TODAY IS YESTERDAY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Age of Anger

Written by: Pankaj Mishra

Narrated by: Derek Perkins

PANKAJ MISHRA (INDIAN WRITER AND NOVELIST)

PANKAJ MISHRA (INDIAN WRITER AND NOVELIST)

Pankaj Mishra shows that today is yesterday in “Age of Anger”.  President Trump in America, Xi in China, Modi in India, Putin in Russia, and other world leaders, return their countries to the ritual of nationalism; i.e. societies’ position of “all against all”.  Mishra’s observations imply either enlightenment is nigh, or an end is coming.

To some, covid-19 heightens belief that an end is coming. A view of history suggests that is nonsense.

GLOBAL WARMING

Today’s tribalist anger (aka nationalism) carries the imprimatur of an overheated world; not only from the threat of covid-19, and a nuclear holocaust, but from climate change.

ANGER AMONG LEADERS

This is not a new “Age of Anger”.  It is the same anger from the same origin.  Its origin is human ignorance; i.e. an ignorance existing from the beginning of time.

It is revivified by Mishra’s recount of violence between and among competing cultures.

Mishra focuses on the origin of anger in the world.  He offers examples written in the blood of all nations at different times in history.  India, China, Japan, Russia, Great Britain, South Africa, America, and other nations with different governments, different religions, and different cultural norms create ages of anger.  It is an anger inherent in humankind.  Mishra argues that anger is revealed by science and exposed in philosophy.

KELLYANNE CONWAY

Mishra suggests the “Age of Anger” is reinforced when philosophical interpretation distorts facts (aka Kellyanne Conway’s alternative facts). More recently, Trump’s early comments on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Science can be distorted by philosophical interpretation; e.g. Herbert Spencer captures Darwin’s theory and falsely interprets it as a social construct.

HERBERT SPENCER (ENGLISH PHILOSOPHER, BIOLOGIST, SOCIOLOGIST)

Spenser argues that society evolves and advances because of “survival of the fittest”.  He implies it is the same mechanism described in Darwin’s “…Origin of Species”.  Darwin’s research and theory of evolution are distorted by Spencer.

Spenser creates alternative facts.  Spenser argues that progressive development of society is dependent on ethics, religions, economics, political theories, philosophies, and sciences that are the fittest to survive.  Spenser infers survival is the only criteria of what is good for humankind.  To Spenser, life is a competition for “all against all”.

Darwin’s theory of evolution has little to do with survival of the fittest.  Extinction or perpetuation of an evolutionary line is a matter of happenstance; not fitness for survival.  (Hairlessness does not make humankind more fit for survival; i.e. it makes the human body more environmentally vulnerable.)

Mishra explains how concepts of materialism and well-being are interpreted within and among nation-states.  As materialism becomes a measure of well-being–money, power, and prestige set a precedent for valuing human existence in a Spenserian creed of “all against all”. 

Mishra reviews the beliefs of Voltaire, Nietzsche, and Kant to show how materialism, supermen, and human perception control the course of history.  Voltaire ranks wealth; Nietzsche ranks power, and Kant ranks perception as measures of human worth.

Mishra suggests anger has risen through generations, within and among nations, that explain world wars, genocidal acts, and atrocities beyond imagining.  That anger exhibited itself in the murder of an innocent woman in Valle Verde Park, California in April of 2019.

Pittsburgh Synagogue Murders (11 Dead, 6 wounded in October 2018.)

Poway, Valle Verde Park, CA Synagogue–murder of one and injury to three in April 2019.

It is fair to say that there have been respites from this cycle of violence.  But, unless or until human beings see themselves as part of the same society, the world will end in the Armageddon of biblical imagination.

MORE OR LESS FREE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Privacy, Property, and Free Speech: Law and the Constitution in the 21st Century

The Great Courses Series

Lectures by: Professor Jeffrey Rosen

JEFFREY ROSEN (AUTHOR, AMERICAN ACADEMIC, LEGAL HISTORIAN, PROFESSOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL)

JEFFREY ROSEN (AUTHOR, AMERICAN ACADEMIC, LEGAL HISTORIAN, PROFESSOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL)

The public sector continually revises laws regarding the internet.  Laws passed by government attempt to regulate internet use, ownership, and censorship by redefining freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of religion, and the freedom from want and fear. Technology encroaches on privacy with internet access by the public and private sectors. 

Are Americans more or less free in the 21st Century? 

