Science

The Final Encyclopedia

The Final Encyclopedia
I’ve been re-listening to the audiobook version of Gordon R. Dickson’s “The Childe Cycle,” recently, and I’m currently on “The Final Encyclopedia (TFE). It’s probably my favorite though it really is difficult to chose as every story in the Cycle has amazing characters and elements. That’s probably why I usually think of it as a complete set of works rather than individual books.

I’m not sure how old I was when I read my first book from this collection (probably around junior-high), but I know which one it was. It was “Dorsai!” Dorsai! is practically a pamphlet compared to TFE - 7 hours in audiobook compared to over 30 hours - but it’s the lynchpin of the set. The main character of Dorsai! is Donal Graeme and it’s also the story that introduces Kensie and Ian Graeme, his uncles, that for all the brevity of their appearances have a massive influence to the overall arc of the Cycle.

Lost Dorsai
I can’t begin to describe how influential these books have been to me, but one of the main things that’s been running through my mind is the concept of the Final Encyclopedia, itself. In the books it’s described as a futuristic repository of the sum of all human knowledge (as imagined in the early 80’s). A tool that would allow humanity to unlock it’s true creative potential.

In the main, I think Dickson was right. The Internet in its current form is essentially what he was describing the Final Encyclopedia to be; a tool that a scholar can use to bring whatever knowledge he or she doesn’t already have immediately to hand. And - despite what detractors would say - I think we’re using it to essentially accomplish what it was ultimately used for in the books; the further evolution of humanity.

This is an amazing time to be human.
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Downside Up



I watched this with my son, and it was just beautiful and moving. Pretty much reaffirms everything I believe to be important. (And I love Peter Gabriel. That song was a good choice. I highly recommend watching it in HD and fullscreen.)
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Vilayanur Ramachandran: A journey to the center of your mind











The more I learn about the human animal, the more amazed I am.
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NASA Family gathering.

I recall times when I was a kid when we'd gather as a family. Mostly it was at meals, and a fair amount around the television. I don't look back at TV with any fond memories, though. Even as a kid I found most TV to be a waste of time, and that's exactly what I used it for - to burn through my childhood because I was clueless as to how better spend it.

Tonight I gathered my own little family around the television. We didn't watch any sports or some milquetoast, censor-safe drama or comedy, though. We watched NASA TV live and saw the JPL team guide the Mars Phoenix through EDL (entry, descent, and landing). My 8 year-old son and I were excited and waited on the edge of our seats during the "Seven Minutes of Terror." It went flawlessly, though, and we cheered with the engineers at the JPL mission control when the telemetry showed touchdown.

There are times when I wonder if I'm doing everything right as a parent, but tonight there was no doubt. Getting him excited about science, engineering and math and instilling in him a love for knowledge and exploration that spurs the growth of all of humanity... I can think of no better things to help him as he develops.
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Mars Phoenix

I've been emotionally attached to the Mars Phoenix mission from the beginning. My son and I watched it's landing live and cheered. Also, I tend to anthropomorphize things, which means I end up empathizing with them. Add in the fact that the mission team also has a Twitter profile for the lander and it's even harder not to feel for that little machine. Then this comes across Twitter:



Hard not to feel some pride and sadness. 2 hankies
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Buzz Aldrin punches conspiracy theorist.



I'm trying to make sense of my reaction, here. First, I don't like the way the clip is edited. Showing the punch over and over is completely unnecessary and too sensationalist. It's almost reveling in the violence of the incident and essentially undermining the truly outrageous parts. (I don't advocate violence, but there are times when you're perfectly in your rights to use physical means to defend yourself or even your honor. Bart Sibrel - the man accosting Col. Aldrin - clearly deserved a punch in the face.) Buzz Aldrin was essentially being libeled by this man who was calling him a liar and a coward. Colonel Aldrin rode millions of miles in a glorified tin-can with death millimeters away and was the second person (of only handful, all told) to step foot on a world that wasn't the one of his birth. And that's why I think I teared up: The shock at this man coming up to try to physically and verbally intimidate Col. Aldrin... I'm just outraged and angered. Col. Aldrin is a true hero not only for the United States, but for the world. His achievements and the achievements of the Apollo program were a milestone for Humanity and a major step in our advancement as a species. To denigrate those accomplishments is not only to denigrate the heroes who actually accomplished this herculean task, but to denigrate all of Humanity, as well. What a shit-head. 3 hankies

(I tried and tried to find a version of this video that didn't have the instant replays, but couldn't find one. Seems like everybody missed the point.)
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TED: Arthur Benjamin and "Mathemagic."











I teared up at the very end of this one. I was also laughing at the same time. I think it's because I wanted to stand up and applaud the guy. Sorry about giving away the ending. 1 hankie

(I know these posts seem to come in fits and starts, or maybe repetitive as I watch multiple episodes or clips from the same source, but I'm just documenting each time I get weepy as they happen.)
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TED: Jill Bolte Taylor on her stroke.











Just watch it. A remarkable and beautiful talk from Jill Bolte Taylor. It helps reinforce my belief that we are a truly remarkable species and that we don't need to resort to fairy tales or the supernatural to discover the profound and powerful truths within us. 4 hankies

(Somebody on Digg.com posted a list of most popular TED talks that I'll likely be working my way through, so expect more of these, soon. TED talks usually cover profound material.)
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