Sunday, April 30, 2006

Quotes from Democritus

Democritus was a pre-Socratic philosopher and an early proponent of "atomism": The view that all that exists is made of "atoms". He lived about 2,400 years ago in Greece.


"Disease occurs in a household, or in a life, just as it does in a body."
"Medicine cures the diseases of the body; wisdom, on the other hand, relieves the soul of its sufferings."
"The needy animal knows how much it needs, but the needy man does not."
"It is hard to fight with desire; but to overcome it is the mark of a rational man."
"Moderation increases enjoyment, and makes pleasure even greater."
"It is childish, not manly, to have immoderate desires."
"The good things of life are produced by learning with hard work; the bad are reaped of their own accord, without hard work."
"The brave man is he who overcomes not only his enemies but his pleasures. There are some men who are masters of cities but slaves to women."
"In cattle excellence is displayed in strength of body; but in men it lies in strength of character."
"I would rather discover a single cause than become king of the Persians."
"There is no poetry without madness."
"Proclus states that Pythagoras and Epicurus agree with Cratylus, but Democritus and Aristotle agree with Hermogenes, the former that names arise by nature, the latter that they arise by chance. Pythagoras thought that the soul gave the names, deriving them like images of reality from the mind. But Democritus thought that the proof of their chance origin was fourfold: (1) the calling of different things by the same name; (2)having several names for the same thing; (3)change of name; (4)lack of name."
"Medicine heals diseases of the body, wisdom frees the soul from passions."
"Nature and instruction are similar; for instruction transforms the man."
"If any man listens to my opinions, here recorded, with intelligence, he will achieve many things worthy of a good man, and avoid doing many unworthy things."
"He who chooses the advantages of the soul chooses things more divine, but he who chooses those of the body, chooses things human."
"It is noble to prevent the criminal; but if one cannot, one should not join him in crime.
"One must either be good, or imitate a good man."
"Men find happiness neither by means of the body nor through possessions, but through uprightness and wisdom."
"Refrain from crimes not through fear but through duty."
"It is a great thing, when one is in adversity, to think of duty."
"Repentance for shameful deeds is salvation in life."
"The wrongdoer is more unfortunate than the man wronged."
"Magnanimity consists in enduring tactlessness with mildness."
"Well-ordered behavior consists in obedience to the law, the ruler, and the man wiser than oneself."
"When inferior men censure, the good man pays no heed."
"It is hard to be governed by one’s inferior."
"The man enslaved to wealth can never be honest."
"In power of persuasion, reasoning is far stronger than gold."
"He who tries to give intelligent advice to one who thinks he has intelligence, is wasting his time."
"Many who have not learnt Reason, nevertheless live according to reason."
"Many whose actions are most disgraceful practice the best utterances."
"The foolish learn sense through misfortune."
"One should emulate the deeds and actions of virtue, not the words."
"Noble deeds are recognized and emulated by those of natural good disposition."
"Good breeding in cattle depends on physical health, but in men on a well-formed character."
"The hopes of right-thinking men are attainable, but those of the unintelligent are impossible."
"Neither skill nor wisdom is attainable unless one learns."
"It is better to examine one’s own faults than those of others."
"Those whose character is well-ordered have also a well-ordered life."
"Virtue consists, not in avoiding wrong-doing, but in having no wish thereto."
"To pronounce praise on noble deeds is noble; for to do so over base deeds is the work of a false deceiver."
"Many much-learned men have no intelligence." (Also attributed to Heraclitus)
"One should practice much sense, not much learning."
"It is better to deliberate before action than to repent afterwards."
"Believe not everything, but only what is approved: the former is foolish, the latter the act of a sensible man."
"The worthy and the unworthy man are to be known not only by their actions, but also their wishes."
"For all men, good and true are the same; but pleasant differs for different men."
"Immoderate desire is the mark of a child, not a man."
"Untimely pleasures produce unpleasantness. "
"Violent desire for one thing blinds the soul to all others."
"Virtuous love consists in decorous desire for the beautiful."
"Accept no pleasure unless it is beneficial."
"It is better for fools to be ruled than to rule."
"For the foolish, not reason but advantage is the teacher."
"Fame and wealth without intelligence are dangerous possessions."
"To make money is not without use, but if it comes from wrong-doing, nothing is worse."
"It is a bad thing to imitate the bad, and not even to wish to imitate the good."
"It is shameful to be so busy over the affairs of others that one knows nothing of one's own."
"Constant delay means work undone."
"The false and the seemingly good are those who do all in word, not in fact."
"The cause of error is ignorance of the better."
"The man who does shameful deeds must first feel shame in his own eyes."
"He who contradicts and chatters much is ill-fitted for learning what he ought."
"It is greed to do all the talking and not be willing to listen."
"One must be on one’s guard against the bad man, lest he seize his opportunity."
"The envious man torments himself like an enemy."
"An enemy is not he who injures, but he who wishes to do so."
"The enmity of relatives is much worse than that of strangers."
"Be not suspicious towards all, but be cautious and firm."
"Accept favors in the foreknowledge that you will have to give a greater return for them.
"When you do a favor study the recipient first, lest he prove to be a scoundrel and repay evil for good."
"Small favors at the right time are greatest to the recipients."
"Marks of honor at the right time are greatly valued by right-thinking men, who understand why they are being honored."
"The generous man is he who does not look for a return, but who does good from choice."
"Many who seem friendly are not so, and those who do not seem so, are."
"The friendship of one intelligent man is better than that of all the unintelligent."
"Life is not worth living for the man who has not even one good friend."
"The man whose tested friends do not stay long with him is bad-tempered."

