Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I was touched by chaos; Excerpt from a book of Robert Fulguhm's

“Aspirin. We don’t know everything about how it works. We know what it does, but we don’t know how.” So said a medical researcher to me during the making—small--talk part of a dinner party. Wait a minute. This guy is a Ph. D. and an M.D. and has government grant money running out his pockets, and he doesn’t know about aspirin? This is not small talk. But it’s true. He doesn’t know-nobody else know-not even the guy in the TV ad dressed up to look like a doctor. Big mystery, which has been around for a long time. Chinese doctors prescribed it a thousand years ago. “Chew up some willow bark and call me in the morning” is what they said back then. Willow bark has acetylsalicylic acid in it. That’s aspirin, which is easier to pronounce and easier to get down your gullet than willow bark.
There’s some comfort in knowing that the Ph.D. and M.D. types are thrown by something so common and simple as aspirin. Mystery remains as close at hand as my medicine cabinet.
In my working journal there is an old list under the heading: “Ordinary Things We Don’t Know About.” The list got started when I read a statement in some science magazine to the effect that “we don’t know how water moves from the ground up through the trunk and out to the leave of a tree.” Amazing! I thought we had trees figured out.
So I started the list. Every time I read of an expert saying we don’t know about his very simple ordinary thing or another, it went on my list.
Homing pigeons came next. Then the common cold. Followed by hair loss. But when I read about Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty in a physics course, I realized my list was a fool’s task. Electrons are everywhere, and we not only don’t know if they are a wave or a particle, we can’t know. If electrons are a problem, well, everything is.
So I began a new list. “Signs of the Cosmic Glitch” is the heading. The information about electrons pointed at a basic untidiness. Example: The earth wobbles seventy-two feet off center. Like a top spinning on its axis somewhat cockeyed. Right this very minute we are all wobbling just a little. If you ever feel kind of queasy for no particular reason, it may be the wobble.
Now. We learned that the earth is slowing down, so we have to mess with the clocks and throw in a leap-year from time to time-and we know why this is. But the Wobble? Lots of theories, but nobody can explain it. Cosmic Glitch.
Science has tended to dismiss such matters as being in the range of permissible error. In almost all research in almost every field, there has always been some persistent little inconsistency. The Glitch. And it has always been easier to build it into an equation and discount it rather than try to explain it.
It’s like knowing that no matter how carefully and long you may stir your hot breakfast cereal, there will always be at least one small lump of dried, uncooked cereal hiding somewhere in the mix. After a few years you learn to expect and accept the lump and assume it just goes with the territory. But the WHY is the interesting part, as it turns out.
For suddenly science has become very interested in the behavior of your breakfast cereal. This pattern that always seem to include the unmixed lump has become the business of something called “Chaos Science,” the most important shift in scientific thinking since Einstein’s little formula.
Chaos Science is the study of the Cosmic Glitch. And the Glitch is in every field of science and every realm of experience. Chaos Science suggests that the problem has not been one of small errors, but one of larger information. The pattern of existence turns out to be far more complex and complicated than we thought—on every level.
Chaos Science has led researchers back tot the most fundamental everyday matters—the formation of clouds, the mixing of paint, the flow of traffic, the spread of disease, and the freezing of water in pipes. The cycles of earthquakes and the eruption of volcanoes fits into Chaos Science, too, which is pretty important these days if you live in California or in the Cascade Mountains. The problem of the larger pattern pervades every activity we know of.
The language being used to label the new fields of study is itself appropriately glitchy. When I attended the 155th national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in San Francisco, I heard discussions in the field of Chaos Science about such topics as “fractal fingering,” “strange attractors,” “dangling bond defects,” “folded-towel diffeomorphisms,” “Eden growth,” “smooth noodle maps,” and “lattice animals.” There’s more poetry and metaphor in Chaos Science, and I think it’s because we’re talking about something so far out on the edge that even though we sense a mighty truth, we don’t have language symbols to accurately nail down what we sense.
So we call it Chaos Science. By “Chaos” we mean simply what we can’t understand.
It’s as if we were the most numerous and oldest and most established ant colony in Chicago. And every once in a while, some of the most brilliant ants wander out together and take a look at Chicago—or what they can see of it. The farther away from the ant heap they get, the more mysterious thing seem to be. Recently they happened to be standing alongside a formerly quiet area in their universe when there was a mighty tremor, a huge darkness, and a mighty blast of wind. They had not predicted such activity. They sensed something unimaginable was going on. And reported a new condition of the universe when they returned to the anthill—something that would force a revision of their understanding. Some wanted to call this Chaos. Some wanted to call it the Mysterium Tremendum. Others, the Backfire of the Big Bang. The Wrath of God was also suggested. A new science—a new chapter in the Great Book of the Way It Is. Little did they know that they had happened onto a seldom-used railroad siding when a freight train passed by.
The bad news is that the ants will never ever comprehend Chicago. The good news is that they sense they are right in the middle of something infinitely wonderful and the more they try to understand it, the more amazing it seems to be. Seems to be in the nature of the ants to keep going out and pushing the limits of the known until they come to a new edge. Naming what’s beyond seems to help accommodate that which cannot be understood. It is the ants’ way.

