A Future Where Knowledge is Obsolete

On a Ted Talk on NPR, Sugata Mitra, a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, believes in the title of this post. He hopes to build a School in the Clouds. Warning: the cloud reference refers not to H2O density but rather electronic waves through the atmosphere. From the Internet.

Professor Mitra detailed the history of the classroom tracing it back 300 years to Victorian England. There and at that time, bureaucrats ( his reference) decided that in order to operate factories efficiently, there was a need for human robots (my term) who could plug into any job anywhere in the British Empire.

Reading, handwriting and simple arithmetic were required along with discipline: following directions in an orderly way. That’s it. And so here we are, 300 years later, teaching pretty much the same stuff to a new generation who will most probably never set foot in a factory.

I recall a high school history class during which we were forced to memorize the kings of England in succession. Why? Jeopardy? I recall being punished in grade school by having to work out long division problems with divisors in the thousands. Apparetly she hated math and wanted us to as well. When did I last need to divide on paper!

His school in the clouds idea- computer assisted education- makes perfect sense for today’s tech- savvy kids. However, it will be years down the road because adults, especially the +60 people will yell and scream! How can ‘education’ be like that! Who ever heard of THAT! Why, in my day…

No, rather than moving to an entirely new paradigm in education, we will continue on for decades in the factory school tradition from Victorian England.



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Dad, What’s Science?



by | 08/29/2014 · 10:15 PM

Solar system inside a searing gas bubble

(CNN) — Ever feel like you live in a bubble?
You do. We all do.

Our whole solar system appears to, say space scientists, who published work last month corroborating its existence.

And, oh, what a bubble it is: About 300 light years long (about 1,764,000,000,000,000 miles), and its walls are made of hot gas. How hot? About a million degrees.

Photos: Never-seen images of the cosmos
Life beyond the planet NASA: Voyager has left the solar system
It’s called the “Local Bubble” or “local hot bubble” and is shaped a little like a peanut.

Scientists believe it was formed by supernovas, the largest explosions in space, as NASA calls them, that occur when a large star blows up.
One supernova blasts out more energy in less than a second than our sun gives off in a million years, NASA says. A single explosion can outshine an entire galaxy.

‘Like popcorn’

They usually occur about twice a century in the Milky Way Galaxy. But about 10 million years ago, a slew of them exploded right near our solar system.
“Supernovas went off like popcorn,” NASA says.

In a universe about 13.8 billion years old, that’s a recent event. Humans did not yet walk the Earth 10 million years ago, but monkeys did.
Those supernovas may have sent our evolutionary ancestors running scared, but they weren’t enough to annihilate them.

Galactic hole

Fast forward 10 million years to the 1970s and 80s, when humans first began noticing what they’d later postulate was the bubble.
They were aiming more advanced telescopes at what’s called the interstellar medium.

Between the planets and the stars of our galaxy is not just empty space. There are gasses, dust, ions — and more — sweeping around.
When astronomers poked around in our solar system for it, they found little to nothing. It was like we were living in a virtually empty hole, one that has only a single atom per every liter of space.

Around the same time, sensors launched outside of Earth’s atmosphere revealed an abundance of something else coming from all directions — x-ray radiation.

The idea that we live in a bubble was born:

So much interstellar medium was gone, because the exploding supernovas have blown it away, and and left us surrounded with their remnants of radiating gas.

Doubt, corroboration

But some scientists, in recent years, cast doubt on the Local Bubble model, saying the radiation could be the result of “charge exchange” — passing solar winds stealing electrons and thereby emitting x-ray radiation.

Scientists from the University of Miami in Coral Gables picked up the gauntlet and developed a sensor to measure charge exchange radiation and fired it out of Earth’s atmosphere atop a small NASA rocket two years ago.
It only took about five minutes for the detector to take a reading. Analyzing the data, the scientists determined that only 40% of the background x-ray emanates from within our solar system.

The rest of the glow, they say, must come from the searing gaseous walls of a big bubble we live in.


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How Earth-Like of us Humanoids

imageI had a lightbulb moment while watching a close up on TV of a vibrating string during a musical performance. It’s really all about air, isn’t it?

I wonder if the air swirling around Bach back in the 1600’s was slightly different than our 21st century air vibrating in today’s concert halls? Further, how would Bach or for that matter Berg sound in an atmosphere that was slightly altered? More nitrogen, less oxygen and vv?

Then again, I recall that aboard Voyager was a recording of some music from us humanoids. Should aliens find that and understand how to play it, how will it sound to them, assuming that they can indeed hear? Did the space engineers include instructions for air-mixture proportions?

Alll of these questions while algae blooms around the inlet pipe for my city!


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Isis and ISIS


Isis is the most popular of all the goddesses, she has been worshiped for approximately 4500 years ( with origin dates varying from 2700- 2500 BCE.) She is representative of beauty, love, abundance, marriage, fertility, healing, the power of the Moon and of the Afterlife.

Imagine that. Too bad she was put into a box and moved the attic with other ‘stuff’ we deem as no longer useful.

ISIS and all of the other so-called ‘pagan’ gods and goddesses were dumped when the fable of Moses was written in 600 BCE by Jewish scribes who were returning from Babylonian captivity.

The fable, as we recall, pretended that Moses climbed a mountain to get ‘closer’ to God because God lived ” up there just above the firmament.” Such was late Iron Age cosmology. Moses came down with two stone tablets onto which were inscribed 10 commandments. At least the Mormon tale was of gold tablets! Apparently Moses got the economy package- stone!

Bang off rule #1: Get rid of those other gods and goddesses, including Isis. His people, however, liked their lower-case deities and found them quite useful in their daily life.

