March 11, 2019
Samarth talked about a book that he had read a long time ago since he is hard-pressed for reading time these days. Why evolution is true by Jerry A. Coyne, an American biologist, is an important book in times like these, especially when the debate about creationism is commonplace. “What’s the need for such a book?” Samarth asked. “We don’t have a book on germ theory as it seems pretty self-evident except in some strange cases- like the Fox host who refused to wash his hands for ten years as he couldn’t see the germs or the terrorist organization that refutes the idea of evaporation since it is a western concept. But evolution is not like that. It has to be understood.”
Statistics show that evolution is not accepted by a large majority in the US. Many think that evolution should be bunched up with other alternate theories. Darwin wasn’t the first to postulate the theory but his research provided the evidence needed to firm up the theory of natural selection.
Abhaya rationalized that though many of the readers in the room believed in Darwinism, their views were not always backed by understanding. The debate turned completely scientific and we landed on many subjects from Lamarck’s behaviorism and Darwin’s Natural Selection to biomimicry and the God particle.
Incidentally, the name God particle has been much criticized for referring to the very idea of God that the scientific community has been trying to disprove.
Harshit spoke about a book called Straw Dogs by the philosopher John Gray. Gray questions Western philosophy from Plato to Marx and argues against the superiority complex embedded in human DNA. What makes humans think they are any better than animals? You might find this interview with Gray interesting.
The conversation mutated and evolved into varying subtexts – the fundamental difference between humans and other species- the neocortex. Listen to what a neuroscientist has to say about the brain systems –reptilian, limbic and neocortex. Then the discussion veered to IQ ratios, the decline of motor skills, how digital devices influence memory, loss of handwriting and how the brain declutters by default.
One book that could lead to a better understanding about how the internet is rewiring the brain is The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.
More books and eye-opening discussions in Part 4.
March 8, 2019
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March 7, 2019
How many of you are terrified of public speaking? Turns out that this is more the norm than the exception.
Public speaking merited a great deal of attention even back in Cicero’s time. If you know how to speak confidently, you awaken the sycophant in the listener. A good speaker usually has many slaves. This works well in a political rally, in the boardroom and even the classroom and of course on Ted but it is a talent that is greatly missed. So the self-help industry churns books and videos advising the stuttering speaker on how to stand, how to pretend you have technical prowess and how you can fake confidence until one day it becomes a habit.
We also have an arsenal of technological fixes unavailable to the ancients. We can write our speeches down and edit them on the page. We don’t have to memorise them – we have index cards and autocues. The autocue can be a great help, but you need to learn to use it as if it isn’t there.
Viv Groskop’s How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking sounds interesting.
Sam Leith really breaks down the rhetoric. Read Afraid of public speaking? This is what the experts say
March 6, 2019
The word adjudicate comes from the Latin root ‘judex’, the word for law. This word is part of legalese and is also used in terminology associated with construction, background investigations and emergency response.
Here are some instances in literature where this verb has been used.
“To me, the thing about friendship that makes it so singular is that it’s a relationship that’s central to our identity in that it doesn’t necessarily benefit us in any tangible way. It’s a relationship we don’t have to pursue – if we decide to stop being friends one day, nothing will happen, no one’s there to legislate or adjudicate it. It’s two people who every day choose to keep it going, and in that way it’s very powerful because it’s one you choose to work on, and you choose to without any agreement; it’s an unspoken bond.”
― Hanya Yanagihara
“Men have been adjudicating on what women are, and how they should behave, for millennia through the institutions of social control such as religion, the medical profession, psychoanalysis, the sex industry. Feminists have fought to remove the definition of what a woman is from these masculine institutions and develop their own understandings.”
― Sheila Jeffreys, Gender Hurts: A Feminist Analysis of the Politics of Transgenderism
March 4, 2019
“The Witness is not her best but it’s an unputdownable read,” Prerna said about Nora Roberts’ book. The adult romance thriller tells the story of Elizabeth Fitch, a sixteen-year-old, whose life is run on a schedule. When she rebels for the first time in her life, gets a fake ID and dyes her hair a different color just to break free from her cold, controlling mother’s grip, she ends up as the witness of a crime. That single event forces her to lead a life in hiding in the small dark town of Ozarks. Brooks Gleason, the local police chief, decides to help her.
Nora Roberts is a prolific author and she also writes under the non-de plume of JD Roberts.
Listen to the first chapter of The Witness here.
Poonam picked up a copy of Anita Nair’s Eating Wasps. “The book title made me curious,” she said, “I thought I would get to the bottom of it and then go back to reading other titles but it was so engrossing that I read the book in a single sitting.” The story uses the mis en abyme approach of the Kathasaritsagar, an eleventh-century collection of Indian legends, fairy tales and folk tales, to weave one story in the other and tell the tales of ten women. Their stories are open-ended and Anita Nair covers relevant issues like stalking and body-shaming. The book is a nod to the Keralite writer, Rajalakshmi, a lecturer in physics who doubled as a writer of several controversial works and was also christened as the Jane Austen of Indian literature. She won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1960 for her work Oru Vazhiyum Kure Nizhalukalum (A Path and a Few Shadows) at the age of thirty-four. Unfortunately, her wizardry with words ended abruptly when she committed suicide in 1965. Strangely enough, there are no translations of her work as yet.
The topic of translation is a favorite at the BYOB Parties. Some languages are more easily translated than others; some translations hardly do justice to the work. Apurba mentioned how Monica Ali’s Brick Lane was filled with Bengali idioms, the transliterations of which gave the book its dose of creativity.
More books in Part 3.
March 1, 2019
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February 28, 2019
Familiar with the Oedipus myth? If not watch Hank Green’s crash course on Oedipus.
Now that you know the myth, you might be amused by this animation featuring vegetables as the cast. Vegetables have featured in art before in good old still life and the very extreme vegetable portraits by Arcimboldo.
So a potato called Oedipus takes on a cauliflower, none other than the King of Thebes, and ends up marrying Jocasta the tomato. Watch the ten-minute stop-animation video and see for yourself. A myth stays alive regardless of the actors.
Jason Wishnow and his team took two years to create this vegetable extravaganza. I also enjoyed the behind-the-scenes of this creative venture, especially the search for fresh vegetables and how difficult it is to wrap them with silk in accordance with the fashion of the times. The stand-out for me was the fight scene with knives and cleavers, exactly as vegetable warfare should be.
February 27, 2019
Auscultation, a term introduced by René Laennec, refers to the sounds of your body from the respiratory, circulatory and gastrointestinal systems that doctors listen to via their stethoscope. Listening as a diagnostic tool has been used way back since Ancient Egypt. Look out for heart murmurs, gallops, wheezes, crepitations and crackles and bowel sounds.
Found the word in these instances:
Restlessness, dyspnea, tachypnea, use of accessory muscles of respiration are signs of respiratory distress, which should be reported. Auscultate breath sounds q6h. ― Paul D. Chan MD, Nursing Care Plans: 650 NDA Approved Care Plans
Auscultate the heart for a murmur. ― Merriam-Webster dictionary