Everything happens for a reason


DCF 1.0

I have heard this saying more and more over the years. It always seems to be uttered by people who are trying to cheer someone who is going through a particularly tough time in their life. Scientifically, this saying is true. It’s a dumbed down and generalized version of Newton’s third law of motion which states, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The folks who pepper their speech with this saying are also fond of espousing that they think, “The universe has a plan”.

universe-has-a-plan

Yes, these pompous idiots actually believe that the universe is a sentient being that, not only knows you exist, but actually cares about what happens to you. The level of arrogance possessed by the human race never ceases to astonish me. Sure, the universe has planned out every little fart in your life, just like the ocean has big plans for each and every grain of sand on its floor.

I do understand that we humans have an overwhelming need to answer every question, but what good is an answer that is obviously a load of crap?  No other species on earth has the luxury of being able to think beyond survival. We have that luxury and what do we do with it? We come up with trite little sayings meant to feed our already over inflated egos. But, it’s more than that, isn’t it? If everything happens for a reason and the universe has a plan, then we are not responsible for what happens to us. We can point the convenient finger of blame when things don’t go our way. Oh, it’s not my fault that I got fired, the universe (or Jesus, Allah, Vishnu etc.) has a plan and I wasn’t meant to have that job. Never mind that you stole from petty cash, sexually harassed a co-worker or disrespected your boss… it’s the Universe.

More of us should spend time looking through a telescope at the night sky in order to get a good healthy dose of just how insignificant we really are. A little humility would go a long way in this world. Perhaps, if we weren’t so puffed up we wouldn’t be so quick to go to war with each other. We might not go around belittling everything that is different from us by proclaiming that we are number one all of the time. We might actually realize just how little what we do, say and think matters in the grand scheme of things… and by grand scheme, I don’t mean the big script in the sky that has everyone’s roles all neatly written out. Conceivably, if we realized how unimportant and unnecessary we truly are we might spend more time on the questions that actually matter, like how can we live in better harmony with the planet that is hosting the parasite that we call the human race, as opposed to getting all caught up in blaming invisible forces or deities for our inadequacies. It would be a lot less of an effort to live and to take responsibility for our pathetically tiny lives if we just looked outside ourselves for a few minutes and saw just how little for which we are actually responsible.  I notice that these very same people who blame the universe never credit the universe and it’s plan when things go well in their lives… nope, they are perfectly happy to claim full responsibility when they have a success. So, which is it? Does the universe have it all planned out or not?

Or maybe, just maybe…

einstein

In my lifetime


 

 

It was my birthday this past week. I am now just 3 years shy of 50. So, I thought this would be as good a time as any to take a look back and share some of the things I have seen in my lifetime.

 

I saw television go from black and white,

 

 

 

to colour,

 

 

 

to high definition.

 

 

 

When I was little, we had 3 channels and I was the remote control, now I have over 1200 and there is still nothing on.

 

I have seen entertainment centers go from this,

 

 

 

to this.

 

 

 

I have seen the telephone go from this,

 

 

 

to this,

 

 

 

to this.

 

Also an entertainment center.

 

This was what my first computer looked like.

 

 

 

 

This is what my computer looks like now.

 

 

 

 

I have seen particle accelerators go from this,

 

Bevatron particle accelerator, responsible for the discovery of the antiproton.

to this…

The Large Hadron Collider at Cern responsible for the discovery of the Higgs Boson

and take up this much space.

I have seen vaccines eradicate smallpox and polio.

Although both could soon be making a comeback due to a combination of lack of funds in developing countries and ignorant mothers choosing not to vaccinate their children in developed countries.

I have seen the civil rights movement go from this,

 

 

 

to this.

 

 

 

I have seen the women’s rights movement go from looking like this,

 

 

 

to looking like this.

 

 

Sadly, both the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movement are still necessary as neither has yet achieved equality.

 

I have seen the Berlin Wall come down, signifying the end of the cold war… something I never thought I would see in my lifetime.

I have seen many changes to the world in which we live in my lifetime and I look forward to many more, currently unfathomable, changes to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Canadian environmentalist in his natural habitat


Today’s Canada week entry is consummate Canadian science broadcaster and environmental activist, David Suzuki.

David Suzuki

David Suzuki is my favourite Canadian scientist. Suzuki was trying to educate the public about the environment before it was cool and he is still a leader in the field. Through his Suzuki Foundation (founded in 1991) he is actively researching and trying to implement real solutions to our lack of environmental sustainability.

Here he is talking to George Stroumbouloploulos (the smartest interviewer on television today), on the CBC show The Hour, about alternate energy sources among other things.


