Sunday, March 31, 2013

Kew Gardens projects and # 89 The Standard Model and String Theory

Kew the gardens

It is always a pleasure to walk through Kew Gardens at this time of year and see the Golden Daffodils along with Crocuses. Easter Sunday has become synonymous with Easter Egg and Chocolate hunts and this had drawn many families in - I was intrigued to hear so many different languages being used not sure if this is down to Kew being on the must-do list for tourists or if it is expatriates enjoying the attraction while they work in London (a mixture of the two I expect)
Nice to stop and have a bowl of Soup, Celeriac and Apple new one on me,  mixed reviews  from us  (I didn't mind it!)
News reports are highlighting work (5 years of it) that will include renovation of the  Historic Temperate House  it'll cost about £33m.

The Standard Model and String Theory

Okay so this one has brought to my attention a load of stuff I've not even heard of..

Smart Cookie
It seems that Murray Gell-Mann is 'The Man' when it comes to this stuff (a bright cookie, he taught himself calculus when he was 7) tidying u[p earlier work around (what had been thought of  as) elementary particles it was hypothesised that Protons and Neutrons were made up of Quarks which are held together by the rather aptly named Gluons. Gluons are a class of gauge boson. It seems that as well as the various types of boson there are Leptons (neutrinos fall into this category) and photons. It can be worth looking at how rapid the advancements around the models used in the physical sciences have been since atoms were first postulated.
Gravity remains (I think) somewhat unexplained.
Beyond this stuff  lies the unproven string theory - if someone can prove this then we've probably reached a point where (physicists anyway) will say all is explained in the physical world.

I think the above does not provide too much clarity (sorry) but hopefully makes clear that progress and work in this field is potentially exciting and illuminating in terms of the physical world.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Big Actor Dies and Idea 88 (special and general) Relativity

Bye Bye Richard Griffith

Sad that Richard Griffith has died particularly as he passed before many actors at the age of 65.
As well as finding fame via  a number of Stage, Film and TV roles he hit news headlines by breaking the fourth wall a couple of times when he was forced  to remonstrate with members of the audience who repeatedly offended him (and others in the  audience) by not observing the need to suppress telephonic urges during  theatrical events.
Perhaps it is worth considering him when we go to the cinema or theatre and also reflect on the shortness of our time on the earth (perhaps not if you're a Buddhist or follower of other faith that anticipates reincarnation).

Here's Richard being funny


Interestingly I'm fast getting towards half way through Ian Crofton's book and it's been an education - quite a bit of it stuff I've either not encountered or not engaged with -

Idea 88 is relativity which Einstein had a couple of special theories for where Newtonian rules did not apply.
This French man (I think) below explains it but I'm not too sure if it is important in everyday life for most of us.
Here he is (quite funny too)

Friday, March 29, 2013

London's National Gallery and #87 Quantum Theory

Yesterday I visited England's National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, this must surely be one of the premier galleries in the world with staggering paintings room after room. It strikes me that one of the great things about free galleries is that you can leave when you have taken enough (or slightly too much) in without thinking you've not got you're Monet's worth (tee hee) - the downside is that the gallery's do get incredibly busy.

It is amazing how much work there is in the gallery of a devotional kind particularly that from Italy.
Artists and works who stood out for me included George Seurat 'Bathers at Asnières' as Jonathan Jones points out here the painting should be enjoyed and not just admired.
Having Mentioned Italian works I should give a nod to Canaletto The Stonemason's Yard (Campo S Vidal..) -Canaletto's works reflect great expertise and craftsmanship I like this one as it doesn't have his rather irritating  stylistic trick around representing water.
It was amazing to see great works by Turner, Gainsborough and Constable as well as Van Gogh, Rubens and Dirk Bouts(American Landscape Painter). The treat for me though was to find artists I've not heard of like Dosso Dossi and his Adoration of the Kings  as well as Cesare da Sesto's Salome.
It was good to know that Reubens was keen to give the audience and benefactors what they wanted with works like Judgement of Paris (a subject he returned to repeatedly).
Foe me though the standout work is An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (below) by Joseph Wright of Derby who reflected the enlightenment period he lived in through the subjects of many of his paintings - to consider the work is of the 18th century means it is (for me) truly out of time and the use of light to create focus and interest is characteristic of Wright's paintings. Wright was a great one for painting titles too.
On subject of artists I thought that 'What do Artists do all day?' programme (BBC TV show) on an up to date taxidermist Polly Morgan was rather good.

