Friday, October 28, 2011


When I first named this blog "A Cosmobiologist's Dream", I really had intended to use the word Astrobiologist instead. However, had already been taken and I thought that this would be just as fitting.  

Well, it turns out that the term cosmobiologist has been used for a little bit of time to imply a certain type of astrology, something I have no interest in being too closely connected with. I have been considering changing the name of this blog and the URL, but I think that would be giving too much credence to those zany astrologers out there. No, I think I'll keep this term and use it the way I think it should be used. If others wish to use it in an astrological (pseudoscientific) sense, than that's their prerogative, but the term appears as though it should be scientific and so I will use it as a scientific term.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it."  ~John Steinbeck

Good night world!
The Thing

We're about to head off to the theater to see the new film "The Thing"!  This is supposed to be a prequel to the 1982 film (The Thing, directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell).  The new film looks pretty sweet:

Back to work...

I leave on Tuesday for Switzerland.  We'll be using the Swiss Light Source ( to do some sulfur XANES (x-ray absorption near edge structure) spectroscopy.  I'm totally stoked to see if the thin sections I have will produce good data (and, more importantly, what those data will show us).

Should be an awesome trip, but before we leave I need to get all of my work for my classes finished.  That means this exam for planetary surfaces and my homework for cosmochemistry need to be finished today.  Ugh.  Good thing I can watch old sci-fi movies and do these assignments at the same time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Parenthood as an American Excuse for Apathy

I had a rather funny exchange with a friend on Facebook yesterday.  Have a look:

I just got a psp and 2 new god of war games it is a good day

 ·  ·  · 16 hours ago via mobile · 

    • Ryan-Nikki Wissler psp an xbox bitch!!! GO IRISH!
      16 hours ago · 

    • Graham Lau I just ran a 5k in 20.5 minutes. Almost broke 6 minutes on the first mile. Priorities.

      "Look at your thumbs. They're way too well defined. That is a powerful index of incompatibility!"

      15 hours ago · 

    • Ryan-Nikki Wissler well there mr lau.....IF i was able to run or had the free time that u do to run MAYBE....i would. my prioritie is beign home at night after working all to be with my sons while my wife goes to school at night. me playing xbox is a way to take out aggresion and have some kind of a social life. SO in and your big words can go fly a kite!!!
      15 hours ago · 

    • Graham Lau Dude, I was trying to pick on Nick. Don't get your panties in a bunch. I'm pretty busy myself. I'm traveling to Switzerland next week to do some xray spectroscopy on a particle accelerator, so I've been prepping samples non stop. That on top of my graduate classes, reading books, and trying to move forward in my research so that I can get my Ph.D. before I turn 35... Sometimes we get busy. But that's no excuse for letting our physical and mental abilities fade. I play XBOX, too. I find it to be a good way to keep my mental abilities sharp. But I still read, write, exercise, go out, and spend many hours in my lab (and still find time to sleep). Here's a fun idea, play XBOX for about an hour to relieve your stress and then play some physical games with your kids. They can get strong while you keep yourself in shape.
      14 hours ago · 

    • Steph Ison Ladies ladies it will be ok lol
      11 hours ago · 

I consider Ryan to be a friend, and I'm sure he loves his children, but I have no sympathy for his excuse for his lack of exercise.  For all of the people I've met in my life who've used their children as an excuse for not exercising or challenging themselves, I have known just about as many who have children and yet make the time to keep themselves healthy and strong.  Indeed, it generally seems that the parents who manage to maintain enough discipline to devote time to their children while finding time to exercise their bodies and minds tend to have children who learn to do the same.

One common theme I've seen amongst some parents in America is the attitude that parenting is so 'hard' that it excuses any negative attitudes, lacking health, or failures on the part of the parent.  That to me is the equivalent of not accepting the consequences of the decision to have children.  Apathy cannot be excused through children.  Indeed, that attitude just creates more apathetic children who then turn into apathetic parents themselves one day.  Break the cycle.  Get off the couch.  Take the kids for a walk, read a book with them, teach them how to do cartwheels, etc.  Children live what they learn.     

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Toastmasters Competent Communicator Project 4

Tonight I will be giving a prepared speech for my Toastmasters group (See You Speak).  I was reading through the requirements for the speech I will be giving.  It is project number 4 from the TM Competent Communicator manual.  While reading through it, I was perturbed to see a short section on jargon.  Now, when it comes to jargon, I do think we all need to be aware of our audiences when we speak, write, or express ourselves.  If we want to be understood we have to communicate in ways that the people we wish to reach can understand.  That said, I think that some words that are considered jargon, have less to do with being characterized as being specific to a certain field of study or aspect of life and culture, but have more to do with the fact that they are not easy words to learn and that most people never get far enough in their own education to use those words with confidence.  For instance, in the manual the authors suggest replacing "conceptualize" with "imagine", "finalize" with "finish", and "implement" with "begin" or "use".  WTF?!  I disagree completely.  I think we should feel free to use words that are a little harder and are a little more specific.  Yes, some audience members may not feel exactly comfortable with using a certain term themselves, but a good speaker should be able to convey the word (and what it is expressing) within the context of their speech anyway.  I will not limit myself to words that are 'easy'.  Screw that.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

When a person dies, what becomes of their digital self?

I logged into my Facebook yesterday, and was surprised.  Beyond the huge news that Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and leader in the modern tech revolution, had died at the age of 56, I also found news that a Facebook friend, who went by the digital name Ginger Snaps (real-world name: Melissa Hayes), had also died (the SUV she was driving crashed into an abandoned home, killing her and her cousin in the passenger seat).

Ginger Snaps' death surprised me in a weird way.  I am quite comfortable with death and loss (living without religion makes death far easier to deal with).  The reason I was surprised was because I felt myself unsure of whether or not the person I knew was really gone yet.  Let me explain:

In our modern world, with our social networking accounts and projections of ourdigitalselves through the internet, the person we project is not necessarily the same person we are in our real lives.  Melissa dies yesterday.  Her physical self is no longer extant.  But, much as we are preserved after our deaths through the memories of others and the impacts we've made in the world, her Facebook account still exists and her digital self is still there; silent, but there.  There are now many people posting their condolences and such on her FB wall.  It makes it seem like her account is still somewhat active.  I'm sure over the next few days and beyond, that traffic to her account will slow down to a trickle and then stop.  And her digital self will slowly fade as well.  But the account will remain active unless someone comes along and deactivates it.  Without someone to put an end to our digital selves after our physical deaths, then I suppose that digital self will remain, like a shadow.

Makes me wonder about where we're going.  The future is always far more exciting and surprising than what we ever thought possible.  Most people who lived in America in the early 1900's C.E. could never have guessed that we would have digital computers and internet with social groups which would allow for us to create digital selves.  There are always dreamers.  The sci-fi writers, the speculators, the scientists...  But our thoughts about what will come are usually only small tips of the icebergs that wait in the distance.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Listening to the soundtrack for the film "The Fountain".  Moving music.  Clint Mansell did the entire soundtrack.  His compositions are full of emotion.  They are cerebral and smooth, yet every now and then the songs get powerful enough to make me feel energized and alive.