In 1979, David Suzuki began hosting a TV show called The Nature Of Things. A science magazine show that focuses on the natural world, how we live in it, and how we can better live with it. The Nature Of Things is aired in nearly 50 countries world wide and is one of the most truly educational shows on television. For me, there were a few truly memorable episodes of the show.

As a proponent of medical marijuana (and legalized marijuana in general) the episode done in 1998 called Reefer Madness 2, which explored the effects of medical marijuana and people dealing with it’s legalization was groundbreaking, as it debunked quite a few myths about the plant.

As a huge fan of Charles Darwin’s work in the field of evolution, the 3 part episode entitled Darwin’s Brave New World, aired in 2009, was riveting television.

Below is a trailer for Darwin’s Brave New World.

Suzuki has been widely recognized and honoured for his work over the years. he is a recipient of The Order of Canada, The Order of British Columbia and UNESCO’s Kalinga Prize for science among many other international awards. He holds 26 honorary degrees from universities around the globe and is showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 76.

To say that I admire this man is a real understatement. Building a career he is, not only,  passionate about, but world renowned for,  from meager beginnings, David Suzuki is a tribute to what an education can accomplish. He is a scientist, a teacher and a true Canadian inspiration.

The Tipping Point


When did it become a bad thing to be educated in North America? I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. It’s hard not to when you see scientists, economists and other great minds vilified by idiots on a daily basis. When the media is more interested in whether or not the Secretary of State is wearing make-up than in the job she is doing.

One of my favourite comedy films of recent years is called Idiocracy. It’s set in America 500 years in the future and is about how the country becomes  a uniformly stupid human society devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights. It shows where the country is headed unless it changes it’s current course. Athough it’s a comedy, it brings up some very real points. Even as technology is moving at lightning speed, the average person in North America is not getting smarter. It only takes one look at the nightly TV lineup to prove this. The American government is slashing funding for education on a very consistent basis. Tech jobs are being outsourced to countries who ARE funding and pushing the education agenda. So my question is when… or, more importantly, why is it more important to be cool than to be smart in North America?

My theory of when the tipping point occurred is that it became too dangerous to trust the scientific intelligentsia in the 1940’s. This was during the time when the Manhattan Project was formed and carried out the task of creating the world’s first atomic bomb. This group of highly intelligent men of science embarked on a very dangerous path when they said yes to a government contract, effectively tossing aside their morality in favour of scientific curiosity. When the Manhattan Project was disbanded in early 1947, was when we saw the emergence of Rock and Roll music and culture. The two things may seem like two completely separate events, but to me, Rock and Roll was a rebellious backlash against the evil, dangerous and untrustworthy scientific community. It was during the emergence of the Rock and Roll era that it became more important to be cool than to be smart.

The smart are never cool and the cool are rarely smart (or if they are, they must hide it under a facade of jokes). This is also when bullying started to happen. The smart kids became nerds, geeks, Poindexters and squares. They were teased, hazed and beaten up on, while the jocks and cool kids/rebels were lauded and celebrated as aspirational. This kind of social change created generations of adults who passed down this mindset to their kids and so on until we have a world where Education is getting less funding than the President’s Helicopter cost over the last 6 years. It’s this kind of thinking that got George W. Bush elected… twice. This kind of thinking also make the kids from Teen Mom and the Jersey Shore into celebrities. Smart people don’t vote for a President because they think he’d be fun to have a beer with or emulate 15 year old girls who got pregnant, just because they are on TV.

Snooki from the Jersey Shore

There are small signs that the pendulum may have started to swing back the other way. The current US president is smarter than the last by by leaps and bounds. TV shows like the Big Bang Theory are showing us that you don’t have to make a drunken ass out of yourself in order to be looked up to. Scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson are becoming more and more well known as household names and personalities in their own right. Even rock and rap stars are involved in projects like the FIRST Robotics Competition that encourage students to explore science and technology. Let’s just hope that this next scientific boom will learn from the scientists of the Manhattan Project and won’t favour curiosity over morality like they did.

The Love Delusion


I grew up in the Disney era when little girls were taught that, if we were good little girls, someday, our prince would come and rescue us. All the movies of my childhood preached the idea that girls needed a handsome prince to give them a happily ever after. My grandmother used to tell me, “It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man” over and over again. All this preaching didn’t sink in, however. I was a rebel and the feminist movement was the female voice that was speaking directly to me. I had a long string of relationships with men who were not only, not rich by any means, but not ambitious either. I was the bread winner and the caretaker until I realized I wasn’t getting anything out of the situation, lost all respect for my partner and eventually moved on. I have become the man I want to marry and I never wanted children, so marriage has now become a moot point for me. I firmly believe that marriage is for people who are planning on raising children. But lately I’ve been thinking about the message that society has been sending women about love and marriage.