Professor Jeffrey Rosen in “Privacy, Property and Free Speech” leaves the question unanswered.  However, he clearly frames the question for listeners to draw their own conclusion.  It is difficult to give a definitive answer for three reasons.  One, new technology redefines freedom.  Two, September 11, 2001 redefines security.  Three, globalization redefines nationalism.

Government classifies organizations and decides which can legally access the internet.  Government is in the process of defining who can own the internet and how access can be regulated.  Government has the power to censor information that it views detrimental to the freedoms historically held by Americans.  Control of internet use, ownership, and censorship by the government encroaches on freedom.

WOMEN'S RIGHTS MOVEMENT

Women, in some men’s lives, are expected to bear children, be silent, cook and clean house, be dependent on their husbands, and respect males in all circumstances of life.

Professor Rosen addresses the issue of property by lecturing on women’s rights and the right of government to claim eminent domain on property owned privately that can be taken for the public good.  In addressing women’s rights, Rosen reviews the history of Roe v. Wade and implies that the judicial system may have acted too quickly by not allowing the States and the general public to fully address the issue.

Rosen is equally conflicted by the government’s right to claim eminent domain.  He notes how confiscation of private property at fair market value has a spotted history of success when claimed by the government for the public good.  In some cases, the taking has resulted in failed projects; in others, like Baltimore’s revitalized harbor, the taking revitalized a neglected and deteriorated landmark.

EMINENT DOMAIN

Rosen notes how confiscation of private property has a spotted history of success when claimed by the government for the public good.

The American judicial system encroaches on the freedom of women to choose and the fifth amendment clause says private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The private sector uses the internet to define consumers.  What an internet user purchases becomes a profile factoid used to pander to consumer desires.  The detailed profile can affect the price advertised and the personalized pitch made by a retailer.  Private sector search engines use consumer profiles to pitch private sector businesses for advertising.  Consumer manipulation by the private sector encroaches on freedom.  Web-based profiling steers the public by profiling individuals and algorithmically congregating personal information.

ONLINE PRIVACY

What an internet user purchases becomes a profile factoid used to pander to consumer desires.


Terrorism is like lighting in a storm; i.e. it is a force of nature that can strike anyone at any time.  Governments have changed the world of travel by invading the privacy of minds and bodies to reduce the chance of a terrorist act.

9.11.01TRADE CENTER ATTACK

The Trade Center tragedy redefines security for America and the world.  September 11th convinces the world that there are no unbreachable terrorist constraints. 

GUANTANAMO

Rosen suggests governments cross the line when citizens are detained or incarcerated for what they think rather than what they do.  The fear one has is that thought becomes grounds for prosecution. 

To the extent that terrorism is like lightning in a storm, one can only wait for the storm to pass.  Invading one’s privacy and arresting citizens for what they think is a slippery slope to totalitarianism.

PREHISTORIC HUMAN KIND

When the first man and woman joined together as a couple; when the first tribe became a hunting and gathering troop, and when the first hunter-gatherers became part of a farming community, freedom diminished

There is less and less room for nation-state nationalism.  Encroachment on privacy, property, and free speech are inevitable in the 21st century (and beyond).  Freedom’s encroachment is an inherent part of civilization. 

Despite Brexit and nationalist sentiment of Trump supporters, all human beings are citizens of one world.

The last lecture in Rosen’s series is about the right to be forgotten.  Now, we are citizens of nation-states; tomorrow we will be citizens of the world.  With each regrouping, there is diminished freedom. 

The last bastion of freedom will be “the right to be forgotten”. 

It will be a programming code designed to volition-ally erase one’s identity.  This volitional reboot will be with less rather than more freedom because of the nature of becoming part of a larger human congregation.

Professor Rosen offers an excellent and informative outline of America’s history of privacy, property, and free speech.  A listener will draw their own conclusions about present and future freedoms from Rosen’s lectures.  My view is that freedom has always been thankfully limited.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Mislaid: A NovelMislaid

Written by: Nell Zink 

Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell

NELL ZINK (AMERICAN NOVELIST)
NELL ZINK (AMERICAN NOVELIST)

Sexual orientation, and what became known as LGBT rights, is hotly debated in America.  Four rulings between 1996 and 2015 changed the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.  The Supreme Court invalidated a state law banning protected class recognition based on homosexuality; invalidated sodomy laws nationwide, denied the validity of the “Defense of Marriage Act”, and made same-sex marriage legal in America.

