This site is the archive for the videos and posts created for the Sydney’s Speakers’ Corner website: speakerscorner.org.au
“. . . Coca-Cola, Amazon, Baidu and the government are all racing to hack you. Not your smartphone, not your computer, and not your bank account – they are in a race to hack you and your organic operating system. You might have heard that we are living in the era of hacking computers, but that’s hardly half the truth. In fact, we are living in the era of hacking humans.
The algorithms are watching you right now. They are watching where you go, what you buy, who you meet. Soon they will monitor all your steps, all your breaths, all your heartbeats. They are relying on Big Data and machine learning to get to know you better and better. And once these algorithms know you better than you know yourself, they could control and manipulate you, and you won’t be able to do much about it. You will live in the matrix. . . if the algorithms indeed understand what’s happening within you better than you understand it, authority will shift to them.
When Coca-Cola, Baidu, Amazon and the government knows how to pull the strings of your heart and press the buttons of your brain, could you still tell the difference between your self and their marketing experts?”
Yuval Noah Harari in his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
1. Next Sunday (March 17th) will be special. Yes, it’s normally special because Mr Bashful speaks, but on Sunday, in preparation for the upcoming NSW State election, twelve representatives from twelve minor parties will be speaking, one after the other. Two of the parties represented will be The Shooters and Fishers Partyand theAnimal Justice Party.
Both Left and Right will be represented. And hopefully, the Middle.
Come along and enjoy the fun. Bring a question with you.
2. Someone playing the bagpipes approached Steve Maxwell (who was talking about the upcoming election) and kindly gave him a musical accompaniment. Steve appreciated it, but the fellow didn’t stay long.
This scribe will spare you the bagpipe jokes. Call that ‘State of the Art blogging’, folks. Any other writer would jump at the chance to use a bagpipe joke.
Besides, Bon Scott made this scribe appreciate the bagpipes.
3. Another fundraiser was kicked off today. Mr B wants a tailor-made stepladder. It needs to be at least six metres wide and he estimates that to have it made will cost nearly $2,000. He explained that he feels too constricted on the current Ladder of Knowledge. He needs to be able to strut back and forth like Benito Mussolini.
Your thoughtful scribe agrees. It’s a good idea. Please give generously.
Meanwhile, Mr B will use a bigger ladder, like this fellow below.
4. Why didn’t the Australian Aborigines use bows and arrows? Mr B gave seven possible reasons, despite earnest assistance from Peter the Younger.
5. Mr B has been changing the lives of his grasshoppers in a robust and meaningful way for six years, and figures it’s time they began to return the favour and help him out a little. He hoped they would answer a few questions he has been pondering. (Yes, high expectations, but to his credit the benevolent Mr B can see possibilities in his grasshoppers where few others can.)
He asked three questions today and will be asking more over the coming weeks. His thirst for knowledge is unquenchable.
Unfortunately, but as you would expect, his poor benighted grasshoppers had trouble even understanding some of his questions.
Here they are:
1. Mr B wanted to know, “If confident people find it easier to attract partners (and thus find it easier to pass on their genes) why haven’t we evolved to be more confident when meeting a potential partner? Why do so many of us become shy when we meet someone we are attracted to, when a confident approach would more likely be successful?”
His grasshoppers helped him out to a tiny degree.
2. “Air and water are ubiquitous and we need them daily, in large quantities. Sunlight is also ubiquitous for at least 12 hours. Why didn’t we evolve to need it in larger quantities? Why do we need only 10 minutes of sunlight a day? (We need 10 minutes to help our body produce Vitamin D if it’s not in our food.)
This is the question his poor grasshoppers had trouble understanding, so you can imagine just how bizarre their pitiful attempts to answer his question were. I guess it’s questions like this one that win great minds the Nobel Prize.
3. The humble Mr B also wanted to know, “What’s the thing about Julie Bishop and her red shoes?” One grasshopper said it was the outrageous price Julie had paid for them; another suggested Julie wore them to acknowledge that she had been in a fantasy land, like Dorothy.
Mr B told me privately he is not convinced of either explanation, but if the second explanation is correct, that would explain why so many politicians wear brown shoes.
6. Other topics discussed:
– Mark the Grinner explained why it was foolish of the Australian governments to sacrifice some of our manufacturers in favour of weapons manufacture.
– Mark the Grinner also had a few words to say about the upcoming elections. He begged us to believe everything the politicians tell us. He gave that advice a few times, just in case we missed it. Had sarcasm been a liquid we would have drowned.
– A passer-by asked Mr B’s thoughts on the modernisation of Sydney, and Mr B had a few choice words to say about that.
– Ray looked dashing today as he attempted to save a few souls.
– Mirko said something today that one grasshopper thought was insightful and accurate. Your scribe hadn’t been listening, and nearly fell over when he heard that. It was like I had had a nap and woken up to find I had missed seeing Halley’s Comet.
