29 July 2009

Academic Earth: Lectures from Scholars

Academic Earth is proud to announce that it received more than one million visits in the first three months since its January 18 beta launch, with more than 50% of users coming from outside of the US. You can see more details and learn about the most popular subjects, courses, and lectures over that time frame in this presentation. _Academic Earth

Academic Earth is but one of many online sites offering high quality academic lectures on demand at no cost. In The Impending Demise of the University (h/t Simoleon Sense), Don Tapscott looks at many reasons why current incarnations of the university are likely to grow extinct, due to competition from the internet and other technologies.
Universities are finally losing their monopoly on higher learning, as the web inexorably becomes the dominant infrastructure for knowledge serving both as a container and as a global platform for knowledge exchange between people.

Meanwhile on campus, there is fundamental challenge to the foundational modus operandi of the University — the model of pedagogy. Specifically, there is a widening gap between the model of learning offered by many big universities and the natural way that young people who have grown up digital best learn.

...These universities are vulnerable, especially at a time when students can watch lectures online for free by some of the world's leading professors on sites like Academic Earth. They can even take the entire course online, for credit. According to the Sloan Consortium, a recent article in Chronicle of Higher Education tells us, "nearly 20 per cent of college students — some 3.9 million people — took an online course in 2007, and their numbers are growing by hundreds of thousands each year. The University of Phoenix enrolls over 200,000 each year." _Edge


Bookmark and Share

26 July 2009

Economic Tidbits

China may not be ready to spark the international economic recovery. Many informed observors are looking at China's economy and seeing a big bubble. More on China Bubble

Even worse, China appears intent on inflating its bubble to encompass the rest of the world.

Instead of investing in China, you might consider Japan. Although Japan's population is shrinking, sometimes quality can trump mere quantity.

The near and middle-term outlook for the global economy still rests upon the US' shoulders. This is unfortunate, given the current inept and clueless leadership of the former American colonies.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

24 July 2009

Obama Stimulates Bomb Shelter Economy

Although Obama has been unable to improve US employment and business formation, the clown president of the US has had quite a salutary effect on other parts of the economy. Gun and ammunition sales, for example, have skyrocketed into record territory. The survival business has also been doing quite well, including bomb shelter sales. Popular Mechanics has a feature on fallout shelters that you can buy now:
The bomb shelter business is booming. At least that's the consensus of the men and women who design, construct and install underground sanctuaries. They attribute the growth in business to Kim Jong Il's erratic missile lobbing, the intransigent Iranian clerics hell-bent on getting nuclear weaponry, the impending total collapse of the global financial system, and the end of the world in 2012, as predicted by the Mayan Calendar.

"For whatever reason—and we're not totally sure ourselves—but business is incredible," Brian V. Camden, an engineer at high-end shelter builder Hardened Stuctures, says. "Twenty-twelve, the financial collapse: I just had to hire a new architect Tuesday. Right now we're doing a lot in Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania. All through Appalachia, it's people who share a similar mind-set." _PM
Of course everyone understands why the survival industry is growing at rates not seen since the Jimmy Carter malaise. Most of the people who are spending large sums of money to make themselves and their families secure, do not understand what they are doing. They are not competent to meet the likely challenges that an extended Obama depression and catastrophe would force them to meet.

Truly competent persons can build or design far better plans for surviving hard times than are available from most vendors in the survival industry. Unfortunately, competence is a vanishingly rare commodity in the age of psychological neoteny and academic lobotomy.

The most effective survival strategies involve cohesive groups of like-minded and competent persons working together toward a common goal. The information and tools for survival are available to any insightful persons or groups. In libraries and on the internet, you can find all the info you will need. Consult the Al Fin sidebar, or check out the "survival" category link below.

