Thursday, May 24, 2007

Live and Learn...

THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Hey, Kris, would you say I'm a polymath...or a philomath?"
Kris: "Mmm......philo."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Goddammit!"


You should have seen my Netflix shipment today. Basically everything in it has the word "Life" (or a variant) in the title. I've basically gotten all of the Discovery Channel/BBC nature documentaries by David Attenborough. These include (thus far):
-The Blue Planet
-The Life of Mammals
-The Life of Birds
-Life in the Freezer
-Life in the Undergrowth
-Living Planet

And it's all culminating down to the newest release, Planet Earth. If you want to know why, I highly recommend you watch the video on the Amazon product page, or perhaps this shorter, fan made "trailer."

When one of my residents saw all the DVDs I had, he asked me, "Why do you get so many documentaries?" I laughed a little bit and said I had two reasons.

The first? Well, I love animals (with a few exceptions). One of my favorite stories is when I went to Joshua Tree National Park for a high school Physics field trip (we were watching a meteor shower). I woke up early the next morning, before anyone else arose, even the sun. There was a lovely twilight, though, and I decided to walk around before the others got up. Now, Joshua Tree is one of my ideas of heaven, so it was a beautiful walk. Along the way, I saw a bunch of animals, from lizards to hares and other such creatures.

At one point, though, I saw a coyote. And the coyote saw me. We were about 30 feet from each other, maybe (my memory with distances isn't that great). But we just looked at each other. And slowly, ever so slowly but surely, we moved closer to each other, until we were finally about 5 to 10 feet away from each other. I went down on to one knee, and for what seemed like a full minute, we were just...staring at each other. Not in a hostile way, mind you, but in a sort of understanding way. As though through our eyes, we could see into each other's souls. It was a very Franciscan moment, I can tell you that. Dangerous? Perhaps. Worthwhile? Definitely. And even though it walked away and probably forgot about me, that coyote left a lasting impression on me.

So a love of animals, check. What's the second reason I would get so many documentaries? Well, there's a reason I put that little intro skit at the beginning of this. Although THE_BOLSHEVIK would rather be classified as a polymath (which I may very well be to a small extent), there's no denying that I am a philomath, a lover of learning. If I could, I would try to be learning all the time. Unfortunately, school often makes that difficult. Seriously, though, I think that schools, or rather people's distaste for them, have kept many people from trying to expand their knowledge. Not always, but sometimes.

However, one of my goals is to enlighten myself, and hopefully some others. After all, that's why I tend to have so many Wikipedia links in my posts. Also, when I was a freshman, I would send home a letter every two weeks. During my freshman year, I was taking a class called "Physics for Future Presidents" taught by Richard Muller, a man whose website you should visit (if only of the excellent photographs he's taken in the "Photos" section), and a man I am convinced will win a Nobel Prize if his Nemesis Star theory is proven correct. I liked this professor so much, that I am naming not one, but two characters, in two separate stories, after him. One of these characters is actually the main protagonist of one of my stories (the character name is "Prof. Richard Moeller" or "Professor Rick"). My hope is that the story is published before he gets the Nobel Prize. That way, I will look like I was a guy who was on to something, rather than just some fancy suck-up.

But I'm going off on a tangent. The class was such an excellent class for, more than anything else, learning. In fact, Prof. Muller told our class that he hoped we never stopped trying to learn. And I tried to spread the knowledge to others. In those letters I would send home every two weeks, I almost always seemed to encourage my friends and family to watch the webcasts of the class, and to read the free, online textbook. There are webcasts still available (and I still recommend them), but the book has, unfortunately, been published and priced. Luckily, though, I still have the last available online copy of the book on my hard drive. And, lucky for you, I am going to provide them (which is perfectly legal, Internet censors). So, here you are, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. Even if you don't read them now, download them to read at a later time. I know it sounds odd that I'm giving you a textbook to read, but it's so damned interesting. Also, be sure to read Prof. Muller's book. It's not only fascinating, it's an easy read, especially if you don't know science.

The point is, I love learning, and I love other people learning. I in truth take no offense to being called a philomath; I just wish more people were like that. There's so much to the world. Why not try to learn about it?


Avinash said...

Great post. I'm glad you learned the lesson of G.I. Joe, where knowing is half the battle.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, at least your not a mathephile...I would be terrified if you were into polynomials that way...

On a more serious, mature note, this blog's pretty interesting. I wish I could've been on that trip with you, but no, Mr. Elliot had to plan a test in Algebra II that day (tear...)

-Comrade Chavez, the politicophile.

Anonymous said...

You'll be happy to know that I went exploring to the sites about Prof. Mueller. The stuff on the star is over my head I think. But I was intrigued to learn that classes are available for free from all the most prestigious schools. Amazing. I will look in on more later.
Thanks for sharing your love of leaning. I hope to more fully engage the quest within myself myself.
Love you, Mom

Anonymous said...

I'm not a philo, so I must be a poly...

Andrew Schnorr said...

It's not necessarily an either/or thing, you know...