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“We’re All Made of the Same Star Stuff” – Carl Sagan

July 17th, 2013 by Michael Tabor

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The title of this blog sounds very “New Agey” but the truth of the matter is it’s grounded and supported by hard science.  Scientists and cosmologists know a lot of things, are learning and discovering new facts about the universe every day, and can even tell you what happened 1/1000 of a second after the big bang. The one thing (I’ve blogged about this before

http://whadawethink.com/2012/09/the-question-to-which-nobody-has-the-answer/) we are clueless about is what happened or what was going on a second before the big bang. However, we don’t have to have this information to know for sure that we are all made of the same star stuff.

A man living in Yemen, a worm in your garden, a venomous snake slithering around in the Amazon jungles of Brazil, a country rat, a rock, a piece of chocolate, the planet Pluto, a star that is positioned 100 light years away from our planet earth, just absolutely everything, etc. Now some of the aforementioned things are living entities, but everything I mentioned  is indeed matter and occupies space. Another fact is that all this “stuff” came from the same source – an unspeakably and unfathomably hot and dense infinitesimally small particle which exploded 13.798 billion years ago.

This scientific fact means that dualism or the notion that there is a distinct and separate unconnected self is therefore an illusion. Everything is one and is the basic tenet of eastern philosophy and Buddhism which was established 2,550 years ago and now confirmed by science last century.

So WhaDaWeThink ? What do you think ? I did not even touch on real entities that have no matter, yet certainly exist such as gravity, dark – matter, anti – matter, love, empathy, emotions, etc.

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Bloody Awful !

June 22nd, 2013 by Magdalena Tabor

This morning while reading cnn news on the train, I was struck by an interesting article, “Car Crash Leaves Australian Woman With French Accent”. Apparently the bumps and bruises suffered eight years ago have long since healed but what’s hurting her the most is an accent  acquired for a language she doesn’t even speak and is unable to retrieve her original Aussie accent.

I am not making this up. Foreign Accent Syndrome is a rare condition resulting from a brain injury, the first of which was reported in 1941 when a Norwegian woman was injured by shrapnel during a German raid. She began speaking with a German accent and was shunned by her native Norwegian people. Ach du lieber!

What’s supposed to be a serious condition is, c’mon guys, too FUNNY for words! I found myself laughing out loud, trying to suppress my laughter on a public train. I’m certain my fellow passenger sitting opposite was wondering what was so hilarious after I read about the British woman whose migraine left her with a Chinese accent. I was in stitches by her following statement, “To think I am stuck with this Chinese accent is getting me down. My voice has started to annoy me now”. Stop! I am DYING! Willing myself to act normal before I begin rolling in the aisle with uncontrollable GUFFAWS!

If you Google Foreign Accent Syndrome, you’ll be presented with numerous accounts of this baffling (and I’m sorry, LOL) condition. How does one go through life if this mysterious ailment doesn’t correct itslef, as it oftentimes does not? People whose paths you cross will inevitably ask about your background, curious to know why an American or a European with typical features posseses an accent of Oriental origin. Might it be best to assume sign language when in public? And your family, what must they think? “You’re putting me on, right?” or ” Come off it, Harry. Always the clown.”

And what about ordering Chinese food? They’ll think you’re mimicking them and a heated argument will develop over the Won Ton soup. You won’t even get any fortune cookies with your order. You might even get the meal with the unidentifiable meat.

What about the Woody Allen type? The psychosymatic who conjures every affliction known to mankind? This bizarre disease will give him one more to worry about. He’ll start speaking in tongues. A variation of all languages culminating in an assorted stream of accents in the breath of a single sentence. It can become exhausting, impossible to carry on a conversation with the constant distraction of the mottled mangling of words.

Whatever happens, watch that bump to the cranium. I’d hate to have to listen to a Brooklyn accent for the rest of my life. FAH-GEDDA-BOUD-ID. Pass me the BUD-DAH.

So…………….whadayathink? What accent would your brain retrieve from its recesses? Could you live with it?crayon

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Mankind’s Nemesis – Religion!!!

