Tag Archives: inspiration

A sense of wonder: Incredible planet discovered

28 Aug

I was sitting at lunch a few days ago and there was a (probably) four month old baby sitting with its parents at the table beside me. Normally I’d smile happily and get back to eating like a demon, but there was something about the little one that kept catching my attention. The parents held the baby in turns while chatting and kept it occupied by dangling keys, phones, toys and other stuff in front of it.

Each time it saw something new it let out the most adorable gurgle, shaking with laughter when it got it’s hands on the object. It flailed it around in its hands and generally acted like it had won the lottery with each and every thing they gave it. You probably know the feeling, it’s something we’ve all experienced whether we remember it or not. There’s something very special about seeing a baby get that feeling, because it reminds us of the joy in learning or experiencing something new.

There are a few rare things that fill me with that sense of wonder, and the universe is one of them (haha, I know…nothing big).

Recently a new planet was discovered, a very special planet.

Located in the serpens constellation, it was found orbiting a millisecond pulsar which is a neutron star formed from a supernova (a supernova being the event that destroys a star, condensing its entire mass into a smaller entity which produces the neutron star). If that makes as much sense to you as it does to me, to put it simply it means that the star in the system is a super dense star, sending out a beam of electromagnetic radiation which can only be viewed when it points at earth (like a lighthouse) which gives it the ‘pulsar’ name (…as far as I can tell).

But anyway, that’s not terribly important. If it does catch your interest, pick a few astronomy terms out of thin air, make a good cup of coffee, open up a wikipedia tab and run wild…there’s a lot of interesting stuff out there, although it could take a while to wrap your brain around it.

Anyway, usually there’s another star close to these pulsars, which either collide with or become consumed by one another; stripping them of elements with their intense gravity (on a galactic scale that is, not your average “whoah, that ollie you just flipped was tight” intense).

In this case, there seems to have been another star nearby but it wasn’t consumed fully by the pulsar. Instead, it was stripped bare of everything except for carbon and then gently moved itself out to a safe distance.

But, not before the gravity condensed all of the carbon into the planet itself which means that…

Out there somewhere, there’s a diamond planet. Not in the metaphorical “I’m writing this on an iPhone while standing in a field wearing a tin foil helmet screaming ‘E.T. beam me up to a better place; this world is not worthy!’ ” sense, but in the actual literal sense. Carbon, when put under intense pressure, forms into diamond, and in this case all of the carbon was crushed together and formed one hell of a diamond.

Let that sink in: a planet, which is completely a diamond…just incredible.

(it’s not the middle object; that’s the pulsar. It’s the one orbiting around it, and the blue trail is the electromagnetic radiation pulse…the odd spiral of it is caused by the difference between axial rotation and…something or other else…look it up)

It’s five times the size of earth (fuck you deBeers, just fuck you) but 3,000 times larger than the star it orbits. Now it’s not like somebody has actually sauntered up to the planet and knocked a knuckle on it to check for sure, but the studies done by the Swinburne university of technology in Melbourne Australia suggest that this is what happened. Congratulations to those who took part in the study, that’s some find.

More reading/original article here: http://www.space.com/12731-diamond-alien-planet-discovered-neutron-star.html

Here’s a song with a super backbone to help you process this;)

(if any -or indeed all– facts written here turn out to be wrong and you know how to correct them; post a comment below!)

Words to live by: IF.

13 Aug

I hope noone in the authors estate is gonna get antsy with me for putting this up here. All due respect to them and the man himself.

If you’re not into reading it, jump to the bottom.

IF

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling.

(he forgets an important -to me- line in the first stanza; “If you can wait and not be tired by waiting”, but still it’s a pretty good performance. Seems it’s an important piece to him aswell, seeing as he’s been reciting it off by heart since the seventies)

 

Captain America: This is the logic we’re teaching now? really?!

8 Aug

I haven’t seen the film yet, so no spoilers ahead. I know admitting this might render my argument completely invalid, but I highly doubt that seeing as it’s near impossible to hide a shakespearean tragedy underneath a punchy blockbuster. Yes, it happens in the comics, but almost never in films which are hoping to rake it in at the box office by aiming themselves at the widest marketshare possible.

