Chemistry | Changing the World

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Alright. It’s been a while for sure.

Hmm. I don’t like writing about a single subject like I see others do. That is not much my thing. I do enjoy reading such focused collections of information. As for my posts, I imagine they are a bit more difficult to follow. Not because the material is too complex for my readers, but rather because of several other reasons. For one thing, I have an obsessive nature that often makes me want to understand even the smallest, most irrelevant, most unimportant details. I enjoy learning about many different things, and my individual posts sweep broadly but don’t tend to go too deeply because though I like going deeply into subjects as opposed to shallowly, I like to mix up my activities and don’t just focus on, for example, chemistry all day. However, I have time for chemistry every day, and that is how I make some vertical progress (that’s how I dig deep). So, if my reader were to read all my posts, they would see me digging increasingly deeper into subjects.

One of the things that brought me back to my blog is my reading of Aaron Swartz’s writings in the book The Boy Who Could Change the World: the Writings of Aaron Swartz. It’s a super interesting book and I recommend you read it–but it may not be in your subject of interest. Among other things, Swartz was an advocate of free culture and free information, and his thoughts have had a deep impression on me. The book has made me consider how I can help the cause he so passionately believed in, and that he is making me believe more in, bit by bit. I want to help spread information–perhaps I stopped because I felt my services weren’t needed. But the idea of the Great Library of Alexandria appeals to me (just like the idea of Wikipedia does): a place with millions of papyrus books, handwritten by academics–in the ancient world, a great place of information and learning. The Internet allows for a huge compilation of information, and though I love learning, sometimes I feel that knowledge means nothing if it is just for myself. I must connect to others, and writing about what I learn and what I do is a way to do so.

The thing is, I will write anyway. Whether I publish my writings on the WWW (World Wide Web, invented by Tim Berners-Lee) or not, I will still write. I will write out my thoughts, write my explanations–whatever. I can’t guarantee what I write will be of use or interest to anyone, but since I’m going to write anyway, I might as well publish it to give others the opportunity to derive use from it.

Deprotonation and protonation both occur in acid-base reactions. This is chemistry. There are various definitions which define what acids and bases are. In the same year, two scientists came up with the same acid-base definition, and so both received credit for it. It is called the Brønsted-Lowry theory. This theory basically says that an acid is anything that donates a proton, and that a base is anything that accepts a proton–a proton, in this case, being an H+ ion/ cation (cation just means positive ion). The things I am mentioning but not explaining the meaning of in sufficient depth for a newbie to understand (nothing wrong with being one, we all must be when we start learning new things) are things I have explained in previous posts. If I were to start over in every post, that wouldn’t be very practical, you see. Like often, the bold terms are ones that are brand-new and that I’ll explain. Why are H+ cations called protons? Remember an ion is an atom with a charge (either positive or negative) because it has an unequal number of protons (+) and electrons (-). If there are more electrons, the ion has a negative charge corresponding to the number of electrons it has more than protons, and vice versa. For example, if I have an ion with 6 protons (+) and 4 electrons (-), the ion has a positive charge/ is a cation. But it has a 2+ charge, because it has 2 more protons than electrons.

Right. Anyhow, the H+ cation used to be a hydrogen atom. When it was, it had 1 proton and 1 electron (you can tell by looking at the Periodic Table. Hydrogen’s atomic number is 1, meaning it has 1 proton). Now it has a positive charge of 1+ (the 1 is implied so it is not written), meaning it has 1 more proton than electron. Meaning there are no electrons, meaning the 1 electron must have been lost to give this hydrogen atom its 1+ charge. (It’s not like the hydrogen atom could have gained a proton because that doesn’t happen, to my knowledge; the number of protons does not change. Or easily, at least.)

This hydrogen ion has 1 proton and no electrons. So its practically a proton, huh? It has the charge of one, at least. That’s why they call it that, a proton. H+ cation/ ion = proton. Now, back to the other things I have to define. First off, in acid-base reactions, acids react with bases. Something that is an acid in one scenario is not necessarily always an acid. For example, water is both an acid and a base in different scenarios, according to this definition, because water can act like an acid sometimes and like a base other times. That is, sometimes water can donate a proton, making it an acid; other times water accepts a proton, making it a base.

The process where an acid donates a proton is called deprotonation. The process where a base accepts a proton is called protonation. Simple, really. Finding that things that seem complex are actually quite simple used to surprise me more, back when I knew less. If you were intimidated by the terms, I want you to understand that it was natural for you to not know their meaning if you lacked the knowledge. I really hate–it really frustrates me–when people think they don’t understand because they can’t understand, because they’re not smart enough, when in reality they are simply lacking the knowledge to understand it.

It may not be necessary for me to tell you this, but I have faith in you. Whoever you are, you have great capacity as a human being.

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Sigh. I got stuck on a Crash Course Chemistry video (#8). I’ve noticed lots of gaps in the videos that are very important. So far I’ve been able to keep up because I filled in the gaps with knowledge I learned in chemistry class–but I just reached a point where the gaps are ones I can’t fill at this point. I have to leave the videos and learn more about chemistry. That’s quite a shame for others, because I feel that the resource has some holes which impede full understanding. I don’t criticize meanly here… I just feel that it needs some fixes. By gaps, I mean that key things which have not been explained in previous videos are used to help one understand certain material. Well… if I don’t understand that material, how can I understand this one? I can’t. Hmm. I refuse to give up. Chemistry is wonderful and I will not. I’ll try Khan Academy, which may be completely thorough. The reasons I’ll try Khan Academy are that I’ve done learning on the site before and can’t remember having had gap issues, and that I can’t think of many more places I can get this information from. My junior year ended and with it did my reading of the chemistry textbook which I had to turn in.

Also, Sal Khan is someone I easily admire. He has a mindset I agree with, and it is reflected in the content on his site. I really enjoy his site.

Image result for sal khan

Image result for sal khan

Saturday

The more I learn about the world and its problems, the more I want to help. Learning about problems from advertisements’ misleading nature (which prevents people from making the wisest choices) to the dangers of pesticides to lead paint which is still in use, to mercury light bulbs–learning that child labor is still in existence as is slavery, seeing sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination, seeing broken families

Seeing people litter and generally not care much for the environment, seeing some people not even bother to recycle, seeing not everyone get a high quality education, seeing people age, seeing people get sick with things like cancer and Alzheimer’s

Seeing air pollutants in China condense lower than the atmosphere in the form of brownish smog, a visible substance that is dangerous and harmful for people…

Learning in my wonderful health textbook that the ozone layer, made of ozone gas, is a naturally occurring shield for our planet’s life, because it absorbs most of the Sun’s harmful ultra-violet (UV) radiation and only a little bit leaks through. UV light harms all life, but the ozone layer keeps us safe.

But we’re destroying it with the air pollution we are causing, because air pollutants destroy the ozone layer.

That is so sad. But it’s not too late to make progress. To make things better. To cut back on suffering. To make better choices. To change our ways. It’s not.

As long as there is life, there is hope. We are alive right now and we can take action. We cannot guarantee that we can do the same thing after death.

I mean, I’m not okay with that! And if the people of the world had solving these problems as their top priority, think about how far we could get!

I feel idealistic, and optimistic, and I feel ready to make improvements.

I love solving problems. And when I see these things happening and more, I am filled with the desire to do something to make them better, because I care.

But I can’t do all of this myself. I seriously can’t no matter how strong my desire. So this is what I propose.

You need to inform yourselves. All people need to do this. If you don’t know, you have no power over what happens. You have very little control and a very small ability to protect yourself and your planet and your people. Information will free anyone. A lack of information is the equivalent of chains binding around you–except you don’t see them. Your world gets smaller.

I’m going to get to the rest of my proposal in a bit. I was talking yesterday night to my uncle about my desire to change the world but my lack of knowing how. I wanted some guidance. He is past the idealistic feelings of youth and told me things which gave me less hope. But still, I was going to do something. And then he told me that my intention was vague. He said I couldn’t change the world unless I knew the world. Truly, I don’t know it entirely. And the both wonderful and tragic is that there is so much to be learned, that my lifetime will not be long enough. I cannot change everything. He made clear what I had not wanted to hear. But it is true. And it’s good I heard it, because when I can’t fix all the problems and instead can only work to fix some, I can narrow it down. The task of fixing all the problems I wanted to do was too overwhelming. How can I change all of these things? I cannot have control in all areas. But others can. Others, too can find ways to change the world–problems to fix. It’s not just my world, after all. Others can handle other problems, while I handle certain problems. He asked me what I thought the most important problem was. What I wanted to fix the most. I might change my mind, but this is an easy question. If I could fix anything, I would fix aging–for those I love and don’t want to lose, for the rest of humanity, and for myself. If I live longer, I have more time to spend helping. If I live long enough, I can make many contributions over time. Do you see?

There is a scientist called Aubrey de Grey who claims it is possible. I am skeptical, so I must review his work and claims. But if he is onto something–if aging, the deterioration of the human body, can be broken down into simple processes and errors which cause the deterioration, and if we can reverse some of them at least–I must know, so that I must get involved. There is nothing I want more than to extend my life. And those of the people I love. And those of people with potential that I admire. But I will not keep this from the public at large.

What I propose is that I will work on a problem facing humanity, and at the same time spread awareness of other problems, so that others may step forward like I have and decide to help other problems we have. Nobody can do it by themselves, so let us all work together.

Chemistry, U.S. gov., and the Internet’s effects on the brain

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Sunday

In this periodic table, you’ll see element boxes. Each box has 2 separate numbers, the one on the bottom (below the element’s symbol) being my focus. The top number is the atomic number, revealing how many protons there are in each atom of that element. The bottom number reveals different things.

Image result for periodic table

(If you can’t see the small numbers too clearly and would like to make the image bigger, you can, for one thing, (if you’re using Chrome, at least) right-click the image and open it in a new tab. Or maybe you’d like to zoom in.)

The bottom number is called the atomic mass number, because one thing it shows is the mass (in amus) of one atom of that element (more or less). For each element, this number is reached by taking the average of the masses of all of the element’s naturally-occurring isotopes.

This number also shows the molar mass of the element (in grams). That is, if you have one mole of the element (6.022 x 1023 atoms of the element), it’ll have a mass of x grams, x being the number.

Here’s an example. Locate the element oxygen, O, in group 16 and period 2. (Groups are columns; periods are horizontal rows.) Anyway, oxygen’s atomic number is 6. That’s irrelevant. The other number is rounded to 16.00.

I hate to say it because it’s not totally accurate because of isotopes and their different masses–but 16.00 is oxygen’s atomic mass number and thus each oxygen atom has a mass of 16.00 amu. (Technically, I think I should say ‘amus,’ but it’s less common and unnecessary for understanding, so I’ll drop it. Also: units matter! Last post, (or was it the post before that…?) I explained the meaning of amu, but I’ll tell you again pretty quick. Amu = atomic mass unit. 1 amu has the mass of a carbon-12 atom’s mass, divided by 12.)

But in addition, 1 mol (mol is short for mole) of individual oxygen atoms (6.022 x 1023 oxygen atoms) weighs 16.00 grams.

So basically, atomic mass number (amu) = molar mass (grams).

That’s right, the molar mass of a substance is the mass of 1 mole of that substance. Knowing the molar masses of the elements is useful, because compounds are made up of elements, and we can figure out the molar masses of compounds in this way. How? I don’t expect that to make total sense yet, let me explain.

Compound: “a thing that is composed of two or more separate elements; a mixture.”

Let’s take a compound like H2O. Suppose we want to know the mass of 1 mole of H2O molecules (6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules). Visualize here, just a bit. In 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules, there are 6.022 x 1023 O atoms, wouldn’t you agree?

So:

6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules = 6.022 x 1023 O atoms + the hydrogen atoms.

Hmm, how many H atoms are there? Well, that 2 is there, meaning each H2O molecule has 2 H atoms. If it wasn’t, there would be 6.022 x 1023 H atoms. But… there is twice that amount. So there are 2 * (6.022 x 1023 ) H atoms in all those H2O molecules.

So:

6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules = 6.022 x 1023 O atoms + [ 2 * (6.022 x 1023 ) ] H atoms.

This is important!

Don’t forget what we are looking for: the mass of 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules (aka 1 mol of H2O molecules).

What if we knew the mass of all the oxygen atoms in those H2O molecules, and the mass of all those hydrogen atoms in the H2O molecules? Why, then by adding them we would discover the mass of the H2O molecules, right? (Those H2O molecules are merely a sum of their parts.)

So the part that is not bold is what is unknown:

mass of H2O molecules = mass of O atoms + mass of H atoms.

Or:

mass of 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules = mass of 6.022 x 1023 O atoms + mass of [ 2 * (6.022 x 1023 ) ] H atoms.

Sure, the other parts of this equation so far seem unknown. But we can figure them out. Let’s start with the oxygen. We want to know the mass of 6.022 x 1023 O atoms. Or basically, we want to know the mass of 1 mol of O atoms. (See how it connects?) The mass of 1 mol of oxygen… why, you can find that off the periodic table!

Listen… this stuff doesn’t come effortlessly to anyone, I don’t think. I have to make an effort too, of course. I feel like many people wrongly think stuff like this is too complex for them, but it’s not. It’s really very simple. Well–it is complex, but the most complex things can be broken down into biteable pieces, chewable pieces that make logical sense anyone can understand. Very often, difficulties are due to knowledge gaps–no intrinsic fault, no lack of ability.

Just wanted to say that.

According to the periodic table, the molar mass of oxygen is 16.00 grams.

So:

mass of 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules = 16.00 grams + mass of [ 2 * (6.022 x 1023 ) ] H atoms.

Now we must find the mass of 2 moles of hydrogen. According to the periodic table, each mol of H is 1.01 grams; 2 moles are twice that amount: 2.02 grams.

So:

mass of 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules = 16.00 grams + 2.02 grams

That’s simple math now.

mass of 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules = 18.02 grams.

Or:

mass of 1 mol of H2O molecules = 18.02 grams.

We have our answer. What did we do? We used the molar masses of the elements H and O to find the molar mass of a compound (specifically, H2O). The point of that activity was to see exactly how the molar masses of elements can be used to find the molar masses of compounds.

I hope you enjoyed that. I did. It’s important for us as humans to engage in activities which challenge and stimulate us without overwhelming us. 🙂

No one wants to be stressed, but no one wants to be bored. Neither is good. This blog gives me an opportunity to do what I long to do–learn and explain things. That is one of the things in this life that bring me true satisfaction.

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Now, the process won’t take this long every time you want to find the molar mass of a compound, because you can trust this and use it every time: the molar mass of a compound equals the molar masses of all its constituents. All compounds are made of elements, so you can find those molar masses on the periodic table. You must also multiply the molar mass of a certain element by the number of atoms of that element there are in the compound. The compound H2O had 2 hydrogen atoms, which was why I multiplied hydrogen’s molar mass by 2. You already know that this works–I showed it to you in the example.

I’ll walk you through another example so that you see how one can do it faster, taking the shortcut which we can take because we already know that the shortcut works. Let’s find the molar mass of sugar, C12H22O11. Because sugar contains atoms belonging to more than 2 elements, it is a compound. Remember, the molar mass of sugar equals the molar masses of its constituent elements, multiplied by the number of times they appear.

Here’s how I lay it out:

C –> 12 x molar mass

H –> 22 x molar mass

O –> 11 x molar mass

——————–   +

molar mass of sugar

Or:

(12 x C molar mass) + (22 x H molar mass) + (11 x O molar mass) = sugar’s molar mass

Use the periodic table to find the molar masses of the individual elements.

(12 x 12.01 g) + (22 x 1.01 g) + (11 x 16.00 g) = sugar’s molar mass

342.34 grams = sugar’s molar mass

That is, 1 mole of sugar (6.022 x 10^23 molecules of sugar) has a mass of 342.34 grams.

Ha, you can also see why it’s useful to know substances’ chemical formulas. ^.^

Monday

The U.S. government consists of 3 branches: the Executive Branch, the Judiciary Branch, and the Legislative Branch. The Legislative Branch is the most powerful and it consists of Congress. Congress is divided into the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are committees within each, and congresspeople (‘congressmen’ doesn’t apply anymore, so I don’t know why people still use it) are often in multiple committees. A standing committee is a permanent committee that meets regularly.” Each committee has a head, called a chair or chairperson.

