Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Tag: science

Character Candling

candling egg

From Merriam Webster:

candle (transitive verb): to examine by holding between the eye and a light; especially : to test (eggs) in this way for staleness, blood clots, fertility, and growth

Have you ever looked at a word you’ve written a thousand times as though it couldn’t possibly be spelled that way? You doubt yourself, double check it in the dictionary and carry on. I have recently had the opportunity to reassess personal relationships I’ve held sacred, but upon examination found I have done so without a compelling reason.  No longer a child, I held up these individuals to the same light of reason, logic, compassion and magnanimity  to which I would hope to be judged, not unlike candling an egg. Rather than record my observations, I sought insight from those more intelligent. Here are my thoughts via their appropriated words, alpha by author:

“Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.”     Maya Angelou

“Beware the man of a single book.”     St. Thomas Aquinas

“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.”     Isaac Asimov

“The basic stimulus to the intelligence is doubt, a feeling that the meaning of an experience is not self-evident.”     W.H. Auden

“I think we risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance.”     Reuben Blades

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”     Derek Bok

“There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing.”     Robert Burns

“The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.”     Albert Camus

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”     George Carlin

“The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other in opposite directions.”     George Carlin

“I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.”     Marcus Tullius Cicero

“I am not ashamed to confess I am ignorant of what I do not know.”     Marcus Tullius Cicero

“He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason.”     Marcus Tullius Cicero

“To live is to think.”     Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.”     Eoin Colfer

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”     Confucius

“Ignorance is the night of the mind, a night without moon or star.”     Confucius

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.”     Confucius

“He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.”     Confucius

“Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.”     Dalai Lama

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”     Charles Darwin

“And, in fine, of false sciences I thought I knew the worth sufficiently to escape being deceived by the professions of an alchemist, the predictions of an astrologer, the impostures of a magician, or by the artifices and boasting of any of those who profess to know things of which they are ignorant.”     René Descartes

“Military guys are rarely as smart as they think they are, and they’ve never gotten over the fact that civilians run the military.”     Maureen Dowd

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.”     Albert Einstein

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”     Albert Einstein

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”     Harlan Ellison

“Fear always springs from ignorance.”     Ralph Waldo Emerson

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.”     Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”     Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.”     Euripides

“Anger exceeding limits causes fear and excessive kindness eliminates respect.”     Euripides

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”     F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Stupidity lies in wanting to draw conclusions.”     Gustave Flaubert

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”     Benjamin Franklin

“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.”     Benjamin Franklin

“The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.”     Benjamin Franklin

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”     Benjamin Franklin

“I wash my hands of those who imagine chattering to be knowledge, silence to be ignorance, and affection to be art.”     Kahlil Gibran

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”     Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either extreme egotism, selfishness, evil — or else an absolute ignorance.”     Graham Greene

“If you’re gonna be stupid you gotta be tough.”     John Grisham

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”     Stephen Hawking

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”     Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

“The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.”     Elbert Hubbard

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas but for scars.”     Elbert Hubbard

“The learned man knows that he is ignorant.”     Victor Hugo

“The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”     Thomas Jefferson

“Those who never retract their opinions love themselves more than they love truth.”     Joseph Joubert

“The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing — to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.”     John Keats

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”     Søren Kierkegaard

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”     Martin Luther King, Jr.

“A fool can easily be known by what proceeds from his or her mouth.”     Adedayo Kingjerry

“Living is easy with eyes closed.”     John Lennon

“Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.”     Michael Levine

“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”     Abraham Lincoln

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”     Nelson Mandela

“Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.”     Groucho Marx

“A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition.”     Henry Miller

“We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”     George Orwell

“I would prefer an intelligent hell to a stupid paradise.”     Blaise Pascal

“And whenever anyone informs us that he has found a man who knows all the arts, and all things else that anybody knows, and every single thing with a higher degree of accuracy than any other man –whoever tells us this, I think that we can only imagine him to be a simple creature who is likely to have been deceived by some wizard or actor whom he met, and whom he thought all-knowing, because he himself was unable to analyze the nature of knowledge and ignorance and imitation.”     Plato

“A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again.”     Alexander Pope