so a bit of enlightenment .. Idea 87 is Quantum Theory

Idea 87 represents what is a Paradigm Shift marking the theory that energy and matter (at sub atomic level) was not continuous like water from a tap but arrived as quanta and behaved like both particles and waves and its behaviour was best predicted using statistics.
The three big names associated with Quantum theory are Max Planck Einstein and Niels Bohr. Planck had arrive at quanta mathematically and was not wholly satisfied with the behaviour that they pointed towards. Einstein built upon Planck's' work using the constant that had been named after Plank in his photoelectric effect  work. Niels Bohr was Nobel prize winner by virtue of his work around atomic structure. Nice podcast on Quantum mechanics here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Compost box and Big Idea 86 Electromagnetism

Bottom  of the box
I am continuing to weed and turn over the soil on my allotment when weather permits and yesterday as well as digging in the ashes  from my recent bonfire. I have now worked in some organic material (farmyard manure and 'garden compost) into the more claggy areas.
I also mentioned a few days ago that I wanted to add some rudimentary handles to my compost box to help with the adding and removing of materials, as you can see in the pictures I have now done this.

Big Idea 86 is Electromagnetism

Crofton's idea number 86 is that which covers the Electromagnetic phenomenon.

Electromagnetism is key in the generation and distribution of electricity it is used the mechanism that converts electronics to sound in transducers like loudspeakers and headphones.

Although it was known that there was a link between electricity and magnetism it was not until
Michael Faraday in 1831  demonstrated the relationship between magnetism and electricity and how changes in magnetic flux could cause an electrical  current to be induced.

James Clerk Maxwell was a better mathematician than Faraday and was able to frame theorems that showed the relationship. If you have 45 minutes to spare then a good use of it might be to listen to the 'in our time' on Maxwell he was a talented, amusing  guy working across disciplines who sadly died young (48) of cancer.
The electromagnetic Spectrum spans frequencies from radio long wave(Around  1,000 KHz) to those of Gamma Rays (around 30 EHz).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Burning things and Idea 85 is Newtonian Mechanics

Bonfire time

In London it's still much colder than normal for this time of year but yesterday was at least free of rain, so I decided it was time to go to the allotment and burn some things - really what can be more
fun than seeing some stuff (under carefully controlled conditions and without upsetting others) burn?
Wasn't too much to set fire to apart from some woody non composting material but very satisfying and basic. The bonfire also produces potash which can be spread around to improve the soil.

Big Idea Newtonian Mechanics

Isaac Newton who used the phrase 'standing on the shoulders of giants' to describe his accomplishments was a notable physicist and mathematician remembered chiefly for his formulation of laws to explain motion.
Newton was an interesting guy now thought to have suffered Asperger's syndrome, he lived to the age of 84 but in latter years his behaviour was eccentric, this may have been as a result of mild mercury poisoning caused by his use of the chemical in his laboratory.
The laws Newton put together  related the physical concepts of force, mass, and acceleration into his three laws of motion.

1) The first law of motion holds that a body in motion tends to remain in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. This principle explains the concept of inertia, that is, the application of force that is required to move a stationary object. Similarly, the deceleration of a body, otherwise moving at a constant speed, can only occur when an outside force acts on it. For example, a projectile fired from a gun will continue its motion in a certain direction perpetually, save for the simultaneous forces of gravity and the resistance of the air in the atmosphere. These forces act together on the projectile to
make it stop at a certain distance from the spot where it was initially released.

2) Newton’s second law of motion is a mathematical or quantitative formula that describes the inherent nature of force. Newton postulated that the amount of force exerted is directly proportional to the mass of a body, times its acceleration, or force =mass times acceleration. If two distinct bodies are moving at a constant acceleration, the object with the larger mass will produce the greater force. This principle of Newtonian mechanics can be illustrated by the example of a car and a train that are traveling towards each other at an equal rate of speed. When the two objects collide, the force exerted on the car  will be vastly greater due to the much greater mass of the train (as in the equation).