There’s one line in the trailer that caught my attention. It’s an innocent, shy little line that can easily pass unnoticed. But, unfortunately, it’s the basis for pretty much the entire films logic.  I should tell you now that I hesitate to apply the same logic to the comics, because I do love me some Captain A. He’s a legend…I don’t want to think about it too much just yet to be honest, i don’t think I’d like it.

After Steve Rogers asks doctor Abraham Erskine, the doctor who will transform him with the super soldier serum he has created, “Why me?” The good doctor replies:

“Because weak men, know the value of strength…know the value of power”

It’s a tight argument, one I agree with to a point. I don’t agree with the implication of it though, an implication that shines through once you take into account the rest of the setup.

Steve rogers is chosen for the super soldier programme because he has repeatedly applied to join the war effort but been denied because he is physically inadequate. He doesn’t have half the muscle mass the other men have and, in the film, he’s actually ridiculously exaggerated. In the comics he’s just an average guy with a bit of an underdeveloped body but in the film he looks a malnourished child who has to grapple with gravity itself to gather enough air to breathe.

Anyway, you’ve probably seen the scene: Scrawny guy steps into a machine then steps out of the machine a hulk of a man, ready to fight for his country.

Now, my (first) problem is this: All those other guys, the odd million or so who succesfully got into the army, didn’t start off looking like Adonis. (for the sake of argument I’m gonna deny historical accuracy and ignore the fact that most of those who enlisted were nothing more than average joes who played a season or two of highschool football). They all toned themselves up through sweat and hardwork. They put in the hours working on their fitness, and it paid off. They got in by virtue of that work they put in.

But it’s not okay to give them the super soldier serum because they “Won’t know the value of strength”? Oh I’m calling that one. I’m calling that one straight up. They’ve decided to improve themselves, probably gone through a hell of a lot of heartbreak for it, and they won’t know the value of strength just because…well, damn, I dunno: just, because! Because they said so! Because!!!1!

But the kicker, and the thing that has me really worried for the state of the world, is that the implication is this:

You can bestow great power and strength on a weak but intelligent, morally strong, courageous, humble, respectful, honourable and benevolent person, but you can not bestow these virtues on a person who’s already strong and powerful.

This is the lesson we’re teaching people: If you’re strong, muscular, or if you can be described in any way near the label ‘jock’, you’re finished, we can’t teach you anything. You just keep on keeping on. No no, it’s okay, don’t worry about it. You’ve got great power and strength, but don’t you worry your little head about the essential virtues which, throughout history, have been used to keep the powerful in check and the warrior class aligned on the side of justice and righteousness. We threw those out the window with the 80’s, so just chill: you’re all good.

I’ve been scratching myself to think of a tribe of warriors in Western history that could illustrate my point properly, but none quite come up to scratch. The spartans, although they’ve gotten a good reputation in the past few years, were a crazy bunch. Sure, they pushed themselves to the pinnacle of the art of war, but they denied themselves a lot of virtues along the way that makes a good warrior. The greeks, although not in the same class as the spartans, were much the same.

The vikings, although they had a great reputation for courage and bravery, were a little bit too keen on rape and pillage to be held up as perfect examples of the warrior pinnacle. Native americans were pretty close I think, but I don’t know enough to say definitively.

No, for a good example of what a warrior should be we have to look East. The samurai in japan and the warrior class (shaolin monks, if you must…but there was a lot more to chinese warfar than the monks) in China lived by a strictly defined set of virtues and principles that kept them in check throughout their life.

Granted that didn’t stop them from getting into fights and wars the same as anyone else, but my point is that when being trained in martial arts and warfare, they weren’t simply taught how to fight, maim and kill. They were taught how to live humbly, with honour, courage, benevolence and a host of other virtues drilled into them. No matter who you were or what size you were, you were taught the same as everyone else. If you were  a weak little shrimp you were taught how to fight and how to live a virtuous life. If you were a seven foot powerhouse, you were taught how to fight and how to live a virtuous life. There was no distinction, or rather -ignorant presumption, made on someone. If they wanted to learn, they would learn both sides of the coin, not just the one which they already knew.