Special or select committees also exist, created to deal with matters beyond the abilities of standing committees. Some of these select committees have only advisory abilities, meaning they can’t actually write laws and can only advise. The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is only an advisory committee. That explains much of Congress’ response to climate change.

There are joint committees, which consist of congresspeople from both houses (both the Senate and the House), as well as conference committees, which serve the purpose of reconciling bills “when the House and Senate write different versions of it.” Bills are not laws yet, they are merely laws proposed by congresspeople. All laws were bills once, and all bills have the potential for becoming laws.

Committees exist because laws are written more efficiently in smaller groups, and because the congresspeople in certain committees can be allowed to develop expertise on those subjects.

Proposal power is the power of all congresspeople to propose bills. If a bill is proposed by a senator, then it must pass through a committee before it is introduced to the rest of the Senate. (Sorry about my wacky capitalization, but to be frank I often don’t know which words to capitalize…) If a bill is proposed by a representative, it must also pass through a committee before it reaches the rest of the House of Representatives.

When bills get passed to the appropriate committees, committee chairs decide which bills are considered. This power of committees to choose which bills make it through is called Gatekeeping Authority. If a bill does not receive the majority of votes, it does not pass through a committee, and it is said the bill died in committee. Mark-up refers to the authority of chairs to manage the writing of bills.

Committees also can kill bills by refusing to vote on them, though in the House, committee members can be forced to vote on a bill with a discharge petition. Another important power of Congress is its ability to oversee its laws being implemented.

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I was a bit bored writing about this. And that wasn’t good news because if I don’t enjoy this, what do I do it for? I wondered if maybe I simply didn’t enjoy government as much as other subjects, like chemistry, for example. I didn’t want this to be true, but I thought that maybe I didn’t enjoy telling you facts just like that–I thought that maybe I preferred being able to explain parts of a system to you. I’ve always loved systems. I’ve always loved how parts within systems make sense and fit so nicely with each other. It’s why I loved math, and chemistry. I love explaining systems, no matter what the subject is. I thought that maybe my source of boredom was due to my desire for precision taking over me and making me write you every fact as soon as I learned it, instead of waiting to take it all in and see how things fit together and then explain it to you.

Whatever the case, I decided to stop writing and just watch the video. As I learned about how things fit together, however–how things were related like a system–I suddenly wanted to explain this to you. And so I paused the video and came to write this down, for future reference, because the more I understand myself, the easier it is for me to keep myself happy and balanced.

The more I understand what makes me happy, the more I can increase that in my life.

So. Newt Gingrich was once the Speaker of the House. The Speaker has the authority to decide which committees to refer bills to. Gingrich increased the power of the Speaker, changed the rules for appointing committee chairs, and reduced the number of subcommittees.

Subcommittees are committees which contain some members of a larger body (e.g. a committee/ board) and which report to them.

Whereas before Gingrich’s changes, the chosen committee chairs were the longest-serving members of the dominant party, after his changes they were elected through the voting process.

Tuesday

It’s nice that, no matter how few reads a given post gets, there’s always at least someone that benefits from my writing. Sometimes there are many reads. Sometimes there are not.

Yesterday I said that maybe my lack of motivation was due to the subject, or me not allowing the subject to get complex enough and me not having enough of relationships to explain. Now, a different idea occurred to me. It may be that I have this feeling that my work is pointless and won’t be read. Probably because last post was a post I put a lot of effort into, and not many benefit from it.

I know the barrier is in my mind. If I believe my work has meaning and purpose and is beneficial to others, then I can really feel motivated to teach and I really get something out of that work. I find it satisfactory. I believe this post ought to get at least one read, and that one person should be enough!

Let me tell you then, reader, about U.S. government.

Speakers also have influence over those who become chairs in the voting process.

Friday

Sorry I didn’t tell you much about U.S. government.

When there are lengthy sections of bold text in this post, the writing is not mine.

The Internet May Be Changing Your Brain In Ways You’ve Never Imagined

“Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words,” he wrote. “Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

In the book, which became a New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Carr explored the many ways that technology might be affecting our brains. Carr became particularly concerned about how the Internet seemed to be impairing our ability to think deeply and to focus on one subject for extended periods.  

 

I’ve heard this before. I don’t seem to have difficulty focusing/ concentrating… but then again, I engage in mentally stimulating activities all day, every day. I also have important values where I care about precision and understanding everything. I read carefully and don’t skim.

I don’t use social media because I don’t want to be distracted from my work. I read books and don’t use Google’s plethora of answers to cheat my way through school like some other students do.

Part of the reason I don’t use social media (or my phone in general) is because it’s always been a huge distraction for me. Social media offers instant gratification. Posting pictures on Instagram and getting likes feels good. Having the option of texting friends when I’m doing something difficult that requires considerable mental effort and focus would not be good for me… I would most likely seek pleasure from aesthetics as I have always done in the past. Being constantly distracted would make it more difficult for me to focus on my work over time. Just giving into temptation once would make it easier to make the same mistake next time.

But I suppose the strongest reason might be the fear I have that my emotions will gain strength if I sit back and let them operate as they wish. The more I get instant pleasure, the more I please my id. Back when I was id-dominated… I had less control. I don’t want to go back to that. I don’t want to lose control and not care about my future as much. I want to make sure I’m driving in a good direction, and I don’t want to focus on shallow things…

So what has  changed since Carr wrote his seminal work five years ago? We chatted with the journalist and author about how our increasing interactions with mobile technology might be affecting the most important organ in our bodies.

“Since you wrote this book, the Internet has only taken on a bigger role in our lives. What are some of the main changes you’ve observed in the way we interact with technology?”

 

When I wrote the book, the iPhone was still very new and the iPad had just come out. Social media wasn’t as big as it is today. So when I wrote the book, I was thinking about laptops and computers but not so much about smartphones. Of course, now the main way that people interact with the Internet is through mobile devices.

 

Yes, I use my computer but not my phone. On my phone, I can’t really do any of the things I can do with a computer. Some websites and blogs don’t load/ load properly, articles are harder to read because of the smaller text… phones and tablets do seem better for social media, however.

In the book, I argued that what we created with computers and the Internet was a system of distraction. We got the great rewards of having basically unlimited information at our fingertips, but the cost of that was we created a system that kept us in a state of perpetual distraction and constant disruption. 

What psychologists and brain scientists tell us about interruptions is that they have a fairly profound effect on the way we think. It becomes much harder to sustain attention, to think about one thing for a long period of time, and to think deeply when new stimuli are pouring at you all day long.

 

I guess it doesn’t help that my schedule has been one that, for about all year, has required me to pay a certain subject attention for a mere hour or so before moving to another subject. I had so many things to do, you see, and I didn’t want anything to be gotten around to too late, so I minimized the amount of time I spent doing each thing… at the moment, I’m not using my schedule. I’m not in school anymore (summer vacation) and my time is being used up by family events and obligations. Basically, things are different than they were before. As a result, I can do less things each day… but I decided to quit my schedule, at least for now. Now, I’m doing what pleases me–and I’ve been mostly reading articles and books. (That’s not all that pleases me.)

It used to be so hard to read…

…to really focus on more practical, difficult topics. Now it’s a lot easier, now it takes a lot less effort. I wasn’t used to it, that’s why. I had never really read nonfiction and then I sat myself down, properly motivated, and I did it. The driving force came from within me. I read the book Evolution: the Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer. It was hard at first, but I had solid determination, and I changed my brain. The more you practice, the better you ought to get.

Image result for evolution the triumph of an idea

It was a very beautiful book. I really do love reading. For me, it’s one of the most wonderful things to do. To be able to read is one of the most precious gifts in my life.

I argue that the price we pay for being constantly inundated with information is a loss of our ability to be contemplative and to engage in the kind of deep thinking that requires you to concentrate on one thing. 

To me, all the things I worried about have become much worse now that we carry around this permanently connected device that we’re constantly pawing at. Things are very different in a way that makes the things I worried about worse. 

“Research has found that millennials are even more forgetful than seniors. What do we know about how technology is impacting our memory?”

 

There’s something I want to say. If technology really does make it more difficult for us to concentrate on a single subject and we go less deeply into it as a result, I can see how that could affect our memory of the subject. My junior year of high school just ended. That year was divided into 4 quarters, or 2 semesters. At the end of each semester, I had a final. The finals I just had for almost all my classes tested our knowledge of material covered this past semester.

My math teacher didn’t teach well. He gave procedural instructions–he taught how to do certain problems. He taught us tricks and the general rules. I was able to remember how to do these problems for about a week–long enough to do associated homework and the quiz or test that came with them. But I didn’t remember how to do these problems long enough for the final exam because he taught us too shallowly. He didn’t explain the why. He didn’t explain the importance, or how things work. The information he gave us felt irrelevant. Interesting, but irrelevant. The knowledge I have in my head relates to reality, explains aspects of reality, and pieces of information in my head relate to other pieces of information. Within my internal model of reality, there is a network of connections between information. Same for you. But when he gave me this new information, I didn’t have connections between this information and other information in my knowledge bank, because he didn’t provide them. He taught only shallowly, not deeply.

So I had to study like crazy for my math final, because I didn’t remember anything. Because I didn’t go deeply into it. Sad. But–no worry. I will go back and deeply learn what I could not in that classroom–on my own time. I won’t abandon math like that. Math is beautiful–but much of that beauty lies in the way its ideas connect. In the relationships, in the why. In how it is a structure, a system. My geometry teacher my freshman year was a blessing to me. She showed me the relationships, and that was the year I first fell in love with math. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way about math because I’ve been distracted, but I can still remember that breathless feeling, that euphoria as I sat in that desk, learning of the system and how nicely it all fit together, and that feeling was so intense, so passionate.

It’s not lost. It’s just been a while. I can’t return to math right now, because I’m doing other things now. But I will eventually, and I will love it just the same.

I really can’t remember the feeling too well… but I do remember that the subject left an extremely deep impression on me. Math was the most beautiful subject I had ever seen. Absolutely logical. I should remember this when choosing my career.

Anyway, my chemistry class was taught by someone who actually cared about subject. The teacher seemed to be constantly frustrated by students’ lack of interest, and I could understand that. It is sad to love something, but to feel that no one else does. In the beginning of the year, I had an aggressive attitude toward my math teacher because I was frustrated by his lack of love for math. (A main cause of aggressive behavior is frustration. Understanding this has helped me control my frustration to control my aggression so that I am less hurtful when upset.)

But I always cared about chemistry, and she saw that. Part of the reason my love for chemistry was limited was because I didn’t really see the spark in anyone else. Remember that I told you that I feel that without people, ideas don’t have meaning? Without others to care, the most beautiful ideas seem to be dying. I know others care, but this knowledge isn’t enough to satiate my emotions. My emotions need to see others caring.

Anyway, I went into chemistry a lot more deeply. The teacher told us to read the chapters, and I did–until I got too busy. Semester 1, I read all the chapters. Semester 2, not really. I took excellent notes. We got study guides and work sheets. We went over it in class. We got this awesome packet every chapter testing our deep understanding called a POGIL. I loved POGILs. I always was a bit… afraid that I wouldn’t manage it, but I always did. POGILs were challenging and required me to think. They were spectacular. I can’t even explain how much they helped me understand/ go over the basic ideas.

Chemistry is easy, okay? Yeah, it requires work. Sometimes it’s challenging. But everyone can do it. It irritates me to no end that people don’t believe they can follow something as easy as chemistry or math as far as I have. Simple, logical concepts are the building blocks of complex ideas.

Eh. The class average on tests was always like a 60%. I always got a good grade though, and not because of natural talent. Many kids didn’t actually try, and that’s why. It was a shame. It was their loss. I don’t hate them, I understand them, and I would give them an infinite amount of opportunities to try again.

I just want others to care.

The point is that I went deeply into chemistry. Want to know what effect that had on my memory of the subject? The teacher posted a test with 100 questions online, 70 of which would be identical to those on the semester 2 final. Yeah, I had to go through my notebooks in search of formulas. But just formulas–not concepts. I’d say that I remembered at least 95% of the stuff on the online test. (As a result, there was almost no studying required.) I surprised myself immensely with how much I remembered, and I sought an answer. Why? Why had I remembered so well? It was the depth. It was the connection of ideas. It was the time I put into it.

That’s what I had to say. Maybe the deeper you go and the more time you put into something–maybe the more you focus and the more you think about something, maybe the more you understand the concepts, the why, and how things fit together–the better you remember. If technology is making people do this less and less, one can see why people’s memory of things may be suffering.

“Research has found that millennials are even more forgetful than seniors. What do we know about how technology is impacting our memory?” 

Technology definitely has an effect on our memory. What happens is that to move information from your conscious mind (what’s known as the working memory) into your long-term memory requires a process of memory consolidation that hinges on attentiveness. You think about the information or rehearse it in your mind in order to form a strong memory of it, and in order to connect it to other things that you remember. 

If you’re constantly distracted and taking in new information, you’re essentially pushing information into and out of your conscious mind. You’re not attending to it in a way that is necessary for the rich consolidation of memory. 

Since I wrote The Shallows, there have been some very interesting studies which show that we seem to be less able to form long-term memories than we used to, thanks to technology. One study out of Columbia University showed that when people know that they’ll be able to find information online easily, they’re less likely to form a memory of it. 

“Are you also concerned about this lack of depth, or shallowness, in our social interactions?” 

That isn’t something that I’ve studied much, but I think there are some indications that this kind of culture of constant distraction and interruption undermines not only the attentiveness that leads to deep thoughts, but also the attentiveness that leads to deep connections with other people. 

One study I mentioned in the book seemed to show that the more distracted you are — the more your train of thought is interrupted — the less able you are to experience empathy. So distractions could make it more difficult for us to experience deep emotions. 

“In the book you talk about the “dark side” of brain plasticity. What does that mean?” 

Neuroscientists have discovered that the brain is plastic, meaning that it’s very malleable or adaptable. Our brains are constantly adapting at a physical level to our environment. You can imagine that what’s really changed our environment in the past 10 or 20 years is the Internet and social media. 

A lot of people will assume that if our brains can adapt, then our brains will adapt to the flow of information and all will be well. But what you have to understand about neuroplasticity is that the process of adaptation doesn’t necessarily leave you a better thinker. It may leave you a more shallow thinker. 

Our brains adapt, but the process of adaptation is value-neutral — we might get smarter or we might get dumber, we’re just adapting to the environment. 

“Are you optimistic about any of the ways we currently seem to be adapting?” 

No. It’s the ease with which we adapt that makes me most nervous. It doesn’t take long for someone to get used to glancing at their smartphone 200 times a day. We’re creatures of habit mentally and physically. 

When you develop that habit of distraction, it becomes harder and harder to back away and engage our minds in deeper modes of thinking.

Part of the reason I don’t touch my phone if I can help it–part of the reason I don’t take it anywhere and I usually forget it exists–is because I know what it’s like to engage in such shallow thinking. I told you. I was id-dominated.

I had an Instagram account which allowed me to gain instant gratification. I was addicted to it. I was much more ignorant than I am now. My life didn’t have much deep purpose, I wasn’t interested in being patient and in long-term relationships, I preferred fiction to reality. I focused on aesthetics, on writing, on roleplays–on emotions. I focused on art, mostly.

I think I’m a fairly visual person. Back when I satisfied my id’s desires instantly and was under my id’s control, I spent most of my time looking at pictures. I don’t know why I enjoy that, but doing that can entertain me for hours. Pictures, gifs. Searching for beautiful drawings and paintings, beautiful digital art, beautiful characters. My id still wants to do that sometimes. It is when I am most emotional that I am most vulnerable to my id’s desires. Just yesterday after I woke up, I wanted my brother and I to engage in a Zootopia roleplay between Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde (I’d be the latter). As I looked up pictures of the former character out of an eagerness to interact with her, I became more and more deeply involved in the activity of looking at images and I was again whisked away by my id’s wishes. I left my computer at my grandma’s house when going to my other grandma’s apartment, annoyed and disappointed in myself, as well as not trusting myself to “behave.” Instead, I took a book.

Yesterday was an exception. I think yesterday happened because I have been ignoring my id’s desires for too long. Why? Because here I have no privacy (I haven’t even a room of my own) and I have less time to myself, and it always embarrasses me to look at aesthetically pleasing pictures in front of others because I don’t want them to know what I find visually beautiful/ attractive.

judyhopps

…especially because my aesthetic appreciation knows no gender (and people still have problems with diversity in this regard), and because I often find people beautiful/ attractive without feeling attracted to them.