3) Newton's  third law of motion is  summarised as  for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, in equilibrium the forces of two bodies acting upon each other are always equal and directly opposite. For instance, the force that a baseball exerts on a bat is equal and opposite to the force that the bat exerts on the baseball.

Although Newton's 'laws' hold good for most cases some say that they do not work at sub-atomic particle level or where the bodies are at velocities around the speed of light.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Boris mucks up and Big Idea 84 is wave theory

The younger Boris

Boris Johnson the current London Mayor  is variously described as 'larger than life'  and a 'buffoon' there can be little doubt about his audacious ambitions, including that of one day being the UK Prime minister.
Yesterday a documentary on Boris aired on BBC Television which again raises questions to his suitability for high office
The issues raised were also probed when Boris was interviewed by Eddy Mair on BBC TV on Sunday's AM show, they are:

1) As a journalist he made things up and was fired when this was revealed.
2) He lied about an affair
3) He discussed in a private phone conversation with an old friend supplying details that could lead to getting someone beaten up.

Now I don't support Boris in realising his political ambitions but I do think it worth reflecting on what we expect from our political leaders and how people might and do change as they mature/get older.

So the questions I ask myself are have I done things I'd rather other people didn't know about and which I regret, have small untruths led me to continue fabrications and have I said things to friends which could be taken out of context?

Character (I think) sometimes goes beyond a mere 'balance sheet' it is important that we have information that allows us to judge our nominated representatives but (sorry to be a bit biblical) “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” Matthew 7:1

Many people consider Winston Churchill to be the UK's greatest leader, he was not perfect and would probably fail to become leader of a mainstream political party in the UK today.


Wave Theory

Wave Theory applies to waves from audible through to X-rays.

Waves can be described by three basic attributes, Amplitude, frequency and wavelength.

For electromagnetic waves the speed is generally considered as a constant 299,792,458 metres per second.
There's a nice (but childish) summary of how waves behave here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

CAB open day today and #83 is Matter

Another great UK institution
The CAB Citizens Advice Bureau)  is an interesting mix that is part Charity, part Social service and part an arm of Government, today I took part in one of their open days to see what I might be able to do as a volunteer  to assist them in their work  in the community.
With the start of the service in 1939 the CAB has faced many challenges including helping people with employment and housing issues, it supports vulnerable people during difficult times and is committed to provide Free, Confidential Impartial and  Independent advice on a non discriminatory basis.
The online advice guide is a rich resource but for many people online help alone is not enough and phone and drop in services are used to deliver tangible help to those struggling with what can for them be critical issues.

From Crofton today the subject is matter.. (number 83)

Matter is another of those areas that I would label 'Scientific' counter intuitively much of matter is  space - and that's the case not just in a gas (where it does not feel quite so surprising ) it in even the most dense elements like Iron or Lead.
John Dalton (1766 -1844) looms large in the subject of  'Matter' and came up with theories around 1803 into atomic structure (and also did work regarding Colour Blindness a condition that he and his brother suffered). Although he didn't get it all 'right he did some great pioneering work that he summarised:
1. Elements are made of extremely small particles called atoms.
2. Atoms of a given element are identical in size, mass, and other properties; atoms of different elements differ in size, mass, and other properties.
3. Atoms cannot be subdivided, created, or destroyed. (wrong John)
4.Atoms of different elements combine in simple whole-number ratios to form chemical compounds.
5. In chemical reactions, atoms are combined, separated, or rearranged.
Another giant in the field of matter is the Nobel prize winning Brit JJ Thompson who discovered what were then thought to be the indivisible building blocks of structure Electrons in fact later Scientists like Einstein refined the work of Thompson and splitting the atom is now a reality. Also E=MC squared shows matters relationship to energy. in 1923 the French Physicist  Louis de Broglie  produced Comptes rendus which hypothesised the wave particle duality that Neils Bohr and others further advanced.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Playing the immigration card and No 82 is infinity

