Finding connections between bits of information you gather over time is one of the joys of living.
First bit. I am taking a series of workshop from the Five College Center for East Asian Studies and during the first workshop I learned that for 2000 years the Confucian system of civil service provided a way for men to gain social and economic status. To become a civil servant a man had to memorize the Analects of Confucius, which are several books. If a man could pass a three day long test he could join the civil service and bring honor and money to his family and village.
Second bit. The March 2009 issue of Discover magazine has an article called “Are We Still Evolving?”. The researchers argue that cultural pressure, such as the civil service test, “… in some cultures, certain kinds of intellectual ability may have been tied to reproductive success.”
Third bit. High School graduation rates: Asian 77%, White 75%, Black 50%, Hispanic 53%. Since success in high school is measured by the ability to memorize facts it may be that the students of Asian ancestry have benefited from 2000 years of their ancestors memorizing The Analects of Confucius.
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While teaching a class on atomic structure I explained that everything is made of atoms. One of the students asked, “Where do atoms come from?”
I said, “They are just here.”
He then asked, “How are they made?”
“They are not made, they just change form.”
“Then how do things grow more atoms?”
“Atoms are just transfered from one place to another and added to growing things.” I replied.
He still had a puzzled look on his face.
I have continued to think about the concept that we are a bunch of atoms that were some where else and now they make up a body and mind. Everyday we are adding and shedding atoms. When we die the atoms that make up this body (I began to write our atoms and our body, but who really owns the atoms?) will join up with other atoms to make something else. Is this reincarnation?
This particular configuration of atoms will only last a blink of an eye in the history of the universe. The atoms that have come together in this particular form have been around since the beginning of the universe and will be around until the end of the universe.
So why do we think we have any control over anything? There is nothing wrong here.
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Posted by James in Science
Do you remember one of the physical constants you learned in school? Light travels at a constant speed and can not be changed -186,000 m/sec. Well now we have to teach students that is not true. Lene Hau of Harvard has been able to stop light, move an imprint of it, and start it again.
Listen to Dr. Hau on NPR here or go the web site for her lab to see a demonstration here.
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