Nell Zink validates the direction of society’s recognition of LGBT rights in her book “Mislaid”.  Zink creates four characters who illustrate how American equal rights for the LGBT community are changing.  Lee, a husband, is gay.  Peggy, his wife, is lesbian.  Being gay or lesbian is a label implying gays only have sex with men and lesbians only have sex with women.  “Mislaid” suggests that is a myth.  Lee and Peggy clearly express their preference for same-sex liaisons; however, being gay or lesbian is a preference; not an inviolable mandate or predilection.

sexual orientationHumans may be seduced by the pleasure of sex regardless of sexual orientation.  Though both Lee and Peggy are noted to have same-sex preference, they become man and wife and bare two children during their marriage.  Just as the words gay and lesbian are labels, the same can be said of bisexual.  Sexual acts are fundamentally gender neutral.

CHILDREN
Zink implies that sexual preference is a happenstance of genetics, not parental influence.  Current science and sociological studies reinforce that belief.

A second myth that is exploded is that the children of gay and/or lesbian parents produce sexually confused offspring.  Both the son and daughter of Lee and Peggy are heterosexual.  Zink implies that sexual preference is a happenstance of genetics, not parental influence.  Current science and sociological studies reinforce that belief.

Love between Lee and Peggy is not part of their sexual relationship.  At best, it is a partnership of circumstance and convenience.  Lack of love leads to divorce when their son is nine and their daughter is three.

PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE 2Lee is the dominant presence in the relationship.  Lee psychologically abuses his wife with extramarital affairs and ridicule that is focused on Peggy’s unrealistic literary ambition. Peggy’s reaction is to act out by driving her husband’s favorite car into a lake and eventually leaving her husband.  Peggy expects to take both of her children with her but their nine-year-old son refuses to leave; in part because of Lee’s labeling of Peggy as psychologically unbalanced (another frequently misused label).

GENDER INEQUALITYEach child grows up in starkly different environments.  The boy becomes an academic athlete at William and Mary while the girl becomes a struggling scholarship-aid student at the same school.  Their independent upbringing represents two ends of the spectrum of growing up in America.  One, is a life of upper middle class wealth; the other a life of poverty.  One shows the privilege of being a man and the difficulty of being a woman in a world largely controlled by men.

“Mislaid” could have been a much better novel.  It deals with life’s complexity very well, but fails to engross its listener in its characters.  A reader/listener’s empathy is rarely tapped by a story full of potential.  However, Nell Zink deftly and intelligently covers a host of subjects that warrant the time it takes for the public to read or listen to “Mislaid”.  It provides a better understanding of the LGBT community.  It illustrates how much more difficult it is for an American woman than an American man to raise a child on her own.

THE LAST ROYAL FAMILY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial RussiaThe Family Romanov

Written by: Candace Fleming

Narrated by: Kimberly Farr and Others

CANDACE FLEMING (AMERICAN AUTHOR)
CANDACE FLEMING (AMERICAN AUTHOR)

CZAR NICHOLAS II OF RUSSIA (1868-1918)
CZAR NICHOLAS II OF RUSSIA (1868-1918)

Candace Fleming offers an intimate look at the life and death of the last royal family of the Czarist empire.  The intimacy of the profile is reinforced by personal letters, contemporary literature, and historical accounts of the 1917 Russian revolution.  Fleming reaches back to the beginning of Czar Nicholas’s reign 23 years earlier and ends with the families slaughter in the basement of a house in Yekaterinburg, Russia. East of Moscow and southeast of St. Petersburg.

The ignominious death of the last Czarist family is confirmed by DNA analysis of the remains of the family in 1992.  Two of the children are missing in the first discovered grave site; e.g. the son Alexei and a daughter thought initially to be Marie, but later found to be Anastasia.  The mystery of the two missing children is solved when a nearby grave is found in 2007.  Through further DNA analysis, Alexei’s and Anastasia’s remains are confirmed.

ROMANOV FAMILY (1913 PIC., MURDERED 1918, LEFT TO RIGHT-OLGA, MARIA, NICHOLAS II, ALEXANDRA, ANASTASIS, ALEXEI, AND TATIANA)
ROMANOV FAMILY (1913 PIC., MURDERED 1918, LEFT TO RIGHT-OLGA, MARIA, NICHOLAS II, ALEXANDRA, ANASTASIS, ALEXEI, AND TATIANA)

YAKOV MIKHAILOVICH YUROSKY (1878-1938, CHIEF EXECUTIONER OF NICHOLAS II AND HIS FAMILY)
YAKOV MIKHAILOVICH YUROSKY (1878-1938, CHIEF EXECUTIONER OF NICHOLAS II AND HIS FAMILY)

The entire Romanov family is guarded by the Red Guard, a rag tag military force, made of workers, peasants, Cossacks, and former soldiers.  This unconventional troop is under the influence of Bolshevik revolutionaries; recruited at Vladimir Lenin’s direction.  This rag tag troop is replaced later by war hardened soldiers commanded by Yakov Mikhailovich Yurosky.

