Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Coffee break: The Zen pensioner says ...

Someone told me that this is Zen wisdom, but it sounds to me like what everyone knows who lives to collect a pension:

1. It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbour's newspaper, that's the time to do it.

2. Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.

3. Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else.

4. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

5. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

6. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away - and you have their shoes.

7. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is probably not for you.

8. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably a wise investment.

9. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.

10. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.

11. Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.

12. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

13. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

Brain: Octopus develops advanced brain, but what does it do?

The nautilus, assumed to be a living example of the ancestors of modern octopus and squid, lacks the brain structures of these animals, yet appears to have both short and long term memory:

Training Nautilus pompilus to associate the smell of food with a blue light, the cephalopods eventually learned to respond to a flash of blue light by extending their tentacles. Then the scientists tested the cephalopods memories with a flash of light 3min, 30min, 1h, 6h, 12h and 24h after training. Amazingly, Nautilus remembered their training for up to an hour before the memory was lost, but then the memory returned 6h later, lasting up to 24h. Nautilus has both short and long term memory, just like modern cephalopods, despite lacking the same brain structures. (The Company of Biologists (2008, June 1). Living Fossils Have Long- And Short-term Memory Despite Lacking Brain Structures Of Modern Cephalopods. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 3, 2008, from /releases/2008/05/080531074905.htm)

Modern cephalopods (octopus and squid) have complex central nervous systems and coleoid brains, but they must be doing something for the animal other than helping it remember where food is.

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Theological speculation: Just what the cave man needed ...

Recently, I have been reading The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, and he is as skeptical as I am of the recent attempts to shore up materialist theories by insisting that the minds that doubt them did not, after all, evolve to be good judges of such matters:
"Received wisdom has it that lacking access to the mysteries of science, men and women accept instead the mysteries of faith. This diagnosis is very often expressed in terms of evolutionary theory. The human brain is an instrument shaped by selection for survival, and it is only natural, considering the problems they faced many years ago, that anxious men and woman should have turned toward elaborate theological speculation. What better hedge against fearsome predators or an uncertain food supply than the Immaculate Conception or the revelations of the Gematria? As general relativity or quantum field theory become more widely known, human gullibility will decline.

This is not a view of things that a close study of string theory, the Landscape, or the Anthropic Principle tends to support." (p. 131)

The wilder reaches of post-modern cosmology are fair game, of course, and they may well be of less use than a discourse on the Immaculate Conception or the Gematria in dissuading a bear from attacking - but I do not plan to test this theory.

New at Colliding Universes

Newton: Does every genius need a tincture of crackpot?

But then maybe the entire universe is just a wave function?

Multiverse theory: Replacing the Big Fix with the Sure Thing?

Neutrino: Advised by media consultant to remain elusive?

Hello, God. This is the Big Bang. Okay, look, I done it. What do I do NOW?