– The topic of epigenetics came up. Mr B put forth the Dutch Famineexample.
7. This week we present to you the Takin, or Gnu Goat, found in the Eastern Himalayas. It wants to be on our Facebook page. Its wish is granted.
“Necessity is the mother of invention. Boredom is the father.”
1. We had a new speakerturn up today, but your scribe didn’t hear him or see him. Steve Maxwell saw him and says his name was Ron, or Ray, or Robert, which means we don’t even know his name. What an inauspicous beginning!
We hope Rod turns up again and gives it another crack. If he lets this scribe know of his presence we will introduce him and film him. And hopefully get his name right.
Steve Maxwell had a dig at the Australian government and the Australian Federal Police, saying that the only reason an Australian ex-refugee in Thailand was not deported to Bahrain is because the man plays soccer well. It was his soccer team who made the effort to save him.
Again, Mr B came under-prepared. Mirko, Mark the Grinner, Peter the Younger and Helmut kindly assisted.
2. If you want toknow if a media outlet is Left-wing, Right-wing or In the Middle, try this site. Thanks to Mark the Grinner for bringing it to our attention.
3. Mr B was told the origins of ‘Doh, Ray, Me. etc. Apparently, the words came from a 12th century rhyme sung by monks. The words represent the notes we know today and are arbitrary. Julie Andrews could have sung something like:
Bah, a grunt, a whinging grunt
Cad, a bounder through and through
Tip, a coin, I never leave
Fly, a thing that sits on poo
Phlegm, a sticky yellow gunk,
4. We heard a short poem.
5. We heard an interesting and unusual football fact: In 1922, while Bill Walton was playing for Port Melbourne, he was hired to coach Hawthorn in the following year. However, Port Melbourne refused to release him as a player. So, the next year, he played for Port Melbourne while coaching Hawthorn during the week. Twice he had to play for Port Melbourne against Hawthorn, and in one of those matches he supported a Hawthorn player. His teammates were so annoyed they tried to hit him.
Who would have thought that nearly one hundred years later, Mr Bashful would be holding two of Hawthorn’s premiership cups?
6. “Who is responsible for the Menindee Lakes disaster?”a passer-by wanted to know. (For overseas readers: due to mismanagement of the waterways, a million fish died because there was too little water for them.) Instead of blaming government departments for allowing other industries (like cotton) to use the water, Mr B blamed the voters. “After all,” he said, “we give the politicians the power to make those awful decisions.”
Mr B has such a low opinion of politicians he blames us for the standard of politician we get. “Keep the bastards honest” was one politician’s slogan. “The thing is,” said Mr B, “it’s we, the voters, who are the bastards.” He gave his reasons why.
7. Why didn’t the Australian indigenous people become technologically advanced during their 60,000 year occupation of the continent? A grasshopper said it was because they didn’t have one pervasive, uniting religion to unite them in a common cause.
Mark the Grinner said they didn’t need to develop technologically because they had what they wanted. After all, necessity is the mother of invention.
Mr B said it was because their relationhsip to the land didn’t allow an ‘invasion mentality’, which meant technological pollination would have been inhibited. Plus they didn’t have access to the animals Europeans had, so there was no incentive to build roads and other infrastructure. (You can’t harness a kangaroo to plough a field or transport goods.)
The revelations in Bruce Pascoe’s book, Dark Emu, were also mentioned.
8. Other topics discussed:
– Mr B mentioned the government’s “inability” to ensure a food’s trans fats – the most dangerous of fats – are revealed in its nutrition label. Peter the Younger said there would have been a few trans fats in last night’s Mardi Gras.
– Mark the Grinner spoke about politicians’ self-interest and reluctantly answered questions from anyone impertinent enough to ask them.
– Do religions help guide people into living a good life? One Hindu man thought so, and Mark the Grinner tried valiantly to trash that idea.
– If parents regularly feed their children unhealthy food, should they be be prosecuted for child abuse? Ben the Whisperer informed us that is already the case.
9. In our Unusual Critter Serieswe feature the Armadillo Girdled Lizard. It’s a big fan of our Facebook page, but won’t admit it.
‘Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.’
Albert Einstein, when asked to say a few words about Mr Bashful.
1. Helmut began the meeting and it soon became a lively affair with Mirko’s interjections.
When Mr B arrived he admitted he hadn’t prepared for the day, so would some of his grasshoppers assist by speaking? They didn’t disappoint. First up was Mirko, who was still keen to educate Helmut and the rest of us. Mirko spoke earnestly about his phonetic language, and then introduced a new topic: music. He then kindly answered questions. We learnt a great deal from him.
Mirko also mentioned that he had worked as an electrician for many years. He was asked about Ohm’s Law, and he did his best to describe it in lay terms.