 

“Is there anything we can do to keep our mental faculties intact, or is it pretty much hopeless at this point?”

Well, you can use the technology less and set aside your phone and spend a good part of your day trying to maintain your focus and not be interrupted. The good thing about that — because of the plasticity of our brains — is that if you change your habits, your brain is happy to go along with whatever you do.

 

My id eventually desired change, and for a shallow reason. It desired power, and I knew knowledge would give me more of that. That’s when my superego began to operate. I developed this idea of who I should be and the goal of perfection became my focus. I knew that my brain was plastic and malleable–that the activities I engaged in would change my brain–and so I tried to change myself and mold myself into the person I wanted to be.

Here is the rest of the article.

I hesitate to move on to other things and make this post too lengthy, including too many different subjects, because potential readers may not be interested in all these subjects and may avoid reading the post altogether.

That aside, thanks for reading!

Patience, chemistry, love, Cosmos, math, traveling

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Personal

Monday

I just realized something useful.

My superego and id battle all the time. At one time of my life I was dominated by my id, at another by my superego–now I am more balanced. The superego still makes demands of me that I don’t fulfill, as does the id. The id desires instant gratification, among other things. I feel like that’s very important to understand.

I don’t use my phone much. I don’t take it to school. This makes it easy for me to do work when I should. If I had my phone and the option, in general, to do what my id desired to do, it would be more difficult for me to do my work. Because we’re just animals, and if we can get the same amount of happiness for less work, why not? Most of us would want this deal.

My upbringing has spoiled me. Even adults are spoiled in this way. Nowadays we get what we want faster than ever. Many of us are less patient as a result. This makes perfect sense. And yet it may mean that we don’t go as deep into things. And that’s a sad reality. My superego tells me to watch out for this. Despite the trouble it has caused me, I’m thankful for my superego because it thinks about my future, my impact, my potential, my happiness, and the like. My id is the more primitive part of me that has deep desires that can’t always be satiated.

(Neither the id or superego operate thinking about reality, according to Freudian theory. The ego thinks about reality, and acts like a mediator, balancing the id and superego’s opposing desires. The id desires pleasure, and the superego desires perfection.)

I’ve always wanted to write a story, a book. I’ve always stopped at one point. I think it’s because I give up, because of lack of faith in it yielding fruit sometimes. After all, writing sometimes gets dry and tedious. If I’m searching for beauty, friendship, meaning, deep relationships, and deeper love, though, I have to understand I’m not getting those things instantaneously. I have begun to discover this already as I have begun to work on relationships with family members. I realize the more I put in, the more I get out. And I am thinking about how this relates to other aspects of my life.

I think I will stick with writing fiction. I will also stick with this blog. Something else that ought to help me to keep writing even when the road gets bumpy and I get stuck is that this happens to me in real life–I fall down, I get dirty, I move backwards without meaning to, I head in the wrong direction. Sometimes I think I won’t get up again, but I know I will, because I always have before. I can’t escape my reality. I can’t just get a new reality like I can start a new story. This inability to escape my situation forces me to confront it. When writing, I have the option to escape (I can stop writing), and I have always done so before. This has not been satisfactory. What I must do to keep going is to work with what I have and work to fix my situations, work to fix my problems instead of avoid them, and this is useful for writing. When a story gets messy and it seems to be dry, or stuck, or whatever, instead of trashing it all and starting over like I have in the past, maybe I should work to fix it. And maybe the same thing applies to relationships. That’s what I’ve begun to realize.

Nothing in life is perfect. Not love, not relationships, not stories–nothing. It all has its ups and downs.

So I was doing my math studying for tomorrow’s math final, but I kept getting id urges to watch a video or do something that would give me instantaneous satisfaction. I wondered what the point was of doing math if I didn’t enjoy it. I wondered how I had once loved it so much, so deeply, so passionately. And then I realized that what I was doing was the right thing, that what I had to do was stick with it, understanding I wouldn’t get instant gratification, or bliss, or any of that. Whenever I loved math before, I hadn’t expected bliss from it, or an emotional high, or anything. And the gratification I got was much deeper.

Wednesday

Today was my last day of my junior year of high school. I’ll be a senior when summer vacation ends.

And after that year, I’ll go to college!

I’m not particularly eager. It is very exciting, but I’m perfectly happy where I am. I like to take things day by day and go where I want to go. It’s sort of… wandering through life without a map, but I don’t mind. This way of living has its disadvantages, sure, but it also has its advantages–and there are certainly disadvantages to planning it all out ahead.

For example, I’ve seen many students who seem to have it all planned out but who don’t seem particularly eager or happy about where they are or where they’ll be (if, for example, their parents are pushing them to pursue a certain career). And then there are, of course, people who are so focused on a goal that they don’t focus on the things that matter the most to them.

I guess I’m glad I fell out of that path. I didn’t even see I was heading the wrong way. My superego had dominated my life, and I desired achievement, worth, perfection, status, and so on so desperately that I completely used my person for my resources but didn’t attend to my needs. That is, I made my body work hard and focus on studying, but I was too harsh with myself. I didn’t love myself. I felt guilty all the time because (it’s obvious now) I couldn’t be perfect.

There was too much stress because of myself but I didn’t… notice there was something wrong with my way of living, because I had gradually gotten to this point.

That was when I seriously started to question things, to ask myself what it was all for.

When I realized that happiness was the only thing I really wanted, the thing that mattered the most to me, everything changed–because I lived my life for a new reason; because my entire existence had a new purpose. I sought joy, meaning, satisfaction and the like as opposed to perfection, achievement, ability…

I became so focused on my goal that I wasn’t living for the now. I was neglecting what truly mattered to me.

Chemistry

But I came to talk about chemistry. On the periodic table you see boxes with element symbols. Somewhere in each box lies a number which probably has a decimal point. That is the average atomic mass number (the other number is the atomic number). As a rapid refresher (I already explained this stuff in a previous post), the average atomic mass of an element is the average of all of the element’s isotopes’ atomic masses.

For example, chlorine’s (average) atomic mass is 35.453. But 35.453 what? (What are the units of measurement?) 35.453 amu.

atomic mass units

Most units of measurement are arbitrary. The foot, for example (12 inches) measures distance. But it’s not like the foot existed without humans. It exists within our culture, it’s a way for us to quantify the universe. But we made it up. As a kid, I used to be confused by that. Remember how I used to worry about objective truths, about things that were consistent across the universe–everywhere? Things indisputably true? I always wondered how the foot (and other units of measurement) was accepted across the universe. But it’s not, actually. I didn’t quite understand that then.

Each foot is the same, right? 12 inches here measures the same length as 12 inches on Mars. Why not? After all, 12 inches is a measure of a certain amount of distance. Humans wanted a way to divide up distance, to measure it. So they could compare the distance between areas, so they would understand the world better. So they needed to create units, and they created the foot (among other units) which would always mean 12 inches.

But it’s arbitrary. Created by humans to measure the world.

Anyway. What is 1 amu even equal to? 1 amu equals 1/12 of the mass of a carbon-12 atom.

Okay, so carbon is an element. There are 3 isotopes of carbon: 12C, 13C, and 14C. What these isotopes have different is the number of neutrons they have.

A carbon-12 atom will have 6 protons like all carbon atoms, but 6 neutrons (like all other atoms of the 12C isotope). This carbon-12 atom has a certain atomic mass (protons + neutrons). Divide that mass by 12, and you get another number–the mass of 1 amu.

Thursday

I should also note that elements’ isotopes appear in different amounts throughout the world. For the element carbon, for example, carbon-12 is much more abundant than carbon-13 and carbon-14 combined. Of all carbon, approximately 98.89% of it is carbon-12.

When calculating the average of an element’s isotopes’ masses, the relative abundance of each isotope is taken into consideration.

Now what are moles in chemistry? A mole is a unit of amount, telling how much you have of a substance. Here is a precise definition:

“A mole of a substance is defined as: The mass of substance containing the same number of fundamental units as there are atoms in exactly 12.000 g of 12C. Fundamental units may be atoms, molecules, or formula units, depending on the substance concerned.”

I would define a mole as the amount of a given substance that has 6.022 x 1023 fundamental units. My definition is compatible with the definition I found online–they both are correct.

* Like said in the quote, fundamental units are atoms in some cases, and molecules or formula units in others. Molecules consist of atoms. A single atom is but an atom. Molecules are covalently-bonded atoms. Formula units consist of ionically-bonded ions.

Covalent bonds are sharing bonds. The atoms involved in covalent bonds share electrons. Ionic bonds are not sharing bonds. Table salt, for example, is NaCl. Na is an ion, and so is Cl. They are oppositely charged–Na has a positive (+) charge whereas Cl has a negative (-) charge. Ionic bonds occur when one atom steals one or more electrons from another, resulting in both atoms becoming ions which then are attracted to each other because they have different charges.

I’ve talked about all this before, but in the case of NaCl, because Na has the + charge, it is a cation. Because Cl has the – charge, it is an anion. Anyway, how would you refer to a unit of NaCl? You know, a single compound consisting of one Na cation and one Cl anion–how would you refer to that? Would it be an NaCl molecule?

NO, because NaCl doesn’t consist of covalently-bonded atoms, remember? (If you go back up to the star, it has this information.) Remember that formula units consist of ionically-bonded ions?

You would call it an NaCl formula unit.

Anyway, I was talking about moles. 6.022 x 1023 is called Avogadro’s number.

When you say you have a mole of water (water is H2O, a covalent compound–a molecule), you mean you have 6.022 x 1023 water molecules.

When you say you have a mole of NaCl (an ionic compound), you have 6.022 x 1023 formula units.

Likewise, a mole of a substance can have 6.022 x 1023 atoms.

You may wonder where Avogadro’s number comes from. Just like the amu (atomic mass unit), the mole comes from the carbon-12 isotope. In 12 grams of carbon-12, there are 6.022 x 1023 atoms.

.

Personal

This is uncomfortable for me. That’s not new.

Unless you’ve been with me before, you have no idea what I’m talking about. Sorry about that.

Anyway.

Being asexual appeals to my superego. But it may not be true. My trauma made sexuality seem negative, as I told you–sex especially. Thinking of myself as asexual is sort of a nice thought for me because I feel purer. But I’ve never been 100% convinced. It’s like I said: the matter is complicated, so much so that all my “conclusions” are subject to changes I don’t foresee.

Ever since I realized Nick loved Gatsby, I’ve felt differently about Nick. I dare say I’ve even been attracted to him. That’s not something totally new, or totally surprising. A bit disappointing, maybe. I’ve been healing from my trauma. I call it the same thing because I don’t want to talk about it much. Eh, I’ve helped myself. I’ve been changing my ideas. I’m a lot more accepting of myself. Yet it is somewhat hard to accept some truth like this. But I’ve got to.

I don’t want to think about this much. This is just me recording my goodbye, and hopefully recording my reasons for it. Attraction can be intense–too intense. It’s too overwhelming for me. It can even become one of the most important reasons for living, because I get so much pleasure out of it. All that pleasure I get makes many other things I used to love seem much duller. The sun doesn’t shine so brightly. I don’t want to live that way. I remember when my superego dominated me. I wanted to be asexual because my superego wouldn’t accept any other answer. So I had to love something. I wanted to love “what mattered,” which was the universe, the world. So I poured all my feelings into reality and it seemed beautiful. I loved my work and I loved my universe. And Carl Sagan taught me to look at the cosmos with a new awe. I was infatuated with Sagan for his ideas, for his hope, for his cosmos. And that feeling was… well, it seemed like the proper feeling.

On the other hand, attraction to people causes me a little bit of guilt, and a feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction. I desire to write fiction so that I can interact with characters that make me feel this way–and yet my id is interested in instant gratification and doesn’t want to write the story for the right reasons. It is almost like the person becomes the only source of pleasure.

I know what I must do to get off this train, to stop these feelings. Curiosity brought me here, but I can leave them again because they don’t feel right. I don’t like that feeling of sadness and desire, of melancholia, of regret, etc. Attraction is always accompanied with a strong feeling of sadness. I feel frustrated, helpless, and unsatisfied. I feel like a victim to my powerful feelings that I feel unable to overcome.

It kind of sucks. It feels good in a way, just like sadness does, but it also feels heavy, serious, and dreary…

And I know someone close to me who lives that way. I now understand so many things about him. I think I’m right–I think his constant brooding and sadness are a result of him being focused on the wrong things.

Maybe part of the reason I pushed romance and attraction away is that I didn’t want to feel so heavy. I wanted to feel lighter and less serious. I wanted to see the beauty in the world and feel optimism. I just forgot why I closed the box, and I opened it.

All I must do to close it is push it away for a while, until the strength of the feelings fades and I am capable of moving on without sadness and regret, without powerful feelings urging me to not love work and instead love a person romantically.

Phew. I’m actually very grateful for writing. It allows me to heal and deal with my feelings. I understand them better and I let them out, and I can return to a more stable, more enjoyable existence.

I suppose I don’t want to live too passionately… because I’m afraid of the long falls, and because I’m afraid of losing control. Those long falls are too desperate, too hopeless. Emotions can be very positive, but also very negative, and I don’t want to be in pain like that. I don’t like giving emotions free rein.

Eh… I was thinking about writing, but I think I’m a bit unstable now. I’m not sure of where I stand, and I don’t want my fictional writing to be an emotional whirlpool that will drain me, as has happened before.

I guess writing calms me. Makes me feel like I have more control. Thoughts I have can’t fly away and fade if I write them down. Then in the future I can learn from them.

Writing is a way of me analyzing myself and testing the ground beneath my feet. It allows me to draw a plan and feel I am in greater control of myself. I guess I take writing for granted because writing of this type comes so easily to me. But I know what it’s like to not really be able to write, or to at least require much more effort to write, because of my experience with fiction writing. It doesn’t come totally naturally. I have to make an effort.

When I was a kid, I was a fan of the Percy Jackson books.

I didn’t read ’em for romance. That wasn’t my reason. When I got the Star Wars game to play with my younger brother, I wasn’t thinking about romance. I feel like romance is just… too complicated, emotionally. It leads to too much emotional turmoil and I don’t want that kind of… suffering. But at the same time, it’s such a beautifully rich aspect of the human experience, and so it’s kind of wonderful.

Well, actually, romantic love doesn’t seem too bad. It felt only wonderful. For a short time, I felt romantically in love with Daisy, if I’m using the word ‘romance’ appropriately (still a source of confusion for me). Her personality wasn’t as great as I wanted, however, and personality matters a lot. But when I felt that way about Daisy, I wasn’t scared. I felt her warmth, her kindness, her sweetness, and I saw nothing but happiness and friendship for us both.

For me, romance is something a lot more bright and sunny, a lot more platonic and manageable. It’s attraction which is so much more disruptive, making me lose my head. And that’s why I’m somewhat afraid of it, like my dad is somewhat afraid of the ocean. He respects and is wary of its power.

It’s attraction which seems more like a dark night, like an emotional storm I can’t escape and which I am at the mercy of. I can’t be that emotional, I feel, otherwise I won’t be able to protect myself from negative emotions.

The people I love in this unique way are usually female, like I said. I think I may be biromantic. I think they are usually female because these personality traits are most common in women. These characteristics are attractive, but in a non-frightening way. I also agree with choosing a partner that I love for their personality, and not simply because of appearance.

The people that make me feel this way have a decent amount of the following traits:

Kind, sweet, caring/ loving, appreciative, genuine, honest, understanding, friendly, optimistic, light, playful, peaceful, delicate…

(That list lacks many other personality traits which I have found pleasant and attractive. It’s just to give you an idea.)

This love is much safer, much warmer, much more optimistic, much less wildly passionate, much more practical, and much more promising. It seems to be happier and more harmonious. I also feel compelled to give to this person.

Wild attraction doesn’t last, anyway.

Before I saw the movie, I formed my impression of the characters from pictures. I had read the book, but I wanted to imagine the movie character as different from the book character. Maybe in the movie, she would have the personality I was looking for. I wanted to start over with her and fall in love with her again.

But I was never loving her. Just who I thought she was.

I imagined she was what I was looking for, and I wanted to be with her as a person. It was platonic, but I call that kind of love romantic.

I want to be with someone I love as a person.

Attraction just gets in the way.

Mm, I was talking about the Percy Jackson books and the Star Wars video game to explain that… I have sought and continue to seek action, adventure, camaraderie/ friendship/ teamwork in fiction. And if that’s what motivates me to read, surely that can motivate me to write. Writing cannot be about romance if I want to finish a story.