Chaos Science is the study of process—that which won’t hold still. The study of that which is still becoming, rather than of what is.
Chaos Science is my kind of science. I like knowing that no matter what, there is this cosmic untidiness—an unexplainable hiccup in the order we thing we perceive, an unpredictability, a mutational inclination, a glitch in the works that anchors mystery and wonder to the center of being. And that the aspirin I hold in my hand and the clouds overhead remain as mysterious to the experts as to me.
Chaos. I can relate to that. My life is chaos most of the time. I am in turn with the universe. It feels like home.
by Robert Fulghum
"It was on Fire When I Lay Down on It"
1989, Villard Books, a division of Random House, Inc. New York.

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Banana This; Recycle Old Peels~ fertilizer or silver polish

There are things you can do with that old peel.

1. Do you have a green thumb? House hold plants and outside gardens require fertilization. A great way to give your plants nutrients is with a banana peel. The banana peel is very rich in potassium and phosphorus, which give that added boost to your plants soil, especially so with roses. Here is how to use a banana peel to fertilizer your soil for your plants. Remove the peel from the banana. Place the banana peel on a cookie sheet to let it air dry. Grab a paper bag or envelope. Crumble the dried banana peel and place it in the bag. Let the banana sit at room temperature for about two days. When your caring for your plant, give it a potassium treat of crumbled banana peel. Mix well in the soil to ensure the roots are fed evenly.
2. Have you been thinking about pulling out that old silver? Well there is no time like the present. Bananas peel can also be used to polish silver. Yes, polish silver. Take the old peels and place them in a blender. You want the peels to become smooth and creamy. Once they have, grab a cloth and small amounts of the creamed banana peel and begin polishing your silver. The shine will be breath taking.


Wild yeasts exist in the air around you and to some extent on the wheat berries. There are wild yeasts on grapes (unsulphured) and apples and other fruits. It is those wild yeasts which are 'captured' to make a sourdough starter. The process takes from 3 to 5 days. I wish I had specific amounts for you, but you could start with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flour and mix in enough warm (not hot) water to make a thin paste. DO NOT make it too soupy. That, in fact, is the trick to a good starter, according to the French bread makers, and I think they should know. And after you've fooled around with the flour and water thing, you might wish to branch out into adding those unsulphured grapes, apples, sour milk, etc as a catalyst in order to capture other strains of yeast. Each of these strains has a slightly different taste. In fact if you move to another area, you might end up with a starter that produces an entirely different flavor. For instance, San Francisco sourdough bread is well known and has a distinct taste due to the wild strains in the air there. On day one you mix the flour and water (and add any catalysts to encourage fermentation) and place in a warm spot. After 3 days, the dough should be moist, inflated, and slightly sour. More flour and water is added (mixed in) and left to sit in a warm spot. After 2 days the process is repeated. Then the next day it is done again. Note the order: 3 days, 2 days, 1 day. At this point you should be able to make a loaf of bread using part of the starter and adding back what you took out in the form of more flour and water. Rule of thumb: Use about 10% starter to size of loaf. In the case of a 2 lb loaf this is a bit over 3 oz of starter (3.2 to be exact). For a 1 lb loaf 1.5 oz would be used. A book that describes this process in great detail is The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz, copyright 1993, published by Ten Speed Press, Berkley CA. If it's not still in print, try the used books stores, that's where I got mine. Or try your local library. If they don't have it, they might be able to get it for you. ©2008 by Ernestina Parziale

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