30 May 2008

The flight of the bumble bee

You've probably seen many a bumblebee flying heavily around flowers in summertime in order to gather nectar and spread pollen for next year's blooms. They are difficult to miss with their striking black and yellow stripes, buzzing about in a their typically tipsy manner.

However, you might be rather surprised to learn that according to the laws of aeronautics bumblebees cannot fly! Restated in another way: the laws of aeronautics cannot explain how these insects manage to keep aloft. One conclusion is that the general model of aeronautics is not wrong, but it is deficient.

Human beliefs are like this aeronautical theory. They are personal constructions of how the world works, built up through daily experience. There is no problem with that until we succumb to the temptation to believe that our belief models really explain how the world works. This would be the aeronautical equivalent of bumblebees falling out of the sky.
(The flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky Korsakov)


29 May 2008

The Eye of the Beholder

When we humans look at something, a face, an object, a landscape, artwork ... we immediately judge its beauty. Now it is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, meaning that we each have our own canons of beauty as cultures and even as individuals.

However, there is a sight which is always pleasing to the eye. That is when we look upon the golden mean. In everyday life you can find this type of object - in the metro ticket for example. Measure it and you will find that its sides are in a proportion of 1:1.618 This is the golden ratio and allows the simple ticket to be pleasing to the eye.

Artists like Dali organized paintings such as the above, 'Last Supper', using this pleasing proportion. It is a sort of eye candy trick.

Well-proportioned faces also fall into this category. Both Cathérine de Neuve and George Cluny's faces measure up well.

Despite all this, could it be that the golden mean is not really 'out there' in faces, objects, landscapes and artwork but within the eye? In other words perhaps we perceive things as beautiful, or not, according to the structure, an innate golden ratio, in our own eye. Might beauty really be 'in' the eye of the beholder?


27 May 2008

Common Sense

An Obituary of the late Mr. Common Sense

'Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn't always fair; and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an Aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement..

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I'm A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.'


26 May 2008

Sight and bees

The sense of sight may well seem obvious - you look and you see. However, there are realities that we do not see as we look. It appears that cats have no cones in their eye structure. This helps them see at night because they see only in terms of black and white. (A possible reason zebras have b/w stripes which of course mesh into a blur when they bob as they run at full speed from the pursuing big cats.)

Bees perceive ultraviolet light which helps them pinpoint flowers.

We see in rainbow colours, which is beautiful, but it is not all there is to see. Our maps of reality are limited by what we can and cannot see.
'How limited?', one wonders.


25 May 2008

Map & Territory

OK, so we all perceive the world in different ways and we construct individual maps of 'reality'.

These internal maps are personal images of how things are 'outside' ourselves. They are not reality only its image, rather distorted due to our filters of interpretation. In short, our map is not the territory, just as a street map is not the town.

This means that we can only understand reality in a partial form. The good news is that since nobody has the whole truth we are thus condemned to negotiate 'reality' with our fellow humans. This is another way of saying that discussion and counter discussion is our only way forward.



'niaroo' might seem a rather senseless webname for a blog called sense, so here's what it means:

Reverse the order of the letters and you get 'oor ain' which translated from lowland Scots to English gives 'Our Own' : this is our own blog. It belongs to those who write here.

The main title 'Sense' refers to how we make sense of our world. Living creatures see, hear, smell, taste, touch their environment, that's the way we 'make sense' of it. Each gets a different picture depending on the acuity of their senses. And so understanding is inevitably a cooperative effort since one person only perceives a part of the whole.

This is a journey across the internal maps we each draw, the image of our shared understanding