Cosmos

Egypt is located in the northernmost part of Africa. Egypt’s coast meets the Mediterranean Sea (as do other territories, including France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Syria).

Image result for egypt map

Within Egypt is the city Alexandria, which once was one of the world’s greatest cities.

Image result for egypt map

Within Alexandria lived a man named Eratosthenes who was many things, including a poet, a mathematician, a geographer, a philosopher, an astronomer, and the chief librarian of the Great Library of Alexandria.

Friday

In the Great Library, he found an interesting account in a papyrus book which said that in the city Syene (south of Alexandria), on June 21 at noon, vertical items (such as sticks in the ground or temple columns) cast no shadow. The sunlight fell from directly overhead, snaking its way into deep wells and illuminating the water at the bottom.

What was once the city of Syene is now Aswan.

Image result for syene egypt map

Alexandria wasn’t too far north of Syene. Eratosthenes wanted to experiment with this occurrence, and wanted to see whether or not vertical objects in Alexandria would also cast no shadow on June 21 at noon. He discovered something which had a deep significance. At the same time that a vertical stick in Syene cast no shadow, a vertical stick in Alexandria did cast a very definite shadow.

If the Earth had been flat, then it would make sense for, at the same time, a stick in Syene to cast a shadow of the same length as the shadow cast by a stick in Alexandria. Likewise, it would make sense for a stick in Syene and in Alexandria to cast no shadow at the same time.

What Eratosthenes had was evidence that the surface of the Earth was curved.

This is a really awesome demonstration that helped me understand this better. I don’t expect you to watch all 50 minutes. To see the demonstration, watch the video from 28:16 to 29:15.

Saturday

I didn’t get to write much yesterday because I left my house around 2:00 to take 3 consecutive planes to Colombia, South America. That’s where I am now, hello! I wanted to rant about everything that’s gone wrong (like the fact I got less than 4 hours of sleep last night), but the need has since passed.

Anyway. Sagan says Eratosthenes hired someone to measure the distance between Alexandria and Syene. He learned the distance was 800 kilometers.

The stick in Syene was sticking up in one direction, and the stick in Alexandria was sticking up in another direction, right? Because the Earth is curved.

“The Sun is so far away that its rays are parallel when they reach the Earth.”

Here is Sagan holding a map of Ancient Egypt in such a way so that the map is curved like the surface of the Earth is. The stick on the left is the stick in Alexandria; that on the right is the stick in Syene:

syenealexandria

If you imagine the Sun’s rays coming down parallel to each other, like rain falling straight down on a day without wind, you can see that the sticks are at different angles to the sun’s rays. These different angles are responsible for the different shadows–for the shadows’ different lengths.

So you know how a circle is 360 degrees? And if you slice up that circle into slices, each slice will have a degree measure of its own which is less than 360 degrees? Well, in math there’s an angle called a central angle. In a full circle, the central angle is 360°. If you cut a circle into 4 equal slices, then each slice will have a central angle of 90° (360 / 4). That’s how it works.

Well, imagine a circle. 360°, as expected. Imagine there are two points–point A and point S. They’re pretty close together on the circle. (This is not drawn to scale):

aands

If you draw an imaginary line from each point going down past the center of the circle, you’ll see the lines eventually intersect/ cross. When they cross, a central angle will be formed.

centralangle

The central angle is shown by the purple line. So, as I have told you all this, I have been talking about the Earth. Point A is the stick in Alexandria; point S is the stick in Syene. They form an angle, and that angle is about 7 degrees.

So, you have your Earth, a circle. 360 degrees. You cut it up into sufficient slices so that each slice is 7 degrees. 360 / 7 is around 50, so there are about 50 slices of 7 degrees in the Earth.

Heh, what can be done with this information? Well if you’ll remember, Eratosthenes figured out that there are 800 kilometers between A and S. If there are 800 kilometers for each slice, and there are about 50 slices in the circle/ world, then the world’s circumference is about 40,000 kilometers (800 * 50).

800km

I would stay and chat, but for one thing I’m sleepy as heck and can’t do this anymore, and for another, I lost my internet connection and don’t have access to the first episode of Cosmos anymore.

Of course, you won’t notice the time gap. 🙂

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So I threw on shorts and a t-shirt and took a “nap” for 5 hours. I feel alive again… not that I didn’t feel alive earlier… it just felt that earlier I was operating at an inappropriate time. It felt I had ruined things, not started the day properly. It felt like the day was not actually mine, but rather a part of the next day I shouldn’t see more of until I slept.

Yeah, I don’t know either. Point is, I feel in control of the day again. Though things were beautiful before, having energy makes the world seem brighter because then you actually have the means to do all these different activities. So the world seems more filled with opportunity.

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I realize that when I listen to people, I understand them better and care much more about them. In addition, it’s fun to read a book with a friend. My younger cousin and I are reading the first Harry Potter book together (in Spanish), to catch up to the bookmark that is placed where it is because of the reading that my other Colombian cousin and I did back in the U.S. when she came to visit my family of four. Once we’re all at the same point, we’ll read the new parts together.

To be exact, the Earth’s circumference is, according to Google, 40,075 kilometers. Not only did Eratosthenes figure out the world was round, but he also figured out the Earth’s circumference.

I’m fairly comfortable where I’m at… I notice that as I write this and delve deeply into this, I am happy and satisfied, but I once would have been extremely disappointed in myself–back when the superego dominated me. No matter what I did, I could not be the ideal person I wanted to be. And I didn’t do anything out of love. I didn’t learn subject material out of interest. I did it out of a crazed desire to have as much control as possible.

Since I can never completely start over with myself, just fix myself, there are elements in my life today that I have that period of time to thank for. Though I enjoy these activities now, they are the same ones that I engaged in when dominated by my superego. If not for that period in my life, I may never have explored these areas. I may have been afraid of challenging myself. During the superego period, life without challenges scared me. In my mind, challenges were mandatory. They would refine my abilities.

There are good and bad aspects to every experience.

This is getting long, so I’ll continue writing in another post. Thank you for understanding the material I presented. ^.^

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching, French Polynesia, chemistry, Sputnik, The Great Gatsby, love, romance, and sexuality

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Tuesday

I never met (not entirely accurate, but I was too young to remember him) my grandpa (my dad’s dad) and so I don’t know what he was like, not really. But he was a philosophy professor and many people on my dad’s side of the family are teachers: my uncle, at least three (immediate) cousins, my grandma (married to my dad’s dad).

I’ve never really considered being a teacher. I don’t want to be a teacher of high school kids or below because I feel that many kids don’t care, and that takes the passion out of it. But I was thinking about what my mom said yesterday just now (because Google announced it to be National Teachers’ Day), and I was thinking about teaching people that wanted to learn, and I felt passionately. I felt like that was what I want to do desperately. And I think that that’s surprising. I never imagined myself as a teacher, like I said. I especially don’t want to teach the same stuff over and over once I’m over it. But what I do want to do is gather information, learn deeply, process it, explain it, and move on to other information. That is exciting.

Yesterday, my mom picked me up from school like always because I’m the only teen at my school that doesn’t have a car. (The driving manual is boring, I don’t have the time, and I don’t really feel motivated to get a car. I don’t currently have a need for one.) In the car, we talked about how I felt frustrated at my French project about French Polynesia. Don’t get me wrong: it’s absolutely fascinating, if you go deeply into it. But my teacher wasn’t giving us the time to, and I have so much other homework I’m receiving (in addition, I am studying for my final exams) that I had to go shallowly into the water, but that was very disappointing for me and caused me frustration. I wanted to learn everything. But I have understood that I can’t. I have an obsessive nature (which school and life force me to suppress) when it comes to learning, and I love to go deeply into things, but the real world keeps me on a leash because I am never given the time to just devote myself to one thing. I also can’t decide on one thing.

My mom said that I’ve always been this way. Obsessive about information. I always get excited about research projects because I really want to research. But the thing is, if I do it for myself, it kind of doesn’t mean much. I want to give it to people. I want to teach to people. I think one of the things which has held me back is that I don’t see much of an audience for what I have to say.

But who cares. Just one person matters. Teaching it to one person only is enough, if they care.

I just thought today, when I considered teaching all the different subjects my heart desired, that that was the most satisfactory, most wonderful thing I could, at the moment, think to do. Especially if the people cared about learning, it would be simply wonderful to explain. Learning and teaching, I feel, are beautiful things not appreciated enough. Some teachers at my school hate being teachers, hate to teach, hate to explain. Like they don’t understand the beauty of knowing, of understanding, the beauty of the science and the math and other subjects…

So I thought, I want to try teaching. I want to attempt to satisfy that need. I thought about teaching on my blog. It’s sort of what I already do, but I could do it more consistently… I could put more effort into it. The thing is, many times that I have knowledge, I don’t have the time to explain it because I have to put that knowledge to use. I suppress that desire, just like I suppress the desire to understand everything I can deeply. I even thought about stripping this blog of its… personal content and making it something more “professional”—something more serious for me so that I would feel that this was more than a hobby I could casually neglect and rather, an obligation. Because no matter how much I love to do certain things, if I feel that they’re just hobbies, work that must be done for school comes first because it must be done. It’s a have-to, not just a want-to.

Hmm. I want to start over, but at the same time… I don’t. I’ve made some awesome acquaintances here, I’ve explored some blogs, I’ve shared things that mattered. I’ll stay as opposed to starting a new blog and identity, but this blog of mine may serve a new purpose.

Wednesday

For my French project, I’ve been learning a bit about French Polynesia. When I sought to learn about its environmental issues, I found that Polynesia was used as a test site for nuclear tests performed by the French. The French, between 1960 and 1996, performed 210 nuclear tests in Algeria (Africa) and French Polynesia. (193 nuclear tests were performed in French Polynesia.) Polynesia lies in the Pacific Ocean.

Nuclear fallout washed all of Polynesia. In one explosion on the Mururoa atoll, Tahiti received 500 times the maximum accepted amount of radiation.

at·oll

ˈatˌôl,ˈatˌäl

noun

a ring-shaped reef, island, or chain of islands formed of coral.

The atoll is southeast of the island Tahiti (which contains Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia).

(Thanks, Google Maps.)

France had previously hidden the true toxicity of the nuclear tests and the reach of their radiation. Recently declassified documents have revealed all this information. The Mururoa atoll alone has been the site of so many tests that it may just collapse.

Related image

Veterans and civilians in Polynesia have formed groups and sought compensation for the health problems caused by these tests. Investigators have found high levels of cancer in Polynesia. This is tragic.

But it’s not surprising.

Very few people have received the compensation they deserve from the French government. It wasn’t until 2010 that it agreed to offer compensation. Controversially, Jacques Chirac, a former French president, resumed nuclear tests soon after being elected in 1995. What also appalls me–though it shouldn’t surprise me–is the lack of protection that workers received, as reported by the troops, during nuclear explosions.

During the Mururoa tests in French Polynesia in the late 1960s, one veteran described how he was stationed in shorts and a T-shirt on a boat only about 15 miles from the explosion before having to sail immediately to the area of the vast mushroom cloud to examine the damage.

Others on different tests wore shorts and had no sunglasses; they were told simply to shield their eyes and turn their backs at the time of the explosion.

Read the full article here.

Sunday

Hank Green on Crash Course introduces stoichiometry as a way to measure chemicals going into or coming out of chemical reactions. Measuring these things allows us to determine how many molecules or atoms there are within a substance.

If you’ve ever looked at the periodic table of elements, you’ve probably noticed numbers below element symbols.

For example, below the element hydrogen’s symbol–H–is the number 1.006. This is the atomic mass of one hydrogen atom… more or less. You see, this number, 1.006, is actually the average atomic mass of all of hydrogen’s naturally occurring isotopes.

(Some isotopes don’t exist unless they are made by people, so naturally occurring isotopes refers to isotopes found in nature/ found naturally.)

The element hydrogen has 3 naturally occurring isotopes. Let me first explain what an isotope is, though. Atoms are made of protons (+), electrons (-), and neutrons (neutral charge), right? Atoms never lose or gain protons (protons being in the nucleus/ center of the atom), so if you know the number of protons an atom has, you know the element that atom belongs to. The periodic table helps you with that. For example, say you are trying to identify the element of an atom that has 52 protons. On your periodic table, locate the element which has the atomic number 52. The atomic number says how many protons an element’s atoms have. Te, tellerium, has 52 protons. Therefore the atom is a tellerium atom.

I’m not done explaining. Hydrogen has 3 naturally occurring isotopes, called hydrogen-1 (protium), hydrogen-2 (deuterium), and hydrogen-3 (tritium). These all are hydrogen atoms, and thus have the same number of protons. On the periodic table, it can be seen that hydrogen has 1 proton (because 1 is hydrogen’s atomic number). Therefore 1H, 2H, and 3H each have 1 proton. Yet their atomic masses are different. All isotopes of an element have different atomic masses.

Okay, but what is atomic mass? Electrons have a very small mass. It is so small that, in measurements, it is practically insignificant. That is why, when figuring out the atomic mass of an atom, we ignore the mass of the electrons. Hmm. So what do we pay attention to? Well, we pay attention to the mass of protons and neutrons, but that’s it. When finding out the mass of an atom, you add the mass of its protons to the mass of its neutrons, ignoring the electrons’ mass completely.

So, the (atomic) mass of an atom = proton mass + neutron mass.

All protons have the same mass. So if you know how many protons there are in an atom, you multiply that number by the proton mass to get the mass of the protons for that atom. All neutrons have the same mass. (All electrons have the same mass, too, though you won’t need to deal with electrons’ mass.)

This is logic right here. Check it out. You have isotopes 1H, 2H, and 3H, all hydrogen isotopes. We still don’t know what isotopes are–what makes one isotope of hydrogen different from another hydrogen isotope. (I couldn’t explain it to you right away because there was background knowledge you needed in order to understand.) But we know that all hydrogen isotopes have the same number of protons, and thus the same proton mass.

Here. The bold text is what is the same. It’s very simple. The atomic masses are different, but the proton mass is the same. Well, atomic mass is proton mass + neutron mass, and so the neutron masses must be different.

Atomic mass of 1H = proton mass + neutron mass

Atomic mass of 2H = proton mass + neutron mass

Atomic mass of 3H = proton mass + neutron mass

That’s it. Every isotope of an element (like hydrogen for example) has a different number of neutrons. Different number of neutrons means different neutron mass, which means a different atomic mass. So as you have seen, not all of hydrogen’s atoms have the same mass. If all of hydrogen’s atoms had the same mass, that number would go on the periodic table, no doubt. But since that is not the case, but a number must go on the periodic table, the average mass of all of hydrogen’s natural isotopes is used. After all, we need to know the (atomic) mass of 1 hydrogen atom to perform calculations… and it wouldn’t be practical to find out how many 3H or 2H or 1H isotopes there are when performing calculations, would it? Not when you’re dealing on such a large scale. You see, we are massive, as Hank Green put it. We don’t think of ourselves that way, yet we are. We consist of such tiny things, but we deal with enormous things. A grain of rice is enormous, when you think of all the atoms that make it up. So… it wouldn’t be practical to be perfectly accurate, because that would require knowing too much.

Moving on. What’s in a name? Why is the hydrogen-1 isotope labelled that way? How are isotopes named? By the way, let me mention that those 3 hydrogen isotopes (1H, 2H, 3H) can also be written as 1H, 2H, and 3H.

The way you distinguish one isotope from another is that you write the element name or symbol, along with the mass of that isotope.

Carbon-14 (14C) for example, is a carbon isotope with an atomic mass of 14.003242. 3H (hydrogen-3/ tritium) is a hydrogen isotope with an atomic mass of 3.0160492.

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Image result for sputnik 1 size

Sputnik 1 was launched by the Soviet Union on October 4 in 1957, beginning the Space Age. Sputnik 1 became the Earth’s first artificial satellite. (The Earth already had a satellite at the time: the moon. A satellite can be an artificial object placed in orbit around a celestial body (like a moon or planet) for communication or information-gathering purposes. A satellite also can be one celestial body in orbit around another.) The Russian word for satellite is спутник, and it sounds like “sputnik.” That is how the satellite acquired its name.

As you can see from this picture, the satellite was not very big, measuring just 22 inches in diameter.

Image result for sputnik size

Sputnik 1 was about 184 pounds and took about 1 hour and 30 minutes to circle the Earth. It moved at 18,000 miles per hour. Its orbital was not perfectly circular, but rather elliptical. Its apogee was 584 miles; its perigee was 143 miles.

