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Everything posted by Gauracandra

  1. IF YOU HAVE TWO COWS......... AND YOU ARE: DEMOCRAT: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. Barbara Streisand sings for you. REPUBLICAN: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So? SOCIALIST: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor. You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage his cow. COMMUNIST: You have two cows. The government seizes both and provides you with milk. You wait in line for hours to get it. It is expensive and sour. CAPITALISM, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two cows. You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows. BUREAUCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two cows. Under the new farm program the government pays you to shoot one, milk the other, and then pours the milk down the drain. AMERICAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You sell one, lease it back to yourself and do an IPO on the 2nd one. You force the two cows to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when one cow drops dead. You spin an announcement to the analysts stating you have downsized and are reducing expenses. Your stock goes up. FRENCH CORPORATION: You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows. You go to lunch and drink wine. Life is good. JAPANESE CORPORATION: You have two cows.You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains. Most are at the top of their class at cow school. GERMAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You engineer them so they are all blond, drink lots of beer, give excellent quality milk, and run a hundred miles an hour.Unfortunately they also demand 13 weeks of vacation per year. ITALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows but you don't know where they are. While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman. You break for lunch. Life is good. RUSSIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You have some vodka. You count them and learn you have five cows. You have some more vodka. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. The Mafia shows up and takes over however many cows you really have. TALIBAN CORPORATION: You have all the cows in Afghanistan, which are two. You don't milk them because you cannot touch any creature's private parts. You get a $40 million grant from the US government to find alternatives to milk production but use the money to buy weapons. IRAQI CORPORATION: You have two cows. They go into hiding. They send radio tapes of their mooing. BELGIAN CORPORATION: You have! one cow. The cow is schizophrenic. Sometimes the cow thinks he's French, other times he's Flemish. The Flemish cow won't share with the French cow. The French cow wants control of the Flemish cow's milk. The cow asks permission to be cut in half. The cow dies happy. FLORIDA CORPORATION: You have a black cow and a brown cow. Everyone votes for the best looking one. Some of the people who actually like the brown one best accidentally vote for the black one. Some people vote for both. Some people vote for neither. Some people can't figure out how to vote at all. Finally, a bunch of guys from out-of-state tell you which one you think is the best-looking cow. CALIFORNIA CORPORATION: You have millions of cows. They make real California cheese. Only five speak English. Most are illegal. Arnold likes the ones with the big udders.
  2. Credit Unions are similar to banks but are "owned" by their members who have some common characteristic. It is entirely possible to create a Catholic Credit Union, or a Company Credit Union, or any other defined group Credit Union. The benefit is that the interest that accumulates on any loans etc... gets fed right back into the community. This is viable except we are missing one element. There needs to be some level of concentration among Iskcon members. If we had 5000 people all living in an area then something like a Credit Union could be feasible. I think once density is created so many of these "varnashram" questions will naturally fall into place.
  3. Used properly I don't have that much of a problem with it. For instance, if a government needs to build a highway and your house is in the way, I think they have the right to properly compenstate you. Personally I think if the government uses this process they should overcompensate, say 1.5 or 2 times property value. They are after all not allowing you to bargain. However, it was meant to allow government to expand public works that benefit everyone. What it has turned into is a scam by which rich wealthy businessmen screw the little guy. A few examples I saw on a 60 minutes program some months back. The New York Times had the city of New York take over an apartment complex and then give it to the them to build a new skyscaper. Now, this is clearly an abuse. If the city took it over to build a new school because of the growing population in the area, then it would be understandable. But to steal from one person to then give the property to a multi-million dollar enterprise is just cheating. Same thing happened where a Home Depot like company wanted to shut down someone's garage because this guy had prime location. But thats why he wants to keep it. Instead the state forced him to give it up to this building supply company. This is just an erosion of private property rights.
  4. I just checked and Muslims are 12% of the population. So 88% are of another religion. Since Jordan and Pakistan viewed the U.S. favorably 20% & 23% of the time respectively, and without any other poll numbers in that article for other Muslim countries, I decided that I'd say Indian Muslims voted similarly at 25%. Given this, the rest of the population would need about 77% favorable rating to average down to 71% overall. This wasn't as big a jump as I initially thought, simply because before I was incorrectly skewing the weight for the Muslim population.
  5. The article says 71% of Indians have a positive view of America. I'm betting that number is lower among Indian Muslims and higher among Indian Hindus. Considering India has what, 200 - 300 million Muslims (is that right?), I'd say to still reach 71% must mean among Non-Muslims, the figure must be very, very high.