“There is no reply to the ignorant like keeping silence.”     Proverb

“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance.”     Robert Quillen

“When ignorance gets started it knows no bounds.”     Will Rogers

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”     Bertrand Russell

“A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”     Bertrand Russell

“Two things are to be remembered: that a man whose opinions and theories are worth studying may be presumed to have had some intelligence, but that no man is likely to have arrived at complete and final truth on any subject whatever. When an intelligent man expresses a view which seems to us obviously absurd, we should not attempt to prove that it is somehow true, but we should try to understand how it ever came to seem true. This exercise of historical and psychological imagination at once enlarges the scope of our thinking, and helps us to realize how foolish many of our own cherished prejudices will seem to an age which has a different temper of mind.”     Bertrand Russell

“Ignorant people see life as either existence or non-existence, but wise men see it beyond both existence and non-existence to something that transcends them both; this is an observation of the Middle Way.”     Seneca

“There is no darkness but ignorance.”     William Shakespeare

“A knavish speech sleeps in a fool’s ear.”     William Shakespeare

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”     William Shakespeare

“The shortest route to courage is absolute ignorance.”     Dan Simmons

“There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.”     Socrates

“It’s an universal law– intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”     Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”     Maurice Switzer

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”     Thomas Stephen Szasz

“Ignorance and inconsideration are the two great causes of the ruin of mankind.”     John Tillotson

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”     Leo Tolstoy

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”     Mark Twain

“Ignorance is a virus. Once it starts spreading, it can only be cured by reason. For the sake of humanity, we must be that cure.”     Neil deGrasse Tyson

“He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked.”     Voltaire

“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”     Voltaire

“If your brains were dynamite there wouldn’t be enough to blow your hat off.”     Kurt Vonnegut

“Irony is wasted on the stupid.”     Oscar Wilde

“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.”     Oscar Wilde

“He had just about enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wanted to eat, but certainly no more.”     P.G. Wodehouse

“Ignorance is not bliss – it is oblivion.”     Philip Wylie

“Rich people have small TVs and big libraries, and poor people have small libraries and big TVs.”     Zig Ziglar

Which quote is your favorite?


“Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills.”     William Shakespeare.

Although you may recognize it as:

“The pen is mightier than the sword (or gun).”

An Alien Impression

It’s hard to step back, to see things in a different way, to extract one’s self from the myopic view of daily life.  But imagine if you can, a visitor from another world peeking in on our pale blue dot for the first time.  What would it see?  What would its first impressions of us be?

It would see Earth’s dominant creature huddled on a land composing only one third of our planet’s surface.  Two thirds of our planet, covered in water, the life nurturing element we seek on all other space rocks, avoided here at home.  We want to live near it, but cannot live in it.  It would see our frail, little bodies carried around in individual metal conveyances.  Cars, everywhere cars!  2010 saw the earth surpass the 1 billion automobile mark for the first time.  Nikolaus Otto created a stationary four-cycle internal combustion engine in 1876.  Karl Benz, at the urging of his wife Bertha, registered patent (DRP 37435) on January 29, 1886 for a three wheel, four-cycle motor car.  Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach used a mobile version of Otto’s engine on a stagecoach in 1886.  Everything since, every innovation, advancement and safety feature, is built on this transformational, but dated, internal combustion engine.  Choking on self-inflicted pollution and limited in access by the venous network of roads across our planet, our visitor might wonder at our lack of imagination.  Our visitor would see the tricked-out pickup truck next to us scream down the highway at 80 miles an hour, cutting across four lanes of highway, oblivious to the welfare of his fellow travelers.  From above, this looks callous and entitled, and yet almost stationary!  Even our air travel looks lethargic.  Metal tubes with protruding wings shepherded by specially trained operators, herding people like cattle across states, countries, oceans and continents, flying at a mere 350 mph (or 0.000052% the speed of light) and limited in their decent to specialized patches of cement bedazzled with various colored lights, from which more tendrils of road emerge.