He was also asked if, during his time as an electrician, he had ever been electrocuted. He said ‘Yes!’ and for some of us, that explained a lot.
2. Before the next speakertook the Ladder of Knowledge, Mr B said a few words about his own musical education. For a few years in school this poor fellow thought a tuning fork was just a classroom version of a starting gun for the kids to say, “Sing C. C B A G. Call it Doh: Doh. Doh Ray Me Far So La Te Doh.
“What the hell was that about?” Mr B wanted to know.
And to this day he still doesn’t know why his music teacher was obsessed with ‘Doh, Ray, Me, Far, So, La, Te or Doh.’ (‘Notice the ‘Doh’ repeat? It gets two mentions for some reason.) Most contemporary singers rarely use those words, though admittedly, Julie Andrews used the lot in just one song.
And in 1972 Country Radio used ‘La’ repeatedly at the end of their hit ‘Wintersong‘ but Mr B’s music teacher never mentioned the song!
Simply, he and music never got on, and he never passed the subject. However, Mr B says he was always keen to grab the tambourine, so that’s something.
A grasshopper asked Mr B to replicate her ‘La’. He did a pretty good job of it. He looked disappointed when he wasn’t asked to sing an entire song.
What is the difference between a tune and a melody?
3. The next speaker was Helmut again. Helmut has become cheery and accommodating. What’s he up to, folks? What’s he planning?
Helmut had a few words to say about music, physics and the old timers who discovered stuff. He also had to deal with a vociferous Mirko, who was still keen to explain himself.
Helmut even explained, cleverly, the link between physics and love.
4. Mr B then told a jokebefore giving up the Ladder to the next speaker, Mark the Grinner.
5. Mark the Grinner spokeabout the banks and it’s fair to say he is not enamoured with them. He read out the Banking and Finance Oath of 2012 and had trouble reconciling the oath with the antics recently revealed in the Banking Royal Commission.
It’s also fair to say that Mark is not always 100% politically correct when he admonishes a listener for having the temerity to ask an awkward question. Entertaining though.
6. Mr B read a poem.
7. Other subjects discussed:
– Steve Maxwell spoke about the upcoming NSW state election. (Yes, there is one!) And, he spoke about politics in general.
– Mark the Grinner said psychotropic drugs are not addictive, and he explained why the elderly are the biggest users of them. It’s because many of the elderly are in nursing homes, and they are given those drugs to keep them quiet and easy to manage.
– Ray, our fundamentalist Christian speaker, again spoke near the kiosk. Ray isn’t interested in getting a crowd; he’s interested in saving souls. This scribe respects his dedication.
– Mr B explained why he doesn’t debate the Climate Change sceptics. (He doesn’t know enough about both sides of the argument, and he isn’t prepared to spend the time necessary to rectify that.)
– Mr B was asked why at home he framed his electricity bill, gas bill, water bill and phone bill, and hung them on his wall. He gave an unexpected answer.
– Who or what creates society? Does a society exist? Do billions of societies exist on Earth?
– Janet still presents her flag design for the time when Australia is ready to change its flag.
– Even the Flat Earth Theory got a brief mention by someone making a point.
8. In our Unusual Creature Serieswe present to you the Sumatran Rhinoceros. For the first time its picture appears in our Facebook page.
“.. and people get married like marriage is victory, and people have children like children is a victory. It’s something they have to do because there’s nothing else to do. There’s no glory in it, no steam, no fire.. it’s very, very flat.”
1. Helmut began the meeting in a cheery, co-operative mood and answered questions posed by his groundlings. For some reason he equated intelligence with knowledge.
It was another hot day and it was good to sit in the shade.
2. A poem was read.
3. Mr B pulled off a wonderful card trick, but presented it so poorly few people understood what happened.
Had his grasshoppers known what was going on, they would have responded like this:
4. Mark the Grinner took the Ladder of Knowledge and starred again. He is an entertaining, natural speaker.
Then Mr B took the platform and asked, “Should illegal drugs be legalised/decriminalised?” The discussion lasted for over an hour and many people contributed. It was a perfect example of how people can disagree with one another respectfully.
Here is a Valentine’s Day note from the Postsecret website.
5. Other subjects discussed:
– Mr B gave two life hacks (handy hints) to his appreciative audience. One was about how to create and store passwords; the other: go into any Starbucks cafe and say, “Ariana Grandé.” You will be handed a coffee.
– Would a multi-billionaire lose control of her company if she gave much of her money away? (The answer, Mr B was informed, was “No”.) Are the large multi-million dollar salaries CEOs receive justified? (The answers he received were: “Yes” and “No”.) Would an Australian-wide salary cap work? (“Yes!” was the consensus.)
Mr B was grateful to his grasshoppers, because his questions were interoggative, not rhetorical.