May 6th, 2013 by Michael Tabor

It’s 2013, the Human Genome Project was completed a decade ago in 2003 – the entire genetic make – up of a human being (which incidentally was initially estimated would take a century or so to sequence. It took 13 years. We neglected to factor in that science and technology moves exponentially not linearly), the internet as we know it is 20 + years old, and via stem cell research and cutting – edge biotechnology we ARE going to be able to manufacture vital organs, cure cancer, and have answers and solutions for a plethora of other dreadful diseases. Someday we may even understand what consciousness is or the very thing that makes you – you. Just imagine the possibilities!!! Immortality (I personally wouldn’t want to live forever but I don’t think I’d mind a couple of hundred more years or so).

Well if there’s any hope in living longer and enjoying better lives, one thing must go – The inane yet insidious fairy tale – religion. Okay my mother believes in Jesus/Christianity, etc and many other people I love cling to the myths – fine…. But the fanaticism must go, and one religion must go completely and that is Islam.
This killer kid, Dzhoklar Tsarnnaev, who incidentally I’m sick to death of reading and hearing about, could have had it all, but he threw it all away for make – believe stories that happen to be vicious violent nonsensical rubbish taken literally from the outlandishly, spectacularly, achingly and almost hilariously tome, the koran. Daniel Dennett, one of the greatest scientific minds of today calls religion cravenness. I love this word. The OED defines it as cowardly, contemptibly timid, and pusillanimous. That’s it – the fear of the fact that everything, and I mean everything including the great universe itself lives and will someday die. Why does that upset people???
So WhaDaYaThink ??? What do you think ? How do we become progressive and ultimately eradicate ignorance? I’m not overly concerned about folks who like Proverbs and the teachings of Jesus as long as it’s held in check. I mean DO NOT interfere with stem cell research, accept that evolution is a fact, and lets work together to make better lives for ourselves and our children.

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The Scientific Method And Philosophy

January 24th, 2013 by Michael Tabor
I did not major in science, although in retrospect, I wish I had. I am 49 years old and I’m at a point in my life in which I’m trying to gain a better understanding of the fundamental, profound and universal questions:  Who are we? Where did we come from ? Why are we here ? What is this thing called life? Does life have any meaning? Is life just an accident? Why do people suffer ? Is this all there is ? Is there life after death or to phrase the question a little more differently, is it possible to survive the death of your physical body ? Do I even matter in the grand scheme of things ?
I have always been an inquisitive person and I guess you can say always  a philosopher (the adage that kids are all philosophers is true; in fact to become a good writer, one must tap into your inner – child) When I was young, naïve, and knew practically nothing about the world and how it worked , religion seemed to be a band – aid for my yearning to understand. The truth of the matter is, although I was a professed, tried and true God – fearing Christian, for the first 17 years of my life, I was never entirely satisfied with the bible’s (especially the old testament) attempt to provide sound explanations for essentially “bad things” and the needless suffering most good people had to endure.
My real breakaway from Christianity came about after I had grown, had become educated and begun reading the entire bible in earnest, from Genesis all the way through and unto the new testament and the gospels. Wow – what a mess of a tome ! The Old testament, though some of psalms and proverbs convey some eternal wisdom, was just on whole simply evil and twisted. Here is what Richard Dawkins has to say about the old testament which perfectly encapsulates it:   “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

These are incredibly exciting times and there are ground – breaking discoveries being made almost on a daily basis by molecular biologists, geneticists, physicists and basically anyone who works under the rubric of science and the medical profession. What makes matters frustrating is that everyone is “super” specialized and it’s no small task for a particle physicist to communicate with an oncologist and vice versa (another blog) but what makes science so great and what this blog is about is the most fantastic way of seeking truth via the rigors of the scientific method. Just imagine, unlike theologians, scientists take their well – established theories and incessantly try to disprove their most brilliant ideas wrong.

So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you think? There are so many great science books out there for the laypersons who loves science and philosophy. One such book, which is very accessible is Richard Dawkin’s new book, ‘The Magic of Reality’ – no there are no burning bushes and other such superstitious beliefs, this is just beautiful science – truth. Truth is beauty, and beauty is truth. Watch this discussion with Richard Dawkins and Rickey Gervais, just awe – inspiring
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Cancer: The Master of All Maladies – Is it Possible to Find a Universal Cure ???

