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Sunday, December 2, 2012

All Ye, Who Mind Blows Love

Somehow, "Bi-Monthly Mind Blow" just didn't have as nice a ring at the time.

I've been busy this autumn with new students and challenging adventures, but I hope to get back here from time to time to share some things that blow my mind! Thanks for coming back.

Now, for the return topic of your Daily Mind Blow...

Blowing Minds.

I'm hoping you can take five minutes to help me blow my student's minds. My high school kids in Cabot, Vermont have devised an original piece of theater based on the music of The Beatles.

"A Magical Mystery Tour" expands on some of the universal themes of the band's musical evolution. At a decisive moment, when our protagonist begins the journey from innocence to disillusionment, she hears the world calling. That's where you come in!

Musically, this scene will be set to "Dear Prudence" (we're using the arrangement from "Across the Universe"). Projected on our screens, we intend to beam in an ensemble from around the world. I'm talking vocalists and instrumentalists. I'm talking dreamers and believers. I'm talking you!

Attached is a link to an mp3 recording. If you have simple recording capabilities, a built in web or video camera and some headphones, then you're what we need! Pour a glass of wine, plug in the headphones and enable your mic. Have some fun "decorating" the arrangement, or take the vocal lead if so moved.

Finally, just send me your video. I'll edit your solo tracks together with our musicians to bring out our best, and I'll send you a copy!

You don't have to sing like John or Paul to contribute. You could drone a low D string on that electric bass in the garage or drop a thump with an upside down plastic garbage can! What ever sounds cool to you.

I want this to expand their minds in a way that even Tim Leary can't imagine. It should start off small but energetic, and build to a cacophonous transcendence. (No pressure though :)

Seriously though, and please... enjoy this! Also, get your talented friends to enjoy the kind of experiment that this crazy age affords us.

I'll need your videos at by Friday December 14th. Or you can share me a link to your cloud space of choice.

Thanks in advance for helping me give these kids something special. Who knows what our collective imaginations might create! Here's the link, (you may need to copy it and paste in your browser):


PS- (technical addendum) The screen will be elevated at about a 45 degree angle to the Girl's line of sight. We are speaking to her, calling her towards possibility. So, if you sing, it can't hurt to look down a bit. Other than that, just sing to the webcam, (or stage a cast of 50 in Central Park, if you like!) Finally, an ear to sound quality is more important than what we see. Thanks again!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Might As Well Be Walking On The Sun

Summary: Venus takes a stroll.

Why It's A Mind Blow: By now, you've probably heard that tomorrow marks a once more in a lifetime opportunity. Starting at about 6 PM EST, our nearest celestial neighbor will pass in front of the sun.

The next time Venus will make a "transit" will be in 2117, so this is probably your last chance to see it (unless you're Ray Kurzweil). There will be plenty of websites broadcasting the event live but if at all possible, I suggest viewing it with your own eyes. There's just something special, more real, and more personal about looking up in the sky and seeing these things for yourself.

Just remember, looking at the sun is dangerous business! DO NOT DO IT without the proper equipment (protective lenses, etc.) Another option is to find a local viewing party. Here in Vermont, they'll be opening up the observatory at Middlebury College to the public so if you like, and if the clouds don't ruin things, you can stop by there after work and have a look-see.

If none of these options are viable, you can always use a pair of binoculars and a white sheet. Place the sheet about three feet in front of you and, with your back to the sun, hold the binoculars over your shoulder. Once again, DON"T LOOK directly at the sun. Rather, use the binoculars to project an image of the sun onto the sheet. It really works and yes, that little black dot really is another world. You really are watching it pass in front of a star.

These are times of wonder. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

What's in a Day?

Summary: Depending on your position in the cosmos, a day can be many things.

Why it's a Mind Blow: The length of a day on Planet Jupiter is much shorter than a day here on Planet Earth. The sun comes up, the sun goes down, and it starts all over again every 9.84 hours. Mercury and Venus, on the other hand, spin much slower. Their rotations span 58.7 and 243 Earth days respectively.

I spend many of my days on other worlds. It is my fancy and my nature. Hence this blog, Daily Mind Blow. It remains my intention to share some of the most mind-blowing news on Planet Earth with you on a daily basis. However, due to the nature of my voyage, I cannot promise that these updates will come with the regularity of an Earthly existence.

