military officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The 2009 law — the Protected National Security Documents Act — created a three-year exemption from the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

more

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/31/opinion/sunday/stop-hiding-images-of-american-torture.html?_r=0
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