Sure, weak men know the value of strength and power, but who’s to say we can’t teach strong men the same?! Why can a weak man be given incredible power and strength, but a strong man not be given incredible humility and perspective?…it saddens me to know that this corrosive mentality running through society is, and will be, met with a simple “hey, that’s just the way it is” mentality.

Anyway; if your interest has been sparked by the idea of a complete person then I suggest you read ‘hagakure’ or the ‘Tao te ching’. Both were read furiously by ancient warriors in the East to help them gain a complete understanding of themselves, the world and how best to live in it.

(oh, and I’d turn this one up…those first few bars are just beautiful;)

Friday

8 Jul

It’s friday, and you’re awesome. You can:

A)Strut, happy in the knowledge that you’re more than you were, and invigorated by it. Any improvement, no matter how big or small, is a good one. keep on strutting. You deserve it.

Or…

B) Chill; safe in the knowledge that you’ve still got a bit to go, but you’ve gotten this far so it’s not gonna hurt to keep going. Sit back, take it easy and relax. You deserve it.

Don’t stop there though, hell no. Play me off, courage wolf…

have a good one;)

The secret of Frenchman’s Cove; better the devil you know than the one you don’t

8 Jul

TheFrenchman’s cove resort was a pretty big deal back in the 60’s. Set in the beautiful surroundings of the Jamaican coastline, it was used by anyone and everyone who had the money to stump up for the privilege. At it’s height it cost the equivalent of a years salary (today) for a two week stay. Steep stuff, but apparently worth it.

Being tucked away from the main hustle and bustle of the island (which was actually possible in the 60’s), it was luxuriously isolated, so much so that this was one of the main selling points. If you didn’t have the right money, you wouldn’t get anywhere near the place. Quite an attractive prospect for the monied class, seeing as they only wanted to associate with their own type and avoid all those awkward “So what is it you do? Stocks, bonds or good old fashioned national pillage?” questions…it’s just undignified. Best to go somewhere you don’t even need to ask the question.

But, the absolute main draw of the resort was its luxury: there were no menus, choices or options. You could do or have anything your heart desired. Once you paid for your stay you could, at no extra cost, ask for a boat to take you fishing, order a selection of dishes from around the world, request a specific make and model of car to use during your stay, ask reception to entertain you during dinner with a blood sacrifice etc… you get the idea. It was the first place to embody the “have anything you want” mentality of luxury.

I saw a documentary on the hotel industry recently, and it had an enlightening interview with the owner/manager of the Frenchman’s cove resort. While answering the question of his resorts attraction, success and the matter of it’s luxurious stasus, he said something incredibly canny. I can’t remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect of

“…well because we don’t offer any menus to our guests, they’re given the choice of anything in the world. They can ring up reception and request absolutely anything they want for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, as is usually the case when someone is offered limitless options, they almost always end up asking ‘Well, what do you have?’, in which case we end up serving everyone baked beans on toast”

It’s an incredibly insightful thing, especially coming from an industry that bends over backwards to use the most convoluted of management speak. Although in fairness, he did say this back in the 60’s; it’s probably the last known example of a hotel manager speaking truthfully.

I was struck by the statement, and how brutally honest it is. Give someone the choice of anything in the world, and they’ll probably go for what they know.

It’s a sad thing, that most people are too afraid of the unknown that they won’t try and actively get away from what could be damaging or destructive routines and behaviour.  “Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t”, is a classic justification for staying in one spot. It pretty much boils down to saying “Hey, it could be worse!” as a good reason to carry on letting your mind dull, your body melt and your soul wither.

And it’ll work. It’s a nice fix, reassuring yourself like this. Many, many people get through life doing it, and it works for them. They might end up feeling  a little awkward everytime they put down their friends in a passive-aggressive manner because it makes them feel better about themselves for, oh I dunno, a couple of minutes. But it could be worse. They might get a little down when they get out of the shower and notice that flab under their arms jiggling for a few seconds more than it did a year ago, but it could be worse. They might wonder quietly about the world outside, and maybe even pine for it a bit, when they accidentally catch sight of a documentary on television but it’s alright because it could be worse.

Yeah; it could be worse, but it could be better. A lot better. A Whole lot better.