  6. I'm not Christian, but I do think devotees often have an overly simplistic view of Christian theology. Perhaps this is due to the overly Protestant presentation of Christianity in America. Yet, when I read Catholic writings I am always very impressed at its depth in symbolism and metaphor. I'll give an example of what I mean by overly simplistic. Devotees will often say "Oh, you Christians will just go and sin and then go to confession to absolve yourself." This really is a shallow view of what is happening. Most Catholics don't go to confession, so those that do aren't doing it as some sort of posturing. Catholicism starts with the fact of sin. We all sin. Confession is a way of airing those sins, to get them out of our heart so that it doesn't stagnate and corrupt us further. It is a form of repentence. Protestants (to a large degree) don't practice confession as they have done away with priests. This lack of confession has created a very impenitent culture. You notice this especially in America (which is a Protestant nation with Catholics living in it). America never looks back at its sins, it always looks forward to tomorrow. This is a very Protestant approach (always being positive looking, never being self-critical). How many devotees honestly confess their own sins. It takes great courage to do it to a priest. But how many actually look at their own faults and ask for forgiveness? So who are Hare Krishna devotees to criticize a Catholic who goes to confession? You sin. They sin. They go to confession for repentence. Do you? You may say "Yes but then they go on sinning." That may be true. But you too go on sinning but don't repent. So who is the better? Do you have lust, greed, anger in your heart? The Christian metaphor is one that places Christ as a symbol of humanity. He carries his burden along the Via Dolorosa (the path of sorrows) as we carry our burden (our humanity and frailty) through life). Catholics believe that the suffering of innocence naturally provokes a spiritual awakening in the heart. This creates a unity in the world. To them only God was completelly pure that he could create a unity among all of humanity. It is not that God is weak, it is that only God is so pure, so innocent, that he can unite the entire world. I think devotees would be best to refrain from criticizing the symbols and stories of other religions. Believe me, as someone trying to be a Vaisnava, I could mock this religion left, right, and center. I have no interest in doing so, but you are fooling yourself if you think it can't be done, and done very effectively. For instance, devotees will criticize the Bible as being a compiled scripture so not valid, then turn around and quote this and that purana claiming they have never been touched by human hands and are millions of years old.
  7. This week’s Srila Siddhaswarupananda television program is on ‘sincerity’. Srila Siddhaswarupananda: First thing is maybe there are some people here who have questions. [silence] Anyone? [silence] Ok, now you’re on the hot spot, not me [laughter] Female Audience Member: I would like to know how I can be sincere to please God and why am I not? Srila Siddhaswarupananda: I think you are sincere. You didn’t use to be but now you are. When you were younger you thought you could live loosely and be happy. At that time you came in contact with devotees of the Lord and you thought “I like this…” but you didn’t. You thought you were fooling the devotees. Then you went away trying to enjoy life as a materialist. And you were not happy. So you began to think “He was right…” Is this not a fact? [audience member nods yes]. So there was duplicity and now there is no duplicity. You thought “I have already tried to be the center and it does not work. I now have children and a husband who does not want me to love God. What should I do?” Previously it was easy. Now there is hardship. When things aren’t so easy materially, then it is easier to remember God. Queen Kunti used to pray “Let me always be in a position where I am not secure.” If you think you are secure then you think this material world is your home. My spiritual master Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami said there is only one qualification – “Are you sincere.” Otherwise all your study… Some people act duplicitly with their spiritual teacher and so maneuver to be in charge. They think a guru lords over others and want to be in that position. They always want to be the secretary, or the driver… They think by doing this they can get the inside track. Duplicity can come in all kinds of forms. Some of those who were the closest to Bhaktivedanta Swami, to Bhaktisiddhanta Swami, some of the closest physically never knew them. Though they had this opportunity from a pure devotee still they did not know them. Some think material qualification like learning and scholarship makes them qualified. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was a great scholar and the spiritual master of my spiritual master. He was so deep and the words he uses I can’t pronounce half of them. You need a dictionary with you when you read his writings. But if you think you must be a scholar like Srila Bhaktisiddhanta to be qualified then you are wrong. His spiritual master was Srila Gaurakishore Das Babaji who was illiterate. And when Srila Bhaktisiddhanta first approached Gaurakishore for initiation he was rejected and told “No, you are too ignorant.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta kept going back and kept getting rejected. Finally, he made up in his mind that he would ask one more time and if rejected again would leave his body as it wasn’t worth living in this world any longer. This is when Srila Gaurakishore accepted him. There is no material qualification. God will lead you to His representative. Each of you here is hearing a certain amount depending on your sincerity. As you become more sincere you hear more. How many people are posing thinking they can trick God? Caitanya Mahaprabhu gives the condition of how a person can know God. A sincere person can chant the Holy Name of the Lord by being more tolerant than a tree, feeling lower than straw in the street, giving all respects to others and accepting none for oneself. Then you can chant constantly. This goes against all the modern pop psychology. They say “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the greatest one of all?” Then you are to imagine the mirror responding “You are, you are.” This is one of the techniques of a famous positive thinker on PBS. A positive thinker does this because they don’t see they have shelter. A person described by Lord Caitanya as feeling lower than straw in the street and giving respect to others, this person, though feeling lower than straw, does not feel insecure. Thus they can chant constantly. The nature of the Holy Name is that it is the same as God. In this state I can totally admit and open up myself completely. A person in this condition knows 100% with faith and knowledge that God loves them unconditionally. This is a very comfortable position. You feel repentant but secure. Now you are asking “How can I become sincere?” If you weren’t sincere you wouldn’t ask that question. Perhaps you would think you would be rejected. If you felt you would be rejected you would not ask that question. How can an insincere man become sincere? Only by cleaning the heart. So they must chant the Holy Name. The Holy Name is both the end and the means to the end.