The Society for Creative Apocalyptology is working on providing its expertise in syndicated form to local chapters. Stay tuned, since the wheels of progress sometimes roll slowly.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

20 July 2009

Electromagnetic Pulse Basics

William R. Forstchen is the author of One Second After, a best-selling novel that looks at a post - EMP US. Without the electrical power grid, modern civilisation would be in danger of collapse. If your power utility breaks down, the world around you will grow very dangerous, and life very precarious -- quickly.
This is a terrifying aspect of an attack that no government report has publicly discussed along with the potential casualty rate in the first seconds after an attack. Commercial airliners today are all computer driven. In fact, from lift off to landing, a pilot no longer even needs to be in the cockpit, a computer can do all of it if need be. When the pilot pulls back on the "stick" it is no longer connect by wires stretching all the way back to the tail and the elevator assembly. Instead, his motion is read by a computer which sends a signal to an electrical servo - motor in the tail, which then moves the tail. In short, the entire plane is computer driven. It is estimated that at any given moment during regular business hours, somewhere between three to four thousand commercial airliners are crisscrossing the skies. (There is a fascinating site you can find via Goggle that shows typical air traffic around the world during a twenty four hour period. From dawn til way after dusk, the entire USA is one glowing blob of commercial flights crisscrossing our sky). All of them would be doomed, the pilots sitting impotent, staring at blank computer screens, pulling on controls that no longer respond as the plane finally noses over and heads in.

Somewhere between 250,000 to 500,000 people will die in the first few minutes...more than all our battle casualties across four years of World War II


The frightening answer is no. This author has spent over four years researching this topic, interviewing scores of personnel from Congressmen and Generals, to your local police chief and sheriff. At your local level, since 9/11, first responders have received hundreds of hours of training and briefings on all sorts of terrorist scenarios. Only a few have told me that they even discussed the topic for more than a few minutes at an official level. As to emergency stockpiles of supplies and crucial replacement parts, there is nothing in place.


EMP, has managed to "stealth" its way on to the highly dangerous list and few, except for a small number of personnel in the Pentagon, various research labs, and men like Congressman Bartlett (R., MD) who heads the Congressional Investigative Committee on EMP, are aware of it. For one it has a certain "sci - fi" sound to it, which makes many dismiss the potential before the discussion has even started. Second, the only way to truly evaluate the threat and demonstrate it is to detonate a nuclear weapon, something we have not done since the full test ban went into effect decades ago. It is therefore not "visible" to us, the way another airliner smashing into a skyscraper is now forever imprinted on our national psyche, feared, and prepared for. Next, with all the competing issues and threats in the world, EMP simply does not have a "constituency" of influence. Only a few members of Congress, our military and scientific community are issuing the warnings. There are no Hollywood stars placing themselves in front of cameras with this as their cause, the few times it has been used in popular movies, it has been portrayed inaccurately, often absurdly.

And finally, the impact is so overwhelming - that it triggers a psychological sense of helplessness, and therefore why bother, since if it happens we are finished. It is the same response that happened between the 1950s - 60s. When first confronted with the threat of a nuclear attack, tens of billions was spent to prepare, in fact our Interstate Highway system was initiated in the mid 1950s as a national defense effort to provide avenues of escape from cities in the event of nuclear war, a means to bring in emergency supplies and to move our military. Plans were issued to citizens on how to build bomb shelters and all children were drilled in what is seen now as the absurd "duck and cover."

Something happened though by the mid - 1960s. The threat was no longer fifty to a hundred small atomic bombs dropped from bombers, it was now a rain of thousands of hydrogen bombs, delivered within minutes by ballistic missiles. In this atmosphere of overkill, attempting to prepare seemed ridiculous, futile. The standard phrase became "the living will envy the dead," so why bother? Civil defense finally became an object of derision, the realm of a few survivalist nut cases.

That threat is still there, and to this day our nuclear forces stand ready to respond, which has indeed been the only defense left..."if you nuke us, we'll nuke you," a policy known as "mutual assured destruction," a zero win game.

EMP is different, it is not a rain of thousands of bombs, needing a vast and powerful military to deliver it, which means Russia and China are the only real threats in that realm...but unless seized by madness, their leaders know such an attack, within minutes would be met with thousands of bombs annihilating their country as well. It is a balance of terror that has now endured for nearly sixty years.

