Wind Chill in Summer

Enjoying the summer wind chill – Photo: Pexels

The temperatures are climbing in Paradelle, as expected in summer. In winter, the weather report will tell us about how the wind chill affects temperatures. It is a pessimistic look at the weather. When it is 35 degrees (Fahrenheit here), a 10 mph wind makes it feel like 27. If it was already 30 degrees and the wind was at 20 mph it feels like 17 degrees. Brrrrr!

But I never hear about the wind chill in summer when we really could use some optimism. Wouldn’t t be nice on a 90-degree day to know that the 20 mph wind is making it feel like only 84 degrees? (My calculation here is pure guessing. Maybe someone out there can figure it out.)

You know that sitting in front of or below a fan on a hot makes it feel cooler. And a nice breeze on a hot day is comforting.

Can we start a movement to get meteorologists to add summer wind chill to their forecasts?

Talking to Myself

Image by Gerd Altmann

When you’re talking to yourself silently or arguing in your head, there are actual muscular movements in your larynx. It seems like it’s all in your mind but it is also a little bit in your body. Any time you’re mentally talking to yourself, your body is also physically talking a little bit.

As I am writing this post, I am silently sounding out the words and sometimes the thought for the next line. As my memory worsens, I find myself heading down the stairs to the basement and silently (or maybe even aloud!) saying to myself “socket wrench” over and over so that I don’t get down there and forget what it was I went there to get.

Psychologists call this phenomenon “inner speech.” It has been studied for at least a hundred years. The theory has been that we developed this through the internalization of our external/out-loud speech. If that’s true, then wouldn’t inner speech use the same mechanisms in the brain as when we speak out loud?

It was known in the early 20th century that inner speech is accompanied by tiny muscular movements in the larynx which could be detected using electromyography. Since the 1990s, neuroscientists using more sophisticated functional neuroimaging to show that the “Broca’s area” of the brain is active when we speak out loud and also during inner speech. Experiments that “disrupt” (Ouch!) the activity of this region interrupts both outer and inner speech.

What is the value of studying this phenomenon? The thought is that it may help us to understand more inner experiences, such as “hearing voices.”  That particular oddity (technically called “auditory verbal hallucinations”) which you might associate with mystical or religious experiences or madness might turn out to be a form of inner speech. Maybe we just don’t know that these hallucinations are self-produced.

I have been hearing some inner voices lately. But that’s something for another article.

Further reading
sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213158212000125

theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/aug/21/science-little-voice-head-hearing-voices-inner-speech by Peter Moseley, working with the Hearing the Voice project

Lifelong Learning and a Beginner’s Mind

Lifelong learning is the practice of continuing to learn throughout one’s entire life, especially outside of or after the completion of formal schooling. It is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.

Image by Gyae Min

Lifelong learning can be informal or happen in more formal settings and courses. There is a wide range of experiences that fall under this large umbrella. Internships and apprenticeships and taking actual courses in a school setting but not pursuing credits or a degree qualify as lifelong learning. Teaching yourself a new language or how to play an instrument also qualifies. Sometimes the formal and informal mix. You start playing tennis with a friend and then take some lessons to improve your game. Maybe you’re learning a computer language to advance your career. Maybe you’re learning French so you’ll be better prepared to travel to France.

I have written a lot about online learning on other sites. Back in 2012 – which was called “the year of the MOOC” – I was very involved in this new form of online learning. These Massive Open Online Courses were seen as a way for learners to take courses free of cost online along with thousands of other learners. The courses were being offered by the top universities worldwide. This idea of “open education” was not completely new but was still considered a radical shift.

I taught (or perhaps facilitated) an early MOOC about MOOCs in education. I took dozens of courses for free. I gave talks about them. My wife and I wrote a chapter for a book about them.

The hype and buzz of MOOCs have cooled down but they still exist. Some evolved with a business model, so the “open” part is gone. I taught graduate students at a university where we offered certificate programs that packaged several courses together for people looking to add to their skillset while employed or to upgrade skills in order to move up or move on to other careers. during employment. This is quite formalized lifelong learning.