The apogee of an orbit is the point of the orbit that is farthest from the orbited body. A satellite in orbit around a body (e.g. a planet around the Sun) is farthest from the body when it reaches the apogee.

On the contrary, the perigee of an orbit is the point of the orbit that is closest to the orbited body. A satellite in an orbital will be closest to the orbited body when it is at perigee.

It could be seen with binoculars only before sunrise or after sunset–but not while the sun was in the sky. Sputnik 1 was about 10 times bigger than the satellite the U.S. had planned on sending into orbit… next year. In January 1958, the satellite burned up in the orbit as expected, and on that same month the U.S. launched the satellite Explorer. This fairly rapid advance in the U.S. space effort was largely due to the banding together of the scientific community, the military, and the government to catch up to the Soviets. This started the Space Race.

Monday

(Warning: here the post gets more personal)

I’m in the room, it’s a typical Tuesday night,

I’m listening to the kind of music she doesn’t like

And she’ll never know your story like I do

That song hasn’t gotten old. I love the melody, and sometimes the song can even be tragic, like right now.

I can relate to something about the yearning in the singer’s voice.

Yesterday my feelings were all… confused and jumbled, and I had to let it out, so I began to write to you. But once I had written out all my mess, I deleted it all.

I wonder if F. Scott Fitzgerald, the writer of The Great Gatsby, also had more to say but refrained from doing so out of fear, shame, and whatnot. Probably. Homosexuality wasn’t as accepted in the time of his writing it, though I have no idea what his sexuality was.

But… well, you could say my current state of uncertainty and introspection, my current melancholy feelings, are due to my reading of the book I just mentioned. It occurred to be that Nick might be in love with Gatsby, but I guess I’ve long lost sensitivity to romantic feelings between two members of the same sex. I didn’t notice so many things that were pointed out to me by others. But once I neared the end of the book…

Warning: spoilers

…and after I had already started watching the most recent movie in class, I looked something up about the book. It was unrelated. But I saw that that was a search–that others had wondered if Nick loved Gatsby.

It was too late to read the whole story with that belief in mind. I was at the end of the story by then. It was after Gatsby died. But the idea that Nick might be infatuated with him gave the entire story a different meaning. It changed every aspect of it. I felt compassion and sadness. Frustration and hopelessness. My previously indifferent feelings for Nick became much more understanding and sympathetic.

I understood many things about the book. Gatsby, for example, is the one person the book is all about. Nick approves of him even after he disapproves of everyone else. But why? Gatsby was dishonest and shallow. He engaged in illegal activities to gain his money, he sought to destroy Tom and Daisy’s marriage, he was in the car that killed Myrtle and ran from the scene. What made Gatsby special? I myself had a more objective perspective. I may have been a bit harsher on Gatsby, but I wasn’t infatuated with him. Love warped Nick’s judgement.

It was a love story. Love existed between so many characters but the most obvious love was invisible to my eyes until others pointed it out. I was initially slightly opposed to thinking of the story in that way–I was opposed to thinking of Nick as gay. Not because I have anything against it, but because it didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t see it. But then I thought it through a bit more, and my opinion has changed.

And that’s a big deal. Romantic love and sexuality are a big deal.

This is an aspect where I find it a little hard to be open about my own feelings. I feel especially weak and vulnerable, especially exposed, especially afraid. I am hesitant to write, hesitant to share. It shouldn’t be the way. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Because… something like this is so tender and intimate, and its hard to expose yourself when you expect mostly rejection. But I have to be the change I want to see. I want to see people accepting themselves and their differences more, not hiding who they are. That starts with me. I have to exit my comfort zone and do what I believe is the proper thing.

So… here is what I wrote yesterday. It’s a little late. I’ll put in between hyphens (-):

I want to write about something personal that is completely irrelevant… and that may be a bit uncomfortable for you. But it’s been bothering me, and this isn’t just an educational blog.

It’s interfering with my work. I’m trying to study for finals, but I keep thinking about this problem which seems… relevant. The more romance I see everywhere, the more I see relationships come into existence, bloom, and wither, the more I think about my own life, my own partner. And what he or she will be like.

I’m confused. I’ve been that way ever since my trauma, I think. It upset me deeply. It painted all of human sexuality in a negative light. It made me afraid of not having control, it made me repulsed by the thought of being dominated. The things I did in hopes of never being dominated, of always having control, completely changed my personality. I had a more artistic nature then. I wanted to become a writer. But I thought science would give me more control. Day after day, new activities changed the wiring in my brain and the course of my life. I don’t like to talk much more about it than I think is necessary, and of course you weren’t able to witness the change, but it was an extreme change–proving that the trauma deeply affected/ changed me.

The thing I think is unfortunate is that in romance, there always seems to be someone who is more dominant. I don’t know how well that works, because this has led to feelings of inequality which have resulted in an unhappy partnership for both.

To further complicate matters is the fact that I may be asexual. (Someone who is does not experience sexual attraction, but still can have sex and enjoy it/ feel romantic attraction/ desire a partner…)

If I am, then that explains why I don’t have those strong feelings of sexual attraction which would really help me sort all this out. For a time I thought marriage was pointless… for a time, I thought the best thing was a partnership with someone who you loved for their mind… but there are so many interesting people out there if you give them the chance, and yet I don’t feel… that kind of love for them.

Whatever “that kind of love” means. I have kept coming back to fictional writing…  not journal writing anymore though because I guess I’ve given up on solving these problems. I’ve thought it through for years, always thinking I’ve come to some conclusion on who I am and then trashing it because I see its flaws. I’m sick of this tiresome cycle, and I haven’t any faith in finding an answer. But I want to, because… nobody wants to be crippled. Nobody wants to see everyone else feeling something you can’t feel. You keep on grasping at it, out of hope that never really fades, thinking that maybe you have been looking in the wrong place.

You don’t want to accept that you just can’t feel the same way. It’s too sad, too lonely… it means that one form of happiness will be forever beyond your grasp.

For some reason I’m reminded of Gatsby, reaching out to the green light across the bay where Daisy is. Gatsby is part of the reason I’m in this mess. That shallow book turned things around again. I was fine not knowing, I finally decided I was okay not knowing, but that book consumed hours of my life in which I couldn’t help but wonder… what it felt like to be in love. To really love someone. But does it matter? Has anyone really found it? I don’t even know what I’m looking for. Passion? It won’t last. Can it last? I haven’t seen it last in anyone.

Occasional passion, then? I don’t know if that exists. Familial love, friendship? Pshh, I already have that but that’s not what I’m craving. I wonder if this craving is one I should suppress. If it’s pointless.

There are so many questions. So many possible scenarios. So many conflicts within myself. I did like boys once. But it was a time in which I hadn’t even considered girls. I haven’t felt that again, that deep attraction. I wonder if I felt it toward boys only because I had not considered girls a possibility… I wonder if that feeling has stopped because I’ve grown as a person… I wonder if I suppressed it somehow,  I wonder if my preferences have shifted. I wonder if any of it matters. For a while, like I said, I thought it didn’t matter at all. I put the matter to rest. I buried the issue and pretended it wasn’t one. It was almost great. But then The Great Gatsby had to be read for school… and it made romance and love… so important. I couldn’t help but compare myself and my situation, and want to understand that feeling. Sometimes I even sort of wish I could understand… sexual attraction. Here, hovering where I am, not knowing where I stand, I feel lost, unsure of my identity… and scared that I can’t feel that way at all. Scared that I’ll never be able to understand what it seems that everyone else understands without having to think about it. Attraction.

I know that it involves the body, and beauty… but doesn’t it also involve personality? It seemed Gatsby loved Daisy for her beauty and her manner but not much more. It seemed he felt attraction but not love. I wonder if part of what confuses me is that people mix up attraction with love very easily. Like people mix up university with college, they use those terms interchangeably. Because there are times when I feel that, not attraction but love, some sort of feeling that’s intense and where I feel I want to be with someone and give to that person all I can. I compiled a list of the personality traits all the people who have made me feel this way, even if only for brief moments. Most of them are female, but I think that’s because these personality traits are more common in women.

Maybe… I think that love is more important than attraction. I wonder how one would classify this love, since it seems sort of romantic in nature, but I hesitate to say ‘romantic’ because I associate it with other things I don’t feel. If I feel that for a certain person, but then I label it romantic, I expect myself to feel physical attraction. And I feel that others expect if from me, and I begin to notice appearances more, focusing more on what I feel that I should, and losing sight of what I loved about them in the first place.

Sigh. And I really just told you the tip of the iceberg. It gets pretty complex. I have all sorts of issues when it comes to this. There are so many conflicts, there are so many possible answers, there is so much I am possibly hiding for myself, there are so many answers I don’t want to hear.

When I used to feel that way… attracted to those individuals, I didn’t think about dominance. If I hadn’t been through the trauma which made me feel aversion for being controlled, perhaps I wouldn’t have minded it so much, perhaps I would have felt something which I may only be suppressing now. Another thing–perhaps I would’ve been more okay with being vulnerable. Now I’m very afraid of it. I’m ashamed of it. I don’t want anyone to control me… but I wonder if I’m denying certain aspects of myself. A primitive nature I can’t change.

After all, we can’t change things like sexuality. For someone like me, that’s a very uncomfortable truth. I don’t want to not be able to choose for myself what I want… I don’t want my primitive nature to have desires which clash with my superego‘s wishes. It may be id vs. superego.

I’m currently almost entirely opposed to the thought of liking boys. I’m afraid of being… weaker somehow if I do. Even as I say this I know it doesn’t sound right–I know I shouldn’t associate femininity with weakness, right? I’m afraid of being physically weaker, of being vulnerable in any way. I don’t want to give up any control. I don’t want the partner to take control and for me to let them.

I actually… realize that the whole conflict may be a result of my trauma. And other things. I realize that my confusion may stem from my desire to battle all these things, from my inability to accept defeat. I realize that my feelings may be oppressed or tangled with all my denial and fear so that I can’t see clearly how I really feel, or who I really am…

Because for one thing, I’m too afraid to accept whatever my real feelings about anything are. But it’s stupid… it’s such a stupid mistake to make, and yet here I am making it…

What is it I always criticize people for? For not accepting reality and instead believing in a more comfortable truth?

I guess it’s as my mom said. When we criticize others, we should look at ourselves and see if we aren’t making the same mistakes.

This is me talking on Monday again. I didn’t even read what I wrote yesterday–I don’t really want to.

I feel this incurable sadness for Nick’s condition. He was a real person (not technically)–or at the very least he represents people who really have undergone such suffering.

There’s some aspect of me that loves feeling emotional pain. Maybe that’s common and you’ll be able to relate. Sad stories suck, but there’s still something about pain that feels good. Even when I’m crying, it feels good. Sadness can be addictive in a way. But I guess happiness is better.

Sad stories leave me with a hole I can’t fix, something that will fade with time. Sadness is beautiful in its own way, like the rain. But what really hurts is that Nick was in pain.

And though I wish it would, writing can’t fix that, because writing can’t fix his situation.

Walk in the streets, just you and your worn-out jeans

I can’t help thinking this is how it ought to be

Laughing on a park bench thinking to myself

Hey, isn’t this easy?

I don’t feel infatuation quite so easily anymore. Yesterday I forgot the word, but I remembered it now. It’s what I felt for Carl Sagan. It’s not realistic. It’s not real love. But it’s terribly intense and it’s real–it’s not like those feelings don’t exist. And when you feel that way it’s this terrible frustration, isn’t it? It’s where you almost worship someone, where you idealize them terribly?

It’s what Nick did with Gatsby, and what Gatsby did with Daisy. Despite all her wrong doings, I can’t help but like Daisy. I want her to be happy. I just don’t want anyone to be sad if I can help it, understand. It was a mess, because there was no way all three (Daisy, Gatsby, and Nick) could all get what they really wanted.

But… when I see videos like this one, where the melody carries emotions and allows me to be more in-tune with people’s feelings, I understand feelings like infatuation better.

And it’s so tragic how Nick never could get one little bit of satisfaction. We can never have all our needs met, but Nick never even had a chance, and that’s what messes my feelings up.

Because he knew that Gatsby would never look at him the way he wanted.

Because for all his feelings, he never received anything.

None were ever satisfied.

And you’ve got a smile that could light up this whole town

I haven’t seen it a while since she brought you down

You say you’re fine I know you better than that

What’cha doing with a girl like that?

Thanks for reading…

Freud and psychoanalysis

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4/27/17

Freud and psychoanalysis

Freud_notes.jpg

I didn’t want to continue taking notes on paper because I worry it’ll be harder for you to read the content. Taking notes on my computer while I’m reading is also too difficult, so I borrowed my dad’s mini iPad to write down thoughts during my reading. We’ll see how it works out.

I remember thinking yesterday, as I took these notes, about how these psychology concepts applied to me. When younger, I think I used to be more dominated by the id. That really makes sense, considering how, during adolescence, connections strengthen between the frontal lobes and the limbic system. The limbic system is the emotional part of our brains, whereas the frontal lobes are rational and are responsible for our higher-level thinking. The frontal lobes have more control over the limbic system thanks to this, which means that we have more control over our emotions.

 

This video brings back some old memories. I remember when I was thing a lot about the fascinating thought that a person could have 2 consciousnesses in their head. If this interests you, search up “split brain.” See, the narrator of the video mentioned the corpus callosum, which connects the brain’s two hemispheres. Epilepsy used to be treated by severing the connection, by cutting the corpus callosum in half and thus cutting off communication between both hemispheres. They kept operating independently, separately conscious.

Anyway, I think that for some time (I wasn’t liberated from myself until recently) I was dominated by the superego.

“Someone with an exceptionally strong superego may be virtuous yet, ironically, guilt-ridden” as I was every night. I was striving for perfection and I was very disappointed because I couldn’t reach it. Now I think I’m dominated by the ego, which is perfect. I understand the superego’s ideals, and I understand the id’s wishes (remember how I was talking yesterday about drives/motives?)–but now I operate on the reality principle, as the ego does.

The superego operates on ideals, the id on the pleasure principle, but now I recognize reality and seek a balance. I understand I can’t be perfect. Awkwardness is a reality, and though my superego is never satisfied by anything I do, I understand now that my superego never can be. That understanding allows me to actually try things, because I know I may fail and that’s there isn’t anything I can do about that. I try not to make mistakes but I’m just human, and I understand that now. That’s why I keep writing on this blog–because if I waited until I was comfortable, until I was perfect, I would never write at all. Sometimes there are things I tell you which I regret, and I always understand that sharing yourself is exposing yourself to criticism. Even Freud received loads of criticism for his work. While I don’t agree with everything he thought, I think he was important and had great potential, and I’m glad he shared. Charles Darwin was very afraid of criticism, and put off publishing his theory of evolution for a long time. He was pushed to publish when someone else began figuring the same thing out. Darwin had a lot of evidence at the time.

Totally irrelevant but awesome: https://youtu.be/ppyzZYNROV8

Maybe you won’t appreciate it much if you don’t watch the show, though (Steven Universe). You can’t love characters you don’t know, and without love things are less beautiful.

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Freud theorized there were 5 psychosexual stages. Talking about this personally bothers me, but I do see the sense in what he thought and that’s something to focus on: the sense and system of his theory, how different ideas are connected. Here’s a chart:

Freuds_5_psychosexual_stages.jpg

What I think is interesting is that according to Freud, when straight children realize they can’t beat their same-sex parent, they try to be like them, and this includes copying their values. The superego holds our ideals, our views of how things should be, and when children copy their parent’s views of how things should be, their own superego is developed. I guess I haven’t appreciated Freud that much in the past, but now I realize more deeply that he was a great thinker.

I don’t know whether Freud was right or not. I’d like to think sexuality doesn’t matter that much to us humans, but I realize we’re still animals. We can’t separate ourselves from who we are. Some people choose to deny human nature, not accepting evolution, for instance. Some things about us are very disappointing to me. But I won’t close myself to the truth because of that.

Freud did all this thinking attempting to find explanations for symptoms he saw in his patients which he couldn’t explain using traditional methods. He searched for psychological causes for the symptoms.

Just a sec. You know how I’m studying for my AP psychology exam which is why I’m rereading all this? I’ve read all this before–yet I had a different motivation before. Before, just like right now, I read it partly because I had to, but whereas before I also read it to learn and remember (not enjoy it), this time I’m reading it to enjoy it. This time around, I understand concepts better, remember more things, and connect ideas better. And that wasn’t even my intention. Something to note, as I may find it useful in the future to be reminded of this.