Fleming notes that Yurosky’s family had been victims of Nicholas II’s feckless reign.  Undocumented orders are given to Yurosky to murder the royal family and their servants.  Fleming suggests the impetus for Yurosky’s orders is the White Guard (an anti-communist force opposing Lenin’s Bolsheviks) nearing Yekaterinburg.  No written record is discovered showing Lenin or any particular Bolshevik leader directed the murders.  However, Lenin approves of the murders after the fact.

IMAGE OF IPATIEV HOUSE WHERE THE ROMANOVS WERE MURDERED
IMAGE OF IPATIEV HOUSE WHERE THE ROMANOVS WERE MURDERED

Fleming describes the preparation of a basement room in the Ipatiev House for the murders.  All furniture is removed.  The family and their servants are awakened in the middle of the night, taken to the basement, and shot like horses in a slaughter-house.

The first shot, fired by Yurosky, kills the Czar.  Soldiers empty their rifles on the remaining family and servants.  The children are wearing clothes that are secretly lined with jewelry which initially act like bullet proof vests.  Shots ricochet around the room and the children must be shot again to end their lives.  A truck is waiting outside the house.  The bodies are thrown into the truck and taken to a dense forest where they are buried.

Days later the White Guard arrives.  They find the house in anticipation of a rescue but find the house empty.  They search each room and find evidence of the royal family and finally reach the basement.  It has been cleaned but blood stains can still be seen on the baseboards and floor.

ALEXANDER III (1845-1894, FATHER OF NICHOLES II, EMPEROR AND AUTOCRAT OF CZARIST RUSSIA)
ALEXANDER III (1845-1894, FATHER OF NICHOLES II, EMPEROR AND AUTOCRAT OF CZARIST RUSSIA)

Fleming describes the 300 year (1613-1917) Romanov family as privileged, rich, and powerful.  Privilege, wealth, and power diminishes in equal measure as Czar Nicholas II inherits the throne.  Nicholas II’s father is characterized as a bull of a man who brooks no disagreement from either his family or the Russian people.  At 6’ 3”, Alexander III dwarfs his son who is 5’ 7”.

In complete contrast to Alexander, Nicholas is characterized by Fleming as effete and non-confrontational.  He both reveres and fears his father.  When the Russian poor challenge Alexander, after Nicholas’s grandfather’s more accommodating rule, Alexander III reacts to revolts with bullets and blood; i.e. any resistance to autocracy is crushed by Alexander III.

When Alexander dies, Nicholas attempts to emulate his father’s autocratic rule but carries none of his father’s physical or mental toughness.  Nicholas rarely acts as a leader and only commends surrogate actions taken by subordinates.  When his ministers shoot unarmed civilians on their own volition, Nicholas commends them for their prompt action in defending the throne.

Fleming gives the example of the 1905 Russian revolution when the poor attempt to meet with the Czar but are repelled by the Czar’s guard.  Many peasants are murdered.  The peasant’s intent is only to meet to discuss what can be done to raise wages and improve their lives.  The Czar chooses to commend his guard for their violent response without considering the legitimacy of the peasants demands.  Nicholas only cheers other’s actions that protect his rule.  Nicholas never directs actions of subordinates; he never leads.

GRIGORI RASPUTIN (1869-1916, RUSSIAN PEASANT, MYSTICAL FAITH HEALER, FRIEND AND COUNCILOR TO CZAR NICHOLAS AND HIS WIFE)
GRIGORI RASPUTIN (1869-1916, RUSSIAN PEASANT, MYSTICAL FAITH HEALER, FRIEND AND COUNCILOR TO CZAR NICHOLAS AND HIS WIFE)

Nicholas’s lack of leadership is compounded by a marriage to Maria Feodorovna.  Maria becomes Nicholas’s enabler.  She supports his style of non-decision decision-making.  Maria is a devout mystic that believes all things that happen are by the grace of God.  When something goes wrong, it is the will of God.  Not only does Nicholas rely on his wife’s counsel but Maria’s belief in mysticism opens the door to one who says he is God’s messenger.  Such a one comes to the aid of Maria.  His name is Grigori Rasputin.

