November 13th, 2003

breaking bad

science's 25 biggest questions, with answers

Science times has celebrated 25 years of existence by publishing "25 of the most provocative questions facing science"

(EDIT - forgot link, here it is www.nytimes.com/indexes/2003/11/10/science/text/index.html)

Here are the questions. I have helpfully provided the answers, behind a cut, for those who don't want to know the meaning of existence in advance.

1) Does Science Matter?
2) Is War Our Biological Destiny?
3) Will Humans Ever Visit Mars?
4) How Does the Brain Work?
5) What Is Gravity, Really?
6) Will We Ever Find Atlantis?
8) What Should We Eat?
9) When Will the Next Ice Age Begin?
10) What Happened Before the Big Bang?
11) Could We Live Forever?
12) Are Men Necessary? ... Are Women Necessary?
13) What Is the Next Plague?
14) Can Robots Become Conscious?
15) Why Do We Sleep?
16) Are Animals Smarter Than We Think?
17) Can Science Prove the Existence of God?
18) Is Evolution Truly Random?
19) How Did Life Begin?
20) Can Drugs Make Us Happier? Smarter?
21) Should We Improve Our Genome?
22) How Much Nature Is Enough?
23) What Is the Most Important Problem in Math Today?
24) Where Are Those Aliens?
25) Do Paranormal Phenomena Exist?

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breaking bad

"On Christmas night, god fled heaven"

There are lots of little children, without families or homes, living on the streets of various cities in the world, as I'm sure you know. Here is a very touching article on the sad little mythologies that the children living without shelter on the streets of Miami tell each other.

These kids seem to be on average about 8 years old. They must be living lives more challenging and desperate than any of us can imagine. They manage to survive, for some time at least, through what they can steal, or by selling their bodies. They have no adults to tell them stories, so they make up their own mythology from the scraps of Christian and other fables they have heard.

God's final days before his disappearance were a waking dream. There were so many crises on Earth that he never slept. Angels reported rumors of Bloody Mary's pact with Satan: She had killed her own child and had made a secret vow to kill all human children. All night God listened as frantic prayers bombarded him. Images of earthly lives flowed across his palace wall like shadows while he heard gunfire, music, laughing, crying from all over Earth. And then one night Bloody Mary roared over the walls of Heaven with an army from Hell. God didn't just flee from the demons, he went crazy with grief over who led them. Bloody Mary, some homeless children say the spirits have told them, was Jesus Christ's mother.


I almost want to copy every paragraph from this article into my blog. In any case, read and weep.

The homeless child in Miami and elsewhere lives in a world where violence and death are commonplace, where it's highly advantageous to grovel before the powerful and shun the weak, and where adult rescuers are nowhere to be found. Yet what Coles calls the "ability to grasp onto ideals larger than oneself and exert influence for good" -- a sense of mission -- is nurtured in eerie, beautiful, shelter folktales.