Monday, August 15, 2011

Heresy is the Best Policy: Why The World Needs Heretics (Part 2 of 2)

The world needs heretics. If every philosopher, every writer or every artist agrees with what’s generally accepted, society will never progress. If no one dares to be a heretic, there will be no improvement for humanity. The most obvious example is in science: If every scientist simply accepts the established paradigms, no research will take place. So why call yourself a scientist if you do not seek to improve, augment or even challenge the accepted paradigms? Similar questions could be asked for other vocations: Why call yourself a philosopher if all you do is simply swallow and restate the prevailing philosophies? Why call yourself a writer if your main goal is just to appease the powers that be or to elicit a positive reviews? And why call yourself an artist if you are afraid of offending the sensibilities of the public?

Any proper PhD is a PhD is heresy.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Heresy is the Best Policy: The Value of Heresy (Part 1 of 2)

The great Clarence Darrow once said, “To think is to differ.” This truth implies that those who cannot disagree cannot think. Independent thinking is the only kind of thinking there is; to unquestioningly embrace opinions handed down ex cathedra is to abdicate one’s sacred right to think.
More importantly, the fact that thinking is differing implies that those who do not tolerate dissenting opinions do not tolerate thought. If disagreeing against orthodoxy is turned into a wrongdoing then the act of thinking is effectively criminalized. To require a group of people to think in the same way and to have the same opinion on important matters is to stifle their right to think, it is to make intellectual zombies out of them. No matter how intelligent a person is, this intelligence will mean nothing if he will allow himself to be the slave of a hive mind.
We can therefore restate Darrow’s words in the following manner: To think is to be a heretic.
This is perhaps why Roman Catholics who are for the RH Bill are effectively branded by the CBCP as heretics. Apparently, using one’s brain automatically excludes one from the Communion of Saints, if the bishops are to be believed. Perhaps this is also why Filipino secularists are heretics. In a country where the violation of church-state separation is “standard practice”, only those who think on their own manage to see the Catholic clergy’s practices for what they really are – acts of corruption, greed and abuse of undeserved power.
The said facts force upon us the following conclusion: Heresy is the best policy. I therefore urge everyone who values truth to be heretics! In other words, think! After all, everyone worthy of some consideration was a heretic. Only heretics change the world; without heretics, human history would be a never ending Dark Age.
Clarence Darrow. What that fierce face is saying: "I want YOU to be a heretic!"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Love as a Candle-bearer

If you don’t have anything bad to say about a person, then you don’t have anything to say about him at all. To know a person is to know him in his worst.
More importantly, you cannot say you love a person until you have seen what is most wretched and ugly in him.
Therefore, to those who love, do not be blind to what is repulsive and despicable in the one you love. They say love is blind; I say love sees everything. And love wants to see everything because to love a person is to love totally. There is no other kind of love.
And to those who wish to be loved, do not hide from your potential lover what is most repugnant in you. A person cannot love you until you have shown him all the skeletons in your closet. If someone shuns you because of what is worst in you, then that person does not deserve what is best in you.
But then they also say love is accepting a person for who she is. Again, this is not true. What is love for if it does not make you a better person? It is a worthless love that does not turn your worst weakness into your greatest strength.
So the next time the candle-bearer that is Love knocks at the door of your skeleton-filled closet, do not bother tidying it up and welcome Love at once! It is, after all, Love’s sacred duty to go to the darkest recess of a one’s heart and flood it with some light.
Love, like Friendship, can strengthen and empower you in ways you can seldom fathom. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

What The Debate About the RH Bill Shouldn’t Be About

There are some laws that a country should pass if it is to make progress into the 21st century. The Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill) is one of them. But there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the said proposed bill. For this we should congratulate the Catholic Church hierarchy, especially the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), for making a controversy out of something that shouldn’t be controversial at all. (Media sensationalism has its role in this one, too.)

Debate rages on. Now, that’s supposed to be a good thing. After all, a world without arguments is a world without truth. However, a lot of time has been wasted on discussions that have nothing or little to do with the very real and urgent problem at hand.

Philosophy and the tragic virtues, or Philosophy as an ode to life

All of philosophy originates from two things – burning curiosity and uncompromising honesty. All the other rudiments of good philosophy like eagle-eyed insightfulness, logical rigor and exacting intellectual standards, passionate skepticism, a deep moral and existential concern for matters of life and death and, of course, a teary-eyed wonder, spring from these two wellsprings, these two cardinal virtues.
            Curiosity, because philosophy is naught without deep reflection, and reflection is impossible without curiosity. But being reflective is not enough. Many people spend all their intellectual energies reflecting on deep questions, but they end up holding on to their comforting beliefs. But such comfort-beliefs are like comfort pillows, nice to hug and cuddle; however, they’re mostly air and won’t stand against a moment of honest scrutiny. So why are they held on to dearly, and not only by the all-too-many, but also by those who are intelligent and reflective?
The reason is that the other pillar of good philosophy, intellectual honesty, is all too often lacking. Intellectual honesty is a requirement of any philosophical search, and when philosophizing is done without honesty – and uncompromising honesty at that – personal predispositions, the irrational desires of our animal selves and that dreaded monster called public prejudice infiltrate our thinking. These infiltrators combine in the end to make up our comfort-beliefs. Comfort-beliefs are, well, comfortable, and people cherish and hold on to them because they supposedly make life bearable. But I can’t see how one could bear living a life centered on a comforting lie.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What in the world is laser? (Part 3 of 3)


[The author would like to thank the geniuses behind the new Microsoft Paint for making the figures in this part possible.]        