I'm not after winning a popularity contest here -but I  wonder if we are doing the 'right' thing in trying to make our country less welcoming.
Having failed to address the issues of the day the main political parties play to the crowds and bring the immigration card into play.
Typically when times are tough an easy option is to start apportioning blame and it seems that it is not just the errant bankers in the city who are taking more than they are giving but it is also those who arrive here legitimately, generally to work and build a better future who are now in the firing line.
It is not just the Daily Mail (now UK's most read newspaper) that feel we are increasingly playing host to those who are after an easy life.
Well I don't fall for these stories, generally people come here to work and contribute the fact that they do jobs that  many do not want to is a sign of their commitment. Is life easy for those who come here to start anew?
Do countries benefit from young ambitious people - look at places like HK (and the USA founded on Immigration) which has thrived on  those leaving the restrictive life of mainland China.
Many of those now contributing to the UK's life are second or third generation children of immigrants and refugees - consider Somali born Mo Farah and many of the Olympic athletes who excelled in 2013 and let's not bow down to the calls of doom-mongers who preach failure and want to close the doors to new entrants.

So let's look at something less controversial - Infinity (number 82)

Like those other ideas that are coming from a mathematical/scientific direction the issues are conceptual, there are things that are big (like the universe) and then there are those numbers that are inconceivable - infinity falls into the latter - think of the biggest number you can and then keep counting, this'll take you towards infinity - Infinity is useful in mathematical problems as we look at what happens as we 'tend towards infinity'  but what does it mean to us in everyday life?
Apparently Georg Cantor discovered that there's more than one infinity (but be warned he did spend some time in mental institutions, not sure which was the cause of which - probably best to just think of infinity as being unfathomably big, long, hot etc.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cold frame base and Idea # 81 is 'Time''

Cold frame base made from Palette.
I have cut down my recently recovered palette to what I hope will be a good size to sit my cold frame on - it is pretty solid.
I am hoping to used the cold frame quite soon for mushroom growing and also some lettuces. I will put some preservative on the base and might try and limit the entry of mice etc. if this is feasible.
Also put some roofing felt on my 'mulch' box - I will try and give the top a slight pitch to ensure water does not collect and add rudimentary handles at the top and exit apertures.


Big Idea 81 (and it is a big one) is Time

Newton thought that time was linear (he said so in one of his laws) but Einstein came along and disproved that. Time is the 4th dimension in the Time-Space continuum.
There's some interesting work been done around perception of time for example being sad or the events around a dramatic car crash (when one is involved) can also make 'time' go more slowly.
So is there more than one sort of time the one periodic and measured with devices like pendulums and the other experienced varying with age and events?
The BBC reporter Alan Johnston was working in the middle East and was held as a hostage, during this time he heard a broadcast saying he was dead and believing this to be a report that had been leaked ahead of events was expecting to be executed.  This is cited as an example by Claudia Hammond in Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception  of some elasticity in time.
So is time finite - seems that just as we (the universe and everything) came into being 13.7 billion years ago we will also go -time only goes in one direction and that's the direction of entropy. So from what I see it appears time could be finite and we've got as little as 5 billion years left (better start getting things in order).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Saatchi Gallery and #80 is Space

Can we forgive him though?
Today I visited the Saatchi gallery (Kings Road- nearest tube Sloane Square) and I must report that I really like it. I like the building and the clarity of the displays (the main themed works currently showing are around Soviet and Moscow Art).

1) It is far less restrictive in getting up close to the works.
2) It is not overtly soliciting money from visitors.
3) It is free to become a member.

The Artists despair..
I had a look at the history of the gallery  before making the journey - The founder of the gallery (and a big supporter of YBAs) is Charles Saatchi one half of the advertising brothers whose advertising famously promoted the Conservatives in the 1970s  - well let's park that for now and consider some of the stuff on show currently, here's a non-exhaustive list of the artists who tickled my fancy:

One of Yelana's
Criminal Government
Anna Parkina had a rather interesting use of collage and cut up text technique.
Yelena Popova odd little collections of items
Three's a collection of photo's by Vikenti Nilin where various bored looking individuals look about to jump.
Some dreamy gossamer paintings by Jānis Avotiņš.

An excitingly named Sex in the City by Gosha OStretsov (he did the prison cell picture (criminal Government) too.
The deeply intriguing 'The Artist's Despair or the Conspiracy of the Untalented' by Ilya Kabakov.
I was pleasantly surprised by the gift shop at the Gallery too, I've just finished Francis Wheen's biography of Tom Driberg The Soul of Indiscretion - not an easy read for me but it means I'll probably start another soon, one which appeals is 30 second philosophies. I was Pleased to see the Crofton Book in the gallery shop anyway..