Fleming notes that the Czar and Maria are anxious to have a boy child to ensure succession to the throne.  They have four girls before Alexi is born.  The birth of Alexi is attributed to a mystic, before Rasputin, that convinces Maria she will have a boy child.  When Alexi is born, Maria’s belief in messenger’s from God becomes unshakable.  Sadly, Alexi is found to have hemophilia.

APP2000120688592
VLADIMIR LENIN (When Russia most needed a strong decisive leader, they had an inept and weak Czar.  The support of the people diminished with the progress of the war.  The leadership vacuum is filled by Vladimir Lenin and a mythic communist philosophy of power to the people.)

The die is cast.  Rasputin and the support he receives from the royal family tarnish the god-like image of the Romanovs.

As WWI begins, the fall of the Romanovs is assured.  When Russia most needed a strong decisive leader, they had an inept and weak Czar.  The support of the people diminished with the progress of the war.  The leadership vacuum is filled by Vladimir Lenin and a mythic communist philosophy of power to the people.  With promises to peasants and workmen that live under the thumb of an aristocratic totalitarian system, Lenin justifies another kind of totalitarian system.  Fleming implies that Lenin may have softened terrorist communism if he had lived but Stalin took the reins after Lenin’s death.  The rest is a history of the worst mass murderer of the twentieth century.

Fleming offers an interesting and intimate view of the last Czar’s family.  It is not laudatory but one comes away from the story feeling that the death of Nicholas and his family, like Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, were the result of changing times; not their ineffective, injudicious rule.  They deserved to be dethroned but not murdered.  Money, power, and prestige corrupts all human beings–rich, poor, religious, and secular.  Democratic regulation, not violence; social justice, not vigilantism; peace, not war are the needs of humankind.

BIRDS FLY SO WHY CAN’T I

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

 The Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers

Written by: David McCullough

Narrated by: David McCullough

DAVID McCULLOUGH (TWO TIME PULIZER PRIZE WINNER)
DAVID McCULLOUGH (TWO TIME PULIZER PRIZE WINNER)

“The Wright Brothers” must have wondered—Birds fly, so why can’t I?  David McCullough writes and narrates a memoir of the Wright Brothers that perfectly turns wonder into reality.  Orville and Wilbur Wright are the first to design, build, and fly an airplane that demonstrates human control of flight.  They were not the first humans to fly, but they were the first to fly like birds; i.e. with nature and intent.  Before the Wright brothers, flying is left to man’s faith in God and luck; after the Wright brothers, flying is firmly within the grasp of humanity.

Two farm boys are raised in a family of seven (a mother, father, sister, and two brothers).  Neither Orville, or Wilbur are college educated.  Both are born to a mother who graduates from Hartford College, as the top mathematician in her class; a woman who became a housewife to an ordained minister, and an example to her children. Through nature and nurture, Orville and Wilbur become the talk of Dayton, Ohio, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Paris, Washington DC, and, eventually, the wide world.

ORVILLE WRIGHT (1871-1948)
ORVILLE WRIGHT (1871-1948)

WILBUR WRIGHT (1867-1912)
WILBUR WRIGHT (1867-1912)

Wilbur is a student athlete and scholar in high school.  He goes to Hartford College, like his mother, but (unlike his mother) never graduates.  Orville is the younger of the two by 4 years.  Orville never finishes high school.  McCullough describes the boys as tinkerers with ambition and a burning desire to understand how birds fly.  With extraordinary observational skill, hard work, and persistence, Orville and Wilbur observe birds in flight, build and tinker with flying machines, and meticulously repeat experiments in human flight.

WRIGHT BROTHERS' BICYCLE SHOP
WRIGHT BROTHERS’ BICYCLE SHOP

With income from a bicycle business they start in Dayton, Ohio, they begin designing their first glider.  After completing their design, they make parts and assemble their air vehicles at the bicycle shop.  They search for an area of the country that has the wind and landing characteristics they need to test their glider.  They are invited to an area of North Carolina because of the wind and sand characteristics of the area.  Their first flight is on October 5, 1900 near Kitty Hawk but it is flown more as a kite; without a pilot.  After the first experiment, Wilbur takes flight as a pilot, while helpers tether the glider from the ground.  These first flights lead the brothers back to the drawing board for control-feature re-design.WRIGHT UNPOWERED AIRCRAFT

The brothers return in 1901, with a new glider.  The new design, allows the ribs of the wings to flex to allow adjustments in flight.  They find the flexing refines control of the glider in their Dayton shop where the re-design and reassembly occur.  They create a wind tunnel to help with a re-design of glider controls.  They add a rear rudder to improve the steering capability of the flyer.  At this point, McCullough explains that the brothers begin flying in earnest to improve their skill in maneuvering the glider.  Orville and Wilbur realize earlier failures, by themselves and others, will be repeated by pilots without extensive experience with aircraft controls.  McCullough reinforces the historic truth of the Wright brothers’ invention of the first airplane. Without the brother’s creative control features, airplanes would be too dangerous to fly.