  8. It is my belief that Christianity (and Catholicism in particular) established certain belief systems as a way of shutting the door forever to certain pathways of the mind. It is unfortunate, but our freedom of thought gives us the ability to freely choose to destroy ourselves. Christians don't believe in complete free thought by labeling certain thoughts as blasphemous. The maze of the mind is so complex that many people fall into endless speculation and simply go around and around in circles and never get out. Thus in order to assist people in "getting out" rather than just spinning their wheels, certain systems were set up. Let me give a few examples: 1) Suicide - In Catholicism suicide is said to forever damn the soul to hell. Does it really? I don't know. Personally I believe the development of this doctrine was as follows. Man naturally can fall into despair (the thoughts go down a certain pathway in the maze of the mind) and he can never get out. He spirals downwards in despair and commits suicide. His life becomes purposeless. The thinkers in the Catholic church saw that this was a natural tendency among mankind to get into this part of the maze, to despair, to see no way out, and so they wanted to forever shut the mind off from that path of thoughts. You are not allowed to think of suicide. That path is forever shut down. Why? The stated reason is you are damned to hellfire for eternity. Thats a pretty good block. The actual reason I think is to keep the mental health of society, to keep hope alive even in the most desperate times. 2) Conversion - another view is if you don't convert you go to hell. Partly this was a smart marketting move in that it gave an impetus to convert from those faiths that didn't have this doctrine. I mean if Christians say I'm going to hell if I'm not Christian, and Buddhists say I'm not going to hell if I'm Christian, then to be on the safe side I'll convert to Christianity. But there is a deeper reason I believe. I think again the thinkers in the Catholic church realized that when we view life as simply one day merging into the next, we lose traction. We start to spin our wheels again. We need an impetus to actually change our character. We need something to tell us "No more lazying about. Make a decision and act on it." I'll give you an example. I see myself all the time thinking "If I become Krishna Conscious in this life or not its alright. I'll make it up in my next life." There is a tendency to think that since I'm eternal, whats another life, or another life again after that. We don't have a "mechanism" in place that forces people to come to a singular point of action. Its more fluid and open ended. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. Again, this has dire consequences on the minds of those that approach life in this manner. Part of the reason I believe Western Civilization grew so strongly is because their ideas are about coming to a point. From personal experience I've seen this. A simple example I've given before. I'm a westerner and I'm very punctual. To me time is linear. If I'm coming to your house for dinner and you say its at 8 pm, I'm expecting the food to be on the table at 8 pm. Not 9:30 or 10 pm. But I've seen Indians who view time as this sort of approximation. When I have arrived at their home at 7:30 and the dinner isn't served till 9 I usually feel a bit annoyed. They simply view 8 o'clock as being like 9:30 or 10. Its all one, its all fluid. If you don't eat this lifetime you can eat next lifetime. A bit of a joke, but its a clear cultural difference between East and West. This is not a stereotype. I've experienced it too many times. 3) Confession - Not so much on your topic, but still dealing with mental health and being able to move on. I believe again the thinkers in the Catholic church saw that people want to unload their thoughts. If you have something eating you up inside, it rots you out, and stagnates. So they developed something called 'confession' which is a way of letting light and fresh air into your heart. I once had a psychology professor tell our class "You should sit down one day and just write down everything in your heart. All your pains and sorrows. Then once it is all out just burn the paper and move on. You will feel much better over the long run." I tend to believe Catholic priests were a sort of mental health professionals, people who studied the human mind and saw that certain thoughts made the mind diseased. To cure that disease required certain measures. Sometimes it meant cutting off certain avenues of thought in order to help guide the mind back to some level of health and balance. With a healthy society the culture could move forward and progress. Anyways, those are my thoughts. A bit rambling. To me, eternal hellfire is simply one method to try to get people to come to a decision making point and rectify their lives. It cuts off certain avenues and gives impetus to move forward in the right direction.
  9. This relationship has been known for atleast several years. But the supporters of abortion always deny it saying the samples aren't big enough or some other excuse. It is a problem now days with so many interests groups that you don't know what is true or whats not. However, the explanation makes some sense to me. Essentially when a woman gets pregnant certain cells in her breasts multiply and activate to create milk for the oncoming child. When the abortion happens, it interupts this process and that shock to the system is more likely to cause these breast cells to turn cancerous. They haven't developed enough to create milk, but now have no purpose. Its odd that feminists claim to be defenders of women's rights. What a sad state you must be in when your message to women is to have an abortion. And note that the number of abortions & unwanted pregnancies is directly tied to the rise of the feminist movement. One third of all pregnancies end in abortion, another third are out of wedlock. This all within the last 35 to 40 years. The number one sign for poverty among women is unwed pregnancy. The ideas the feminist movement have inculcated in society have been disasterous for women. They freed men from having to be men, and they freed women from having to be women. Culture was always in place specifically because it was believed there are wolves among men willing to destroy women, and there were women who were willing to be destroyed. But with feminism we said these ideas were antiquated. Women didn't need protection. How dare you suggest such a thing. Fine. Now we have higher levels of poverty. And since there is no husband we then say we need the government to intervene. It just spirals downwards, though it seems many young are starting to reject feminism. In fact, most people won't even allowed themselves to be called feminists. Its become an embarassing word.