So Space is Idea 80 ...(from the Crofton Book)

Space is according to Newtonian Physics pretty fundamental with it's 3 dimensions but relativity (later) is not so sure as it throws in time as the number 4 dimension.

It's defined as A continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied: "he backed out of the parking space".

Well Crofton tells me that the theory doing the rounds is that big bang started 13.7 Billion years ago and that since then space has continued to expand.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Big Idea -Paradigm Shifts (#79) and the Papacy

Paradigm shift number 79

I first came into contact with this phrase a littler over 15 years ago when I started my MA (in Mass Communication) studies, although I was unable to pronounce it correctly I really liked to use it and since then it has become part of the Lingua Franca of those who think they're in the know.

Paradigm shift as a term is associated with Thomas Kuhn and is used to denote a change in agreed understanding, a great example is how Copernicus moved understanding on from the planets revolving around the earth of course the all powerful (at the time) Catholic church considered this heresy – and it is interesting to reflect on how 'fact' changed as the new beliefs were absorbed into everyday understanding.

Progress does not follow a smooth developmental line and in fact a Paradigm shift occurs ( perhaps a bit like valence levels).

New Pope -Francis the First, a Paradigm Shift?

So are we due for a shift with the new pope – is he untainted?

Sad to report that the new pope (who has taken the name Francis I) is not a black woman and despite coming from South America his antecedents are white Italians.

Is he untainted by scandal far from it – some say that he had good relations with the Argentinian military junta and he is a Jesuit, a division within the Roman Catholic church which has something of mixed press .

Will he revisit the lie of celibacy and remove all priests tainted by child abuse scandals – I suppose the answer is the popular bazinga is the Pope a catholic?

Having looked a littler into religion I am somewhat of the opinion that the church is used (or has been used) as a method of keeping the proletariat in harness – this in the modern age is not sustainable – a reformist head is required and preferably one who is less than 76 years old

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Eating at Ealing Chimichanga and Big Idea #78 is Mathematics

Ealing Chimichanga

The Cardiff branch of the chain
Yesterday we finally got around to visiting what was a few months ago a new restaurant in Ealing, it's a Mexican-ish themed eatery and has a location in Ealing High Street which has been home (since I've lived in Ealing)   to three Pubs one of which was I think called Three Pigeons then, Rat and Pigeon which transformed into 'Parkview'. It is a great shame (to me that so many pubs have gone even from a town centre (goodness knows how bad it is in the countryside) I can think of a handful of other pubs that no longer exist and even some of those that continue have changed beyond recognition and become more food based.
Anyway back to Chimichanga which I was pleasantly surprised by loads of helpful waiters and waitresses on hand we both had burger based meals with a Chicken Wings starter and soft drinks - came in at about £30 which seems about the going rate.
The restaurant is well decorated and the use of mirrors does make the interior stretch Tardis like, Chimichanga is a chain which I've not visited before (saw one in Cardiff though)  - I would try again.

Mathematics as a big Idea

Gödel and some other bloke
Crofton lists Mathematics as a big Idea, I suppose to some it's a way of life, to me it is useful (but I suppose in the age of computer largely invisible) apparently Kurt Gödel is a big figure in defining some limits to the system with his Incompleteness Theorem.

Friday, March 15, 2013

This week on the allotment and Idea 77 is science

This week on the allotment

Pallet Wagon 

£1 Raspberry Cane
Broad beans growing nicely 

Although weather today in London is not so good yesterday was lovely and I managed to plant out a couple of broad bean plants (replacing those that didn't survive January/February) and two £1 shop  raspberry canes (Rubus idaeus).
 I have also continued the work to repair cold frame - I've now spent a lot of time on this as well as more money than it cost in the first place but anticipate using it for hardening of plants and possible mushroom growing.
A 'hot' cold frame.
Today when I popped out to get the newspapers I spotted a stray Pallet, I am unable to resist these  as they're useful for compost piles and other things (look here)  so I stuck it in the back of the car later on.

New cover on 'Greenhouse'
Earlier in the week we had a freezing cold day (and night) and it was so windy that my polythene greenhouse was destroyed (the cover anyway) I have now replaced this but at the back of my mind is the thought of getting something more substantial - really be nice to have something with some heat as well as I could  then try growing my own tea and coffee along with other more 'tropical things'). Oh yes and I've got a new blend of coffee to try, it's called Ethiopian Yirgacheffe let's face it it's got a great name.