January 22nd, 2013 by Michael Tabor
After being diagnosed with cancer, one feels horrifyingly frightened and unspeakably alone and alienated; imagine the milli – second before the big bang occurred type of loneliness or if you happen to have a monotheistic worldview, dwell on the utterly terrifying concept of being GOD – you know the Christian God – barrenly and existentially alone.
Today I read an article from the science journal ‘Nature Chemistry’ which stated in a nutshell that scientists have discovered a “quadruple helix” which may suggest a clue as to the root cause of how and why cancer cells proliferate so prodigiously. Since cancer is “viral – like” in terms of our body and white blood cells not recognizing a foreign invader and the fact that every cancer is different, many oncologists are skeptical about whether or not they will ever find a universal cure. Just think of cancer as a terrorist type of beast that hijacks your normally – functioning cells and tells your DNA in essence to “follow my orders – I’m your new captain” , then grows wildly(resulting in sickening tumors) and ultimately the satanic beast sucks every last bit of life, to the marrow and until it kills you – the host. But, today’s announcement has given us some hope.

Cancer in this country and around the world is so widespread, that the saying “If you live long enough, eventually you will get some form of malignancy” holds a lot of weight once you look at the statistics. 600,000 Americans will die of cancer this year and more than 7 million people around the world will succumb to this most deadly disease. We have made tremendous strides and have come a remarkably long way in terms of 1. Diagnosing the disease (get your annual checkup) and 2.Treating cancer, the 3 major ways: a. surgery b. chemotherapy or c. radiation or a combination of all three, if you catch it early enough.
One of the nastiest types of cancer is acute leukemia, which is really cancer of the white blood cells (the very cells that are in normal situations, supposed to protect you from illness) – one nurse I can recall her saying that “when a patient has acute leukemia, you are always on super alert, because being a blood malignancy, even a paper cut is an emergency. I bring this up, because many years ago in the ‘90s, a good friend and colleague of mine lost his daughter to Leukemia and even though I have not heard from nor seen Ed L. (the father) in a long time, tears well up and I have to immediately distract myself so I won’t become profoundly depressed.

This is a short essay so I can’t elaborate on anything other than the fact that this discovery of a “quadruple – helix” is incredibly exciting stuff. Without getting into medical jargon (+ I’m not an oncologist) this makes me feel quite optimistic, because just think – what makes cancer such a Goddamn formidable disease is that we CAN’T isolate the healthy cells from the malignant ones so whatever form of treatment (if you get it in time) you choose you invariably are going to kill healthy tissue as well (collateral damage is a useful metaphor).

So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you think ? There isn’t a person alive today, who hasn’t personally been affected or who hasn’t known someone who has died of cancer. I know it’s unpleasant, but the obvious full medical exam is in order and when you’re my age (almost 50) i.e. the finger in the butt or colonoscopy and for women – please don’t put off mammograms and pap smears. Have a long, happy, and healthy life everyone.


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Diagram of A Neuron

January 1st, 2013 by Michael Tabor

Neurons communicate with each other and the number of neural pathways we can possibly create is for all intents and purposes, infinite.  Nevertheless, unlike all of the other cells in our body, neurons do not undergo mitosis (cell division) and therefore we are all allotted a certain number of neurons that will never, ever be replaced (a heavy night of drinking alcohol kills many, many brain cells) . Fortunately, we have a lot of them + we have a prodigious number of synapses (connections with which to make those neural pathways). We start out in life with about one hundred billion neurons with an average of 1000 + (probably more) synapses for each neuron; in fact  a small child has 1 quadrillion synapses or 10 to the fifteenth connections. By the time we reach middle age or older we are left with about 100 to 600 trillion synapses. However, it’s not necessarily the number of synapses you have but rather the number of connections you’ve made that keeps you smart. So the adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is absolutely false. The more connections or neural pathways you make, the more intelligent you become (Alzheimer’s is a disease and is an exception to the rule). So the more you think and especially the more you read, the more apt you’re to keep your marbles as you get older.

So WHADAYATHINK? What do you think ?