I have also done much more informal lifelong learning both as a student and teacher. I have facilitated classes in writing, art, and technology topics for libraries, galleries, and adult learning schools.

I am currently working with a local lifelong learning organization in New Jersey. They offer opportunities for in-depth, high-level learning and socialization for 55+ adults. These classes are free of charge, but registration is required.

During the pandemic, almost all the courses offered went virtual and for two years I was teaching online. We are just emerging from that and offering in-person classes again.

Image by truthseeker08

All of this had me thinking of the concept of a “beginner’s mind.” Originating from Japanese Zen Buddhism, the term (also known as shoshin) refers to a paradox: the more you know about a topic, the more likely you are to close your mind to further learning.

To have a beginner’s mind it means dropping expectations and preconceived ideas about something. It means seeing things with fresh eyes and an open mind, like a beginner. When you learn something new, you can be confused, because you don’t know how to do whatever you’re learning. But a beginner’s look is also curious and can be filled with wonder.

Lifelong learners are best approaching new learning with a beginner’s mind which means an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions. That is true even when you are an adult and studying a subject at an advanced level.

This is not an easy thing to do. Preconceptions and closed-mindedness is probably as much or more likely the older or more experienced a learner has become.

I first learned about beginner’s mind (not surprisingly) in a class on Buddhism. The book I was assigned to read was the classic Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind,

There are lots of places online for lifelong learning. MOOC platforms such as Coursera, Khan Academy, Udemy, Canvas, FutureLearn, Udacity, P2PU, and The Open University, as well as other sites like Skillshare and Duolingo offer thousands of classes and most are available for free. I don’t know about you but my wife and I have learned how to do any number of things from YouTube how-to videos. Yes, all that is lifelong learning.

Metaverse or Multiverse?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I have already written several essays about the metaverse and multiverse on another blog that I have about technology and education called Serendipity35. You have probably heard the two terms used in the media.

Much of the talk (and hype) about the metaverse has been around Mark Zuckerberg’s ideas about building such a place. When he changed the name of Facebook’s parent company to Meta, you probably heard a story about the metaverse where he expects Facebook and a lot more to be going to in the future.

Who will build the metaverse? Certainly, Meta wants to be a big player, but it would have been like asking in the 1980s “Who will build the Internet?” The answer is that it will be many people and companies.

But some people have suggested that rather than the metaverse – an alternate space entered via technology – we should be thinking about the multiverse. Metaverse and multiverse sound similar and the definitions may seem to overlap at times but they are not the same things.

If all of this sounds rather tech-nerdy, consider that most of us thought of the Internet in that way in its earliest days. Now, even a youngster knows what it is and how to navigate it. The business magazine Forbes is writing about the multiverse and about the metaverse because – like the Internet – it knows it will be a place of commerce.

I particularly like the more radical ideas that the metaverse might be viewed as a moment in time or and that we may be already living in a multiverse.

In one Serendipity35 article, I wondered about when (not if) education would enter the metaverse.

To add to whatever confusion exists about meta- versus multi-, there is an increasing list of other realties that technology is offering us with abbreviations like AR, VR, XR, and MR.

I am not a fanatic about the Marvel Comics Universe and its many films, but I am a fan of the character Doctor Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch). The new film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness takes him and some “mystical allies into the mind-bending and dangerous alternate realities of the Multiverse to confront a mysterious new adversary.”

There are people in our real world who find the idea of multiverses terrifying, so “madness” might be a good word to attach to it. The Marvel version of the multiverse is defined as “the collection of alternate universes which share a universal hierarchy; it is a subsection of the larger Omniverse, the collection of all alternate universes. A large variety of these universes were originated as forms of divergence from other realities, where an event with different possible outcomes gives rise to different universes, one for each outcome. Some can seem to be taking place in the past or future due to differences in how time passes in each universe.”