WRIGHT'S 1903 FLYER ENGINE
WRIGHT’S 1903 FLYER ENGINE

CHARLES TAYLOR (1868-1956, DESIGNED THE FIRST ENGINE FOR THE WRIGHT BROTHER'S AIRPLANE)
CHARLES TAYLOR (1868-1956, DESIGNED THE FIRST ENGINE FOR THE WRIGHT BROTHER’S AIRPLANE)

Once the aerodynamics of flight are understood, the Wright brothers turn to the idea of a motor to complete their vision of human flight.  Searching the nation for a light weight engine to power their glider, they find no engine fits the bill.  By good fortune, the Wright brothers become friends with Charles Taylor.  Taylor takes over management of their bicycle shop while they are refining their gliders.  Taylor happens to be a master mechanic.  He hand-builds an engine to power the first airplane motor by boring a block of aluminum for pistons to provide 12 horsepower to the Wright’s first airplane.  On December 17, 1903, the first flight of a motorized airplane (an airplane with directional controls) takes place at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

WRIGHT'S 1903 FLYER
WRIGHT’S 1903 FLYER

McCullough notes that neither Orville or Wilbur ever marry.  They are a close family, raised by a loving father who is often absent because of his Bishopric duties and a mother who surprises local residents with her ability to manage the household, repair broken tools, and raise such self-reliant children.  The brother’s sister, Katharine Wright is the only child to graduate from college.  She becomes the boy’s surrogate mother when their birth-mother is invalided in 1886 and dies in 1889.  Katherine becomes the first woman to fly as a passenger with Wilbur in Paris.

WRIGHT BROTHERS FAMILY (COMPOSITE PHOTO, LEFT TO RIGHT-WILBUR, KATHARINE, SUSAN, LORIN, BISHOP MILTON, REUCHIN, AND ORVILLE)
WRIGHT BROTHERS FAMILY (COMPOSITE PHOTO, LEFT TO RIGHT-WILBUR, KATHARINE, SUSAN, LORIN, BISHOP MILTON, REUCHIN, AND ORVILLE)

KATHARINE WRIGHT (1874-1929, SISTER OF WILBUR AND ORVILLE WRIGHT)
KATHARINE WRIGHT (1874-1929, SISTER OF WILBUR AND ORVILLE WRIGHT)

THOMAS SELFRIDGE (1882-1908, PASSENGER ON 1908 PLANE CRASHED IN ORVILLE WRIGHT'S DEMONSTRATION OF FLIGHT TO THE AMERICAN ARMY)
THMAS SELFRIDGE (1882-198, PASSENGER ON 1908 PLANE CRASHED IN ORVILLE WRIGHT’S DEMONSTRATION OF FLIGHT TO THE AMERICAN ARMY)

In the many flights that Orville and Wilbur take, there are several crashes. The worst crash is when Orville is demonstrating their latest airplane to the Army.  According to McCullough, the crash is caused by a mechanical failure that kills an Army Lieutenant as a passenger on Orville’s flight.  Orville is nearly killed but is nursed back to health by Katharine.

In most of Orville’s and Wilbur’s flights, they fly separately to assure the continuation of their company should one or the other be killed.  As fate would have it, Wilbur dies from typhoid in 1912.  Orville lives until 1948.  They created a company in 1909 that sold planes to the U. S. Army and a French syndicate.  Orville sells the company in 1915 but stays involved in aeronautics for the remainder of his life.  He became a member of the Board of Directors for NASA.

Several lawsuits were brought to challenge patents created by the Wright brothers on their airplane designs; none of the challenges succeeded.  McCullough implies “The Wright Brothers” story is proof of the truth of the American Dream.  With hard work, persistence, and intelligence, success is every American’s opportunity.  In recent years, ghosts of past and present, challenge that belief.  But, for white Americans in the early twentieth century, the dream is made real by McCullough’s entertaining and informative story about the Wright family.

