Category Archives: Big Thinkin’

Kent Bye On Speaking Out

Kent Bye just recently relocated to San Francisco from Maine, and the Bay Area will never be the same 🙂
Just found this cool vid of Kent Bye and Jay Dedman walking through San Francisco discussing the role of citizen journalism’s influence on big media and their continued state of denial regarding its obvious impact.
Translation: Turns out that people’s opinions do matter after all!
Update 4/13/07 – Kent explained to me that “That vid is actually from NYC way back in October of 2005. 🙂
Jay shot it and was cleaning up his archives during VBW07”

Stephen Hawking At The Oakland Paramount

I saw Stephen Hawking last night at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California.
It was my birthday, and I couldn’t think of any place I’d rather be — hanging out with one of my heroes thinking about the birth of the Universe.
His talk was really cool. He postulated upon the question of “when the universe began,” and likened it to trying to go “further south than the south pole.” He also joked about being imprisoned by the Inquisition for daring to ponder the question — an act one pope or another likened to questioning God.
The Q and A portion of the lecture was particularly neat. Here are some of the questions and answers that I could remember. (I wrote down some notes right after the show while they were fresh in my mind — so two of these are not exactly word for word – but damn close – and the other two quoted answers are exact.)

Q: What do you think of President Bush’s plan to send a man to the moon?
S.H.: “Stupid. Robots are cheaper to send, and you don’t have to bring them back.”
Q: What do you think of the United States’ position on Stem Cell Research?
S.H.: England and most of the developed world has the view that there are many opportunities in Stem Cell Research. The U.S. will fall behind.
Q: If you had a chance to meet Issac Newton or Marilyn Monroe, which would you pick?
S.H.: Marilyn. I heard Issac was a disagreeable sort.
Q: What’s your IQ?
S.H.: “I have no idea.” People that care about IQ’s are losers.
Updated 11-12 – I almost forgot my favorite question:
Q: You were depicted on the Simpsons. How did you like that?
S.H.: “I think the Simpsons is the best thing on American Television.”

He’s got a new book out I can’t wait to read, A Briefer History of Time.

The Brain’s Angular Gyrus May Be Key To Metaphor Comprehension

Or it may not. But it kinda seems like it.
(I love this stuff. The sooner we figure out how the brain works, the sooner we can go about creating a computer to house our consciousness, the sooner we can get on with the singularity already.)
(Never mind that it’ll never work 🙂


Brain Region Linked to Metaphor Comprehension

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran of the University of California at San Diego and his colleagues tested four patients who had experienced damage to the left angular gyrus region of their brains…
The angular gyrus is more developed in humans than in other primates and is located in the brain at the junction of areas specialized for processing touch, hearing and vision. “While it would be premature to conclude that the angular gyrus is the ‘metaphor center’ of the human brain,” Ramachandran says, “we suggest that the evolution of the dominant angular gyrus contributed enormously to the evolution of many quintessentially human abilities, including metaphorical–and other abstract–thinking.” He will present the results on Friday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society in Los Angeles.

Continue reading

Brian Eno Lecture For Long Now On Friday November 14 In San Francisco

Brian Eno will be giving a lecture for the Long Now Foundation next Friday night.
He’s actually on the Board of Directors there.
Here’s what was emailed to me:

Musician/producer/artist BRIAN ENO

will be giving a rare free public lecture next week at
Fort Mason in San
Francisco on Friday, Nov. 14, in the Herbst Pavillion.
Coffee bar opens at
7pm, lecture at 8pm. Directions to Herbst Pavillion are
This is not a concert. Brian Eno will be speaking about
“The Long Now.” His
talk will be the first of a monthly series of Seminars
About Long-term
Thinking, sponsored by The Long Now Foundation
( His
talks are usually as amazing as his music.
The on-going lectures in this new series will be every
second Friday at Fort
Mason. Future speakers include Peter Schwartz, George
Dyson, Laurie
Anderson, Rusty Schweickart, Paul Hawken, Daniel
Janzen, and Danny Hillis.
Admission to the lectures is free (a $10 donation is
welcome but NOT
required). The hall holds about 700 people. For
unticketed lectures like
this it’s a good idea to come early for a good seat.
Please feel free post and forward this invitation.

Scientists To Work With Dalai Lama To Study The Physical Manifestations Of Meditation On The Brain

Dalai Lama visit provides a subject for scientists

By Gareth Cook for the Boston Globe.
(Thanks, Jon!)