– Towards the end of the day, the still cheery Helmut again took the Ladder of Knowledge and rounded off proceedings nicely. There had been more than four hours of discussion.
– Another good speaker, Peter the Younger, spoke briefly while your scribe helped the Pirate Party set up for their talk across the way. John August spoke about economics.
– If someone dies overseas, why do their relatives spend a small fortune and go to a lot of fuss bringing the body back? Why not just have their rello disposed of over there? Mr B was genuinely curious.
6. In our Unusual Animal Serieswe present to you the deep sea Goblin shark. This particular specimen thinks highly of our Facebook page.
“When one person suffers from a delusion it is called ‘insanity’. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called ‘religion’.”
Robert M Pirsig
1. Last week Steve Maxwell put out a long canvas for passers-by to paint fish on. His aim was to bring that canvas each week until it was covered with pictures of fish, and then submit it with a petition to the government to better manage our waterways. This week the canvas was finished, well ahead of time. His canvas, and his message, were popular all day.
Thank you, Steve, for your innovative ideas. They bring life and variety to Speakers’ Corner.
2. We often have Janet popping by. Janet has designed a flag to replace the current one we have for Australia.
In her flag a red earth circle represents our island continent; the white dots, our coast; and the blue, the ocean. The cluster of blue dots represents the states and territories (the centre dot represents the territories and the six blue dots surrounding it represent the states).
You can vote for Janet’s flag, or any other flag, on the Ausflag website: ausflag.com.au
4. Mr B also gave us a story about the Tibetan yogi, Milarepa: One day his cave was invaded by fearful demons, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get rid of them. Finally he invited them to stay, and at that point they left. Except one, the largest of the demons. Milarepa placed his head in the demon’s mouth, and that demon disappeared too.
He then ruined the story by presenting a homily on how we should move through fear.
5. Mr B is still insisting that James Hardie Industries should not be compensating asbestos victims. And, he keeps insisting that the company’s executives were acting morally when they concealed the compensation money off-shore.
And yes, some of his grasshoppers keep disagreeing. They keep insisting that James Hardie Industries are culpable and should be paying compensation.
The main problem seemed to be that Mr B’s grasshoppers were focusing on James Hardie’s legalobligations, whereas Mr B was focusing on their moralobligations. The righteous Mr B believes our moral compass should be based on what is right, not on what the law says.
How subversive can you get??
He has a point. It’s interesting to note how on one hand, so many people disrespect lawyers and think there should be significant law reform, yet on the other hand, sheep-like, they allow their attitudes to be shaped by what the law says.
Mark the Grinner pointed out that in America, a corporation is a sentient entity. If that’s true, this scribe suggests he should bring that mind-blowing fact to the attention of those researching consciousness.
Your helpful scribe is happy to answer a grasshopper’s question: Bernie Banton worked for the company until 1974, long after the warnings were given.
6. Mr B read the poem, ‘Prayer Before Birth’ by Louis MacNeice. Uncle Pete said he read it poorly. Helmut said he should have memorised it. Your scribe thinks he should have worn a tuxedo for the occasion and sprinkled the ground with rose petals.
7. Other subjects discussed:
– A leaked document from a Dept of Health funded body reveals that many doctors give their patients an unnecessary physical examination, and unnecessary blood tests, simply to keep the patient happy.
– Mark the Grinner believes all police officers should be over 40 and female. He says the male ones enter the profession for the wrong reasons.
– Mark T. Grinner also said that Australia does not have a diminishing rate of fertility, as the media like to tell us; instead, we have a low rate of fecundity. After looking up the word ‘fecundity’, your scribe thinks this claim should be examined next meeting.
– It was observed that the NSW State election is only six weeks away, yet we have barely heard a murmur from any of the parties. What’s going on?
– Tony kept Helmut on his toes today and their intellectual sparring match was a pleasure to witness. Helmut was trying to explain the origin of the universe and Tony was trying to stop him. It was clearly a case of ‘The Immovable Force meets the Irresistable Object’.
– Mr B was asked if trees can hear. He explained why they couldn’t, and Uncle Pete said they can hear. “They need to hear the man with the axe coming.” Sigh.
Peter the Younger informed us that trees can sense vibrations (that helps them find running water) and Mr B said trees communicate through their roots using a fungus. But they can’t hear. When they evolve ears he’ll reconsider the matter.
– One man put forth the possibility that we, as individuals, exist before we were born. Soon it was a “discussion” between that gentle man and the “boisterous” Uncle Pete. Their “conversation” morphed into a group discussion about the importance of faith, evidence, speculation and philosophy. The gentle man coped well with Uncle Pete’s bluster. Good work, sir.
8. In our Unusual Critter Series we present to you the English Angora Rabbit. It has trouble reading our Facebook pagefor fairly obvious reasons. It avoids being eaten by English foxes by disguising itself as an avalanche.