  10. For anyone interested the following site is for “The Elegant Universe” which was the program I mentioned from NOVA: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/ It has a lot of different sections. They have actually taken the radical step of putting the entire program online here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/program.html You can watch each segment in 7 to 8 minute pieces. The total program is 3 hours long each with 8 chapters. Believe me its well worth it if you have a high speed internet connection. Start in the upper left hand corner and go down for the 1st hour, then start at the top for the second hour and down etc… You can also watch a sort of promo/preview on that front page to get an idea of what will come. In addition, if you’d like to purchase the video series you can go to: http://shop.wgbh.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CatalogSearchResultView?storeId=11051&catalogId=10051&langId=-1&pageSize=20&searchText=elegant+universe They have the program in VHS or DVD as well as Brian Greene’s companion book if you want a combo purchase. Its really well worth it. But again, if you have high speed internet you can watch the program for free. Finally, I thought I’d just clip a few quotes from various sections on that page to give a sense of what they are saying. “NOVA: Well, for example, most people have trouble envisioning a fourth spatial dimension. Can you? Greene: No. I cannot envision anything beyond three dimensions. What I can do is I can make use of mathematics that describe those extra dimensions, and then I can try to translate what the mathematics tells me into lower dimensional analogies that help me gain a picture of what the math has told me. But the picture is certainly inadequate to the task of fully describing what's going on, because it's in lower dimensions, and in higher dimensions, things are definitely different. To tell you the truth, I've never met anybody who can envision more than three dimensions. There are some who claim they can, and maybe they can; it's hard to say. But it's very hard, when your brain is involved in a world that appears to have three dimensions and is well suited to envisioning that world, to go beyond that and imagine more dimensions.” “If superstring theory turns out to be correct, the idea of a world consisting of 10 or more dimensions is one that we'll need to become comfortable with. But will there ever be an explanation or a visual representation of higher dimensions that will truly satisfy the human mind? The answer to this question may forever be no. Not unless some four-dimensional life-form pulls us from our three-dimensional Spaceland and gives us a view of the world from its perspective.”
  11. Fair enough. I have often found brief moments in my life where the world appeared rather strange. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. There was something eerie, something uncanny about everything. Was a tree just a tree? The closest I could describe it is that at times it felt like I was moving through a three dimensional painting. There was something a bit odd. These moments would come in a flash and leave. I think this is something most people experience at some point in their life. Something doesn’t quite feel right about the world. Something is being masked, something isn’t apparent. Primitive people sensed this but couldn’t quite place it either. They attributed it to nature and worshipped trees, mountains etc…. As they developed culturally, that same uncanniness existed in the form of daemonic dread (fear of ghosts, daemons). In time it became more and more refined as the “awefulness” of God (think Arjuna seeing the universal form if you wonder what I mean by aweful). What all religions (certainly the major ones) have all suggested from the beginning is that this feeling is correct. There is indeed more than meets the eye. There is what we see and then there is something else, what we sense but can’t quite adequately describe. Why can’t we describe it? I watched a program on String Theory and Brane theory on NOVA (PBS – public television) a few months back. It was fascinating, not because it confirmed my specific religious allegiance, but because it showed how truly strange the world might be. There could be layers of reality all around us. Multiple dimensions, parallel universes etc… As the article above points out there might be a big blue elephant a millimeter away from me right now, and I couldn’t see it. In this sense, science has caught up with religion – is there something we can’t see all around us. Is there another world beyond our sense perception. Are there other stories being told on higher levels of reality? It can’t be proved. In a sense it would be a matter of faith. Even the best physicists who theorize about this, the most they can give us would be volumes of formulas they would insist “prove” an unseen reality. If all we do is look at the world as it is then all is fine. But the deeper we go, the more bizarre the world becomes. The world becomes inexplicable. Now for a moment imagine if we could enter a higher dimension. Imagine as a 4 dimensional being, we entered the 7th dimension. What would we see? Truthfully I have no idea. Even the physicists who theorize about this can’t tell you what is in there. But I suspect I know what I would feel. I’m guessing I would be dumbstruck and incapable of describing what I was seeing. I would be in awe. I would have to invent a whole new vocabulary simply because something 7 dimensional has no descriptive reference point for a person who lives as we do in 4 dimensions. I think it would be beyond words. Think of how difficult it is to say “Describe the color green.” We’ve all seen green and yet it is difficult to describe it unless we reference something else we know about. Now try doing this with realms that we have no point of reference. Again, I think this must have been what Arjuna would feel encountering the universal form of the Lord. How do you describe something beyond anything you’ve ever seen? Can there be higher realities we can’t see? And if we acknowledge this, can there not then be potentially a highest reality above all the others? I think these are a few things to consider.