An EMP attack is different since it only requires but one nuclear weapon, detonated 300 miles above the middle of the United States. One bomb. The launch could even be done from a container ship somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico and in that instant, the war is already over and won.

Read the whole thing.

If you are an Obama zombie, brain-dead and blindly trusting in the benevolence and wisdom of the clown in the White House, there is nothing here that will interest you. Life goes on according to the "talking points", and life will always go on according to the talking points. To think anything else is to wander off the reservation, onto dangerous and uncharted territory.

But if you can think for yourself, you will see the threat of EMP as just one out of many threats that can throw the modern, oblivious way of life out of its convenient and affluent path.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

18 July 2009

Can You Survive the Mean Streets?

Surviving the wilderness can be a cinch compared to many parts of a large city. As the Obama depression spreads and deepens, a lot of people currently living on the edge will begin to get desperate. Desparate people do desparate things. If you happen to find yourself in the path of desparate persons, you may wish that you had spent more time preparing. Because, when the time comes, it is unlikely that your pleas or excuses will help you.
It's a sticky Saturday morning and I'm handcuffed in the back seat of a Jeep Grand Cherokee parked on the side of a Philadelphia street. On one side of me is my boyfriend, Bruce, and on the other his best friend, Nick. Both of them are also cuffed—and like me, sweating like pigs. I reach into my hair and pull out a bobby pin that within seconds I've fashioned into a simple device I use to jimmy open my handcuff locks. Our assignment now is to evade 12 professionally trained trackers in a 25-square-block area for the next eight hours.

It may be hard to believe, but we asked for this. Actually, we paid for it: $550 apiece.

Today is the final day of a three-day "Urban Escape and Evade" course offered by onPoint Tactical LLC, a New Jersey-based company that teaches soldiers, police officers, and, increasingly, civilians urban survival skills.
Urban survival, escape, and evasion courses are popping up across US cities, as more residents of the US begin to understand where the Obama reich is headed. Under a regime of corruption and fascist social corporatism, large numbers of unfavoured and unconnected people will be left to fend for themselves.

Anyone who has lived in Mexico and other parts of the third world understands the fear of kidnapping and drug violence. Soon those living in the US will learn what living in the third world is like, courtesy of Brocko Bomba, aka "The Messiah", and "The Godfather."

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

14 July 2009

Outer Space Colony for Geosynchronous Orbit

The space colony Asten, named after the Egyptian god of balance is 1.6 kilometer-high structure made up of a series of habitation rings stuck in the shape of a cylinder. The entire structure rotates on its axis, simulating Earth-like gravity for its inhabitants. _NewLaunches
Image Source
The design for this space colony comes from Eric Yam, high school student from Toronto. Eric was a co-winner of the 2009 NASA Space Settlement Contest.
"He basically built a Utopia from scratch," said math and physics teacher Gillian Evans, staff advisor on the project.

Yam's innovative design, built as a series of stacked rings resembling a cylinder, would house a self-sustaining colony of 10,000 people and up to 300 visitors, including paying tourists, in the year 2050.

A hotel section would include a panoramic outer gallery with transparent walls, perfect for watching the earth, moon and stars.

Yam called his design Asten, another name for the Egyptian god Thoth, master of divine and physical law.

A pdf of the design can be viewed at: http://www.tdsb.on.ca/wwwdocuments/about_us/media_room/docs/ASTEN.pdf _Star

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

11 July 2009

Rough Waters Ahead for Economy, Society

Controversial futurist Gerald Celente does not have a high opinion of President Obama's competence as leader of the world's largest economy. In the following video, Celente describes some of the problems resulting from electing a president who is not quite up to the task. Unfortunately for the US, it does seem that virtually every policy decision of Obama's that involves the economy, is wrong.
Gerald Celente on YouTube

Gerald Celente's Trends Research Institute


H/T Neil Craig

Nouriel Roubini looks at the US government's dishonest jobs numbers and sees reason to expect things to get worse. Again.

