Friday, February 26, 2016

I of the Beholder

The goal of this blog is to make the Friday night dinner table more real.
Wishing Mom a continued recovery.
Wishing Harmon in San Francisco a speedy recovery.

Giraffes Last week I asked you to define true art.

This week is a related question.

It begins with an anecdote that occurred a few days ago.

Tehila, our six-year-old, lost another tooth.

This one had been tenacious. It seemed to be dangling there forever. She finally pulled it out herself.

The next day, she said to me (in front of the whole family), "Abba, the Tooth Fairy didn't come!"

"Hmm..." I said. "Who's the Tooth Fairy?"

I literally had no idea how she was going to answer that question.

She said, "Mommy."

My question for you, dear reader, is what do you think was going through her head when she said those words, "Abba, the Tooth Fairy didn't come."

May I underscore: Mommy was there in the room when this conversation took place.

That same day, somebody sent me this dramatic video of giraffes doing something incredible:


I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure giraffes can't do that. I'm pretty sure that if someone had actually trained one giraffe to do anything remotely like this, that I would have heard about it.

But they can do it, can't they? I mean, look at that video.

So this week's question for your table is:

What is "real"? What you "see"? What you think? What you feel?

Shabbat Shalom 

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Friday, February 12, 2016

How to Make Waves

The goal of this email is to add some gravity to the Shabbat table.
Wishing Lily in SF a happy birthday this week!
Wishing Mom (Chaya bas Yehudis) a continued recovery.

gravity waves1. Get two black holes.

Let one of them be 36 times more massive than our sun.

Let the second one be 29 times the mass of our sun.

2. Put them in a blender and mix.

3. Do the math: the resulting super black hole will be how many times more massive than our sun?

If you guessed 65, you are happily mistaken.

The correct answer: 62.

How could that be?

It turns out when you mix two black holes together, it's impossible to keep it all in the mixing bowl. There is a 5 percent splatter rate.

But every sixth grader knows that not even light can escape from a black hole! How can any energy escape?

It turns out that black hole splatters are more awesome than light. They make space itself ripple, whatever that means.

Not big ripples, but tiny, tiny ripples that are so tiny, to detect them you need a really awesome seismograph.

The one they came up with is a five-mile electric eye. Sort of like the one in elevators to keep people from being crushed by the closing doors, but about a million times more expensive.

And just to be safe, they built two of them, 1,800 miles apart.

But you only heard the headlines of this gravitational-waves story you may have missed the following detail:

To prevent false positives, LIGO has an elaborate system in place to occasionally inject ersatz signals. Only three scientists on the team know the truth in such cases, and in at least one instance their colleagues were prepared to publish the results when they finally revealed the ruse.

Consider the greatness of that system. These scientists are so interested in getting the truth....they know that their fancy machine is very, very good yet imperfect and they know that they are very smart yet imperfect, so they create a system to push themselves towards greater perfection.

That's like you trying to get in shape and having a trainer occasionally tempt you with appropriate distractions. Because whenever you conquer an urge or a distraction, it makes you stronger and greater.

What if the entire universe were set up in such a way that each of us got karmic tests at just the right time to make us stronger and greater?

For the kids at your table: Do you ever feel tested in that way?
For the adults at your table: If it turns out that the philosophical "what if" above were not true, w
ould believing it and living according to it be a net good or net harm?

Shabbat Shalom 

PS - great infographics on LIGO here.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Just or Right?

The purpose of this blog is to spark some righteous dignation at the Shabbat table.
Wishing Suzanne in SF a happy birthday this week.
Wishing Mom (Chaya bas Yehudis) a continued recovery.

ShkreliIs this the face of righteousness?
Today's question for your table is very simple:

Is following the law the same as being righteous?

There are so many
stories out there. The Flint water crisis itself could be the basis of an entire ethics course.

How about this one:

Martin Shkreli made headlines in September for raising the price of Daraprim, a drug, from $13.50 to $750 per dose.

In December he said, "I should have raised the prices higher."

This week he was back in the headlines for mocking Congress. 

Here's his tweet:

"Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our govern

When he raised the price of the drug, he was following the rules of the free market and the law of supply and demand.

So it was just.

But was it right?

Shabbat Shalom 

Did you make a resolution to become more righteous this year? Or to become more spiritually connected? Put your $$ where your ) is - give yourself a subscription to the Amazing Nature for Teachers program - Great for anyone who enjoys a daily dose of inspiration. Now available in "Jewish" and "general" versions.

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