 

 

SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com
 

The Hunt for Vulcan:…And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the UniverseThe Hunt for Vulcan

Written by: Thomas Levenson

Narration by:  Kevin Pariseau

THOMAS LEVENSON (US SCIENCE WRITER AND DOUMENTARY FILM-MAKER--DIRECTOR OF THE GRADUATE PROGRAM IN SCIENCE WRITING AT MIT)
THOMAS LEVENSON (US SCIENCE WRITER AND DOUMENTARY FILM-MAKER–DIRECTOR OF THE GRADUATE PROGRAM IN SCIENCE WRITING AT MIT)

Thomas Levenson offers a vignette of history about the methodology and adventure of scientific discovery.  Scientific discoveries seem rarely hit upon in a linear fashion.  Discovery comes from study of natural phenomena that frequently reveal the unexpected.  Few can deny the brilliant and insightful discovery of the laws of motion and gravity by Isaac Newton.  Among great science discoverers, none seem to achieve the utilitarian application of science more than Newton.  At least for those who view earth as the primary laboratory of science.

ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879-1955)
ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879-1955)

Then came Albert Einstein.  Newton’s laws of gravity and motion work beautifully for practical application on earth.  However, Newton’s laws of motion and gravity are error prone when applied to the universe.  Einstein expands Newton’s laws of gravity and motion by discovering the relativity of time, mass, and energy.  With theories of specific and general relativity, the universe becomes the laboratory of science.

URBAIN LE VERRIER (1811-1877, FRENCH MATHEMATICIAN AND DISCOVERER OF NEPTUNE)
URBAIN LE VERRIER (1811-1877, FRENCH MATHEMATICIAN AND DISCOVERER OF NEPTUNE)

A French mathematician named Urbain Le Verrier, using Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation, calculates an odd variation in Mercury’s orbit of the sun in the 1840s.  Because of an infinitesimal statistical variation, Le Verrier concludes there is an unseen object effecting the orbit of Mercury as it travels around the sun.  Le Verrier is right when he notes there is a variation but wrong about its cause.  The variation Le Verrier finds is based on Newton’s laws as applied to the universe.

Through a similar analysis, Le Verrier had famously predicted the planet Neptune would be found based on a statistical anomaly in the orbit of Uranus.  Neptune is visually discovered in September 1846 by Heinrich d’Arrest, one month after Le Verrier’s published prediction.  Le Verrier instantly gained fame as the discover of planets by using Newton’s laws of gravity and motion.  When Le Verrier notes a slight variation in Mercury’s orbit, professional and amateur astronomers begin looking for another unknown planet.  The name of that mysterious unknown planet is Vulcan.

THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET LABELED VULCAN
THE IMAGINED PLANET CALLED VULCAN

The myth of this planet is applauded by the press and public after an alleged sighting by an amateur astronomer in rural France.  Though this is not the only astronomer that confirms the sighting, it is popularly accepted because of Le Verrier’s support of the amateur, and his renown for having predicted the discovery of Neptune.  Until Einstein’s discovery of specific relativity, Vulcan is presumed to exist.  When Einstein discovers the curve of the universe, the Vulcan planet is figuratively destroyed.

Searching for undiscovered planets and celestial objects is a perennial obsession of professional and amateur astronomers (note the presumed dwarf planet discovery recently announced by Canada-France-Hawaii’s celestial search of the Kuiper belt).  What Thomas Levenson reveals in his history of Vulcan is how science advances with analysis, missteps, revisions, and new discoveries.

SIR ISAAC NEWTON (1642-1727)
SIR ISAAC NEWTON (1642-1727)

The methodology of science becomes refined by the mathematics of Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation and further refined by Einstein’s laws of relativity.  It is Newton’s laws that lead to Le Verrier’s mathematical recognition of Neptune.  It is also Newton’s laws that lead to Le Verrier’s mistake about the planet Vulcan.

The misstep of finding a false planet is confirmed by Einstein’s discovery of a fault in Newton’s laws.  Le Verrier’s statistical analysis leads to one observation-ally confirmed planet and one falsely sighted planet but Newton’s limited theories of motion and gravity lead to science’s revision and a new avenue of discovery for natural phenomena.

One presumes there is a new Newton or a new Einstein in the world’s future because it is the nature of science to continually renew itself with a more comprehensive understanding of the universes we live in.  SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERYThere is no foreseeable end to science except in the extinction of humanity.  One hopes human science and evolution keeps pace with earth’s environmental change.