Top Morgan Stanley economist sees economic and financial instability

Economic indicators from international shipping data send ominous signal

Inflation vs. deflation

H/T Survival Blog

One of the most ominous signposts for the future is the rapid growth of government employment and government spending in the face of rapid contraction in the private sector. The government employee pension fiasco is already becoming the focus of widespread discontent that could easily morph into societal discord. Deep fault lines between persons tied to the public sector and persons invested in the private sector could deepen and lurch violently in the near future. Public perception is growing that the new outfit in Washington is stripping the private sector like a junked automobile, for the benefit of Obama's financial backers and political allies.

Prepare for the worst. Hope for the best. In that order.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

10 July 2009

Connecting Aerodynamic Seasteads in Clusters

Image Source
The SESU seastead design won the recent Seasteading Institute's design award for "most aesthetic." As you can see, the seastead is mostly enclosed by transparent panels. This design protects the inhabitants from ever-present winds, sea spray, and splash in high seas, while allowing for daylight illumination. The above image demonstrates a cluster of 3 SESU 'steads, along with a docked super-yacht. In reality, the best dock designs for yachts and passenger ships are yet to be created.
Image Source
The SESU design is Al Fin's favourite of the recent seastead design contest winners. The semi-enclosed design protects inhabitants and interior structures from many of the hazards of the open sea, in comparison to the other designs.

Better methods for loading and unloading supplies and personnel -- from the sea and from the air -- will be most important for any such facility that intends to put to sea long term.

The vertical 4-spar design is meant to minimise wave impact on the structure. But traveling through the water will be slow, which means that it will be difficult for such seasteads to move out of the way of large storms. The structure would have to be able to adapt and transform itself to meet and survive strong storms at sea.

The walkways connecting the 3-stead cluster, as pictured, would likely snap like toothpicks in any significant storm. Should that happen, the 3 seasteads would be far too close for safety in a free-floating configuration. There are many things to be taken into account, before this design is actually inhabited and tested at sea.

What would you change or modify?

For more information, read Reason Magazine's 20,000 Nations Above the Sea for an interesting look at the founding fathers of the Seasteading Institute and on some of the non-technical problems seasteading faces.

For seasteading to be successful as a movement, it will have to solve a long list of problems. Only a few of them are technical or engineering problems. Most of them will be tougher because they will involve human psychology, politics, and legality.


Bookmark and Share

08 July 2009

Bottom Up Brain Building: The Missing Links

There is a way to build thinking machines that might work. Use as your model the only proof of concept of higher intelligence known to the universe: the human brain / mind. Start by developing a machine nano-architecture that can do almost as many things that the human brain can do. To do this, you must understand the brain and you must invent new machine tools for imitating what the brain does.

Berkeley professor of electrical engineering Leon Chua, has made a good start. His "memristor" devices have gotten a lot of people excited about the possiblity of designing a working machine brain from the bottom up.
When two metallic wires are separated with a few nanometers of memristive material (such as certain transition metal oxides), an electronic device is formed that acts much like a nonlinear resistor, but with a twist. The resistance varies over time as a function of the currents flowing through it. In other words, it is a resistor with memory.
The rate at which their resistance changes is extremely nonlinear in the voltage applied. Small voltages hardly perturb the resistance at all, while somewhat larger voltages can induce fast changes. _Memristor Cortical Computing
Because memristor devices are able to change their electronic characteristics based upon their electronic history, they can be seen as analogous to neuronal synapses, which change their characteristics based upon their synaptic firing history. This dynamic adaptation on the nano scale presents the possibility of building very dense self-organising electronic networking chips far beyond anything previously possible.

Intelligence is not an algorithm. It cannot be "programmed." But given the proper "neural architecture" and appropriate experience, intelligence can be evolved over time. The memristor needs to be joined by other advanced memory-electronics in order to provide for machines the extremely subtle learning that the human brain can do.
The electronic brain will be a time coming. "We're still getting to grips with this chip," says Williams. Part of the problem is that the chip is just too intelligent - rather than a standard digital pulse it produces an analogue output that flummoxes the standard software used to test chips. So Williams and his colleagues have had to develop their own test software. "All that takes time," he says.