How are laser beams produced?

            Laser beams are the product of stimulated emission of light. But what is stimulated emission of light? Before we can answer this question, we must first discuss how matter interacts with light.

Light absorption

Matter and light interact in two ways: matter can absorb light or it can emit light. When an atom absorbs a photon of light (a photon of light is a quantum of light energy), it takes the energy of that photon and one of its electrons become excited (although not sexually). An electron orbits the nucleus of an atom in one of the possible orbits. Larger orbits (orbits that take the electron farther from the atom) have greater energy. Normally, an electron will orbit the nucleus in the smallest possible orbit. This orbit is called the ground state. When an electron gets excited, it jumps from the ground state to an orbit with a higher energy. Such an orbit is called an “excited state”. An electron is excited when it is on one of the excited states. The excitation of an electron (represented by the symbol e-) by a photon is illustrated by Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. A photon of light (red oval with wave inside) is absorbed by an atom, resulting in the excitation of one of its electrons (e-, gray dot).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What in the world is laser? (Part 2 of 3)

What in the world is laser?


What do we mean by “highly coherent, usually monochromatic beam of electromagnetic waves”?

For the sake of brevity, from now on we will use the word ‘light’ to denote not only visible light (electromagnetic waves our eyes can see) but electromagnetic waves in general. That is, when we say ‘light’ we mean electromagnetic waves, including radio waves, gamma rays and ultraviolet.
Now, a monochromatic ray of light is one in which the waves have the same wavelength or frequency. (The word ‘monochromatic’ came from the Greek words mono, meaning one, and chromos, meaning color.) A ray of white light is not monochromatic since it consists of waves of different wavelengths. In other words, white light is made up of light of different colors. On the other hand, the light emitted by a colored light emitting diode (LED) is usually monochromatic. A blue LED emits only blue light.
The fact that laser beams are highly monochromatic finds use in many scientific and engineering applications, such as spectroscopy. In spectroscopy, laser beams with a very specific wavelength are sent through a sample to be analyzed.
The next important property of laser beams is their high coherence. (What is certain is that they more coherent than the CBCP or the Vatican.) In the language of wave physics, coherence is the property of having waves that oscillate in phase of each other. Coherence comes in two kinds, temporal coherence (coherence in time) and spatial coherence (coherence in space).
Temporal coherence (coherence in time) would be best explained by an analogy in dance: for two dancers to be able dance the tango well, their stepping must have the same tempo. In other words, dancers performing a ballroom dance must have temporally coherent foot movements.
Temporal coherence is very closely related to monochromaticity. In fact, temporal coherence is used to measure monochromaticity. Another important aspect of temporal coherence is uniform polarization. This gives laser beams their characteristic ‘glare’, which makes them dangerous to the eyes. Sometimes, the glare of laser beams is used by the police or the military to disorient a pursued individual or an enemy.
Spatial coherence, on the other hand, means that a ray of laser light can be focused to a very narrow beam, often called a “pencil beam”. In other words, laser light can be focused to a very small spot. This makes laser beams ideal for applications that require great precision, like reading digital information encoded in a CD, cutting intricate patterns into metal or wood, burning away tumors without destroying neighboring healthy cells, or correcting vision problems without further damaging the patient’s eyesight. In microscopy, lasers are used to obtain blur-free images of very small objects at various depths, and this is possible because laser beams can be very narrow. And do not forget the use of lasers in increasing the chance of a headshot.

About the Blogger

My photo
Quezon City, Philippines
Pecier Carpena Decierdo is a male specimen of the primate species homo sapiens. According to Pecier, one of his main goals in life is the justification of his species’ name. Close proximity to his most preferred carbon based life form, Rose Anne, causes Pecier’s brain to become saturated with phenylalanine, and being with the said Rose Anne is also known to bring about attacks of involuntary spasms called “laughter” in Pecier. Aside from Rose Anne, the subjects “philosophy”, “science” and “literature” are some of the other things that fire up his libido. He has so far survived twenty-two roundtrips aboard his home planet and he has no intentions of quitting soon.

Venerable Verses

The cloud-clapp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,

And like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind: we are stuff

As dreams are made on; and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.

-William Shakespeare, The Tempest-

Comment Box

  ©Physics, philosophy and phantasmagoria. Template by Dicas Blogger.