Friday, April 14, 2006

Xena, Pluto, the Hubble Telescope and the scientific community

Demote Pluto and Kill Xena
Author Robert Roy Britt
A press release today from the good folks who operate the Hubble Space Telescope contained 13 mentions of “Xena,” an unofficial term given to a Pluto-sized world that its discoverer hopes will be called the 10th planet. The object is smaller than first thought. It’s also less significant than some argue.
The world is not “Xena.” Officially, it is 2003 UB313.
discoverer Mike Brown of Caltech is on a mission to have 2003 UB313 declared a planet, so he gave it a catchy nickname.
Other astronomers, and the good folks at Hubble, should not use the nickname. What they should do is finally agree on a definition for the word “planet.” And 2003 UB313 should not be included.
The reasons are simple. Even Mike Brown says there is no scientific basis for calling 2003 UB313 a planet. Here is what he said last year:
I will not argue that it is a scientific planet, because there is no good scientific definition which fits our solar system and our culture, and I have decided to let culture win this one.
If scientific decisions are to be henceforth based on the whim of culture, it is time for astronomers to pack up their telescopes and go back to dreaming up stick figures out of random star patterns. And while we’re at it, perhaps we should consult religious leaders for their opinions on how to interpret the results of astronomical observations.
At any rate, it is not Mike Brown’s place to decide this. The International Astronomical Union governs nomenclature in astronomy.
The problem all started when
Pluto was discovered in 1930 and called a planet. That was a mistake that astronomers only realized later. Diminutive Pluto’s orbit, like that of 2003 UB313, is way out of whack with the main plane in which the other eight planets roam. And we now know there are a handful of other offbeat worlds almost as large as Pluto. Estimates suggest there are hundreds of Pluto-sized worlds out there waiting to be spotted.
If 2003 UB313 gains planet status, we’ll instantly have so many planets that kids won’t be able to memorize them all. Worse, the list will be a lie, made up of eight bona-fide planets and dozens of compounded mistakes. That’s not science.
The solution is simple. It is high time astronomers
stop arguing minor details and come together to hammer out a definition. One distinction should be clear:
Objects like Pluto and 2003 UB313 should be called minor planets or dwarf planets or something else that denotes their relative insignificance compared to the four inner terrestrial planets and the four outer giants. And therein lies the precedent: We already have terrestrials and giants. Just add dwarfs.
School children will initially rally and astronomers will get angry emails (just ask
Neil Tyson). But science will have done the right thing and everybody will get an education about the makeup of Our New Solar System, a place packed with a much wider variety of objects than anyone dreamed of just a few decades ago.
Is it really that hard for astronomers to be honest, scientific and accurate?
Meanwhile, those who write press releases and journalists who cover all this should stop using the nickname “Xena” to describe 2003 UB313. Only when a proper definition for “planet” has been agreed on by the International Astronomical Union can astronomers decide on a name for the tiny, way-out world.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 11th, 2006 at 1:53 pm and is filed under
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My reply:

The real reason for arguing so much about the planethood of Pluto and other space objects is about keeping the historic solar system textbook in place. It feels good to know that there are only four terrestrial planets and four gas planets to mention in this textbook.