Chua, meanwhile, is not resting on his laurels. He has been busy extending his theory of fundamental circuit elements, asking what happens if you combine the properties of memristors with those of capacitors and inductors to produce compound devices called memcapacitors and meminductors, and then what happens if you combine those devices, and so on.

"Memcapacitors may be even more useful than memristors," says Chua, "because they don't have any resistance." In theory at least, a memcapacitor could store data without dissipating any energy at all. Mighty handy - whatever you want to do with them. Williams agrees. In fact, his team is already on the case, producing a first prototype memcapacitor earlier this year, a result that he aims to publish soon. "We haven't characterised it yet," he says. With so many fundamental breakthroughs to work on, he says, it's hard to decide what to do next. Maybe a memristor could help. _NS
It should have been obvious that the tools for creating machine intelligence were inadequate to the task. Just as it should have been obvious that the models used to predict climate over multi-decadal scales are completely inadequate to the task. Many things become obvious once one throws off the blinders of conventional groupthink. If one allows oneself to think outside the box, the possibilities suddenly multiply wildly.

More: The image at top is of a slime mold, which is sometimes a single-cell organism and sometimes a multiple cell organism, depending on environmental conditions. Each biological cell is in essence an incredibly complex computing machine. Multicellular organisms possess unbelievable biological computing power, compared to non-biological computers. Imagine the computing power of a human being, complete with brain and nervous systems. It is literally beyond the power of human made hardware to emulate. But as humans develop more subtle technologies of computation, they will be able to build -- from the bottom up -- machines that have the intelligence first of insects, then of higher and higher animals.

Will humans eventually be able to evolve machines with the intelligence of humans and higher? Of course. It is also true that if humans do not choose to become more intelligent themselves, that they are finished on this planet, long term. How humans go about the enhancement of their own intelligence will make for some interesting work in the not so distant future.

Brian Wang provides more quotes and images on this topic

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

05 July 2009

Freedom For the High Seas and Beyond

The Aeroyacht 110 has been dubbed “the world’s most innovative super catamaran” by its designers and, while that’s a pretty big claim, it’s certainly an audacious concept. Capable of speeds of over 32 knots but able to cruise effortlessly at 20, boasting a superbly-appointed 32ft wide salon with 360º sea views and with its own fold-up amphibious plane as a tender, the Aeroyacht 110 looks to be the ne plus ultra of luxury sailing.

Designed from scratch by Gregor Tarjan, founder of Aeroyacht International, together with naval architect Pete Melvin, of the world-renowned Morrelli & Melvin multihull architects, the Aeroyacht 110 was designed from the outside-in. Tarjan started with the concept for a “pure sailing machine” and, once its streamlined shape was established, only then worked out how many people it could and should accommodate

The ICON amphibious craft on deck adds a completely new dimension of freedom to the maritime ensemble. All that is lacking is a small submarine. The decks appear ample for both a mini-sub and the small amphibious flier.

Perhaps the Aeroyacht people can correct that oversight by the time the super cat hits the market. The ability to roam on the sea, under the sea, and above the sea, is an absolute minimum of freedom for the advanced between levels human. For exploration on shore and throughout inland estuaries, a hovercraft may need to be included.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

03 July 2009

Be There Or Be Stuck on this Dirt Ball Forever!

Update: The NewSpace 2009 conference on July 18-20th at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, will be another space related conference worth attending. Focusing on private and commercial space ventures, the SF Bay area conference will be sponsored by the Heinlein Trust, DNK Co., Ltd, NASA Ames Research Center, National Space Society, Space Investment Summit, Space Angels Network, Tetra Wine, SEDS, and of course the Space Frontier Foundation.
Denver in an Ice Age Summer

From 2-5 August, 2009, in Denver Colorado, the 7th Annual International Energy Conversion Conference and the 45th Joint Propulsion Conference will explore a wide range of topics of interest to readers of the Al Fin blogs:
The 7th IECEC will explore the future of clean energy systems through a series of panel discussions and technical paper presentations. This year's hot topics include:

