Monday, 15 April 2013

Learning To Fly

First of all, yesterday's:
Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/oc3X_ .  Stoicism is often seen as the philosophical ancestor of Christianity and the philosophical descendant of Cynicism.  I have some sympathy with this view but don't see it as invalidating Christianity.

Stoicism was the result of the successors of the Cynics deciding to write down their views, and is more long-winded and apparently more intellectually sophisticated than its predecessor.  It's pantheist, materialist and fatalist, but nonetheless has quite a lot in common with Christianity such as the Logos, Spirit (pneuma) and the imagery of fire as the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  New Testament references to Philosophy are in fact more or less to Stoicism, and Paul quotes a Stoic philosopher.  Cosmopolitanism and the Serenity Prayer ("God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.") are also both entirely within the spirit of both approaches to life.  The Bible also appears to say the world will be destroyed by fire, a belief also held by Stoics although they believed time was cyclical rather than linear.

This is not supposed to be a summary of Stoicism, but the basic ideas behind it are as follows:  the Universe is a living, rational creature - God - which acts to the good.  Hence the good is in a sense physiology rather than pathology, or perhaps homoeostasis.  The active principle is the Logos, or reason, working on passive matter.  The good life, eudamonia, is achieved by living in harmony with one's nature, through the control of the passions and detachment, enabling one to achieve virtue.  Evil is only apparent, being in fact either mixed blessings or an illusion caused by failure to see the big picture.  This is similar to the situation in Christianity when a prayer seems to be unanswered or we understand a particular experience as one of the trials of life.  Philosophy is the art of living that life.  Unhappiness is the result of being carried away by passion.

Further common ground exists in the form of inner freedom, kinship with God and the futility of earthly treasures.

One of the things which appeals to me about Stoicism is its surprisingly modern physics and cosmology.  If fire is interpreted as lightning, electromagnetism becomes the dominant force, or God.  The cyclical nature of history is also compatible with the now discredited oscillating Universe.  I have set my thoughts down on this on the Halfbakery, here:  http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Flying_20Electric_20Spaghetti_20Monster .  That will, incidentally, probably be the subject of another video at some point.

Whereas many people are keen on Stoicism today, they tend to adopt the ethics without the physics, and i'm not sure that works.  The physics of Stoicism, or some similar physics and cosmology, are required for its psychology to be valid.  One essential idea to Stoic ethics is that the mind is always in control and need never be overcome by passion.  I disagree that this is so, because of mental illness for example, and in fact that it's even desirable, because, bad though it may be, passion is an essential part of humanity.

Even so, a few years ago i did adopt Stoicism as a philosophy during a time of spiritual crisis and found it useful.  I felt that i could continue as long as necessary but that i would always be missing out.

Finally, like the cults of Cybele, Mithras and other mystery religions, Stoicism probably was a major contributor to early Christianity, but i see that as God moving the human race towards the Way rather than a reductivist historical "explaining-away" of my faith.


This is a follow-up to the one on Cynicism, and since it was Sunday i decided to cover a religious theme.

Today's video:

Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/6FABb .  Air is a mixture of gases.  It is mainly nitrogen, 21% oxygen, almost 1% argon and the rest is composed of carbon dioxide, water vapour, krypton, xenon and neon.  There are also variable amounts of helium and radon in it due to radioactive decay.

The amount of oxygen present in the atmosphere can be roughly estimated as follows:  take 100 ml of oxygen in a gas syringe at room temperature, pass it through heated granules of copper, collect the resultant gas in another gas syringe and cool it to room temperature.  The accuracy of the measurement is impaired by the presence of air in the tube containing copper, but taking that into consideration the volume of the gas at room temperature should be about 20% lower, because all the oxygen will have combined with the copper, forming copper oxide.

Nitrogen can be used to prevent combustion, manufacture explosives and fertiliser and in food packaging for preservation.  It could in theory also be used as a relatively humane form of capital punishment.  It is also useful as liquid nitrogen for freezing things and is used to make pork scratchings.  Oxygen is not useful for this purpose as it causes combustible materials to explode on contact.

The Miller-Urey experiment i've mentioned elsewhere, but was basically to do with the origin of life.

Air can be separated into its components by fractional distillation like fossil fuels.


This is of course a ridiculously long video, but then the Big Science ones usually are.  It's not as long as this one:

but then that one was before i bothered paying attention to any of the "rules".  I also think it's probably slightly more bearable to sit through ten minutes of me blethering on about the atmosphere than an hour in a lesson on the same subject.  However, i also imagine they'd be doing actual experiments rather than just having teech hold up bits of paper with test tubes drawn on them, so maybe not.  It would've been really nice to have been able to do the copper experiment but there is the problem of lack of time.  I might in fact have been able to rig something up with a couple of syringes, though the only syringes i've had are normal liquid syringes and made of plastic.  I suppose this is one of the problems with home ed, but it's also a solution because that's how home ed is too.  So there is an answer out there somewhere.  For instance, it would've been possible to do this with a couple of jam jars and some tubing, some ground up copper wires and a mini-blowtorch or something.  The problem is really pressure of time.

I had the rather strange pleasure of buying a new foot pump this morning.  Obviously i didn't tell the bloke what it was for.  The old one seems to have disappeared, i think because of something Liz has done.  The pregnancy vlog is now tomorrow because of a surveyor coming on (7B92) - another nail in our coffin of course.  Having said that, today proved to be quite financially productive in my terms as i successfully held a Big Science session and sold some herbs.

There is of course a weird connection between the second video on this blog entry and the Other Channel, but then i'm sort of merging them in the pregnancy vlog anyway.