And big Idea 77 is Science (Big Science)

The last week or so has been a bit of struggle for me as  quite a bit of the religion theme has flummoxed me - although I'm sticking with the meditation trial which I have some hopes of.
Crofton's book has now moved on to a more factual area and this is perhaps something I'm more comfortable with.

So here goes..
Science is defined as The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
Science is concerned with finding explanations an laws to throw light on the physical universe

It is difficult to overstate the benefits to mankind that have been experienced in the last 200 years or so as a result of scientific breakthroughs

Newton and Einstein are big names in Science as they thought of laws and then tested them and found they were reliable ways of predicting physical behaviour.

Science tends to use induction (you might recall that there are two types of ways of deriving knowledge induction and deduction).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Joy of Coffee and Big Idea 76 is Predestination

Nice Coffee

Not appearing at Caffe Nero
I enjoy coffee and as well as taking the occasional cup at Caffé Nero (see why Lil Kim is pictured!) I make a mug at home using a Bodum cafetiere. The paraphernalia and ritual making of the drink is great I time the brew and add frothed milk as well as warming the cup.
All the 'gear'
The challenge at the moment is finding a blend that I really enjoy - I buy coffee locally at Whittards and they grind the beans freshly to a suitable powder at the moment I'm on a breakfast coffee but I think there's something better out there and I won't rest 'til I find it (any ideas?)
(Coffee made this way is said to be very healthy too.)

 Idea 76 is Predestination

Crofton explains a bit about Predestination, seems that those who will reach 'heaven' have been selected by God and it is predestined.
John Calvin (1509-64) was the guy who set out this vision - the video below gives some history on Calvin which if true would discredit him totally (I don't know how true this interpretation on his life  is) - strangely Calvinism is going strong but some modern supporters do not fully endorse the worst excesses his opponents lay at Calvin's (metaphorical) door.

Calvinism is an idea that can be a 'challenging' belief -  Calvin's words, were  "All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.
As you can  see this statement is challenging for those who believe in 'Free Will' and also will present some issues with ideas around redemption.
The counter view to Calvinism is Arminianism (after Jacob Arminius (1560-1609).  which arose after Calvin it  is an affirmation of the freedom of the human.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The sad story of HK and SARS (2002) big Idea 75 is Prayer and Meditation

HK SARS Pandemic

It's amazing how quickly we forget the big stories of our time  - the SARS  pandemic was high on the news agenda from November 2002 to  July2003 killing nearly 300 people in Hong Kong alone. SARS though has quickly been forgotten in most of the of the world,. Here's a powerful clip showing how the media did expose the story with a very personal commentary from HK cameraman Gary Ling.

So what's the big Idea 75 - I'm glad you asked actually  it's prayer and meditation

Prayer and meditation  are method of communicating with God or Gods that most religions have.
Prayers can take a few different forms
1) Asking for stuff for yourself - typically a child might ask for a new bike, or an adult might ask for a 'crime or transgression' of some sort to go undetected (I'll never ask for anything again).
2) Asking for stuff for others - could for example be asking for a relative to be cured.
3) Adoration - saying that you reckon God is fantastic and you adore God.
Let us Pray- for the new Pope!
4) Thanksgiving - Thanks God for giving us this beautiful view you might say when you reach the top of a nice hill somewhere.
5) Confession - God I have sinned for I have committed the sin of avarice could start this one off.
You can use Prayer beads or Rosaries as a prayer aid  to help you focus and remember the prayers.
In some religions Mandalas are used. Mandalas have intricate geometric patterns.
I was interested to learn of about the idea of non-believers praying both to see effects of praying to God they didn't believe in and also where people replaced 'God' with something else.

The word Meditation has a different feeling to it  - and translates  as  'practice in which an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or as an end in itself' it is generally associated with consciousness raising Eastern belief systems like Hinduism and Buddhism and can be used with Yoga.
Both Prayer and Meditation can be beneficial as a method of reflection and consideration and could be of value in a life crowded with things and actions - you can look here for a believers (not Beliebers)  point of view  and here for humanist (near the bottom of this Sam Harris blog) - I'm going to give this a try for a week or so starting tomorrow.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sentencing (reincarceration) and Idea 74 is 'Heaven and Hell

So today a few things on my mind ..