* Alternative power systems – such as fuel cell technology and solar system technology
* Biofuels, including biodiesel fuels and fuels created from food-waste
* Electric power systems which would replace traditional fossil fuel based propulsion systems
* Nanotechnlology applications for solar power systems, among many others. There will also be a discussion of future energy policy needs to answer the demand for “green” energy systems. _IECEC
In a special joint conference with the "Joint Propulsion Conference" the IECEC will also be taking a look at biofuels as the source of rocket propulsion fuel for space launch.
The 7th IECEC is sponsored by Battelle Memorial Institute and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The 45th JPC is sponsored by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.
The design of our next generation flight and space systems will be dependent more than ever on high performance, increasingly efficient, reliable and affordable propulsion systems. Our ability to incorporate new technologies into aircraft and spacecraft will have far reaching impacts to the evolutionary roles these complex systems play in our everyday lives. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control invite you to Denver and be a part of the exciting future of the aerospace propulsion industry. _AIAA
This joint conference is a great opportunity to rub shoulders with other innovation-oriented people. Denver in early August can be quite hot, but you will be spending most of the day in conference anyway. Evenings can be very pleasant. A number of beautiful summertime destinations are just a short hop from Denver.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

02 July 2009

Why Asians Can't Think (Outside the Box)

The higher average intelligence of East Asians compared to Europeans is well documented. The question is: why do East Asians -- despite their intelligence -- lag behind Europeans in measures of creativity, particularly over the past millenium?

Dennis Mangan recently looked at differences between thought styles of Asians and Europeans in this posting. Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Political Science provides the grist for discussion:
The first four Euro-American nations are overrepresented among the Nobel laureates by a factor of 5 to 10; Switzerland is overrepresented by a factor of 28! In sharp contrast, all Asian nations are underrepresented among the Nobel laureates. Japan, for example, has been a major geopolitical and economic power for most of the 20th century (Small and Singer, 1982). Yet it has produced only 12 Nobel laureates, the same number as Austria, which has one-sixteenth of Japan's population.

This problem has long been known to East Asian specialists as the "creativity problem" (Eberts and Eberts, 1995, pp. 123-127; Taylor, 1983, pp. 92-123; van Wolferen, 1989, pp. 89-90). Some argue that the ideographic Asian languages curb abstract thinking and creativity among Asians (Hannas, 2003).....Whatever the reason, it is evident from Table 1 that some combinations of cultural, social, and institutional factors combine to stifle basic science in Asia.
_Kanazawa (PDF)
A similar story is told in Charles Murray's classic compilation "Human Accomplishment." While Murray went to great lengths to include as strong an Asian componentas possible in the history of human accomplishment, the cumulative list of Asian accomplishments up to the present fell short.
Q. You pay a surprising amount of attention to Asian culture. Does that stem from the six years you lived in Asia beginning as a Peace Corps volunteer?

A. Put it this way: There are aspects of Asian culture as it is lived that I still prefer to Western culture, 30 years after I last lived in Thailand. Two of my children are half-Asian. Apart from those personal aspects, I have always thought that the Chinese and Japanese civilizations had elements that represented the apex of human accomplishment in certain domains.

When I began the book, I actually hoped to give Asian accomplishment a still larger place than it wound up getting.