  12. Shvu, Right now you operate in 4 dimensions (3 spatial + time). I think you are trying to side step the question as I can’t believe an educated man hasn’t at least heard of other dimensions (its been speculated about since the 19th Century). Anyways, below I’ve copied an article that should help get you up to date on this theory. After reading it, I’d be curious about your answer. Do you believe there is a 5th, 6th, 7th, or Nth dimension (the number is not particularly important to me)? Yes, No, Maybe. Here is a quick blurb from the complete article: “The reason: We can't see anything outside our brane, because light can't escape or enter it. We can't hear anything outside, because sound travels through matter, and matter is stuck to our brane. We can't use radioactivity to sense what's beyond, or even break through with nuclear bombs, because nuclear forces are also firmly nailed to our brane. There could be a big blue elephant sitting not a millimeter away in another dimension, but we wouldn't know it's there because everything we use to "see" is stuck to our brane.” A New Slice on Physics Is the world we see trapped on a thin membrane separating us from vast other realms? Some scientists say that would explain a lot. Plato considered it first. What if everything we hold dear is but a thin slice of some larger, unreachable reality, like a flickering shadow cast on the craggy wall of a cave? What if the moon and stars, your home, your thoughts, your cat, are but projections on this wall -- mere suggestions of unfathomable realms beyond? In the last few years, a mathematically rigorous version of Plato's 2,000-year-old thought experiment has been refashioning the way physicists think about everything from subatomic particles to the Big Bang. The universe we see, according to this scenario, is stuck on a thin membrane of space-time embedded in a much larger cosmos. And our membrane may be only one of many, all of which may warp, wiggle, connect and collide with one another in as many as 10 dimensions. Physicists call this new frontier the "brane world." The idea could help solve a long list of outstanding mysteries. Among them: What is the "dark matter" that seems to make up 90% of the universe? And why is gravity trillions of times weaker than electromagnetism? The revolution was set off in the mid-1990s when UC Santa Barbara physicist Joe Polchinski determined through mathematics that branes were a surface to which things attach, like hair to skin -- except the "things" in this case were the minuscule "strings" that may well be the fundamental ingredients of the universe. "I was just fiddling around with mathematics.... Within a week or two [other physicists] had done things with it I hadn't envisioned. It was like taking the stopper out of the dam. Things poured through." Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, creator of the currently accepted version of the Big Bang, said recently he felt a little like Rip Van Winkle -- picking up his head from a long sleep only to notice that the landscape of physics he thought he knew had suddenly, drastically, changed. Stephen Hawking of the University of Cambridge, among others, envisions brane worlds bubbling up out of the void, giving rise to whole new universes. He ends his latest book, "The Universe in a Nutshell," with a call to explore this "brane new world." One might well wonder why such a seemingly bizarre concept has attracted so many well-established physicists. The short answer is: desperation. The laws of nature that describe the large-scale universe to an astonishing degree of precision (Einstein's general relativity) are incompatible with the laws that describe the small-scale universe with the same astonishing exactness (quantum theory). This means either that one of these well-tested theories is wrong (all but inconceivable) or that there is some larger, more encompassing theory that somehow accommodates both. To date, the only theory that comes close to marrying the two is "string theory" -- a mathematically elegant set of ideas that has swept the world of physics over the last few decades. According to string theory, the basic ingredients of the universe are not point-like particles, but tiny strings vibrating in 10-dimensional space. Although still untested, string theory has scored a spectacular series of theoretical successes, earning it an ever-widening circle of admirers. And yet string theory remains a realm apart from day-to-day physics -- lovely to behold but innately aloof. For one thing, the strings are so small that it would take a particle accelerator larger than the solar system to create the energies needed to "see" them. This means, in effect, that strings can never be detected. For another, the complex mathematics required to deal with the tortured 10-dimensional landscape is beyond the reach of most physicists. Brane models change all that: Unlike in string theory, the extra dimensions in brane worlds can be big, infinitely big. "It led to a whole new bunch of possibilities that could be experimentally tested," said physicist Jim Cline of McGill University in Montreal. What's more, branes don't require the full range of mathematical tools required for string theory, opening the door to new groups of scientists. "You can use methods that are part and parcel of more traditional physics," said Columbia University physicist Brian Greene. "So a person who's not a string theorist can jump into the field and make contributions." This sense of promise was palpable last summer at the Aspen Center for Physics, where string theorists and cosmologists -- the scientists who study the origin and structure of the universe -- gathered for a workshop to explore links between the smallest scales in the universe and the largest. Brane scenarios popped up everywhere, enveloped in the thick fog of uncertainty that clouds the birth of new worlds. The setting was strangely church-like. The faithful sat in rows under spires of white-barked aspens, their round leaves fluttering in the wind. In front, a maestro in sneakers tapped out symbols on a blackboard, chalk flying like fairy dust, black jeans covered in white handprints. There was lots of talk about the infinite. Lots of recitation and response. Everyone strained to channel some larger reality through equations. "Your bulk could contain many 3-branes," one physicist said. "The 9-branes could still annihilate." "I'm lost." This was not your grandmother's physics. There were no objects in the usual sense. No matter, no particles. Not even numbers. Only "instantons,alpha vacua" and multidimensional membranes wrapping around one another, traveling down throats of black holes and bouncing back, transformed. Even to physicists, much of this seems unbearably strange. But in physics, strangeness comes with the territory. "When I first learned about quantum physics as an undergraduate, it just about destroyed my mind," said Stanford post-doctoral fellow Stephon Alexander. "And now, 12 years later, it's just a tool." There's actually nothing particularly new about the idea that space may extend into unseen dimensions, or even that the world we know is somehow trapped on a membrane. Extra dimensions were such a hot topic in the 19th century that Victorian schoolmaster Edwin Abbott wrote a famous science fiction novel, "Flatland," based on the notion that our limited perceptions prevented us from seeing worlds existing right in front of our three-dimensional noses. Albert Einstein made extra dimensions an integral part of physics when he used a fourth dimension, time, in his theory of relativity in 1905. Ten years later, he showed that this interwoven fabric of space-time could warp under the influence of massive objects -- "causing" the force we know as gravity. Extra-dimensional membranes were kicking around in string theory since at least the mid-1980s, but no one took them very seriously. One of the first suggestions that the world we know might be stuck to such a membrane appeared in a 1985 paper that was a parody of string theory titled "The Super G-String" by V. Gates, et al., from the University of Cauliflower (actually, physicist Warren Siegel of State University of New York, Stony Brook). "It was based on a serious paper that was totally overlooked because it was before its time," Polchinski said. The branes playing such a large role in physics today are richer and more mathematically rigorous than early versions. Essentially, a brane is a discontinuity in space-time, a boundary where things meet, like the