“Capitalism and Communism don’t work because they’re based on economics, and we aren’t economic creatures.”
Mark the Grinner
1. Steve Maxwell’s ankles are in good order and he joined us this week. He had a fair bit to say about the mismanagement of the Darling River, in which more than a million fish have died.
One of Steve’s big pluses is that he presents new material each week, wears a different costume each week, and he goes out of his way to do something special. Today was a good example. He provided a canvas and some art supplies to give everyone an opportunity to draw a fish while he informed them of the facts. The best way to teach is to make it fun. Well done, Steve.
2. Mr B tried to get his grasshoppers to distinguish between reality and a parable. He failed miserably.
i.e. If the parable was about the bard William Shakespeare having a conversation with Tony Abbott, some idiot would feel the need to point out that’s impossible.
No wonder the speakers get exasperated.
3. If you were at Mr B’s meetinglast week you would have heard him explain how pigeons process information at a different rate to us. When we look at a movie running at 24 frames per second, it appears to us as a movie. But pigeons, Mr B explained, see one frame after another.
The inquisitive Uncle Pete asked Mr B how this was discovered. Mr B didn’t know but promised he’d find out.
He writes: “The abstract in the link below explains how it was discovered. The mating rituals of pigeons rely heavily on visual cues, but for those cues to be effective the pigeons must be moving. Researchers showed male pigeons movies of female pigeons. The slower the movie, the less interested the male pigeons were. However, when the movies were shown at 60 frames per second they became significantly interested. That meant, to the male pigeons, the female pigeon finally looked like an actual moving female pigeon at 60 frames per second. And damned sexy she was, too.”
4. Five performances from the Serbian performance artist, Marina Abramović, were described. One of those was called ‘Rhythm 0‘. In an art gallery in 1974, when she was 29 years of age, she placed on a table 72 objects (such as: a rose, a feather, honey, a whip, olive oil, scissors, a scalpel, a gun and a single bullet). A sign informed the visitors that they could use the items in any way they wished. She then stood still for six hours.
Initially, people were kind. But over time, they changed. She was stripped naked and she endured indignities, cuts, pain, threats and fear. When the performance was over the people ran away from her.
Interestingly, she had to be home by 10pm because her mother said so.
5. Two Canadians in the audiencewanted a little humour, so Mirko took the Ladder of Knowledge and provided it. Then Mark the Grinner spoke for a while about all sorts of things, and it’s safe to say that the U.S.A. did not emerge unscathed.
Mark said 15% of a cross-section of the American population believed that we humans came about through evolution. 32% believe that we came about through evolutionafter God created evolution. 46% believe that God created the planet some time in the last 10,000 years. He suggested that the reason for these scary figures is that Americans are believers: in God, in their flag, in their Pledge of Allegiance, and in themselves.
Mark also took a swipe at economists (our contemporary soothsayers). He said our economic system is working perfectly. After all, it was not designed for the benefit of the masses, it is designed for the small minority on the top of the heap.
He also had a few unkind things to say about ‘trickle-down economics’.
He’s a cynic, that Mark.
6. Here’s proof that you cannever be too young to take an interest in Speakers’ Corner.
7. “What is Art?”, asked one punter.
“It’s one of our inner subconscious selves having the opportunity to express itself”, said Mr B.
8. Other subjects discussed:
– Schizophrenia might be caused by the sufferer having a faulty internal clock. Not only do schizophrenics tend to have faulty internal clocks, the symptom of having one creates the disturbing illusion that your thoughts are being monitored – a common symptom in Schizophrenia.
– Mr B tried to discuss Martin Gardner’s version of the Surprise Test Paradoxbut struggled to explain the set-up (ten numbered egg cartons and one egg) to his grasshoppers. But then, what would you expect from grasshoppers who feel the need to point out the impossibilities in a parable?
After ten minutes the poor, exasperated man gave up trying to explain the set-up and the paradox itself didn’t get mentioned.
– Mr B explained why there is no such thing as a Canadian. Last week it was a Scotsman. The week before it was a Chinaman. One day he will complete the set and sit back satisfied.
– When Helmut took the Ladder of Knowledge he had a few fresh things to say about Mr Bashful.
– Mr B gave ten reasons why we should not have pill testing stations at festivals, and then he gave ten reasons why we should. A passer-by had plenty to say, and a general discussion began.
This postcard is from the Postsecret website.
9. In our Unusual Creature Series this Shoebill stork from East Africa has been enjoying the articles in Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade.
“Time is nature’s way of preventing everything from happening all at once.”
1. Today it was windy enough to blow a sailor off your sister. For a fair bit of the time Mr B’s grasshoppers had their eyes shut because of all the dust flying about. There was a fair bit of bulldust flying about too.