Once so close
This afternoon I understand that Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce are due for sentencing - there's an understandable knee-jerk reaction that they should be locked up, well I'm certainly not fans of them or their treachery and lying but we should ask what is the advantage of incarceration for either of these two?
To my mind a hefty fine and community service would be a far more sensible punishment and would be a lower cost (this BBC report indicates average cost of each UK prisoners is £34,000 per year) alternative to putting them in prison, why do we see prison as the answer to so many criminal offences it has proved ineffective to date and why do we continue to ape the USA in locking up people who are not a risk to others in society rather than deal with the real problems within the individuals and in society itself?

 Paul Foot remembered

Earlier today I was trying to close a filing cabinet drawer which was obstructed, one of the items making it difficult to close was a folder related to accident I had when knocked from my bicycle by a Police car  -the accident was distressing and remains so added to this my claim for  damages was disputed and a counter claim was raised. Paul Foot a journalist on The Daily Mirror  at the time was supportive and I wonder who now would take similar care.
Private Eye remembers Paul  Foot with an annual prize, learn about Paul here.

Idea 74 is Heaven and Hell

I got the impression that Mr Crofton has less interest and engagement with this idea than many of those he has analysed previously.

Marx described Heaven as 'the carrot used by the wealthy to keep us working hard for little money' and certainly within the Abrahamic tradition there is a tendency to see Heaven and Hell as a method of preserving the Status Quo with that famous promise of 'Jam tomorrow'.
This Alex Santoso resource gives  some nice comparisons between the various religions views on good and bad versions of the afterlife - but what does it mean to you and I living today?

Let's ask ourselves a few questions to try and consider :

What Heaven might be and mean  if we believe on of these religions and 'qualify'

How can it be better than anything we can imagine? -
How do we get there? (Actions in the world that lead us there along with death)
Do animals go there?
What happens in terms of our age and knowledge -  how are people manifest, do we meet relations and old friends.
Can we get out of there (by doing bad things)? Do we have free will there?

and conversely  for Hell

How can it be worse than anything we can imagine? -
How do we get there? (Actions in the world that lead us there along with of course death)
Do animals go there?
What happens in terms of our age and knowledge -  how are people manifest, do we meet relations and old friends.
Can we get out of there (by doing good things)? Do we have free will there?

This on George Ritchie's  NDE (near Death Experience) is perhaps relevant  - Myself I quite like the idea of the Monk living habit wearing afterlife.

And here is some theological judgment around afterlife  from the Roman Catholic leader Pope John Paul II.

It's another difficult one - I have this problem with someone who doesn't believe and leads a really 'good' life being condemned to Hell and  someone living a selfish life not helping anyone and exploiting their position but on their death bed making amends with God and then going to Heaven.

Also youngsters or those who do not have the opportunity of learning of 'God' who don't get a ticket either  .

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Side Effects and # 73 Reincarnation

March Film review

Yesterday we went to see the latest Stephen Soderbergh film, Side Effects. Initially I thought this film was about mass medication, which I rather alarmingly learnt this week is a condition that an increasingly large number of those living in the West exist under voluntarily. In fact the movie was a well made thriller whose consideration was of other issues.
Soderbergh has a long list of credits which probably contains less 'Turkeys' than many directors with a similar number of mainstream Hollywood movies to their name - I'd probably give Side Affects 4 out of 5 in my personal movie ratings.

Big Idea 73 (which I hope is not going to get me so agitated) is Reincarnation

So what is Reincarnation?
Reincarnation describes the phenomenon/belief that new  souls move to other bodies after death
With good Karma we can move upwards in the type of thing we're reincarnated as.
Which religions hold that reincarnation can/does happen?

The faiths that  accommodate reincarnation are; 'old religions' and some new age occultism, examples are Hinduism, Buddhism and  Theosophy.