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A Look At The Awesome Large Hadron Collider

December 29th, 2012 by Michael Tabor

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest man – made machine ever built – 17 miles long and between 165 to 575 feet in circumference. It is a circular tunnel – shaped structure below ground, situated near Geneva and it is so huge that it crosses the border between France and Switzerland four times. Its function and purpose is to unfold and reveal to mankind the seemingly untenable mysteries of where human beings came from, a much deeper understanding of the laws of nature, and how the universe got started. This unfathomable feat is accomplished in a nutshell, by accelerating sub – atomic particles (protons) in opposite directions to the speed of 186,000 miles a second (speed of light) and then smashing them together to create new particles, particularly the particle of all particles – Higgs Boson or “The God Particle.” (don’t ask me for the specifics of Higgs Boson, I’m not a physicist and I just have a general understanding of it).

In the process of colliding these prodigiously small particles (when I say small. I mean unimaginably small. We human beings can never see an atom, not even with the most powerful microscopes in the world and we’re smashing stuff even smaller than atoms —- sub – atomic [protons] particles. This is all approximate, but we can fit 100 trillion atoms nicely on a pinhead and to get an image of how small a proton is [located in the nucleus] just imagine if an atom was the size of Giant’s Stadium, a proton would be the size of a marble. Wild stuff – ahh?) we will also learn all about different dimensions (String Theory), dark matter, supersymmetry, and a whole lot of other stuff that physicists will finally get to discover and with which, advance our understanding of the natural world in which we live.
I won’t overwhelm you with all the technical specifications (most of this is over my head anyway) but I had to simply just write a little about, what in my mind, is one of man’s most important achievements.
So WHADAYATHINK? What do you think ? It’s simply hard to fathom   how these brilliant scientists were able to conceptualize and then build something so prodigious, complex, and precise as the LHC. It’s also hard to wrap your mind around the fact that this incredible structure is used for the sole purpose of accelerating and then subsequently smashing infinitesimally tiny sub – atomic particles (invisible particles) traveling at the speed of light.

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What is Reality?

October 1st, 2012 by Michael Tabor

The OED states briefly that reality is everything that exists. However, this includes not just material things such as rocks, lampshades, computers, and water but intangible things such as ideas, consciousness, and the fact that 2+2 =4. It also includes everything that ever WAS, including material and immaterial entities. Most people may say that if use your five senses and you’re sane (not hallucinating or delusional), one can discern what’s real by seeing, hearing, smelling, touching or tasting something. However, there are many things that are real and exist that go beyond our 5 senses e.g. bacteria, cells, viruses, and atoms; they’re physical tangible things but we can’t see them without the aid of a microscope.
How about sound? Sound is certainly real but we can’t see sound waves, nor are we aware of radio waves but our radios, televisions and computers reveal to us that they exist. How about light? If we remember high school science we were taught to commit to memory that light travels 186,000 miles per second ((186,282 miles per second to be perfectly precise) and what’s interesting to note is that the very sense – sight, that we rely on most heavily to determine what’s real is not always dependable. For example, Our sun is 8 light minutes away, so if our sun were hit by a gigantic comet and blew it up, it would take 8 minutes for us, if we were staring at the sun, to visualize the destruction; and then of course that would be the end of us too (let’s hope that does not happen any time soon).
I’ll make this a short blog and leave you with just one more thing to think about: We live in the Milky way galaxy (with approximately 100 billion stars, many of which are not unlike our very own sun) and our nearest neighboring galaxy is the Andromeda galaxy, which we can only see with a telescope. However, even with Hubble telescope, we are seeing stars that are two and a half million light years away, so the reality is that you’re seeing the light of stars that have died a looooooong time ago but are only seeing that now. So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you think ? Oh, how about dark matter, we can’t even see dark matter with a telescope, okay – another blog. Have fun and please weigh in, I’d love to get everyone’s thoughts.