For more than 15 years, the Dalai Lama has been inviting small groups of top Western scientists to his Himalayan home for private discussions about science and its potential links to Buddhist thought. At an MIT auditorium tomorrow, the Tibetan leader will begin presiding over two days of intense discussions — the first ones open to the public — aimed at understanding what happens inside the meditating brain, and what it can reveal about the broader workings of the human mind…
Prominent Western scientists have already begun to find that meditation can have a profound effect on the brain and the body. This month, University of Wisconsin professor Richard J. Davidson published a paper showing that people who meditated were able to mount a stronger fight against the flu — suggesting that teaching the technique could help boost their immune systems.
Meditation, his study showed, appeared to moderate the activity of a part of the brain, the right prefrontal cortex, associated with negative emotions like anger and fear. The meditators who experienced the greatest reduction of activity in this area, the study showed, created the most antibodies to fight the flu…
Such a project could hold the potential to expand the field of neuroscience, suggesting whole new areas of study. Davidson, for example, has embarked on a research program to study compassion, an emotion that is a central concept in Buddhist psychology, but which Western science has largely ignored. If the Buddhists are correct, then Western researchers have missed an important part of the brain’s emotional machinery, one whose cultivation could have profound effects on society.
“We want to place compassion center stage as a focus of legitimate scientific inquiry,” said Davidson. “These guys can turn it on at will.”

Continue reading

A Scene From The Past To Prove That Nothing Has Really Changed

This is a scene from an old mid-1970’s episode of “The Rockford Files” (feel free to help me with any details on this episode. I’m happy to update this posting.)
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show. Jim Rockford is a private investigator (James Garner) that will often drive around and question people for his different clients. He often poses as an Insurance Agent or Gov Official or something (usually with a fake business card and everything) in order to keep his cover.
In this scene, his “client” is actually his own father, because Jim has learned that his dad owned some old claims to some oil wells (er something) that were thought to be worthless before and now, what do ya know, might not be. (This is actually a common thread of western movies/tv shows as far back as I can remember.)
So Jim goes out, in good faith (he’s an ex-cop and an ex-con, but he’s still a relatively honest guy), to find out who else has a claim on the land (along with his dad) and to verify if his dad’s claim is even any good, so he can decide what to do from there.
I’m just guessing (I didn’t see the whole episode), but from what I know about the Rockford Files (I grew up watching them because my mom was a big fan), sometime soon after this scene, someone starts threatening or making attempts on his dad’s life, forcing Jim to actually get to the bottom of whatever’s going on, rather than just find out what him and his dad need to know.
With that, I’ll just let the clip speak for itself. I imagine it will mean different things to different people, and that’s kind of the point.
Rockford Files On Wars Over Oil (Small – 7 MB)
Rockford Files On Wars Over Oil (Hi-res- 95 MB)
Jim Rockford (James Garner)

Don’t know this guy’s name…

Bomb Shelter

Oil Is Outdated Technology

This is a great article on why Hydrogen cells can work, and what we need to get started doing technologically and regulatory/legislative-wise so we can get the show on the road. (Thanks Joi.)
How Hydrogen Can Save America
By Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall for Wired.

There’s only one way to insulate the US from the corrosive power of oil, and that’s to develop an alternative energy resource that’s readily available domestically. Looking at the options – coal, natural gas, wind, water, solar, and nuclear – there’s only one thing that can provide a wholesale substitute for foreign oil within a decade: hydrogen. Hydrogen stores energy more effectively than current batteries, burns twice as efficiently in a fuel cell as gasoline does in an internal combustion engine (more than making up for the energy required to produce it), and leaves only water behind. It’s plentiful, clean, and – critically – capable of powering cars. Like manned space flight in 1961, hydrogen power is proven but primitive, a technology ripe for acceleration and then deployment. (For that, thank the Apollo program itself, which spurred the development of early fuel cells.)…
How Hydrogen Can Save America:
1. Solve the hydrogen fuel-tank problem.
2. Encourage mass production of fuel cell vehicles.
3. Convert the nation’s fueling infrastructure to hydrogen.
4. Ramp up hydrogen production.
5. Mount a public campaign to sell the hydrogen economy.
By pursuing all five at once, the government can create a self-sustaining cycle of supply and demand that gains momentum over the coming decade and supplants the existing energy market in the decades that follow. Rather than waiting to build a hydrogen infrastructure from scratch, the US can start building the new fuel economy immediately by piggybacking on existing petroleum-based industries. Once customers are demanding and producers are supplying, there will be time to create a cleaner, more efficient hydrogen-centric infrastructure that runs on market forces alone.

Continue reading