Josh Betz

Engineer, Solver of problems, Wisconsin Badger

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

As grown-ups, dare we admit to ourselves that we, too, have a collective immaturity of view? Dare we admit that our thoughts and behaviors spring from a belief that the world revolves around us? Apparently not. Yet evidence abounds. Part the curtains of society’s racial, ethnic, religious, national, and cultural conflicts, and you find the human ego turning the knobs and pulling the levers.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson

From Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.

2017 Resolutions

Happy New Year! I’ve spent the last week reflecting on 2016 and thinking about what I’d like to change in the coming year. You can probably see there’s an accidental theme. There are no professional goals, which wasn’t on purpose, but I think even one or two of these would positively impact my focus during the day.

Meditate regularly

I’m going to use Headspace at least once a week. The idea is to meditate every day before work, but I know I will miss some days and that’s fine.

Run a half marathon

And also train for it. I have this terrible habit of signing up for races with the idea that it will force me to run more and then just running the race out of shape.

The half marathon isn’t really in question. I guess the real resolution is to train for it.

Read more books and less news

I find books — especially paperbacks — to be more relaxing and calming. Right now I’m reading Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. He writes in the same voice he performs and it’s pretty hilarious. I’m very late to the game on this one, but highly recommend it if you liked his Netflix special.

For news, I’d like an app that sends notifications about actual, important, breaking news. I had high hopes for the Apple News app, but they let publishers decide what justifies a push notification.

I’ve started to use the news as a crutch, like Facebook or Twitter, when I’m bored. The fact is that most of it isn’t important enough, also like Facebook and Twitter, that I need to know it in the next 24 hours — or ever.

Play more music

I tried to be specific for most of these, but the music thing is hard. Realistically, I have a couple months of Saturdays left until I’d rather be on a bike ride than playing guitar. I learned a few new songs over the holiday break and generally find it’s a good way to clear my mind when it’s too cold to go for a run.

Choosing Wrong

Last week’s episode of This American Life is about people making the wrong choices even when they know they are wrong. The first segment, from Malcom Gladwell’s new podcast, Revisionist History, is especially interesting. He talks to Rick Barry about Wilt Chamberlain and perfectionism.

MCA

Pale Blue Dot

This clip, at the end of Cosmos, seemed apropos as we watch politicians in the United States battle to be the “momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.”

Here’s a portion of the transcript, which I found on the Planetary Society’s website, taken from Carl Sagan’s 1994 book Pale Blue Dot.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

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