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The Question to Which Nobody Has the Answer

September 26th, 2012 by Michael Tabor

If you are a religious believer, you know what question I am going to pose: If you claim that “God” created the world then it stands to reason to ask– Who created God and  who was the intelligent designer who created the God who created God, ad infinitum – an infinite regress. Conversely, what was going on before the big bang? What banged and why? A plethora of scientists can explain what happened 1/1000 of a second before the bang but they’re all clueless in terms of what was going on before – perhaps, nothing? Can anyone wrap his or her brain around absolutely nothing existing for a long period of time?
There is a Russian physicist, Andrei Linde, who claims that we humans, will sometime in the near future, be able to create our own universe in a lab if we like. He has a theory called chaotic inflation, which in a nutshell states that we need 100 thousandth of a gram of matter and some negative energy and BAM – we’ll have created billions and billions of galaxies – no supernatural abilities necessary. However, is this something we would want to do? And, wouldn’t making another universe crowd in on the one in which we live now? Actually, Linde stated that the universe would just simply expand into itself, so there would be no danger of the aforementioned. How about this: would you want to have some sort of control over your creation – Creator and Creation just like the religions (myths) we have now. Just think (this is out there, but…) our world maybe some higher power’s physics project,  after all our world is VERY weird and it’s certainly far from perfect. “Your grade for the creation of the Milky Way Galaxy – C-.”
The real question is – Why is there something rather than nothing? To think about this too long can literally drive you crazy. Sir Bernard Lovell claimed that “pondering it could tear the individual’s mind asunder” and William James said that this is the “darkest question in all of philosophy.’ Some physicists are now asserting that there is something to nothing – it’s actually something you can measure, something akin to dark matter.
So does anyone out there have a clue about creation? Since the beginning of mankind, all civilizations have had creation myths i.e. Christian- Judea has Adam and Eve, etc. This is quite interesting – there is  a tribe in Africa called the African Bantus who claim “The entire contents of the universe e.g. sun, stars, land, sea, animals, fish, man, woman were literally vomited out of the mouth of a nauseated god called Bumba. ” Sounds crazy, right ? But is it any crazier than the whole Adam and Eve rib story? What do you think ? WhaDaYaThink ?

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The Fable of “Creationism” is Destroying Our Once Great Nation

August 28th, 2012 by Michael Tabor
Before anyone jumps down my throat, I am talking about the notion of creationism in its truest sense, which is the doctrine that matter and all things were created, as they now exist, by an omnipotent Creator and not gradually evolved or developed. That’s how creationism is defined by OED, Webster’s, and every other reputable dictionary. None of the life sciences would make any sense at all if one doesn’t figure evolution into the equation. This is just a fact of life! Now if you want to redefine creationism with intelligent design, then I have no problem with this; though certainly there isn’t a single human being who knows whether or not there is a “God”, we do however know evolution is true.
So read the Bible, the Torah, or Koran but don’t discard science, especially evolution which is really the backbone from which all knowledge about the physical world flows.
Fortunately, for the world, roughly only .01 % (still too much in my humble opinion) people don’t believe in evolution but in this country, the most technologically advanced country in the world, almost half – 46% don’t. Why ? The evidence for our species to have evolved is as sound as the Theory of Gravitation (theory in science is different from the word in layman’s terms; theory in the science world is factual, and what too many people don’t know is that when they hear the word theory, they are referring to an hypothesis – another blog)  and it’s no more outrageous to say that if I drop my coffee it will fall to the ground than it’s to say that we and other animals have evolved.
Didn’t we resolve this problem with the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925; what is this inane resurgence of creationism? Yes, I know we live in a predominantly Christian society but that’s no reason to turn your back on the truth. One can still be a full-fledged Christian and believe in evolution. I mean seriously – the Bible is mostly allegory, does anyone actually literally believe in Noah’s Ark?
I will end this essay with a little video clip I found on YouTube which I urge you to watch (it’s only 2 ½ minutes and skip the ad)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHbYJfwFgOU
This is a clip By Bill Nye, American science educator, and Disney’s ‘Science Guy” for children. So whaDaYaThink ? Personally, I am not a Christian but I believe in a higher power (I’m a Deist), besides whether or not you’re a Christian, evolution has nothing to do with your faith. I like what Mr. Nye said that if you refuse to believe in evolution and you’re over 50, then fine – but don’t deny your children the truth. We can’t afford it! When Obamacare kicks in full throttle, we won’t have enough doctors to handle the overload. STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math is what creates jobs, builds infrastructure and keeps us all healthy.
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