Some problems with reincarnation are ;

1) How is it that we're not conscious of previous lives, and if we're not conscious of it can it be the case? Here's some stuff about NDE (near death Experiences) which could be relevant.
2) Does the growing number of humans on the planet tie in with a belief in reincarnation? Here's an article that addresses that one.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

March planting and #72 Theodicy

Seeds and propagation

Tomato seedlings
When March arrives and we get a burst of warmer weather it's time to attack the seed packets. This week I've planted peppers and lettuces in seed trays and transferred tomato seedlings from the propagation trays to small individual pots.
In the next week or so I plan to start off Aubergines and Melons.
(Be careful you might think spring has come but there'll likely be frosts and bad weather until April at least)


Idea 72 is Theodicy

I don't know if you have had doorstep debates with sellers of the Watchtower but one of the opening lines triggers in my mind  the theme of Theodicy (as I now know it to be thanks to Mr Ian Crofton).

Don't you think the world is in a mess?

If God is all powerful why does he let so many people die such terrible deaths (After some terrible tragedy like the 2004 Tsunami in the Far East).

Theodicy is defined as :
 the branch of theology concerned with defending the attributes of God against objections resulting from physical and moral evil.

So to summarise if God is able to do everything why doesn't he look after us?

Paradise lost by John Milton is cited as a writing of Theodicy  and this page will give you some pointers into the thoughts of Augustine of Hippo (cool name?)
Of course this is a very big question but I really struggle with it. Is eating an Apple sinful (see the Fall of Man and find out what you can) - or as I suppose I should ask is going against God's will (in this instance?).

By the way I can see that the Apple is much more than a single item of fruit - but what sense does it make if God has made us and is all powerful etc.?
Without wishing to be too disrespectful what does God expect?  - and  why doesn't God fix it as God could if God wanted -(if you've seen any previous 'idea' entries I think you'll detect my frustration with this 'idea' -  If you don't get the frustration take a look here or if you can explain to me please email me!)
And here is (for me) another ultimately unsatisfactory 'religious' answer but with  (in some cases) thoughtful comments attached..

Postscript - some might say divine intervention, spookily I actually got a visit by a couple of the Jehovah's Witnesses today- they didn't hang around but they left this for us...
Invite from the Jehovah's witness

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The amazing William Morris and idea 71 The Soul

East London Irony
Wil I Am Morris

William Morris Gallery

I've been threatening (in a positive non confrontational way) to make the trek to East London and find out a bit more about the amazing man who was William Morris, yesterday I did it.
I suppose as West London is my adopted home I feel a little lost when I go as far as Walthamstow and it did seem particularly alien to me. Yesterday morning after checking my directions a few times I travelled via London Underground to Walthamstow Central and took the short walk to the William Morris Gallery.
The gallery was at one time home to the bourgeois Morris family when  it was just a very comfortable house in the Essex countryside.
So things I learnt about Morris were that he was a polymath who was intent on involvement with all he did which included writing, painting, printing and just about everything else (he even served in his own Oxford Street shop). When he got to the age of about 50 he became a committed socialist who was arrested and  imprisoned on more than one occasion, he was what we'd now term an environmentalist.
He died at the tragically early age of 62 but left a great legacy that spanned preservation, the SPAB ( society for preserving old buildings) and books including the seminal News from Nowhere (1890).

So a big man deserves a big Idea and Crofton's number 71 is the Soul

The soul in religion and philosophy is the immaterial aspect or essence of a human being, it is considered to be the home to individuality and humanity. The soul is in essence a faith view on the body/mind dichotomy being defined as that part of the individual which partakes of divinity and  it is believed  by many faiths that the soul will survive the death of the body and will be judged (e.g. in Christianity) to determine the next phase.

Some religions believe that animals too have souls.

Different religions and philosophers have developed a variety of theories as to the soul as well as the relationship of the soul to the body.

In Buddhism the soul is not considered important and in Hinduism the condition of the soul will be used to decide the level at which the reincarnation will take place (if I understand correctly)

The ancient Greek concept of the soul varied considerably according to the particular era and the philosophical school.
The Epicureans considered the soul to be made up of atoms like the rest of the body.

The Platonists thought the soul was an immaterial and incorporeal substance, akin to the gods yet part of the world of change and becoming - The platonic school was influential in the formulation of Christian views on the soul .

Aristotle  had a concept  of the soul that was somewhat obscure, though he did state that it was a form inseparable from the body - this might throw some light on his angle.

This young chap has quite a good go at reviewing some of the major views around soul..