So stay tuned. Daily Mind Blow isn't going anywhere. I will continue to post here every day. I cannot, however, foresee the length of that day. It all depends on where I land tomorrow. In the mean time, thanks for coming along for the ride!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

No Harm In Trying

Summary: A sixteen year old has solved the "unsolvable" math problem.

Why it's a Mind Blow: Three hundred and fifty years ago, Sir Isaac Newton posed what he deemed to be an unsolvable problem and for three centuries, the greatest mathematical minds on Planet Earth did little to disavow his claim. The problem involved predicting the behavior of a projectile acted on by the forces of gravity and air resistance.

Enter Shouryya Ray. At age sixteen, the young man stared right in the face of the impossible and said, "well, there's no harm in trying." Even though his teachers told him the problem had no solution, Shouryya had a crack and wouldn't you know it, he solved the problem.

So go ahead. Try. What's the harm? And who knows, you might even succeed.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jimmy's Neutron

Summary: Neutron stars are loco.

Why it's a Mind Blow: Our universe is full of fantastical, mind-boggling, crazy-weird wonders. One of the most bizarre phenomena out there has to be neutron stars.

Neutron stars form when a normal star reaches the end of it's life and goes supernova. During these stellar explosions, the core of the dying star compresses. What remains is comprised mostly of neutrons (neutrally charged atomic particles) crushed into a smooth, white-hot sphere about 10 miles in diameter.

Neutron stars are massive, The crushing force of gravity pulls the pearl of atomic matter in so tightly that the mass is one to two times that of our own sun. Remember, it's only 10 miles across! Neutron stars are so massive, that if you dropped a grain of sand one meter above the surface, it would accelerate to 7.2 million kilometers per second as it fell. The force of it's impact on the surface would actually destroy the component atomic parts, thus converting the sand into more neutron star.

A neutron star is so massive, that a teaspoon of it's material contains the same mass as the Great Pyramid at Giza. It is so dense, that every human on Planet Earth would be compressed together to the size of a sugar cube on it's surface. And it spins so fast, up to several hundred revolutions a second, that you could travel from New York to L.A. and back again in that same second!

So why am I telling you all this, (lest you think your Daily Mind Blow might degenerate into a glorified science text book)? Simple - the wonders of nature are so numerous and comprehensively bizarre, that it blows my mind. Neutron stars are a great example. Just imagine, they're actually real and what's more, we figured out how to understand them! Crazy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Re-Blow: A Whale of a Tale

Summary: Periodically, I will re-post a Mind Blow that some of our newer readers may have missed. In this first re-blow, a mother Gray Whale, known for her affection toward human visitors, is found with a 125 year old harpoon in her back. 

Why It's a Mind Blow: Humans usually assume that we are the most intelligent species on planet Earth and yes, we do have the highest capacity for cognitive reasoning. But defines intelligence more broadly, as the "capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude for grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc."

"Aptitude for grasping truths"; this phrase resonates with me. For what deeper truth has history taught us than the necessity of forgiveness as a cornerstone of progress and ultimately, survival. 

And yet, even as we may realize this intellectually, our track record as a species seems to suggest that we lack the deeper intelligence necessary to put that knowledge into practice. Humans hold grudges. As societies, we go to war on the basis of millenia old transgressions and, as individuals, we often go to our graves with bitterness in our hearts.

So we have a lot to learn from Gray Whales. Before the end of commercial whaling in North America, these gentle giants were actually known as "devil fish". They were easy targets in the shallow waters off the coast of Mexico, and in order to protect their newborn calves, mother Grays would often ram whaling boats head on.

Now under protection, these birthing grounds are visited by thousands of "eco-tourists" every year. The whales, young and old, often swim right up to small craft and allow people to pet them.

One such mother Gray, famous for her generous and playful interactions with human visitors, recently passed away. In her back, scientists discovered a 125 year old harpoon head. This creature, once labeled a devil fish for her defensive attacks against human aggressors, was now one of our most trusting friends.

"Aptitude for grasping truths; capacity for understanding." I'll let you decide where intelligence truly lies in our world.