surface of a pond where the water meets the sky. "It's a defect in the quantum fabric," said Ruth Gregory of the University of Durham in Britain. On one side of the defect would be the vacuum of empty space. A vacuum with somewhat different properties might exist on the other side. Imagine our brane as pond scum -- a thin film that divides the air above from a deep (perhaps infinitely deep) body of water below. Most of what we experience is trapped in the scum. But beyond is a whole other world of currents swirling beneath the surface. Their motion might tug on our scum. We'd feel it as nothing but a gentle disturbance, never dreaming of what lurks below. A brane doesn't always divide one thing from another. It may just be a condensation of stuff, "a localized lump of energy and curvature that likes to hang together," Stanford University physicist Steve Shenker said. Either way, it's a place where things get stuck -- like the scum on the pond. "That was the revolution," said Harvard University physicist Lisa Randall. "To realize that branes were honest-to-goodness objects." Randall played a pivotal role in the revolution when she and Johns Hopkins University physicist Raman Sundrum realized that branes could be infinitely large and yet remain invisible. The reason: We can't see anything outside our brane, because light can't escape or enter it. We can't hear anything outside, because sound travels through matter, and matter is stuck to our brane. We can't use radioactivity to sense what's beyond, or even break through with nuclear bombs, because nuclear forces are also firmly nailed to our brane. There could be a big blue elephant sitting not a millimeter away in another dimension, but we wouldn't know it's there because everything we use to "see" is stuck to our brane. Only gravity can't be glued to a particular brane. Gravity, as Einstein revealed, is the curving of space-time itself, so it wanders willy-nilly where it will, leaking off our brane into what physicists call "the bulk" -- the rest of space-time. Brane scenarios offer an elegant explanation for why gravity is such a weakling: Maybe it's not any weaker than the other forces. Maybe it's just concentrated somewhere else in the bulk, or on another brane. Explaining the wimpiness of gravity is but a taste of what this Brane New World might do. Consider another embarrassing problem that has stumped astronomers for decades. At least 90% of the matter in the universe is AWOL. Or more precisely, it is known to exist because of its gravitational pull (without it, galaxies wouldn't hold together) but can't be detected by any other means. The standard approach has been to populate the universe with exotic new forms of matter, too elusive to be readily seen. If our brane is but a small slice of a much larger cosmos, however, the "dark matter" might be nothing but ordinary matter trapped on another brane. Such a shadow world, Hawking speculates, might contain "shadow human beings wondering about the mass that seems to be missing from their world." Or take the mystery of why elementary particles always appear in triplets, each set heavier than the next. One possibility is that each triplet is the same particle repeating itself on three layers of branes. They would have different masses on our brane for the same reason as shadows on a wall can be different sizes depending on the distance of the object that casts them. "One of the neat things about the whole extra-dimensional idea," Polchinski said, "is that all the physics that we see -- all the kinds of particles and their detailed properties -- are reflections of some inner geometry." As in real estate, value depends on location, location, location. The physicists most entranced with brane worlds are cosmologists. Over the last decade, a new array of telescopes and satellites has provided them with sophisticated tools for taking the measure of the universe. What was once little more than navel gazing is fast becoming a data-drenched science. But cosmologists need string theory to understand the origin of the universe, because laws of physics break down at the tiny distances and immense gravity at play in the Big Bang. For now, cosmologists can see back in time only so far, and no farther. Consider the Big Bang. According to current theory, the universe sprang from an infinitely small speck of space-time known as a "singularity" -- a paradox in the accepted laws of physics, which hold that nothing can be infinitely small. "A singularity is a euphemism for: 'Things have gone haywire.... Things make no sense,' " said Greene, one of the coordinators of the Aspen workshop. "The Big Bang singularity is an 'It doesn't make sense' on the most important problem -- namely, how did it all begin." Branes can enclose the Big Bang singularity like a sheet of cellophane -- avoiding the problem of the infinitely small by giving the singularity some dimension. Not surprisingly, the string-cosmology connection that brane worlds brought about is also producing something of a culture clash. Until recently, string theorists have remained skeptical of the grand theories of cosmologists. String theory is mathematically rigorous. Cosmologists are a wilder bunch, willing to try out almost any model of the universe and see where it leads. "We know how branes work," said string theorist Nathan Seiberg of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. "We know what are properties of branes, and what are not properties of branes. [Cosmologists] violate all the rules. Is this good or bad? I'm not sure. Because if they come up with something which violates the rules of string theory but does all sorts of other wonderful things, then maybe we in string theory will have a motivation to look into it." Branes already have brought a whole new zoo of exotic species into the world of physics. There are skinny branes and fat branes; empty branes and full; active and still. "A brane which is wiggling a lot would translate to a brane that has excitations on it, particles on it," said McGill's Cline. That would be a brane with atoms, forces, us. "But I could also have a cold brane," he said. "That would be like a cold, empty universe. The brane still has some energy density, but there's no particles living there." And while the term brane derives from membrane -- a two-dimensional surface -- branes could also exist in every possible dimension. A string is a "1-brane," for one-dimensional object. Brane worlds (like the one we might live in) must by necessity be "3 plus 1" branes -- three dimensions of space plus one of time. But you can just as easily have a pair of 10-dimensional branes bounding an 11-dimensional universe. For now, no one knows whether the building blocks of the ultimate theory will be strings or branes. "You can't really say," Polchinski said. "It's kind of Zen-like, but in a very precise way." Ultimately, brane worlds will stand or fall, like all science, on the twin tests of consistency and experiment. Whatever bizarre brane worlds may exist in some larger dimensional landscape, they can't change what we perceive. The stars can't slip off into hyperspace. The cat can't be disturbed from the couch. Physics has to answer to nature as we know it. Experimental evidence could come in the next decade from two very different realms. A new particle collider under construction in Europe could reach high-enough energies to produce, say, a five-dimensional "particle" of gravity -- a telltale sign of brane worlds beyond. This particle might be detected as energy missing from a collision because it "leaks" into an extra dimension. At the same time, cosmologists are figuring out ways to read the signature of extra dimensions in the microwaves that pervade space as the afterglow of the Big Bang; the effects would be subtle but detectable, with a new generation of satellites. "We just have to keep hoping that nature will be kind," Cline said. In the end, there's always the chance that all these ideas will turn out to be too, well, off-the-wall. "Who knows?" said University of Chicago physicist Sean Carroll. But even if brane worlds aren't real, Carroll said, "they will have taught us a useful lesson that we should have known all along, which is that we don't have a clue to what's going on." Polchinski, for one, believes that branes are probably real, even though he isn't sure where the idea will lead. "It's possible that nature doesn't work that way," he said. "But it's so rich with possibilities, if it's not good for this, it's probably good for something else."