The film may not be science-based but theoretical scientists have been theorizing about multiple universes, alternate universes, and alternative timelines for almost as long as science-fiction writers have been creating them. Probably everyone reading this (and definitely the person writing this) has thought about the idea of how changing some events in your past life might have created different outcomes. Writers and filmmakers may think about trying to stop JFK’s assassination or what if the Nazis had won WWII, but you and I probably think more personally. What if I hadn’t gone to that college, or hadn’t taken that job, or had married someone else, or not married at all?

For now, multiverses exist in our minds, but someday, perhaps, they will be real. Or whatever “real” means at that point in time.

Astrology as Data Science

     Libra

Is there a code hidden in the tree of life? Can the movement of the stars or where they were when we were born tell us something about ourselves and our future? Humans like matching patterns. Astrology tries to match the universe’s patterns.

I listened to a program about searching for order in the universe and one interview was with data scientist Alexander Boxer. In his book, A Scheme of Heaven: The History of Astrology and the Search for Our Destiny in Data, he looks at the history and “science” of astrology.  He argues that astrology is humanity’s first attempt to predict the future with algorithms. 

Algorithms – which we now associate with computers – are a set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations.

Is there any science in astrology?  Boxer looks at classical texts on astrology and especially at the underlying scientific and mathematical framework. Astrology is a very ambitious applied mathematics problem. It is a huge data-analysis project to which scientists from Ptolemy to al-Kindi to Kepler contributed data. And there are rules. Algorithms.

astrolabe for calculating the position of the stars

The early astrologers used complex astronomical calculations. On his website, Boxer has several calculators including one where you can plug in a date and time (such as your birth) and find where the planets and Moon were located. He does it in his book for dates such as Caesar’s assassination as viewed from Rome, and the Apollo 11 lunar landing as seen from the surface of the Moon. Why? To test these horoscopes using modern data sets and statistical science.

Is Boxer out to prove or disprove that astrology is legitimate science? That’s not the point. It is intellectual history. It is more about the technology the ancients developed for tapping into astrology’s “predictive powers.” Astrology has an effect on our lives today not because the stars affect us or can predict the future but because it is part of our scientific and cultural history.

PISCES Top and bottom illustrations, via Wikimedia Commons, are hand-colored zodiac constellations from Uranographia Britannica, 1748, The atlas relied on the work of Dr. John Bevis, a London physician who had devoted a year to recording the nightly transits of stars from his observatory in Stoke Newington.

Don’t Doubt Descartes

Statue of the philosopher in Descartes, France

If you took an intro to philosophy course or even if you never took philosophy, the one phrase you might know is “I think therefore I am.” That comes from the man known as “the Father of Modern Philosophy,” – René Descartes.

Descartes was born in 1596 in La Haye en Touraine in central France. The city is now named for him. His book, Meditations on First Philosophy, was on the required reading list for my first philosophy course.

Descartes had not been a healthy child and spent a lot of time in bed. He was sent to Jesuit schools and got a degree in law. He moved to the Netherlands and he did most of the writing he is known for in the 20 years that he lived there.

Queen Christina of Sweden invited him to Stockholm to be her tutor. She was 23 and he was in his 50s. While in Stockholm, he came down with pneumonia which caused his death.

When he wrote that famous phrase in 1637, what did he mean? He wrote it as “Je pense donc je suis.” and it was often written in Latin as “Cogito ergo sum” and translated to Englis as “I think therefore I am.”

It is a summary statement from his Discourse on the Method. He was thinking and writing about some of his ideas about science which included theories (like those of Galileo) that were controversial at the time. His intention was to write a proof showing that skepticism about the laws of nature is necessary for understanding nature.

This “methodological skepticism” meant he would reject any idea that could be doubted. Them he would need proof for the idea so that it could be accepted as knowledge.

In all this doubt, he could even doubt his own existence. One thing he could not doubt was the existence of his own thoughts. If he was doubting, he was thinking. If he was thinking, then he existed.


“Of philosophy, I will say nothing, except that when I saw that it had been cultivated for so many ages by the most distinguished men; and that yet there is not a single matter within its sphere which is still not in dispute and nothing, therefore, which is above doubt, I did not presume to anticipate that my success would be greater in it than that of others.”