And speaking of light, it would see that we still use the incandescent light bulb!  Thomas Edison’s first commercially practical light bulb was created in 1879.  We still use this as our primary source of artificial light, in spite of the fact that 95% of the energy created is wasted as heat, while only 5% is converted to visible light.  If our visitor could travel the world at night and take a panoramic picture, this is what it would see:

It would also notice that we cannot speak to one another!  At last count, there were at least 6,700 active languages in the world.  According to Ethnologue, here are the top twenty (in terms of the number of speakers):











































You may notice that this accounts for only 3,679,800,000 of the 6,973,738,433 inhabitants of our planet, or 52.8% of the earth’s population.  You might also be interested to know that the United Nations, the “international organization founded in 1945 after the Second World War by 51 countries (but now composing 191 countries) committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights,” has only six official languages: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, Russian and Spanish (representing only 33% of the world’s population).

Another look by our visitor would see that we have invented incredible methods of murdering one another.  We kill each other at an amazing rate and over reasons quite unfathomable to our guest.  And it is always 20/20 hindsight for these “inventors of death.”  Robert Oppenheimer, “Father of the Atomic Bomb” quoted the Bhagavad Gita saying,

Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

Albert Einstein said,

I made one great mistake in my life—when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification—the danger that the Germans would make them.

Mikhail Kalashnikov, creator of the AK-47 said,

I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work — for example a lawn mower.

Even Alfred Nobel, the man whose name is synonymous with peace, but who also invented dynamite, considered his invention for the mining industry to ultimately be a peacemaker.

My dynamite will sooner lead to peace than a thousand world conventions.  As soon as men will find that in one instant whole armies can be utterly destroyed, they surely will abide by golden peace.

Should our visitor land on our soil (without being shot out of the sky), breathe our specific atmosphere (without inhaling instantaneous toxic death) and speak to us (in flawless English the caricatured words of science fiction movies from the 1950’s, “Take me to your leader”) who amongst us can speak for all of us?  Who can stand and represent us to the galaxy?  The answer, I think, is not the President of the United States, the Secretary General of the United Nations or the Pope, it is our children.  Unburdened by the fractious effects of race, religion or sex, they retain their wonder, their imagination and, most importantly, hope.  Science and mathematics may be the galactic language, but every child, with the flame of hope burning brightly within, is our best envoy.

So the next time you’re stuck in traffic at night and pass a billboard written in a foreign language for “Bulk Ammo and Silencers”, think of our imaginary visitor and wonder, can’t we do better?

The Confluence of Idealism and Pragmatism

Progress occurs when idealism and pragmatism merge.  However, whether due to the explosion of the internet, or globalization in general, rather than having a better understanding and acceptance of our fellow earthlings, we have splintered society to the point where we only associate with like-minded individuals or groups.  Discussion, debate and compromise have given way to intransigent positions and hatred of others.   All issues now have rabid followers with hardened stances, whether it is gun control, abortion, unions, welfare or UFO’s.   Carl Sagan wrote,

“The chief deficiency I see in the skeptical movement is its polarization: Us vs. Them — the sense that we have a monopoly on the truth; that those other people who believe in all these stupid doctrines are morons; that if you’re sensible, you’ll listen to us; and if not, to hell with you. This is nonconstructive. It does not get our message across. It condemns us to permanent minority status.”

(By the way, it was Richard Feynman who replied to the notion of UFO’s with this calculated response:

“…from my knowledge of the world that I see around me, I think that it is much more likely that the reports of flying saucers are the results of the known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence than of the unknown rational efforts of extra-terrestrial intelligence.”)

No more fractious issue exists than abortion.  Since the Supreme Court’s decision was handed down on January 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade has been a lightning rod for generations and has resulted in a binary opinion status with their corresponding labels of “Pro Life” or “Pro Choice.”  No discussion, no debate, no compromise.  Passion runs deep on both sides.  Each side batters society with horror stories and images designed to persuade an imaginary, nonexistent, undecided populace.

In response to the image below, my son has attempted to suppress emotion and rely on fact to convey a rational position.

Here, for your consideration, is my guest blogger’s post:


1. Abortion is murder

2. Liberals “want to force taxpayers to pay for her to be killed”

3. Liberals value the egg of an eagle more than a human fetus

4. The punishment for murdering an eagle is greater than that of infanticide


1.  Abortion is not infanticide. Abortion ends the life of a fetus, but it is not murder. Abortion is not murder in any sense of the word other than the biological. Personhood does not begin at conception. The death of a fetus can in no way be equated to the death of a conscious adult.