Mirko wasn’t there and Steve Maxwell’s ankle is still playing up . Ray was so hidden no one knew he was about.
Mr B first had a whinge about how there was little point in him trying to promote Speakers’ Corner, and when he finally moved on he explained that he had found a new date for Australia Day. Stealing from the ABC’s Radio Nationalhe asked the question: “Who was the first Australian to circumnavigate Australia?”
Matthew Flinders is not the correct answer. (Flinders was British.)
The correct answer: an indigenous man named Bungaree. He travelled with Flinders and together they circumnavigated the continent and discovered that it was the one continent. Bungaree was invaluable with his mediation skills every time they had to go ashore and meet the inhabitants. And, Flinders coined the term ‘Australia’. Therefore, establishing Australia’s dimensions (and therefore existence) was a joint effort, and we can commemorate that.
(Unless of course the Aborigines had already sussed that out, but we won’t go into that.)
So, on what day did Flinders and Bungaree complete their journey by returning to Sydney Cove?
June 9th, 1803.
Naturally, we can’t have Australia Day on that day because it’s too bloody cold. So, pick any old date in the warmer months. We don’t have to be precise because we celebrate the birthdays of the Queen and Jesus not on their actual birthdays.
Problem solved. Let’s make it the last Monday in February.
2. What is time? How fast does it flow?Or pass? Does it flow or pass at all? When you’re in a car crash (or something) does time seem to slow down? Psychologists used to think that the brain speeded up and processed things faster, distorting our perception of time. A study was done (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, vol 364, page 1841). Volunteers were given a device with a flickering numeral that flickered too quickly for them to read. Each volunteer was thrown off a building, and while they fell they had to try to read the flickering numeral. If in their fear their brain processed information more quickly, they should be able to read the flickering numeral.
The slow motion effect kicked in – the vounteers thought the fall lasted for more than 3 seconds, rather than the actual time of 2.5 seconds – but still they could not discern the numeral. Therefore, the scientists concluded that the slow motion effect is a trick of memory. As one scientist posited, “An intense experience, with heightened fear or excitement, rivets our attention and evokes the firing of many neurons acrosss the brain, causing us to soak up more sensory details. . . . Your brain is on fire when you’re dropping. You lay down denser memory. So you think, “Gee, that took a long time.”
That was part of a talk Mr B gave on the topic of Time.
3. Still on the subject of time,Bill drove his car one day and the trees and buildings by the road began to speed by, as if he were driving at 300kmph. He slowed, but the cityscape continued to whizz by. He had to stop his car.
The world had not accelerated. He had slowed down. He walked and talked in slow motion. When his doctor asked him to count 60 seconds in his head, he took 280 seconds to do so. They found a tumour in his brain’s frontal cortex.
That was just one example of how time can flow, or pass, or be perceived, very differently. Imagine if we all had ‘tumours’ like that (or differently developed brains). Then for all of us a minute (as we feel it now) would take 280 seconds, not 60. Tiime would still pass at the same rate for us, but things in the world would move far more quickly. Flowers would open like we see them in time-lapse photography. We wouldn’t be able to keep up with the world and that perception of time would disable us.
What if a minute felt like only 3 seconds to us? Then the world around us would appear to be in slow motion. Days would be very long, and flowers would take ‘forever’ to open. With our faster reaction time would we injure our bodies more often, because our bodies would still be subject to the same laws of physics? Would we again be disabled?
Presumably then, our brain evolved to create ‘time’ at the most optimal rate that benefits our species. If that’s the case, then other creatures would process time differently to best benefit them. Swifts and tortoises might experience a minute very differently to each other.
What does that say about time?
Then Mr B talked about atomic clocks. The latest is so accurate it loses only a half a second in 14 billion years. Along with Einsten’s theory of general relativitiy, atomic clocks prove that time isn’t always subjective.
So again: what is time? How fast does if flow, if it even flows at all?
There is only one thing for sure. Time catches up with all of us.
4. Sadly, in his talkMr B said something wrong, ruining a significant ‘always right’ streak. When trying to work out what ‘the present’ is, Mr B said it can’t include any of our past, and it can’t include any of our future, so therefore it could be no amount of time, because if it were an amount of time it could be divided into yet a smaller period of time, which meant there still could be a past and a future. He referred to the Planck constant, as though it were no time. However, Uncle Pete and Helmut pointed out that the Planck constant is indeed a period of time. It is, in quantum mechanics, the time required for light to travel a distance of 1 Planck length (about 10–20times the diameter of a proton) in a vacuum, which is a time interval of approximately 5.39116 X 10 −44 of a second.
Dozens of Planck units elapsed in the time it took you to read that last paragraph.
That prompts many questions of course, one being: is that length of time ‘the present’? If not, what is the present? How long is it? And what creates the present?