However, I wonder how we could reconcile the facts that both groups are essentially different (rocky objects vs. gas objects) but are both called "planets". Is the ongoing technological revolution- leading to KBOs discoveries - giving us a headache because we can't accept the diversity of the solar system?

Even if there were hundreds or evem thousands of KBOs bigger than Pluto, I would not change my position, they need to be called "planets".


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

'Losing our country' - Baghdad blogger - BBC

Last Updated: Monday, 10 April 2006, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
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Baghdad blogger Salam Pax looks back on the last three years

Three years after US forces symbolically toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein in the Iraqi capital, 'Baghdad blogger' Salam Pax says things look bleaker than ever for his country.
"One of the tragedies of this ongoing war is that no one knows how many Iraqi lives have been lost.
"And those of us who have survived so far now risk losing our country," he told BBC Newsnight.
Baghdad resident Mr Pax came to prominence documenting the Iraq war from an Iraqi perspective on his weblog.
In taking stock of the situation three years on from the symbolic felling of the statue, Mr Pax says he is "more negative about the future than ever".

Bad experiences
Even in the immediate aftermath of the war, he says, hope and excitement was tinged with fear.
Many Iraqis were having bad experiences with the occupying forces
Salam Pax"A lot was going on and it was amazing how quickly things were changing. For the first time everyone had access to satellite dishes, almost a 150 new newspapers and magazines and about a 100 new political parties suddenly appeared out of nowhere."
"But at the same time many Iraqis were having bad experiences with the occupying forces."
After the capture of Saddam Hussein, he says, "Saddam's supporters had joined ranks with the Islamist insurgency", and it was no longer just the occupying forces civilians had to fear.

Iraqi identity

Mr Pax says he would need a permit to visit the Kurdish city of HalabjaMr Pax says the country has become so deeply divided that any sense of national identity has been eroded.
"I have a Sunni name from my father but my mother is a Shia and we are all Arabs.
"If I want to visit the Shia south I feel safer when using my mother's name. I am not very welcome in the Kurdish north because I'm Arab; in fact I need a permit just to go there.
"All these are labels and all I want to be is an Iraqi - but there doesn't seem to be such a thing any more."

Huge mistake
Stopping short of describing the rising number of Iraqi deaths at the hands of insurgents as a civil war, he says the coalition's stated aims of providing democracy and freedom stand on the brink of complete failure.
Mothers are too afraid to send their kids to school
Salam Pax"With the prospect of internal conflict looming ever larger it looks like this has been one huge mistake.
"What kind of democracy can we have when our politicians are still unable to agree on a government four months after the elections?
"And as far as freedom is concerned, when mothers are too afraid to send their kids to school, all these big ideas fly out of the window."

Sectarian tensions
Quality of life in Iraq has, he says, fallen sharply in the last three years, to the extent that many have to improvise to get around a lack of basic facilities.

Baghdad's electricity supply remains unreliable"Fuel shortages have become the norm and we all have given up on depending on the government's electricity grid. We buy electricity from the guy who has a big generator at the end of the street."
Salam Pax also says sectarian tensions have eroded personal freedoms, citing one example of a group of musicians unable to play due to threats of violence from Islamist parties.
There has also been a lack of progress on women's rights and rising youth unemployment, he says.
The picture Mr Pax paints of everyday life for Iraqis is of constant fear and dwindling hope.
"Today many people have felt forced to leave Iraq altogether because of the fear and insecurity that has become part of our daily lives."
But for all the problems and despite his growing international renown, Baghdad's blogger steadfastly remains a resident of the Iraqi capital.

Salam Pax's film can be seen on Newsnight tonight at 2230BST/2130GMT on BBC Two.