Mary Ann Warren, in her article “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion” identifies five traits that differentiate personhood from merely the biological definition of being a person. These are consciousness, reasoning, self-motivated activity, the capacity to communicate, and the presence of self-concepts. Neither a human fetus nor an eagle fetus possesses these qualities. Therefore, the fetus is not a person and the eagle fetus is not an eagle. To equate abortion to murder, especially using such a juvenile and slanted phrase as “not only is it legal to kill her” does nothing but cheapen and delegitimize the “pro-life” argument.

2.  Three percent of all Planned Parenthood health services are abortion services. Other services provided by Planned Parenthood:

– Preventing more than 584,000 unintended pregnancies annually

– Providing 770,000 Pap tests and 750,000 breast exams annually

– Providing more than four million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections annually

– Providing educational programs for more than 1.1 million young people and adults annually

“The Hyde amendment, passed in 1976, excludes abortion from the comprehensive healthcare services provided to low-income people by the federal government through Medicaid.”

ACLU – “Public Funding for Abortion”

“If a woman chooses to carry to term, Medicaid (and other federal insurance programs) offer her assistance for the necessary medical care. But if the same woman needs to end her pregnancy, Medicaid (and other federal insurance programs) will not provide coverage for her abortion, even if continuing the pregnancy will harm her health.”

ACLU – “Public Funding for Abortion”

The Supreme Court case ‘Webster v. Reproductive Health Services’ ruled that states were not required to fund abortions that were not medically necessary.

The duty of the government is not to bow to the bigotry of religious groups or overpowered lobbies. Individual objections are not enough to deem abortion legal or illegal. The simple truth is that abortion is the choice of the woman. No panel of elderly men or amount of Bible quotation can be allowed to strip this right from women. Responsibility and freedom cannot be political footballs, only mentioned when they are convenient.

3.  Liberals support a woman’s choice, not the denial of all human potential. The debate is over potential human life, not the “slaughter of babies”. Every prominent Supreme Court ruling has agreed with this, rejecting the “fetus’ right to life” argument.

4.  Infanticide is prosecuted as homicide. Killing bald eagles is not. The chief difference here, which should be obvious, is that eagles are not people. They do not have Warren’s five qualities of personhood. Yes, bald eagles were taken off of the endangered species list in 2007, but those who kill them do face possible prison time and fines. Any person who kills another person faces a lot more than a fine, and rightly so. Animals do not have more rights than humans. Abortion has nothing to do with the economy. Government funds are disallowed from funding abortions.

The proposed laws changing the punishments for infanticide are based on mental health studies and illnesses. Referencing them in this to prove the conservative position is completely inappropriate here.


The comparison between the egg of an eagle and a fetus is inflammatory. Every position or fact in this picture is exaggerated. It paints liberals as hateful murderers and conservatives as the moralistic, enlightened few. Abortion is legal in the United States of America. I can only hope that this continues to be true. The current trend of conservatives having medieval stances on social issues can do nothing but slow progress in civil rights. Abortion is not infanticide. Abortion is not murder in the comparative sense that this photo implies. In the history of The United States, when has the side of freedom and choice not won in the end? The bigots and the judgmental have an alarming habit of converging on one side where abortion is concerned. The loudest voices among us are not always correct.

Because it’s Next

In the ninth episode of the second season of The West Wing, Sam Seaborn the fictional White House Deputy Communications Director, finds himself arguing the merits of space exploration with the daughter of the Chief of Staff.  His answer, written by Aaron Sorkin, is priceless.    I thought of this exchange while watching Curiosity land on Mars two nights ago.

Sam Seaborn: There are a lot of hungry people in the world, Mal, and none of them are hungry ’cause we went to the moon. None of them are colder and certainly none of them are dumber ’cause we went to the moon.

Mallory O’Brian: And we went to the moon. Do we really have to go to Mars?

Sam Seaborn: Yes.

Mallory O’Brian: Why?

Sam Seaborn: ‘Cause it’s next. ‘Cause we came out of the cave, and we looked over the hill and we saw fire; and we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the west, and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on a timeline of exploration and this is what’s next.


It’s not verbose, it’s not scientific, but its simple philosophy is flawless.  What’s next?