Anyway, Freud thought conflicts during the psychosexual stages could cause conflicts in the future. For example, someone who had been deprived of oral gratification during the oral stage might be fixed on that stage as an adult, seeking pleasure orally (e.g. by smoking or overeating). Being fixed on a stage is called fixation. Freud thought sexuality was very important to personality. And I wonder about the truth of that.

I can certainly see the impact of our gender, sexuality, and romantic orientation on our personalities. I can see gender differences, so pronounced, just because of gender… femininity/masculinity certainly impacts people’s self-expression…

And of course, why wouldn’t sex and romance–related to reproduction–be a big deal to us? If we were all asexual, we would have a lower chance of passing on our genes. The reason I’m here is because my ancestors passed on their genes through reproduction.

“Anxiety, said Freud, is the price we pay for civilization. As members of social groups, we must control our sexual and aggressive impulses, not act them out. But sometimes the ego fears losing control of this inner war between the demands of the id and the superego, and the result is… anxiety…”

This made me pause. I do understand that. Sometimes I feel a bit anxious about whether my ego will be able to maintain the balance. My superego demands I stay in STEM, and desires I not turn to art too much. I guess what I’m afraid of is returning to the land of fantasy, creativity, and art, and losing too much control over my emotions. I worry that the more artistic I become, the more emotional I will become, and the more power my id will have over me. I worry about my impulses being unchecked, because I don’t want to be like other teens who get addicted to social media or games… I don’t want my id to make me value instant gratification over long-term rewards. I don’t want to live in the present that much, where my willpower begins to wane… because what about my homework? What about being responsible? It’ll be more difficult. That’s why I feel a bit of anxiety every day, because I worry I will slowly shift to allow my id more and more, until it has the upper hand, like it used to when I was a child, like it does in some adults.

This morning I was dreaming of animation. I think it would be really cool to learn to do that, but there are only so many hours in the day and I must choose what I will do each day. I was thinking about it, but I can’t help but worry a little bit. I’m afraid of satiating my emotions too much because I worry about making them stronger and losing control. So I try to maintain a balance (which is where I do a lot of unemotional activities and just have a little bit of emotional gratification each day. I’m a very happy person, not to worry!).

Freud thought that to battle this anxiety, the ego unconsciously distorted reality. The 6 defense mechanisms mentioned by the text I’m reading (Psychology, eighth edition in modules by David. G. Myers) are:

– Repression

– Regression

– Reaction formation

– Projection

– Rationalization

– Displacement

“Repression banishes anxiety-arousing thoughts and feelings from consciousness” meaning that, according to Freud, they were either in the unconscious or preconscious. Freud viewed the mind as an iceberg, with a tiny bit of ice sticking out of the water, and most of it under the water. The part under the water was the unconscious. The part above the water was the conscious, and the part between conscious and the unconscious (a fine line, the surface of the water) was the preconscious. The preconscious contained unconscious thoughts, feelings, and memories which could still be accessed by the person. Freud really studied his patients’ dreams because he thought that dreams would allow him a glimpse into their unconscious. He thought the manifest content (what the dreamer dreamt) was a censored expression of the dream’s latent content (the unconscious material behind the dream).

He also used free association to try to better understand the patients’ background and unconscious mind. He thought that in the unconscious there might be causes for the symptoms they were showing. Free association was where his patients said whatever came to mind, no matter how trivial or embarrassing. I don’t know if I personally would have been able to do that. However, his patients’ setting helped–they laid comfortably on his famous couch, stacked high with pillows, and faced away from him.

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I would write more, but unfortunately I have too much homework and too many projects. I will get back to you on this whenever I have time. Thanks for reading!

Psychology, trauma, romance, and sexuality

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4/24/17

It’s been a while. I have an AP psychology exam this Monday (May 1st) so I’m rereading all my psychology papers and notes from the whole year to remember these subjects. I’m having fun, thank goodness. All activities can seem daunting—but they can all be enjoyable, as well. All I have to do is remind myself to enjoy them, and that’s what I end up doing.

I have a piece of paper on my desk that says “ENJOY EVERYTHING!” and which constantly reminds me of this. Before each activity, I sincerely promise to enjoy it. Then I do. It amazes me that it’s so simple. That applies to everything. Sometimes I focus on remembering every detail, or understanding everything, or doing it quickly—those are some of my “default settings” which I have to consciously override. Unless I remind myself of my new objective, I find it easy to revert back to my old reasons for doing things. That results in me not enjoying things.

So, while I read from my psychology papers, I’ll give you a crash course of what I learned this year, minus what I already started writing in my composition notebook. I did the math and I have to read like 11 pages a day, many of them double-sided. (If that sounds daunting, imagine what I would be like for me if I found the activity unenjoyable. That’s why I can’t allow myself to not appreciate things—people, relationships, opportunities, subjects, work, leisure.

The hippocampus (I may revisit some terms) forms new memories and is involved in the modulation of the RAS (Reticular Activating System). It compares sensory information with what is expected.

During adolescence, connections between the frontal lobes and the limbic system strengthen, allowing the individual to be more rational and make better decisions. The limbic system is the emotional part of our brains, and the frontal lobes play a role with decision-making, planning, social judgement… etc. When the frontal lobes are more connected to the limbic system, we have more control over our emotions.

“neu·ro·trans·mit·ter

a chemical substance that is released at the end of a nerve fiber by the arrival of a nerve impulse and, by diffusing across the synapse or junction, causes the transfer of the impulse to another nerve fiber, a muscle fiber, or some other structure.”

There are neurotransmitters operating in our brains.

We have selective attention. Our attention operates like a spotlight, allowing us to focus well on a limited number of things. None of us can truly multitask: though we may imagine we can, our quality of work in each activity during multitasking decreases.

4/26/17

I haven’t been writing much here because I’ve been busy at home and have been doing my psychology reading at school. When I write down information, I do so on physical paper as opposed to on a tablet or something—so you haven’t been seeing that information.

There are so many observations I make, so many things that demand my attention, so many new things that I learn. One undeniable aspect of the human condition is attraction. Sometimes I see the more human parts of us—such as analysis or writing that only humans can do—but sometimes I see the more animal parts of us. Like animals, we get hungry, for example. Like animals, most of us have the drive to perform the action necessary for reproduction (sex). We also feel romantic attraction because, thanks to them, bonds between partners are stronger. It all makes sense. I used to be very angered by sex. It was partly due to mild childhood trauma (it affected my life immensely but still was not that bad compared to others). I wasn’t abused, but I became aware of abuse. My dad got me this book he didn’t read the summary of, a book about a girl who sold herself to get the money needed to survive. I was horrified. That was not the only factor. My virgin mind had been protected forever until then by my parents, who had very carefully shielded me. One tiny mistake was a big shock for me. I was also horrified by the things shown to me by my cousin who babysat me. He was very into all that, as many males seem to be, and I guess he didn’t understand my perspective.

I had many problems after that. Right now, I consider myself asexual, though I wonder if I’ve repressed that nature because of my trauma. I can’t remember much about my childhood, but I have good reason to believe I really am asexual. Which means I don’t feel sexual attraction to anyone. I really don’t. Here’s some evidence: I tried to suppress my romantic feelings (and other behaviors and feelings) but it was difficult to suppress myself and there were always hints—I was never able to completely suppress and erase all the other aspects of myself which existed before my trauma. However, I can’t remember having ever felt even the slightest bit of sexual attraction.

Whatever. I don’t care that much. If it’s not a need of mine, then it just isn’t—if I can’t feel that like everyone else, then I just can’t. It doesn’t seem very important, anyway. I mean, I can see that to everyone else sex matters (how much it matters varies per person), but I don’t need it in my life to feel fulfilled and happy. In fact, without that motivation, my motivations are simpler and my life is easier to manage. It’s already hard enough for me to balance my life with my current motivations. I have my motivation for work, my motivation for romance… and these are the two main ones that battle it out. My romantic drive is easy to satisfy, but I’m a slave to that motivation. Which means that I can’t help it. I was just thinking about that, which is the reason why I started this post. Sexual attraction bothers me. The thought of people feeling it for me insults me. I think it’s shallow and I can’t help feeling a bit against it. After all, sexual attraction has been damaging. Innocent children have been abused, women especially have been overly sexualized in society, and it disturbs me. It disturbs me that people feel it. It bothers me that men generally are pretty interested in sex, which makes the objects of their desire appear like objects, and I wish they were more interested in relationships, in knowing people…

It bothers me when you see cartoons and you can always tell when the cartoonist is sexually aroused. I know it’s not objectively wrong. I understand it can’t just go away. But more than that, I understand that people can’t help that desire. They can help their actions—but they can’t just shut off that desire. Just like I can’t shut off my romantic desire, just like people that aren’t cisgender, heterosexual and heteroromantic can’t help themselves.

But the main thing I have against it, I think, is that it’s so insult, so humiliating, so degrading. The trauma still affects me. I learned to think of sexual attraction as something degrading to the object of the attraction.

I guess that’s my problem.

But it just always makes me sad.

You don’t love someone for who they are on the outside. You love someone for who they are on the inside. You can’t fall in love at first sight. That’s called infatuation. Another thing that makes me sad, I guess, is the relationship between my parents. They’re both attractive people, to be honest. They married each other not long after meeting.

I hate to see my dad express his sexual attraction for my mom. It’s so stupid. They don’t have a deep and meaningful relationship as friends, but rather he just desires her physically. I hate that. She loves him like you’re supposed to love a person—she loves him for who he is, but hates the emotional disconnect, the lack of friendship. I hate how much he looks at her when she wears make-up, I hate that he compliments her on her appearance, like it’s the most important part of a partner. I hate the romantic model in society, it’s so stupid. I’m not saying that because I’m mad, but because it’s literally ridiculous.

Despite my romantic attraction, I don’t expect I will choose a partner because of romantic attraction to them. I care about our relationship and friendship.

Flow, space, history

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4/16/17

Gosh, I begin so many projects when I haven’t even finished previous ones… I haven’t even finished that wonderful episode of Cosmos because now I’m thinking about flow.

“In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”

I’m about to watch a TED Talk about flow titled Flow, the secret to happiness. (How am I supposed to resist starting something else with that kind of title?) You can find it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow

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Hmm. A state of extreme focus. One music composer said he lost his sense of self, and he did because there’s only so much information we can process at one moment, and during this state of consciousness in psychology, our attention is elsewhere. We ignore hunger and other sensations, and time seems to pass. I know this feeling. This feeling of fully being one with a subject. Before I knew the word “flow,” I knew the feeling. I remember stumbling across this picture and bringing the feeling to mind:

I once felt this way for like a whole week. I spent it on debate.org, reading other commenters’ discussion before I could add my own thoughts. I analyzed their words, I thought it through. I came to the conclusion that free will doesn’t actually exist. It was beautiful… it was fun, exciting, passionate. But then the spark began to die as it became repetitive and monotonous.

Csikszentmihalyi shows a chart, which shows that flow is reached when the challenges are high and our skills are high. I know this feeling. It’s an enjoyable feeling. I don’t think it always feels the same way, but it’s the feeling of being engaged and interested. Some people may have more ecstatic experiences, if ecstasy is the feeling of being out of reality, but even the amount of flow I experience is very nice. I remember I experienced flow more often when I did what I wanted to do, what interested me. When I became interested in competing, and power, and learning just to know and have control and not to really love and enjoy the material, I didn’t experience flow as often.

I enjoy explaining things, understanding things, tackling difficult problems. Explaining how to tackle difficult problems. I can experience flow in math when solving difficult math problems. Something that depresses me about my math class is that the teacher breaks the math down until it’s extremely simple. He doesn’t show us the why so much, and he removes all of math’s elegant beauty. Then he has us do more problems than necessary which make it too repetitive and boring. Sigh. But math is still very beautiful. When you don’t visit something, it appears as a stranger does—but I remember how I used to think math was my greatest love. Now math seems distant because I’ve been doing other things. In the same way, my dad seemed distant until today.

I refuse to let happiness pass me by. I will continue to pursue my interests and do things out of enjoyment! I will find this state of flow and learn more about it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOLAGYmUQV0

“Those are some of the things that molecules do

Given 4 billion years of evolution…”

4/17/17

This is the Orion Constellation:

Within the constellation is the Orion Nebula,  a huge, interstellar cloud of glowing gas in the Milky Way. It is 1500 light years from Earth.

4/18/17

Returning to that first episode of Cosmos, pulsars are found within supernova remnants. There are supernova remnants in our home galaxy (the Milky Way): debris of stellar explosions which sent out “star stuff” into space. The first pulsar discovered was thought to be a sign of alien intelligence because pulsars keep perfect time in their spinning.

Since yesterday, I’ve been reading from my U.S. history book’s chapter on the civil rights movement. It’s been interesting, but when I focus on one thing for too long without breaks, I get overwhelmed—and I have been forced to read almost the whole chapter to fill out a packet that was due today. I think the information I’ve learned is very interesting—some is very moving—and I want to share it. I was surprised to have received as many likes as I did on my last post. I tend to assume that me sharing personal information, or getting off topic in general or whatnot, is bothersome.

Rosa Parks was riding on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama—behind the white section—when she was asked to get up and move so a white man for whom there was no seat in the white section could sit down. (When public facilities were segregated, that meant that blacks and whites were separated.) I don’t understand why she had to move. The bus driver told all the blacks in Parks’ row to move, and they all did (there were 3 others) except for her: the white man could have sat down in one of the other, now-emptied seats without a problem. Maybe there’s something I’m missing, maybe there’s something I misunderstood, or maybe I shouldn’t expect rationality in an area (race) where these people have shown to be irrational. By that, I mean to say that the racist folk which agreed with segregation were irrational when it came to race equality, though that does not mean they were irrational in other fields/ subjects/ areas. (We all sometimes are irrational when it comes to certain things, but that temporary irrationality doesn’t mean we are always irrational.)

And to be objectively truthful… everything has a logical explanation. No matter how irrational it seems, it is not truly random. There is an explanation that makes sense. People operate in ways that make sense. The mystery is removed when the operating mechanisms are revealed—when all the reasons for why people act as they do are revealed. I don’t think racism was correct, but the truth is it’s perfectly understandable. I think that the idea of white supremacy is disgusting and shameful. But it’s not without reason. Just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it’s right—what I’m saying is that it makes sense, but it is still wrong.

Hate is not the answer. Not even for the people that have committed the worst atrocities, I suppose. Hate is not the answer because hate is destructive and blind. When you have hate, you get nothing from it. When you have love, you get everything from it. Love is what gives life meaning. Love is creative. I know that hate cannot be the answer because when I feel hate I want to destroy. I don’t care about others’ in that moment, and I feel compelled to destroy—inflicting damage brings satisfaction. Isn’t that so terrible? Yet when one feels love, that is not negative. One seeks to help somebody else.

I hated my brother for a time. I had no reason. When I decided to let go of that desire to harm him and allowed love to change me, I realized his importance, his beauty, his similarities, his positive attributes. And I never wanted anyone to hurt him, because that is what love is. Now when I get upset, I withdraw, as I said, because I understand that love is the answer. And anyone can be loved. We can feel empathy for people.

Sometimes I want to write a story in such a way as to make the reader feel regret and be moved. Slave narratives had such an effect on American society. These narratives were written by slaves that had escaped to the north, and the stories allowed people to place themselves in the slaves’ shoes and understand their struggles more deeply. Judging from the state the world is in, it seems that not enough people understand that hate is wrong, and so I sometimes want to write a story in which I can provide readers my perspective, but not just by telling them, but by showing them. I want to teach them that important lesson I have learned because it frustrates me that people are so quick to hate.

It frustrates me whenever I learn about oppression. The damage caused by hate makes me so sad. And it pisses me off that people keep hurting others because they just don’t get it.

The Freedom Riders were teams of blacks and whites sent south by the leader of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) to spread awareness of the refusal of southern interstate buses to become integrated. There was still segregation, even though such segregation was now illegal. Freedom Riders were viciously attacked in Alabama (more specifically Anniston, Birmingham and Montgomery).

Just because it’s in the past doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It did. And those peaceful protestors were violently beaten. It was so inhumane. I didn’t understand how this could occur—but then I realized that I knew the answer. It was anger—maybe fear also and some other emotions—which allowed for these disgusting atrocities to occur. And I understood it because, with sufficient anger, we can all take part in negative, destructive behaviors that hurt others and many of us might not care at the moment. This hatred is part of human nature. Doesn’t mean it’s right and should be kept.