  13. Shvu, I am curious if you believe there is a 6th dimension?
  14. Have you ever seen The Island of Doctor Moreau with Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer? Its actually pretty good. Its a little bit hokey at times, but it manages to create a philosophical adventure story. It looks at the ethical problems with manipulating life. I recall it also has a vegetarian subtext (its been a while since I've seen it). I'd recommend it if you are looking for a movie to watch.
  15. An atheist must not believe in anything they can not physically see or experience. This is their limitation. They believe solely in a material world, which can't explain itself. They must never leave even the smallest room for belief in the smallest little sprite. Leaving that door open would eliminate their argument against the belief in God. Now as a theist I can leave open the possibility of angels, fairies, ghosts and all sorts of things I can't see. The deeper we look at the world the more uncanny it becomes. We've discussed this before, but that program on string theory was fascinating. String theory believes there are layers of reality all around us. An atheist can't experience this. An atheist can't see these other layers of reality. Thus an atheist MUST not accept that there are multiple layers of reality, that there are other stories being told on higher layers of existence. If he says he believes there are, then why can't there be a highest order of reality - God. As a theist I have the room and expansiveness to believe there may be 11 dimensions in this universe. Perhaps there are angels right at my side that can see me but I can't see them (because they are on a higher order of reality). An atheist can never leave room for that belief. He must forever shut the door to all things but those he can experience.
  16. Which is more reasonable, the atheist view that everything came out of nothing, or the theistic view that everything came out of something (something we readily acknowledge we don't fully understand as it is incomprehensible). At some point, both sides come to the same problem, what is before everything? Atheists can't answer this. If everything is material, the material must have an origin outside itself. Theists come to the conclusion that the material world does not explain itself and so there must be an outside material explanation.
  17. I've heard that unless the astrologer is very pure, they can't transmit the knowledge directly without insinuating their own biases into their reading. Thus in Kali Yuga where people are less pure the readings are less reliable.
  18. Communism (the collective ownership of property) can only work in small settings. Monasteries are naturally communistic and can work on that level. I could see a system of monasteries where some portion of society works with no ownership of property. This is actually a good balance for society. There should be areas of society where there is no private ownership, areas where there is a combination of private and public ownership (say guilds), and areas for private property ownership. Other examples might include prasadam distribution. No one should go hungry within 10 miles of a temple. Imagine for a moment that Krishna Consciousness is spread to a large degree. A homeless person could in fact live on prasadam every day. How? Every sunday there would be a Sunday Feast. Every time a wedding occured, a feast would be for the community. Every time a child is born a feast would be set up for the community. Basically any big event there is a feast. In this way wealthier people can support the poor. Just one festival, one feast every day. Right now our community is small, so perhaps there is a wedding every couple of months. Imagine an area with say 10,000 devotees. There'd be weddings, deaths, birthdays, graduations etc.... every day. Wealth would naturally be redistributed in a practical way. We all get in the same line and partake of Krishna prasadam.
  19. What is the point of this? I don't want to be critical for no reason, but it sounds to me like he has his conclusion and is trying to find evidence to support it. I don't know about the first 3 Star Wars, but certainly the last one (technically Episode 2, though the 5th movie) had Indian influences. For instance, the Queens name is Padme (from Padma or Lotus). There were a few other names that had sanskrit connotations (can't remember off hand). I do remember that during Episode 2 during a big fight scene with Obi Wan and the dark sith I think, there is singing in the background that is clearly sanskrit. The only word I could make out was death I think (mritya).
