Sunday, November 12, 2006

Belief Biology

"I have just 3 things to teach:
These are your greatest treasures"

-Tao Te Ching

I have to admit that after nearly 20 years living down in the Antipodes, I am now officially a Rugby Fan. Not fanatical, but certainly an ardent admirer of the game. When I first moved down here from the U.S., I looked at these hulking guys with no necks and no protection running at full speed into each other as something slightly akin to organised brawling. When the ref did blow the whistle for any number of unknown infractions, I was most puzzled. Get the ball over the line anyway you can seemed the point, and whatever happened to your body or anyone elses, well, so be it.

There are actually tactics and strategy in this mayhem, and having never played the game, it just took me a bit longer than the locals to get the gist. New Zealand has the best rugby team in the world right now, and with the World Cup being played in 12 months time, it creates very high expectations from the public. Luckily, they thrashed France today, or the whole country would have been in a funk. They are warriors alright, and very focused as you must be in battle, lest you lose your life. The Haka, a Maori challenge brought on each time they face an opponent, is unseen anywhere else in sports, and is really the best part of the whole match. It is an adrenaline-surged dance of life and death, played out before millions by those who are about to enter combat with rules. Spine tingling stuff.

My Tui friend pictured above has gone off in the mornings for sweeter and perhaps easier nectar in the lush bush around my cottage, but he will be back. That shot is from my bedroom window, just a metre away from where he would wake me every morning. Their call is like no other in the bird world, perhaps I can post a audio of it. That would be pretty clever for a non-geek!

Staying with the geek world of gadgets and more, Microsoft has now decided to enter something called the Zune into the portable digital media player (MP3)market dominated by Apple and iPod, only an astonishing 5 years too late. According to this review by the Tech Maven, it may look cool, and have some new features to shout about (like sharing files with other Zune owners), but in the end, they are short of content, and just a bit late, really. Apple and Steve Jobs impress me more and more with their ability to hit the button with timing, design, and well, coolness. That is a recipe for success for the MySpace generation, who are undoubtedly the main target consumers.

I subscribe to the New Scientist podcasts, which I find brilliant in their production quality, subject matter and presentation. This week is a report on a group of highly respected scientists getting together at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California to debate what they can do about the growing threat of religion undermining all their good work on quantum physics and neurobiology. Not much, I don't think. As long as they see it as a threat, they will be in a constant confrontational and adversarial position, rather than one of collaboration and tolerance. That is unfortunately not a position of productive or positive outcomes, in my view. Consciousness, free will, and belief are not areas that science has been able to fit in to their model very easily. Instead of always hearing Religion v. Science, why not Religion and Science? Once we start feeling threatened by the way other people think, we all become fundamentalists.

No one I speak to seems at all upset that the power in Washington has shifted somewhat, and now we can (not) all look forward to a protracted Presidential election leading up to '08. Do they have time for anything else there but trying to get elected? I guess that is the point of being a politician. Anyway, in this Vanity Fair article, even the die-hard neo-cons giving Bush all the gun-ho advice are now distancing themselves from their failed policies. A sure sign another election is on the way.

If you regularly go to the doctor for a diagnosis of ailment, as most of us would, would you be surprised to know that many of them use Google to get it right? Don't be, it makes sense. I am not recommending to make all our own diagnoses, but it does make me think about what we might be paying for.. My broadband is as good as his! There are lots of medical sites, Web MD being one of the more popular.

And still on health, marriage is given a fairly rough treatment in this NYTimes article, suggesting it may be our heavy reliance on this one relationship at the expense of others, that can lead to a less than balanced life and health. A good social circle and healthy close personal friendships are certainly something to be cherished. The trick I suppose, is to balance those relationships and interests within a marriage, if success and longevity are sought. Nice concept, anyway.

1 comment:

Ivan Semeniuk said...

Thank you for your feedback on the New Scientist podcast! We'll do our best to keep bringing you the most engaging science show we can. Best wishes to you and your readers.

Ivan & Caroline