As my book said:

{the riders emerged… to face a gang of young men armed with baseball bats, chains, and lead pipes. They beat the riders viciously. One witness later reported, “You couldn’t see their faces through the blood.”}

I read this yesterday, so the worst of the anger and outrage has passed. Now I’m addressing it in a more detached manner. It’s so disappointing and frustrating to think that things like this keep happening. And you have to face reality, and you have to consider how to stop the problem. Because the past is in the past, but we cannot allow this to continue. Hatred does things like this. In case the shock hasn’t hit you, in case you view it in a manner that is too detached, just imagine the same thing occurring to someone you love.

Because you could have loved those victims, and if you had known them enough, these news would not be so light.

I can understand why my parents never let me watch the news as a kid. They didn’t want me to be burdened down the way I am now. They didn’t want me to feel frustration, sadness, despair, and a lack of hope. They allowed optimism to exist within me. For the moment, I feel depressed and numb. Like the Anti-Transcendentalists, I am momentarily focused on the dark aspects of human nature.

I must have a balance because I can’t pretend others aren’t suffering just because it makes me feel better. I must be more considerate of others than that.

Yes, I can see how you can lose optimism and faith in humanity if you spend all your time focused on its dark aspects.

4/19/17

The topic of last night was very sad, though it was the reality. I feel the writing was ugly, heavy, and awkward—yet that is human nature. If I only posted content I was perfectly satisfied with, I’d never post anything. Understanding and accepting my imperfect humanity has allowed me to share content and ideas. The fear of being wrong and judged no longer prevents me from posting.

I would like to start over, but I’ll resist the urge.

In the Plessy v. Ferguson case, the Supreme Court declared segregation to be constitutional, establishing the “separate but equal” belief. Segregating laws were called Jim Crow laws. Rosa Parks felt the inequality of segregation on buses, while other blacks felt it when using other public facilities, such as public schools, restaurants, public swimming pools, and parks.

I told you about Parks’ arrest, but not that it got E.D. Nixon’s attention. Nixon was a former president of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and he received Parks’ permission to challenge bus segregation in court. This was typical of the NAACP, which  consistently used the court as a way to battle segregation. Another victory of the NAACP occurred in Morgan v. Virginia when the Supreme Court decided segregation on interstate buses was unconstitutional. Remember when I was telling you about the Freedom Riders? They were protesting the south’s refusal to cease segregation on interstate buses.

You know, I actually am enjoying this explanation. It started off a little shaky as I expected it would, but then I entered a more flow-like rhythm and began connecting ideas. Science is not the only thing that’s fun to explain. I especially enjoy connecting ideas (in general) like you do when you’re explaining a system. When you do that, you show how different things are related, and how they work together, and it all makes sense. I am not waiting for the desire to write to come to me—I am seeking flow and all its satisfaction by writing. Thanks to that memory of the chemistry post, I now don’t expect writing to start off perfectly.

Parks’ act of defiance launched the civil rights movement. Soon after her arrest, the boycott of Montgomery buses began, a protest which would last for over a year. The people who walked to work, or carpooled—or did whatever else they had to to participate in this protest—were in part motivated by Martin Luther King, Jr., a black activist who had been summoned from his duties as pastor

I told you briefly about CORE. Though it was not the first, the organization used sit-ins as a nonviolent method of protest in segregated restaurants and other public facilities, with success.

Linda Brown was an African American who wanted to attend a school in Topeka, Kansas but was told to attend an all-black school instead. Her parents worked with the NAACP to take the case to court. In Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled public school segregation unconstitutional because it was unequal. This was a threat to segregated schools everywhere, many of which found ways to remain segregated.

Cosmos, happiness, flow, the universe

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4/15/17

My posts are in the style of journal entries. I’ve started this one with an article you can find here.

{Remember Your Place In The Universe

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XH7ZRF6zNoc&feature=youtu.be

It’s easy to get caught up in your own problems and forget about the rest of the world. But Carl Sagan’s famous Pale Blue Dot speech reminds us that, no matter how important we might think these problems are, they’re really nothing in the large scheme of things. Sagan says it wonderfully here:

“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

Sagan had plenty more to say about this in his books and on Cosmos, and he echoed a similar idea to his daughter too:

“‘You are alive right this second. That is an amazing thing,’ they told me. When you consider the nearly infinite number of forks in the road that lead to any single person being born, they said, you must be grateful that you’re you at this very second. Think of the enormous number of potential alternate universes where, for example, your great-great-grandparents never meet and you never come to be. Moreover, you have the pleasure of living on a planet where you have evolved to breathe the air, drink the water, and love the warmth of the closest star. You’re connected to the generations through DNA — and, even farther back, to the universe, because every cell in your body was cooked in the hearts of stars. We are star stuff, my dad famously said, and he made me feel that way.”}

It’s all the love he had which made him so wonderful to me.

{Diversify Your Knowledge

It’s easy to get stuck in a single field, then spend all your time thinking about it.}

That’s not really the case for me. I get tired and bored of any subject if I stay with it for too long, and I like switching from one project to another.

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Here’s episode 1 of the series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x10ao6u_cosmos-carl-sagan-a-personal-voyage-episode-1_tech

“qua·sar

ˈkwāˌzär

nounASTRONOMY

noun: quasar; plural noun: quasars

a massive and extremely remote celestial object, emitting exceptionally large amounts of energy, and typically having a starlike image in a telescope. It has been suggested that quasars contain massive black holes and may represent a stage in the evolution of some galaxies.”

The cosmos is immensely vast. One has to picture its vastness to really feel that one is lost within infinity. In Cosmos, Sagan facilitates the understanding of all the universe’s space by allowing us to travel in an imaginary ship. Though I knew it was incredibly vast, and this experience shouldn’t have been too new, it allowed me to see things from a different light nonetheless. There are many different perspectives from which one can view one thing, and that one thing appears differently each time. It’s amazing.

The Hercules Cluster consists of around 200 galaxies which are “about 300 light years apart.” This distance is incredible. When it comes to measuring distances in space, we use light years because of light’s incredible speed and the incredible distance it can travel in a year.

“The Local Group is the galaxy group that includes the Milky Way. The Local Group comprises more than 54 galaxies, most of them dwarf galaxies. Its gravitational center is located somewhere between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy.”

Andromeda is the largest galaxy within the Local Group.

“pul·sar

ˈpəlˌsär

nounASTRONOMY

noun: pulsar; plural noun: pulsars

a celestial object, thought to be a rapidly rotating neutron star, that emits regular pulses of radio waves and other electromagnetic radiation at rates of up to one thousand pulses per second.”

4/16/17

On that day when I was not allowed to use my computer, I spent it reading physical books. I took notes on paper, and though, the day after, I transferred many of those notes to my blog, I didn’t transfer them all. I was talking about The Eerie Silence and Universe, though now I’ll share information from the latter:

Prominences are huge clouds of electrified gas called plasma.

“plas·ma

ˈplazmə

noun

an ionized gas consisting of positive ions and free electrons in proportions resulting in more or less no overall electric charge, typically at low pressures (as in the upper atmosphere and in fluorescent lamps) or at very high temperatures (as in stars and nuclear fusion reactors).”

Prominences travel the sun’s surface, occasionally erupting and releasing plasma into space. This reminds me of the fact that supernovae explosions are a form in which elements are dispersed around the universe.

“su·per·no·va

ˌso͞opərˈnōvə

nounASTRONOMY

a star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness because of a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of its mass.”

The Sun is 8 light minutes away from the Earth, meaning it takes light 8 minutes to travel between these celestial objects. The solar surface has sunspots, which are darker and cooler than other areas on the Sun’s surface.

Some sunspots are larger than Earth! The 4 gas giants in the solar system (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) have rings of dust and ice, though Saturn has the largest ring system.

Because this is a journal post—you were warned—there are personal elements. Since it’s Easter Sunday… wait a second.

*edits site’s tagline*

There. I just declared my site to be my public journal. (Now I don’t feel so guilty about burdening you with personal information)

Since it’s Easter Sunday, and my mom’s Christian, she’ll be going to church soon and expecting me to come with. I’ll have to interrupt my work soon, so I’ll hurriedly share a thought. I was reading this morning about how to be happier. Most of the information I received from that particular article wasn’t surprising: I control my thoughts and have only positive ones. I actually learned in my psychology class that the formula for stress reduction is: perceived control + perceived predictability. Also, I learned that a huge contributor to anxiety about something is negative thoughts. That information has eliminated all of my fear when I have to present before my classes. All I do is stop thinking about the event. Whereas before I obsessively considered different outcomes (what if this happens? What if that happens?!) prior to my presentation, now I focus my attention elsewhere and don’t think about it. Of course, I make sure I’m prepared, but once I am, I don’t overthink it. My presentations are always fine, just like they always were—but I miss out on all that anxiety and stress.

So I don’t really have negative thoughts. But my feelings are a bit harder to control—at least, they always have been. I am getting better at dealing with them, however. Some people are quicker to leap to sadness, others to anger, when they are sad. I’ve always leapt to anger first and that has caused me to damage relationships, others’ happiness, and my own. That is obviously not a good thing. It has caused me to feel hatred, which has not done me, or anyone else, any good. Now, I realize that love is better than hate. When someone I care about (a family member) makes me upset, instead of verbally attacking them like I once would have been keen to do, I let them know what I dislike and withdraw. I’m quicker to release the negativity now. I once held it in, I once thought crying was weak and I wouldn’t allow myself to do it even I was alone. When I’m angry, I want vengeance—yet I know that vengeance is not the answer, and I know that I must let the anger go, so I do. I allow the anger to fade by giving into the sadness and accepting it. Then I move on with my life and forgive. My point is that I do forgive, which is something else that is an important aspect of happiness.

To get to the point, I heard about “flow.” According to the article, it brings immense happiness and satisfaction, and I know because I have been there. Let me show you the part where “flow” was described. I’m not done looking into it, because I want to understand it better so I know how to better tap into it and get the most out of that immersive, desirable experience:

{Happiness Strategy #7: Engage in Meaningful Activities

People are seldom happier, says psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, than when they’re in the “flow.” This is a state in which your mind becomes thoroughly absorbed in a meaningful task that challenges your abilities. Yet, he has found that the most common leisure time activity — watching TV — produces some of the lowest levels of happiness.

To get more out of life, we need to put more into it, says Csikszentmihalyi. “Active leisure that helps a person grow does not come easily,” he writes in Finding Flow. “Each of the flow-producing activities requires an initial investment of attention before it begins to be enjoyable.

So it turns out that happiness can be a matter of choice — not just luck. Some people are lucky enough to possess genes that foster happiness. However, certain thought patterns and interpersonal skills definitely help people become an “epicure of experience,” says David Lykken, whose name, in Norwegian, means “the happiness.”}

To read the full article: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/choosing-to-be-happy#1

.

I was just interrupted by church, and a family get-together. My dad drove us both home, and along the way I felt pretty talkative. I told him what was going on in my life and what I had done earlier today, and I felt a connection with him. I haven’t in a long time. It was pleasant to talk to him.

I was telling him about flow, and my blog, and my thoughts about happiness. I think what I wanted to tell you about flow is that the when the happiness article said the following, I was reminded of the fact that a few days ago when I started the chemistry post, I did not initially feel compelled to write it. In fact, I wondered if it had any meaning, and doubted myself:

{“Each of the flow-producing activities requires an initial investment of attention before it begins to be enjoyable.}

It was only during my writing it that I entered that state of flow which felt so awesome that I wanted to write every day. In the days since, I forgot that flow was something that appeared after starting, and so when I did not feel compelled to start writing, I thought that there would be no flow found if I did write. Reading that article today made me change my mind, and it’s something very important for me to remember. (That’s why I wrote it down.) So I opened my drawer and took out the notes I took that day when I was punished. I decided to keep writing them down, to test my hypothesis. I thought I would not enjoy it, but I am. The post which focused on the sun—which contained these notes—may not have been very fun to write because I was writing mostly facts, and I prefer journal posts, with opinion and personal fact.

I’ve been encouraging my dad to write his own blog, because I am concerned about him. I care so much about him, and I want him to share his ideas, receive others’ ideas, think constructively and whatnot as I’m sure he already does—but I want him to find more joy in his life, and a deeper sense of purpose. I want him to feel that his contribution in the form of knowledge is positively affecting others, and that his intellectual friendship is appreciated and reciprocated. I know that he doesn’t see the impact of his work, and he says he enjoys electronics, but he doesn’t have anyone to share them with. I don’t know about what he does, and neither do my mom or brother. I want him to feel that it has meaning. I want the spark to flick back on and develop into a stable flame.

I love him dearly, and I want him to feel passion and joy. I hate the fact that from the outside, at least, it doesn’t appear to exist anymore. However, I didn’t want it to end badly—I didn’t want his first blogging experience to suck enough for it to be his last one. So I told him that I didn’t have limits on my blog—it’s not a science blog (not that there’s anything wrong with being more focused!), or a math blog, or whatever—it’s literally a “whatever I want to share” blog. Without those limits, I can spread myself out, sharing about whatever I want to: it can truly be a public journal. Because I can’t stand having those kinds of limits, and I feel like those kinds of limits are more suppressive than anything else. They may serve to guide, and give purpose, but they also limit. For me personally, such focused blogs don’t work. My mom’s an artist and she has blogs solely about art—but that’s not my style, and I don’t want my dad to enter something like that and have it be too repressive—that’s not my goal here.

Anyway. Back to what I was writing about before I was interrupted. Of Jupiter’s 63+ moons, Io is its innermost moon. Io is also one of Jupiter’s 4 largest moons, a group referred to as its Galilean moons. The others are Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede. Jupiter is closer to Earth than Saturn is, being 43 light minutes away, whereas Saturn is 79 light minutes away. Within the solar system, Jupiter is the most massive planet. Its Great Red Spot has been known of since the 17th century, and is a raging storm in Jupiter’s atmosphere which appears to be shrinking.

As shown by this image, the Great Red Spot is currently larger than Earth:

It is believed that 25,000 light years away, in the center of our galaxy, there is a black hole as heavy as 3 million Suns. Another galaxy called Centaurus A (about 13 million light years from our planet) has a bigger black hole than we do.

Centaurus A:

The Whirlpool is another galaxy, and is even further from Earth, about 23 million light years from it:

This is pretty long, so I’ll end the post here. As always, thanks for reading!

Truth, objectivity, science, reincarnation?, beauty

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4/14/17

As I journey to find the truth, I must be open-minded and I must trust myself, according to Sagan. However, I can’t exclude the world, and I don’t mean to. I journey about, picking up different ideas and learning different perspectives, and I cannot find the truth if I am not truly objective. True objectivity may be hard. I may get emotionally attached to certain ideas and ways of looking at the world. I may not want my views to be turned around. But I must be accepting of change.

Even religion, which keeps knocking on my door and which I have consistently scowled at, must be allowed inside, and must test my objectivity. I must give it all a chance, because I don’t really know. Just because orthodox science disagrees with something or refuses to give that something a chance doesn’t mean that something is wrong. Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. The fact I don’t have much evidence for religions being true does not mean there is no evidence to be found. It feels a bit like betrayal to be considering more-speculative realms. To consider reincarnation and  parapsychology.

“par·a·psy·chol·o·gy

ˌperəˈkäləjē/

noun

noun: parapsychology

the study of mental phenomena that are excluded from or inexplicable by orthodox scientific psychology (such as hypnosis, telepathy, etc.).”

But it’s what Sagan would have wanted. I will remain skeptical as I am, and I won’t leap to a conclusion I haven’t enough evidence for, no matter how much I want it to be true. My mom’s been “messing” with radical ideas. She’s just begun to dip her feet into the water. She’s listening to different perspectives, and is constantly changing her model of the world. She’s very open-minded. (The Transcendentalists wouldn’t have disagreed with her constant change—they believed there shouldn’t always be consistency—they believed change should always occur.) I’m hesitant to believe everything she says because I haven’t heard that before, and I wonder how much truth there is to it. She says it’s science, but what if it’s just pseudoscience? She says I’m too skeptical but I don’t think so—I think one must be very skeptical, and one must listen to different ideas, not just reject them, but be truly objective. Maybe she believes easily without verifying the science behind others’ perspectives because she is religious, or at the very least has this idea that everything happens for a reason, and that there are no coincidences—which may cause her to think that the perspectives she’s receiving are being sent to her from God, and that she doesn’t need to check them because God would not betray her.