  20. Genetically modified foods do concern me. Firstly because we don't know what could happen. For instance, Mad Cow disease is a created protein that occurs only during a certain process (when a cow eats another cow). What was happening is cows were slaughtered, ground up and fed to other cows. In the process of digestion a new protein apparently was created (I think its called a prion). No one would have forseen this. Now they start monkeying around with our food, we'll all eat it, and who knows what may result from it. I don't think we can say because it doesn't kill instantley that it is safe. Perhaps it will take 50 years before symptoms appear. My big concern is the so called "terminator seed". Basically these genetics companies, in all their wisdom, have created new forms of plants that result in large harvests. Unfortunately they grow once but produce no fertile seeds. Coincidence? I don't think so. They are designed that way. The concern is these companies have offered 3rd world countries these seeds. Imagine the west sells some African country, or South American country corn seeds that grow extremely well. Once you harvest it, you need to purchase more seeds from the company (because you can't plant any new ones because they don't create fertile seeds). Eventually your entire food base is dependent on purchasing these seeds from Genentech, or some similar company. One year Genentech or ConAgra decides to raise prices, you either starve or pay up. You don't go along with some foreign policy decision, the powers that be yank your food. Or if certain policy makers want to depopulate the world because of "Malthusian" concerns, they just pull the seeds off the market. It only takes a few weeks without food to die. Countries that become dependent could not switch back quick enough. I think its pretty frightening.
  21. Theist, I've found this to be quite true. I've had a theory that I can't prove (as most theories are). However, I've noticed there are a lot of devotees of either Jewish background or Catholic background. I tend to think its greater than the population at large. Part of me thinks its because the movement started strongly in New York and Boston and so naturally had more Jewish and Catholic presence. However, I do think there is a cultural similarity between Catholicism and Vaisnavism. I'll list some (a number you've mentioned): 1) The Rosary - Catholics pray on rosary beads (with 54 beads if I'm not mistaken) with a crucifix at the end. Vaisnavas pray on japa beads with 108 beads, and a Krishna bead at the end. 2) Catholics have deity worship. Many Catholics have small altars at home with pictures of various saints. Same with Vaisnavas. Many devotees have personal altars at home. 3) Catholics have an ideal that is similar to Varnashram. It doesn't quite have a name, though many Catholics have tried to build a philosophy called Distributism (Catholic economic justice). They harken back to the middle ages when there were guilds and apprenticeships. There was a division of labor according to various skills and the church at the center of the community to spiritualize the community. Each guild had a patron saint (the patron saint of carpentry, the patron saint of blacksmithing) as a way of spiritualizing that occupation. 4)Catholics have certainly a "brahminical" set up. They have priests and nuns who teach at Catholic schools. Thus the priestly duties are tied to education of society. 5) Catholics have a feminine divinity (which I think balances them as against most Protestants who pretty much reject Mary). 6) Catholics have a monastic goal. While Vaisnavas have the transition to various stages, ultimately to sannyas, Catholics have many monasteries where people spend their lives in various levels of asceticism. 7) Catholic worship services include incense, in the old days Latin (comparable to Sanskrit for Vaisnavas) etc... 8) Catholicism tends to be more mystical than the Protestant faiths (belief in possession, stigmata, visions, saints etc...). I do think there are a lot of similarities. My theory of why so many Catholics became devotees is because they inherently felt those similarities. However, the mood was different. In church they'd see a tortured Christ. At the temple they'd see the beautiful smiling faces of Radha-Govinda. I think many found a comfort with a religion which while it was different was also similar in many respects, and yet it wasn't torturous. It wasn't blood, and pain, and suffering. It was flowers, and singing, and dancing.
  22. I was watching a program a few weeks back on the Science channel about catastrophic scenarios. They went through the massive meteor scenario. One they pointed out is what would happen if the sun gave an extraordinarily large solar burst. Basically they said it would wreck havoc on earth. At night everywhere in the world it would look like the Northern Lights. All electronics would be fried. Communication as such would collapse (as all the satelites would be hit with massive solar radiation). Plants and animals would die etc.... These things are unlikely but entirely possible. Just shows how little we are actually in control should something go wrong.
  23. I noticed this later but forgot to post it. Notice Pope John Paul II was associated with eclipses. I forgot to mention one. His predecessor lasted 1 month in his position and passed away the day after an eclipse. Additionally here is something to consider (admitedly from out of left field) but it deals with Solar activity if thats any indication of anything. This Pope is 78 years old. Maybe he'll live for 6 more years (bringing him to the age of 84). That will bring us to 2011. Now look at this chart from NASA. It charts the Solar Cycle. The sun breaks out in sunspots and solar flares in a fairly even cycle of 11 years. This has been followed for several hundred years. Right now we are on the downside of the activity (basically the bottom of the cycle). In another 6 years we will likely be at the top point of the solar activity. So around 2011 or 2012 there will be the highest levels of solar activity, most likely in the transition period when they say the last Pope will be named. This is just speculative, sort of "X-Files" sort of talk, but just something to consider. Here is the NASA discussion of the Solar Cycle if anyone is interested: http://science.nasa.gov/ssl/pad/solar/sunspots.htm
  24. This Pope has selected the name "Benedict 16th". Here is a quote from an interview on nbc: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7563250/site/newsweek/ "Why did he choose the name Benedict? He has a great devotion to the Benedictines who, of course, have a large presence in Germany [where the new pontiff was born.]" Apparently he also gave a big speach a few days ago at a famous Benedictine monastery. He takes on the name Benedict and has a great affinity for this group. He himself is not from that order, but I think this is a pretty good hit. Heres another interesting article with speculation from those who follow these prophecies: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2005/4/19/143103.shtml
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