5. Throughout the topic,Helmut was keen to express his views about time. So, when Mr B concluded his talk he let Helmut take the Ladder of Knowledge to respond. Your scribe was soon surprised to discover that Sir Isaac Newton, a well-known ignoramus, was heavily involved in our misunderstanding of time. Who would have thought?
Later on, Helmut kindly gave the podium to a passer-by who wanted to speak. His name is Trent Crawford and he has the ability to summon UFOs with telepathy. The young man spoke for some time, but your scribe didn’t hear what he had to say. I foolishly accompanied Mr B to his car.
When the Vacuum Oil box Trent was standing on was retrieved, Trent chose a less orthodox way to make use of the podium. Steve Maxwell, take note. This method would suit you.
7. In our Unusual Critter Serieswe feature the plant-hopper nymph, who loves Uncle Pete’s rants.
“It’s as easy as having a shit in bed and kicking it out with your feet.”
1. Steve Maxwell has strained his ankleand was unable to make it today. Only Ray and Mr B spoke today and it was for nearly 4 hours. Mr B was harsher than usual with the garden gnomes, and their needless interruptions were incessant. Somehow, Mr B didn’t lose his voice. Grumpy old bugger that he is.
In what way was he grumpy today? He barely let Peter the Younger say a word all day, and he gave Helmut heaps.
Amazingly, he actually complimented Uncle Pete a number of times. Uncle Pete barely knew what to do with the compliments, and looked most uncomfortable.
2. MP Kelly O’Dwyer gave a news conference the other day to explain why she was leaving politics. She has missed too many instances of her two children growing up, she explained, and she had not been there to see them in the morning or at night. (And presumably, not during the day.) She and her husband were planning to have a third child. Mr B wondered if she is having a third because she is curious about what it would be like to bring up a child.
“This does not mean men or women need to choose between family and public service,” she said, having made the choice to retire from politics to be with her family. “With the right support you can do both and do both well,” she added. Mr B assumed that she therefore had not been receiving the right support. Had her husband been lax, asked Mr B, or had the nanny been too unreliable?
Uncle Pete ventured the possibility that Ms O’Dwyer has retired from politics because the Liberals won’t be in power after the upcoming Federal election.
This scribe wonders how many male parlaimentarians have not seen their children grow up, and why they haven’t chosen to retire from politics to be with their family? For that matter, why did they choose to have children when they knew they would not have the opportunity to see them grow up? Or do those male politicians have “the right support”? If so, what form does that “right support” take to ensure the child happily grows up without a father in their formative years?
3. In 1996 Dr Jill Bolte Taylor had a stroke. In herTED talk, “My Stroke of Insight”, she explains how her everyday worries “untethered themselves from her and slid away.” Her perceptions changed, too. She could see “the atoms and molecules making up her body blended with the space around her; the whole world and the creatures in it were all part of the same magnificent field of shimmering energy. . . . My perception of physical boundaries was no longer limited to where my skin met air,” she explains. After experiencing intense pain her body disconnected from her mind. “I felt like a genie liberated from its bottle. . . . The energy of my spirit seemed to flow like a great whale gliding through a sea of silent euphoria.”
She had other physical ailments and took a while to recover. Today she says she is a new person, one who “can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere” on command and be “one with all that is.” To her it is not faith, but science.
Yes, it does sound familiar. It describes the Buddha’s so-called enlightenment 2,500 years ago. And, it describes the enlightenment Buddhist monks seek today.
“Obvously,” explained the percipient Mr B, “the original Buddha had a mild stroke in the same part of the brain and had the same experience. He gabbed about it and inadvertently began a religion. Ever since, poor sods in monestaries have been trying to get their own enlightenment, and many of gone mad in the process.
All they need is a mild stroke in the right place.
Mr B then explained why the rest of Buddhism is a sham.
The purpose of a koan is to overcome logic and dualistic thinking, he explained. Koans make sense on an intuitive level, though they may take years to understand. Here are some of the koans he quoted:
“What is your face before your parent’s birth?”
“The world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your robes at the sound of a bell?”
Here is Mr B’s search for enlightenment.
4. Mr B has a large following.(No, he is not being stalked by a sumo wrestler.) Overseas he is particularly popular, and the respected German author Edna Schuchardt has written an authorised biography of him. Mr B, fluent in German, is pleased to report that her book accurately describes the salient points of his life. He will let us know when it’s translated into English so that we all may purchase a copy.
5. Other topics discussed today:
– Mr B was going to get even more stuck into Helmut, though he ran out of time. “Next week”, he promises. That didn’t stop he and Helmut having a good barney all afternoon. The insults flew thick and fast!
– Scott Bolton is a footballer who was charged with indecent assault for placing his hand on a woman’s thigh in a pub. He ended up pleading guilty to common assault. The question was asked: was it right that he ended up in court? Or not? The views, as usual, were diverse.