But no. None of this small-g stuff! Only the “G” from now on. And, by the way, that’s all-male. The female is out.

As a result the goddess of beauty, love and abundance was replaced by a jealous and angry god. One who directed the smiting of enemies, of genocide, of intolerance.

Fundamentalism, both Christian and Muslim, has accounted for the death and maiming of millions of people since the inception of this wrathfully god. And now, two millennia after Isis was melted down over hot coals, ISIS raises it’s ugly head and beheads all who do not believe in that wrath-filled deity.

Yet, like deer in the headlights, American Christians are dumbfounded with reports of this set of fundamental religious zealots.



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Active Ecosystem One-half Mile Below the Surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

The first breakthrough article to come out of a massive U.S. expedition to one of Earth’s final frontiers shows that there’s life and an active ecosystem one-half mile below the surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, specifically in a lake that hasn’t seen sunlight or felt a breath of wind for millions of years. The life is in the form of microorganisms that live beneath the enormous Antarctic ice sheet and convert ammonium and methane into the energy required for growth.

Many of the subglacial archaea use the energy in the chemical bonds of ammonium to fix carbon dioxide and drive other metabolic processes. Another group of microorganisms uses the energy and carbon in methane to make a living. According to Priscu, the source of the ammonium and methane is most likely from the breakdown of organic matter that was deposited in the area hundreds of thousands of years ago when Antarctica was warmer and the sea inundated West Antarctica. He also noted that, as Antarctica continues to warm, vast amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, will be liberated into the atmosphere enhancing climate warming.



I’d imagine that this opens up great hope for life elsewhere in our Solar System and beyond. If life can be found at these depths and these conditions, the universe must be teaming with life.



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Medieval Reenactment and Faith

What, you ask? How are the two related? Here’s the story by Carol Kirk.

I have just returned from my annual vacation in Pennsylvania where my husband and I attend Pennsic War, the world’s largest medieval re-enactment event. This year nearly 11,000 of us who are fascinated by the Middle Ages camped together at Cooper’s Lake enjoying two weeks of friendship and learning in the hills of Western Pennsylvania. During that time we took classes on medieval arts and skills, fought mock battles, danced, sang the hours away, renewed friendships and made new friends. All of this took place in an atmosphere of respect and tolerance.
What, you ask, has this anything to do with interfaith?

What we see at Pennsic is the modern culmination of a 2000-year journey filled with religious warfare, hatred, and genocide based solely on disagreements over whose religion was “true” and which was “false”. In the period of the Roman Empire we saw the persecution of Christians by Pagans, then the reverse of that after Constantine the Great converted to Chrisianity. The great Pagan religions of Europe were undermined and then destroyed either by peaceful conversion or, if they were stubborn, by the sword.

In the later Middle Ages we found the Church itself divided and doing battle against what were perceived as heretic sects throughout Europe. One of these, the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars in the 1200’s, resulted in some one million dead primarily in France.

From 1095 until 1285 the entire Mediterranean region was locked in a tremendous struggle between Christianity and Islam. Both claimed the Holy Land as their own and countless lives were lost in the battles that raged there and in other countries bordering the Mediterranean, such as Spain, before the Crusades were finally abandoned.

In England the struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism divided the country from the time of Henry VIII until after the reign of William of Orange. Many who were innocent of any crime other than their beliefs about the nature of the Divine were executed, imprisoned, or fled England for the New World.

Even now we watch cases of religious discrimination pop up here in the United States and sometimes result in violence and death. But these incidents are nowhere near as violent or as far ranging as the struggles of earlier centuries. Yet we cannot ignore the hatred and religious bigotry that flies airplanes into the side of buildings, bombs synagogues, guns down children in a playground, or that speaks words of hate against those who hold a different belief than our own.

And here is where Pennsic has a lesson to teach us all.

Pennsic recreates the medieval world in a kinder and gentler light. There are no serfs or slaves. There are no terrible plagues. The warring armies carry swords made not of steel but of rattan and they limit their belligerence to the battlefield. And most of all, there are no battles over religious beliefs. The reasons for the latter are three-fold.

First of all, outright displays of religious symbolism or discussions of religion are generally avoided. This is a nod to the fact that discussions of religion and of politics are hot-button topics that can create discord in a small community such as Pennsic. Here it is understood and generally agreed upon that what one believes in the mundane world is strictly one’s own business.

Secondly, Pennsic is aimed at learning about the Middle Ages…and of course that means learning about the religions of that period and of the wars fought in the name of religion that so devastated the medieval world. It is nearly impossible to educate oneself on the catastrophic results of religious wars and wish to repeat them in our modern world.

And finally, at Pennsic and throughout the rest of the year, those who seek to re-enact the Middle Ages create a persona for themselves. They find a time period that speaks to them and they become a person living in that time and culture. This leads to some interesting juxtapositions. I know a nice Jewish man who dresses and acts as a medieval Saracen. I have met a gentleman from Japan whose persona is that of a Pagan Viking. My friend, a long-standing Wiccan is Catholic in her persona. What this encourages is the study of what the religion of their persona would have been like. And in doing so they become less frightened of the unknown and realize that each religion is seeking to understand the nature of the Divine and how to live rightly with their fellow man.

So the lessons that Pennsic teaches all of us are that knowledge and understanding builds tolerance. And that the beliefs of another are not a threat to our own beliefs.

It has taken us over 2000 years to find our way to this point, and much of the world still struggles to leave its own Dark Ages behind. So I like to hold up the example of Pennsic as what the world could be like if we could but (to paraphrase the Pennsic motto) become “One time enemies, eternal friends.”



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