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Showing posts from April, 2019

Time Machine

Visiting the Golden Age of Greek Science
I gave a lecture recently at the Hellenic Library at Bellflower, California. I spoke about the Antikythera Mechanism: a 2,200 years-old computer that predicted the eclipses of the Sun and the Moon and tracked the positions of the planets. This machine worked with gears, that is, scientific technology. This technology was so advanced it took nearly 2,000 years before it appeared in Europe in the eighteenth century. 
I explained how and the why the Greeks were almost “modern” so many centuries before modern times. I illustrated my talk with 160 images from ancient Greek culture: ceramic vases, other archaeological artifacts, icons of ancient Greek scientific manuscripts, books and instruments, and exquisite computed tomography images of the outside and x-ray pictures of the inside of the largest mechanism fragments. 
These high tech images revealed the secrets of the astronomical machine: on the front surface, there are dials of the Sun, Moon and lo…

Human Flourishing (Eudaimonia) -- an Antidote to Extinction

In a 1977 book, From Know-How to Nowhere, Elting Morison, an MIT professor, explained the confusion in America between science and the public good. 
What do we have to do to be ourselves?
“It is not so clear… that the problems solved by modern science and engineering coincide nicely with the fulfillment of needs felt or unfelt in men and women,” he wrote.  “The chances seem to be that the stream of new artifacts… will not fit… with the nature of human being…. There seems… to be a developing mismatch between our extending knowledge of what we can do with the materials and forces in the world around us and our older, but less certain, understanding of what we have to do to be ourselves. And in this mismatching – such is the power in our machinery and such is the confusion about our real needs – we are likely to come away losers– ground down, blown up, twisted out of shape, crammed into computer-designed compartments, bored to death,” he warned (page 137). Morison is right. Confusion of what…

Hawaii in Trouble

I first visited Hawaii (Oahu and Maui) in the early 1980s. The islands retained some of the glorious beauty of their pre-American life. I remember the mountains in Oahu. They are not tall. They are smooth, green, with deep ridges. It’s like the Hawaiian goddess Pele drew her fingers over a soft matter at the moment of creation. 
Wounded Hawaii
Nevertheless, the wounds of foreign occupation and forcible conversion to Christianity and American culture were everywhere. The remnants of Hawaiian life were tucked into the impenetrable Bishop Museum. Only fragments of the natural world survive. 
Hawaii is now primarily a vacation destination for Japanese and mainland Americans. Indigenous Hawaiians have been in hiding, intermarrying with Japanese and Polynesians. For the most part, they are invisible.
My second visit to Oahu took place in early April 2019. 
Kailua Beach
I walked daily to the miles-long beach of Kailua. I walked without shoes on the sand at the edge of the thundering water splashin…