– Is there such a thing as a Scotsman? No, said Mr B and he generously explained why.
– A woman asked, “How would we Australians feel if Japan had successfully invaded Australia, and we were in the same position the indigenous people are in now? Would we want to be a part of Japanese society? Would we want our kids and grandkids to meld into Japanese society? Would we feel resentment if we had to find work in order to live? Would we feel resentment if we were exploited when we did get work? How would we feel if we couldn’t get work?
– Are our governments abrogating their responsibility to prevent further CO2 emissions? No, said Mr B, adding that it’s the people who are the bastards, because ultimately they make the decision. They wouldn’t vote for a government that promised to introduce harsh regulations. If the people were fair dinkum the Greens would be in power.
– Should marijuana be legalised in Australia like it is in Canada? No, said Mr B, giving his reasons.
It’s inevitable, said Uncle Pete.
– Speaking of Helmut, the dour Austrian boasted of having studied philosophy for five years compared to Mr B’s measily two. Your bemused scribe figures that’s like boasting you have nailed five of your toes to the floor, instead of only two.
How do you get a philosopher off your doorstep?
You pay for the pizza.
– Mr B began the meeting by giving his reasons why we should not change the date of Australia Day. Then he gave his reasons why we should change the date.
6. In our Unusual Creature Serieswe present the giraffe weevil from Madagascar. It has been perusing the Speakers’ Corner Gift Shopand has bought nothing.
“Gambling is a tax for the people who can’t do maths.”
1. It was good to have Steve Maxwellback from his jaunt up North. Welcome, Steve!
2. Mr B opened his meeting by discussing his hypothetical penchant for large women. He was aiming to make a point about hypocrisy, but the crowd soon began baying for his blood while garden gnomes tried to voice their opinions out of turn. As a result, Mr B lost his voice. He sounded like a squeaky toy. Then the baying crowd, barely trying to hide their amusement, pretended to be kind and caring by offering all sorts of useless advice. Of course, it was a ruse to get him off the Ladder of Knowledge.
‘Two-Polarity-Mirko’ finally convinced Mr B to temporarily remove himself from the stand to recover, by kindly offering to take the stand himself. Mirko explained to us the importance of oxygen. “Without it you are dead!” declared the harbinger of doom. Someone suggested that other things might also be important for our survival but Mirko quickly put him in his place.
By the time Mirko had finished presenting his dire warning Mr B still hadn’t fully recovered, so Uncle Pete took the stand. He expressed his dismay with the politicians’ handling of HECS debts. Here is what he had to say:
3. Mr B finally managed to makehis point about our hypocrisy, and then a passer-by asked for our views about communism. We heard a few views until the Commissariat arrived and marched us off to a nearby labour camp. Here is one view from Mark the Grinner:
4. Here is another view from someone raised in East Berlin before the wall fell. She also spent a few years in West Germany, and in the USA, and now lives here in Sydney.
5.“I met a woman in Houston while on tour as a musician. We went back to her place. Clothes were coming off. No words exchanged, no verbal confirmation that we both wanted to have sex. I simply made a move, and she didn’t say no. I leaned in for a kiss, she didn’t say no. I put my hands on her breasts, she didn’t say no. I reached down her pants, she didn’t say no. I went through the motions, all the way up to and through intercourse, and she didn’t say no, so I assumed she was enjoying herself and everything was good. Then after sex was over she turned to me and said : ‘You raped me.'”
Mr B read those words from an article, and so began a group discussion about consent that didn’t finish until nearly 6pm. It was interesting and enlightening.
Here is a postcard from the Postsecret sitethat might confuse the men who can’t understand women.
6. Our very best wishes to Jack, who has been AWOL. He has a fairly good excuse though: he has had double bypass surgery on his heart.
We hope your full recovery is imminent, Jack.
7. Other subjects discussed:
– John August had some interesting things to say about Russia’s socialism. But when he tried to redirect the course of the meeting Mr B took umbrage and told him to clear off.
– Ben the Whisperer stood on the Ladder of Knowledge and accused Mark the Grinner of confusing socialism with social security, adding that communism and socialism are destined to fail. Ben was particularly scathing of China.
– while Mr B went to get the car, Helmut took over. But by then it was nearly 6pm and Helmut was fuming. He spent the entire time lambasting Mr B!
– Last week and this week Mark the Grinner lamented the fact that Australians are losing their identity and becoming Americans. Mr B responded by saying, “No wonder! There is no Australian identity!” According to Mr B, Australia is just a collection of disparate communities. Multiculturalism has benefited the nation considerably, but it has obliterated any Australian identity we may have had. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.
8. In our Unusual Creature Series we present to you a sea slug. It has expressed no interest in our Facebook page.