Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Curiosities; Eco Spheres

Inside these sealed glass balls live shrimp, algae, and bacteria, all swimming around in filtered seawater. Put it somewhere with some light, and this little ecosystem will chug along happily for years, no feeding or cleaning necessary, totally oblivious to the fact that the rest of the world exists outside.

Eco Spheres came out of research looking at ways to develop self-contained ecosystems for long duration space travel. They're like little microcosms for the entire world, 

It would be for someone who  has no garden, nor time to look after pot plants, but still wanting something living around. In secret, I feel  sorry for the algae and shrimps to be contained in this sealed glass sphere… instead of tumbling around in a lake or sea or some normal, natural environment.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A bit of Philosophy; Epicurus;

My philosophy teacher; Epicurus;

Born 4 February 341 BCE
Archonship of Sosigenes
Died 270 BCE (aged 72)
Archonship of Pytharatus
Nationality Greek
Era Ancient philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Epicureanism
Main interests Atomism, Materialism
Influenced by

Must have: A delight in the countryside and gardens.

Key promise: Peace and tranquillity.

(Ancient Greek: Epikouros, "ally, comrade"; 341 BCE – 270 BCE) was an ancient Greek philosopher as well as the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism.

 Only a few fragments and letters of Epicurus's 300 written works remain. Much of what is known about Epicurean philosophy derives from later followers and commentators.

For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. 
He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and evil; death is the end of both body and soul and should therefore not be feared; the gods do not reward or punish humans; the universe is infinite and eternal; and events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space. Epicurus

The school

Epicurus' school, which was based in the garden of his house and thus called "The Garden" had a small but devoted following in his lifetime.
 His school was the first of the ancient Greek philosophical schools to admit women as a rule rather than an exception. 
 An inscription on the gate to The Garden is recorded by Seneca in epistle XXI of Epistulae morales ad Lucilium:
Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure.

Science and ethics
Epicurus is a key figure in the development of science and the scientific method because of his insistence that nothing should be believed, except that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction. 

Many of his ideas about nature and physics presaged important scientific concepts of our time. He was a key figure in the Axial Age, the period from 800 BCE to 200 BCE, during which similarly revolutionary thinking appeared in China, India, Iran, the Near East, and Ancient Greece.

His statement of the Ethic of Reciprocity as the foundation of ethics is the earliest in Ancient Greece.
 Like Democritus, he was an atomist, believing that the fundamental constituents of the world were indivisible little bits of matter (atoms, Greek atomos, indivisible) flying through empty space (kenos). Everything that occurs is the result of the atoms colliding, rebounding, and becoming  
entangled with one another, with no purpose or plan behind their motions.(Compare this with the modern study of particle physics.

He regularly admitted women and slaves into his school and was one of the first Greeks to break from the god-fearing and god-worshipping tradition common at the time, even while affirming that religious activities are useful as a way to contemplate the gods and to use them as an example of the pleasant life.
 Epicurus participated in the activities of traditional Greek religion, but taught that one should avoid holding false opinions about the gods. The gods are immortal and blessed and men who ascribe any additional qualities that are alien to immortality and blessedness are, according to Epicurus, impious. The gods do not punish the bad and reward the good as the common man believes. The opinion of the crowd is, Epicurus claims, that the gods "send great evils to the wicked and great blessings to the righteous who model themselves after the gods," whereas Epicurus believes the gods, in reality, do not concern themselves at all with human beings.

Epicurus' teachings were introduced into medical philosophy and practice by the Epicurean doctor Asclepiades of Bithynia, who was the first physician who introduced Greek medicine in Rome.
 Asclepiades introduced the friendly, sympathetic, pleasing and painless treatment of patients. He advocated humane treatment of mental disorders, had insane persons freed from confinement and treated them with natural therapy, such as diet and massages. His teachings are surprisingly modern, therefore Asclepiades is considered to be a pioneer physician in psychotherapy, physical therapy and molecular medicine.

He also believed (contra Aristotle) that death was not to be feared. When a man dies, he does not feel the pain of death because he no longer is and he therefore feels nothing. Therefore, as Epicurus famously said, "death is nothing to us." When we exist death is not, and when death exists we are not. All sensation and consciousness ends with death and therefore in death there is neither pleasure nor pain. The fear of death arises from the belief that in death there is awareness.
From this doctrine arose the Epicurean epitaph: Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo (I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care) – which is inscribed on the gravestones of his followers and seen on many ancient gravestones of the Roman Empire. This quote is often used today at humanist funerals. 
Also quoted in the Shakespearean To be or not to be that is the question.

The "Epicurean paradox" is a version of the problem of evil. It is a trilemma argument (God is omnipotent, God is good, but Evil exists); or more commonly seen as this quote:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

More facts and notes