As I mentioned, the Disney movies of our youth told us to wait for that handsome prince to rescue us. From what? From getting a job, standing on our own two feet and realizing that we are strong enough to take care of ourselves?

I guess there’s a shortage of princes and rich men now because it seems lately the romantic movies are preaching to successful women that we should go for the sweet poor guy rather than the rich guy who’s married to his career. Movies like Sweet Home Alabama, Letters to Juliet, and Leap Year illustrate this message. Of course the message is wrapped in the delusion that it’s only the sweet poor guy who could ever REALLY love you. Don’t rich men have feelings too? Apparently, if we are successful women, we can’t have a successful man because that would throw the earth off it’s axis or something. The movies of today are also telling men that they are spending way too much time working, money is not what’s important and they should be home with their families more. Movies like Liar, Liar and Click illustrate this point.

My question is, if no one is working, who is earning the living that’s needed to raise a family? Kids are expensive. So then we get back to the women should marry rich message again, but that’s bad. If you do that then you’re a gold digger, which is the societal equivalent of being a whore, which is also bad. After all marriage is supposed to be about love, pure love, true love. Scientists have found that this thing we call love is simply a chemical reaction in the brain caused by hormones and neurotransmitters… romantic huh? Maybe my grandmother had it right all along… it is just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man, when you look at love in terms of hormones and neurotransmitters.

Let’s go back to the gold digger label for a moment. It used to be that women sought out a good provider to mate with so that their children would be well taken care of. These women weren’t called gold diggers, they were called smart. Now that so many women are a success in their own right, they are looked down upon for seeking out a good provider. In my opinion, gold diggers are getting a bad rap. In the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe has a great little speech where she defends herself against the accusation of being a gold digger. “Don’t you know, that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but, my goodness, doesn’t it help? And if you had a daughter, wouldn’t you rather she didn’t marry a poor man? You’d want her to have the most wonderful things in the world and to be very happy. Well, why is it wrong for me to want those things?”

So, which is it? Do we marry for love, marry for money, make our own money and marry for love, marry for money then force our hard working husband to spend less time working or just say to hell with it all and try to find happiness no matter what it looks like?

Funny or Insulting, the Stephen Hawking interview


This week, perhaps the most brilliant mind of our time, Professor Stephen Hawking gave a short interview to New Scientist magazine. See the interview here  In it he talks about String Theory (or M Theory), the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), quantum gravity and his thoughts on black holes. The last question of the interview was “What do you think most about during the day?” Professor Hawking’s response was, “Women. They are a complete mystery.”

Every online news outlet picked up this story and gave it headlines like, Women are a mystery to British physicist Hawking and What mystifies Dr. Hawking? Women. Now I understand that news outlets have to create the most interesting headline in order to get the most jaded of us to read the story, so I really don’t blame them for taking the answer to that last question and turning it into a headline. That being said, his response reads to me as a cute, funny reply. Likely meant as a joke. Dare I say HOPEFULLY meant as a joke.

If it wasn’t a joke, the implication here is, the smartest of men is still stymied by women, so what hope does the rest of the male population have in figuring them out. Even if it was a joke, the same implication is there. Women are a mystery so impossible that no man will ever solve them… so why bother trying?

This implication is insulting because it diminishes women as a gender. It’s akin to saying, “Don’t worry your pretty little head”  or “Shhh, men are speaking.”

Let me give you a small bit of wisdom, men. I’d ask if you were listening, but we know that not listening is the problem. If you really want to figure out and solve women, all you have to do is LISTEN TO US. Let me go one further, listen and really HEAR what we are saying. I know that this seems like a lot of effort when you could just build cities, fast cars with cool technology, explore the earth, explore space and spend your time thinking up new and clever pick up lines to impress us. Women are always saying they want a man who is a good listener, yet all men hear when we speak is their own voice, saying ‘I hope she shuts up soon so I can get some food/sex/sleep’. How many fights do you have with your partner where she says, “YOU NEVER LISTEN”? You expect women to listen so closely to you that we can read your minds and cater to your every whim and you can’t afford us the same respect? Understanding that women are PEOPLE same as you, and not a Rubik’s cube to be solved will go a long way in achieving a peaceful end to the battle of the sexes.

So until men get the message, I guess women will remain the world’s most unsolvable puzzle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in the arrogance of men.