Q. Why did you end up with mostly Dead White European Males in your inventory of 4,002 significant figures?

A. That's what happens when you employ the methods I used. And as I spend many pages in the book describing in perhaps excessive detail, those methods are not skewed by Western sources that are unfairly oblivious to non-Western accomplishment. _Charles Murray Interview
So, how does one explain the lagging of East Asians behind Europeans in the creativity race? La Griffe du Lion suggests that East Asians have such high visuospatial ability, that their overall IQ score is lifted higher than all others except for Ashkenazi Jews. But while visuospatial / mathematical ability is quite important in many fields of hard science, mathematics, and engineering / technology, deep creativity and radical innovation appear to spring from yet other parts of the cognitive neural assemblage beyond mere visuospatial ability.
Part of the reason why Asians cannot think for themselves and make original and creative contributions to science is because they are too conformist. One of the factors that Miller identifies as a possible obstacle to the Asian future of evolutionary psychology ("academic conservatism") is actually fatal. Scientific revolutions happen by challenging the established paradigms. No conformists have ever brought about a scientific revolution. _Kanazawa PDF
A conformist culture will certainly lend toward an anti-innovative conservatism, which can leave life-long imprints in the brain of a growing child. On the other hand, culture does not spring out of nothing. Culture is strongly influenced by the genetic complement of a population. For example, communist totalitarian conformity was forced onto several nations of Eastern Europe at roughly the same time that China was forced into communism by the victory of Mao's PLA. But communism did not last in most of the European populations, whereas in China the CCP is still the locus of one-party rule.

Long ago, inventors in China devised gunpowder, printing, paper money, the magnetic compass, and probably other wonders now lost to history. But even millenia ago, entrenched Chinese conservatism prevented the constructive uses of most of these inventions. It was left to Europeans to expand and innovate on these ancient inventions around the time of the "renaissance." Has there been a fatal "lack of curiousity" in Chinese culture?
This lack of curiosity extended into science. While ancient China was in many ways more technologically advanced than ancient Greece, knowledge for its own sake was never valued. The ancient Greeks in contrast wrote and debated tirelessly about abstract ideas that had no connection to the real world. _HBDBooks
Similarly, Hindu mathematicians devised advanced arithmetic notation and algebraic logic, as well as other advanced mathematical concepts for the times. These ideas moved along routes of trade and conquest to Islamic centers of thought in Persia, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Andalusia ... where the Hindu ideas were combined with ideas from ancient Greek mathematics, and a synthesis of sorts was created. But it was left to Europeans to take the Hindu - Islamic - Greek synthesis along with rediscovered Greek ideas, and turn them into the modern mathematics upon which modern technology is based.

East Asian scientists and technologists certainly have the brilliance to maintain and advance the modern technologies that Europeans are bequeathing to them. The question remains: what will be the pattern of advance? Will we see a plodding, step by step elaboration and revising of science and technology centered on current fields of study, from the new "Asian renaissance?" Or will we see the sort of radical creation of entirely new foci of science and technology of the sort we have become accustomed to over the past few centuries, from European inventors and researchers?

There is much to be learned about the cultural -- and genetic -- reasons why different populations seen to have different habits of thought. Rather than shying away from such research as somehow "racist" or "not PC", we should get busy understanding all aspects of this universe we live in.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

01 July 2009

Bruce Hall's University Model for High Schools

No matter how hard a person such as Lynn Tilton works to save the US economy, if the American public is uneducated -- or poorly educated for the needs of society -- the society will eventually sink into mediocrity. Bruce Hall has proposed one of the most thoughtful approaches to reforming American secondary education that I have seen.

As you can see in the diagram, Bruce proposes creating a range of "Majors" or areas of emphasis, to match the wide range of available needs and niches in society at large. Most high school students will not succeed at nor benefit from a strenuous four year college program. But most students are capable of matching their unique skills and talents to satisfying work that can provide for their needs -- if they are shown the possibilities and given the skills and competencies they will need.

Adolescence should be considered a critical window of development. It is the time that children should begin to shoulder responsibility, and lay the groundwork for the early stages of their adult experience. Modern American society neglects this period of critical development, resulting in too many adolescents becoming stuck perpetually in quasi-adolescence.

By showing teenagers a more realistic range of possibilities, and by building their aptitude and competence to perform well within that wide range of options, teens become empowered and eager to demonstrate their skills responsibly -- rather than becoming embittered and alienated when the establishment fails to deliver on its promises.

America needs all the Lynn Tiltons it can get. But it also needs the ideas of its Bruce Halls and others capable of penetrating to the heart of America's growing educational deficit.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
Newer Posts Older Posts
Al Fin Main Page
Enter your Email

Powered by FeedBlitz

Powered by