That’s just one of the problems with blind faith…

Sure, the idea of an afterlife appeals to me, and the idea of reincarnation is also better than the prospect of death. So I’m curious, and I want to see what evidence there is. I want to explore those areas and see if those things could be. I’m not giving up on science. I’m doing what a scientist ought to, actually—which is to consider things objectively, even things which one does not think one will believe. I doubt I’ll believe in reincarnation, but I have to give it a chance. Objectivity aligns with my values.

“pseu·do·sci·ence

ˌso͞odōˈsīəns

noun

a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method.”

I’m wary of people who have blind faith. I assume that the people drawn to these speculative subjects want these things to be real—which is perfectly understandable—(and all fields become corrupted) and I worry that the desire to discover that something is true will influence a person, make them biased, and have that bias affect their conclusions. I don’t want lack of truth, in other words. We are imperfect. I understand that, and I have compassion. But still, I am a bit hesitant to just trust in someone whose objectivity I am not certain of.

I used to be afraid of even being exposed to ideas that I automatically thought were “poisonous” because they were untruthful. That caused me to close myself to talk of religion or other unfounded or too-speculative things. and that was not objective. I didn’t even realize that was wrong (according to my values) until Sagan pointed it out to me. He said to listen to listen to all sorts of different ideas and perspectives, as many as possible—to not trust anyone’s ideas without making sure they were reasonable… and whatnot. He’s made me reevaluate myself, because he was better. I think. Not that I don’t have potential, but he had grown more in some areas than me, and it’s like I said—better people sharpen you. And he’s made me grow because he made me look at myself and compare us both—without envy or sadness—and I took from him and improved myself and my life.

Someone once said that comparison was the thief of joy. Well, it doesn’t have to be. It took a bit to get over myself, because I avoided it, I guess. I’ve avoided unpleasant things before and I always come back to them. I didn’t want to accept I wasn’t the best. But I did, and it doesn’t hurt at all. I think I’m capable of amazing things—but I think everyone else is, too. Everyone has fantastic potential. Everyone is special. Why should I be the only one? It took a bit to accept others were just downright better than me. But now that I have accepted that, I’m not so afraid of being confronted by those who are. And now that I’m not afraid of that, I’m going to experience a lot of personal growth. I want to find people who are better, and learn from them. I turned the reality into something positive. You can’t deny the reality, but you can choose what you’ll do about it. Make the best of it, or not?

The following information (aside from the definitions, which I’m getting from Google) come from an article you can find here. I made the article words bold, just like the Google definitions—but whereas the definitions are within quotation marks, the article words are within brackets {}:

{CARL SAGAN: “REINCARNATION DESERVES SERIOUS STUDY.” YEARS LATER & THE RESULTS ARE IN

Carl Sagan, the well-known American astronomer, astrobiologist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, and author passed away in 1996. He was very skeptical of non-mainstream work, and was the same when it came to many topics within the realm of parapsychology. Almost 20 years later, we now have substantial evidence to confirm that various phenomena within the realm of parapsychology are indeed real. Some of these include telepathy, psychokinesis, distant healing, ESP, and many others, including reincarnation.}

“psy·cho·ki·ne·sis

ˌsīkōkəˈnēsis,ˌsīkōˌkīˈnēsis

noun

noun: psychokinesis

the supposed ability to move objects by mental effort alone.”

I don’t know if I trust this article, but I’m giving it a chance. I’m listening and considering. I won’t walk away with a conclusion. I don’t form conclusions that quickly.

ESP is extrasensory perception—the perception of sensations not through the 5 physical senses (smell, sight, hearing, touch, taste).

{Sagan did not brush off the scientific study of these phenomena, in fact, he felt that some of them deserve “serious study.”

“There are claims in the parapsychology field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study,” with [one] being “that young children sometimes report details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation.” (source) (1)}

Something has bothered me. The scientist within me cannot brush aside even evidence that is ignored by the orthodox scientific model of the world that I have reason to believe in. I don’t know how this can be, but before something nasty happens in the family, my mom has a dream about it. My mom’s family is in South America, and we live in the U.S. I’m talking about unexpected things, such as the sudden death of a family member. Even people she’s not directly related to—she had one such dream before my dad’s dad passed away, unexpectedly. He died in China, on his way to the U.S. I was going to see him. It was the 4th of July.

It was worst for my dad. I was too young and I didn’t even realize. I was so detached from the world, focused on objectivity to the point of questioning everything and not allowing morals to make me human. When he died, I didn’t understand it was sad. I still gave my dad a hard time like always. I was completely unaware of his feelings. I saw his distress, but I couldn’t feel any empathy.

Only recently have I begun to change my ideas and allow morals to hit me. And I don’t want to go back, because whereas I didn’t want to be human and imperfect, now I’m glad of my humanity and I cherish it.

I saw being human as getting in the way of finding truth. I saw being human as having morals and emotions and not being a perfectly logical machine. I wanted to accept sense alone. Not things that didn’t make sense, not things like culture and feelings and opinions. When I had to write about my opinion in school, I felt no motivation, because opinion didn’t matter to me.

I was cold and insensitive. I had no regard for my family’s feelings because they didn’t matter to me. I closed myself off to the point of not being able to connect with them, and not being able to feel empathy.

This was ages ago. I’m not that way anymore. I’ve changed so much and I understand what I did not always. I was never trying to do anything wrong. I was doing what I thought was right.

That’s my history. I can’t deny it, I sometimes regret it, I don’t want to hide it.

But that’s not who I am anymore. Now I care about others. I used to find beauty in the cold—in being detached. Now I find it in the warmth. Please forgive what I can’t erase.

Anyway, she dreams of something awful the night before related to them, and she has this unshakable feeling that something is wrong. She’s always right. But there’s no explanation for this that I know of within today’s science. How can that be? How can it be merely coincidence when it is so consistent and reliable?

Of course there’s a reason that makes perfect sense. But what is it that we don’t know? We must explore to answer the questions we have.

{He also mentions two others. One is that, by thought alone, humans can affect random number generators in computers (you can read more about that here), and the other is that people under mild sensory deprivation can receive thoughts or images “projected” towards them (you can read more about that here).

If Sagan were alive today, he would see that the serious scientific study of reincarnation has indeed been undertaken, despite the fact that it is a touchy subject, and the results challenge the belief systems of many.}

But the universe (AKA all of creation) is so beautiful that all its truths are marvelous.

I’m not afraid to learn of how things really are. Because I can’t escape reality anyway, and I’d rather have my eyes open.

The truth is magnificent. You do not need magic as it is in the stories to be real—you need only to be willing to content yourself with the magic of what is. We are so used to it that we can easily become blind to its preciousness and beauty.

{When looking at these topics from a scientific standpoint, it’s a good idea to suspend all belief systems and simply examine the information that’s been gathered from a neutral standpoint (which is, of course, easier said than done).

The Results & What These Reincarnation Cases Look Like

This topic has been studied by numerous scientists who belong to various academic institutions from all over the world, so in the interest of a short on-line read, choosing which studies/examples to share can be a difficult process, given how many of them exist. Worldwide, more than twenty-five hundred specific cases have been examined in great detail, more so where these notions are more culturally accepted (in the East), although cases have been documented on every single continent. For this reason, if you are interested in this topic from a scientific standpoint, we suggest you further your own research beyond what you read here.

One great example comes from University of Virginia psychiatrist Jim Tucker, who in 2008 published a review of cases suggestive of reincarnation in the Journal Explore. (source)

In the article, he describes a typical reincarnation case, where subjects start reporting a past life experience. One common denominator of these cases is that they all involve children, with the average age being 35 months when subjects begin to report their experiences. The experiences reported are often detailed and extensive, and Tucker points out that many of these children show strong emotional involvement when speaking about their claims, some cry and beg to be taken to what they say is their previous family.}

That’s crazy. I’m baffled. I’m glad I read this interesting article. 36 months = 3 years, so the average age at which children begin reporting this is just under 3 years of age. That’s extremely young, which makes it unlikely this could be lying of any form. Their information is accurate, and for them to be emotionally affected in this way… these characteristics make it less likely that it could be a hoax. Yet if not a hoax, how does one explain this?

This is fascinating, but I’d like to move on to something else for the moment. Even fascinating things get monotonous. I’ll end the post here for now. You know where to go if you want to read the full article without my interruptions. Thank you for your time!

The universe, the Cold War, and a balance for enjoyment

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4/9/17

“The cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” – Sagan

The universe is so beautiful that it’s a bit hard to process the fact we ourselves are part of it—that we are definitely parts of the universe understanding itself.

That fills me with a great obligation… I was given the opportunity to experience life, and I should take advantage of this life to understand myself—the cosmos, of which I am a part, of which everything in Creation is a part—not just this human body but the large Creation to which I belong.

It’s easy to forget this when I look around my desk and am reminded of my humanity, of which I’ve always had a deep sense. We all feel we’re human. Not star stuff. And yet we are a part of the universe, formed from atoms that never arranged themselves in this way to acquire this consciousness before. And if there is no other life, then we are the only parts of the universe which have it—the only parts that can understand the universe’s origin.

When I die, whether there is or isn’t an afterlife, my atoms won’t just be destroyed. They’ll continue to cycle through the universe, and though I may not gain consciousness again, I’ll still be there in a sense. And that is somewhat comforting. It’s a form of being eternal.

4/10/17

For my history class, I’ve been learning about the Cold War. I find it fascinating, probably because of history’s great relevance—especially the more-recent events. After WW2, Germany was divided into zones controlled by the Soviet Union, the U.S., Britain, and France. Western Europe was in need of repair, and Eastern Europe was controlled by the Soviets.

The Long Telegram was sent by George Kennan (of the American Embassy in Moscow) in response to U.S. inquiries about Soviet goals. Kennan’s telegram explained his opinion of the reasons behind the Soviets’ uncooperative behavior. The telegram was 5,540 words long. Kennan introduced the idea of containment, thinking that another war should not be started, and that, rather, if Soviet power was contained, the Union would fall apart. (The idea was to contain communism.) This telegram circulated through Truman’s administration and eventually containment became a policy with the goal of “keeping communism within its present territory through the use of diplomatic, economic, and military actions” (784).

Thought after WW2 the Soviets should have removed their troops from northern Iran, they remained, and Stalin demanded access to Iran’s oil resources. With Soviet help, Communists in the area set up a separate government. The U.S. responded by sending the battleship USS Missouri, and a clear message that the Soviets should withdraw. They did, but then turned to Turkey, seeking control of the Dardanelles. In response, President Truman sent the aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the meantime, Britain supported the Greek government against a war launched by Communists within the country. Britain’s economy, weakened by WW2, caused it to eventually have to pull it, unable to afford to help further. Later that year (1947), Truman went before Congress asking for $400 million to fight communism in Greece and Turkey. His speech introduced the Truman Doctrine, whose aim was to give aid to free people who were struggling against attempts at subjugation. The Greek government was stabilized, and the U.S. became more involved in resisting communism, as a result.

The Marshall Plan was proposed by George Marshall, Secretary of State at the time. The idea was to offer economic aid to nations struggling to recover from the war, to build them up economically. The Soviet Union did not accept this aid. Its efforts served to, among other things, make communism seem less appealing to recovering nations and thus combat it, and open up new markets for trade in Western Europe.

4/11/17

Sagan has inspired me to view things with greater awe and appreciation. When I started my chemistry book—indeed, all my classes—I was willing to learn, though not so much for the beauty I’d find and the joy that learning would bring as for preparation; as for control. The more I knew, the more I’d control.

I just restarted my entire chemistry book with no regrets. I was like 400 pages in. I don’t mind redoing it all. I want a fresh start. I may not get very far—school is almost out and I’ll need to return the book soon. But I want to try again, this time determined to enjoy the subject—not to learn only.

“It’s all really there. But you have to stop and think about it to really get the pleasure.” – Richard Feynman

4/12/17

I’m about dead (this does not mean what you think). I’m trying to figure out life, like everyone else, I guess. Trying to understand what my priorities are, what I want this life to be about. I know I need human interaction because without that important element, life loses meaning, however sad that is—otherwise beautiful ideas lose their beauty.

But people interaction is not enough. I’m trying to figure out the correct balance to keep my mood more than positive. I don’t want to learn to learn, or to have more control and power. I don’t want to do it for the reasons of the past which now seem foolish. I want to do it to feel the way Carl Sagan did—to be in love, to find the beauty. I have my mindset: the growth mindset, belief in my abilities, belief that I must keep going, belief I can learn anything. I understand time is limited, I am being more cooperative and am reaching out to people, and Sagan inspired me to enjoy everything—something which I am capable of doing. When I decide to enjoy everything, I do. It’s that simple. This morning I woke up at 5:55 whereas I usually wake at 6:30, and hopped (reality: shuffled, after 10 minutes of extra sleep) out of bed to read a post written by another blogger. I was interested in the science of the post, but it wasn’t so much interest in the topic as it was in the sense I expected it to make and the fact I would be directly exposed to somebody else caring about this stuff, which I hoped would add the human element and make me care more deeply.

I’m not done with the post yet. (It’s currently 3:49 PM, but I had school.) It’s extremely exciting. I was thinking about what was different, because obviously when you feel good once you want that to happen again. The only things that were different were the fact I was receiving human contact, and my goal in reading the post. Human contact alone does not make ideas exciting. (See? It’s tricky to balance it.) So I think it was a combination of the human contact and my goal. My goal was to enjoy. Not to read fast, or remember really well, or take great notes, or simply learn…

It was something that it never really was before. I’ve been focusing on my enjoyment of interesting subjects recently—before that, that was never my focus. It should have been, but it took back seat, and then it got forgotten. Enjoyment got forgotten. Sagan reminded me of that. And it’s so precious. There’s nothing so beautiful to me as seeing him find something else beautiful.

“The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together.” – Sagan

When he called something ‘beautiful,’ it was deeply moving. I do find things beautiful sometimes—ideas—but it seems that lately that word hasn’t been used too much by me, and I lost sight of that. He made me want to change. And it’s my choice. I am no victim to anything—I refuse to be. I can’t expect the world to be something different than it is, all by itself. I must take action to enjoy it and appreciate it more. That’s what I am determined to do now.

And when I read that post, about light, I picked up on the sense that I always pick up on—but I relished it. It was wondrous and blissful and moving. I carried the thought further: I thought, how do we perceive color, how do electromagnetic waves (light waves) of certain wavelengths enter our eyes to be processed as certain colors? As I wondered at how that could be, I knew that there was some deeply complex explanation, and I felt I was at the edge, ready for emotion to overwhelm me. because everything is incredibly complex. Everywhere, there is something extraordinary to be found, and I marveled at the fact that sometimes, in few moments, I think life is boring. I was like: how it could be boring!

I remember the intense emotional waves that I experience when things make sense. I love systems. I love explaining how things work together to form a system. I think that may be the key to my door, and using that key will allow me to see beauty everywhere. Not forgetting the human contact, trying to enjoy everything, but especially finding the sense. I love explaining things that work together like a system—narrative, not so much, which may explain why I haven’t felt like writing much in the past few days.

Those emotional waves are extremely high. You feel utter bliss and euphoria, as far as I’ve ever known it. You feel great excitement, and wholly alive. You feel a dying need to share it, and you feel you’re going to explode. At least I do when I get that way, which is why I started today’s writing with the words: “I’m about dead,” because sometimes the euphoria is so intense you can’t even. And those are just about the only words I know to describe that feeling of being trapped, of having too much energy and not knowing how to release it. You feel overwhelmed, and it can be very stressful if you don’t release it. The feeling is utterly fantastic—but you want to tell everybody. Remember? When you’re in love you want to tell the world?

I don’t feel that way right now. But just remembering that was overwhelming to the point I felt I had to come here and write. Writing for me allows me to release my emotions, and I hope to channel such emotions into valuable information I can share with others so that I may spread such knowledge. Because I want others to feel that way, too. I also wrote this to a have a record, so that if I get kind of lost and wonder how I ever got close to achieving a balance, I can read this and straighten things out. I’m searching for a method that works.

“The cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths, of exquisite interrelationships, of the awesome machinery of nature.”

‘Elegant’ is one word that came to mind as I read the post, and I was reminded of his words.

If you stuck with me, thank you.