WOMEN ARE THE SUN

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

A Doubter’s Almanac: A Novel

Written by: Ethan Canin

Narrated by: David Aaron Baker

ETHAN CANIN (AMERICAN AUTHOR, EDUCATOR AND PHYSICIAN)

ETHAN CANIN (AMERICAN AUTHOR, EDUCATOR AND PHYSICIAN)

“A Doubter’s Almanac” is a 21st century classic. 

Though some may argue otherwise, Ethan Canin writes about a universal truth; i.e. “women are the sun; men are the moon”.  Canin catalyzes one’s doubt and ambivalence about life’s meaning in a story about moral transgression, addiction, guilt, and redemption.

The story begins with details of a person with a superior intellect, and an amoral life.  He is Milo Andret, a mathematician blessed with the ability to understand complex spatial relationships, even as they change shape. 

Milo is never lost in a physical wilderness but is trapped in a space reserved only for himself.  In some ways, Milo reminds one of Ivan Karamazov (Dostoevsky’s protagonist in “Brothers Karamazov”), a rationalist that denies God because of the irrationality of faith and the cruelty of life.

Canin’s character, Milo. is a boy narcissist who matures into a misogynistic adult and dies as a repentant grandfather.  Canin reveals the nature of geniuses who exploit their superiority.

Milo, like Ivan in “Brothers Karamazov”, treats others as superficial human beings who only have relevance in respect to what they can do for him.  Milo is a self-absorbed genius that begins as a naïve young boy looking for recognition from others for a superiority that he only vaguely sees in himself. 

Milo is a boy narcissist who matures into a misogynistic adult and dies as a repentant grandfather.  Canin reveals the nature of geniuses who exploit their superiority.  They will alienate others.  Some will lie to win praise.  They are awarded for presumed new discoveries that are beyond the reasoning ability of their peers.

Genius is shown to have a short productive life.  Canin describes geniuses as God’s spies because they have momentary insight to the laws of nature.  However, God designs human brains to deteriorate early in their lives.  Once past the age of 30, God’s spies are blinded by mental deterioration. 

Milo crosses that threshold just before discovering a mathematical proof that has escaped human understanding.  Canin’s story suggests Milo fudges the truth of his mathematical proof by purposefully ignoring a false calculation.

addiction

Milo, like Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, knows he has made a mistake, and punishes himself with alcohol, anti-social behavior, and misogyny.

Consciously, Milo attempts to redeem himself by teaching his son to become a mathematics topologist like himself.  His son and daughter have inherited Milo’s ability to understand complex spatial relationships.  However, Milo’s son also inherited his father’s addictive behavior. 

Milo’s son turns to mind altering drugs just as his father turned to alcohol.  They choose addiction to escape the pressure of their innate genius.  Because of Milo’s misogyny, he discounts the nurturing role of his wife and innate ability of his daughter.

All who surround Milo are sycophantic because of his mathematics reputation.  Milo knows his reputation is founded partly on a lie.  He wishes to redeem himself with a new discovery but has lost his cutting edge genius.  Milo is plunged deeper into misery by the realization that scientific discovery is an endless creation of new questions.  One great mathematics proof only leads to another question and the search for another proof.  Milo drinks himself to death, and his son is heading in the same direction.

Milo’s son abandons his mathematics career to become a financial Quant for an investment firm.  He becomes a multi-millionaire before the age of twenty by arbitraging stock and commodities by hedging price movements in the market.  The deterioration of his father’s health draws him back into the orbit of his father’s life.

The last two-thirds of Canin’s book is a dissection of Milo’s life and the future of Milo’s wife, two children, and two grandchildren.  Milos is divorced by his wife after years of psychological abuse.  His son returns to be with Milo to understand why Milo became the father and person he had become.  Milo’s daughter and wife are estranged but eventually come back to see Milo in his last years of life.

The final scenes of Milo’s life are a summation of Canin’s view of human nature.  Death is a Sisyphean struggle for Milo.  The beginning of his life is symbolized by a long chain he carves out of a single piece of wood when a boy.  It is a beginning recognition of his genius.  It is later revealed in an interview with a mathematics professor that becomes Milo’s champion and mentor in college.  This chain becomes the lynchpin of Milo’s life.  The professor recognizes topographic genius in Milo’s ability to create a perfect chain out of one piece of wood.

CARVED WOODEN CHAIN

MILO’S CARVED WOODEN CHAIN-This chain becomes the lynchpin of Milo’s life.

The chain’s linkage with seminal events in Milo’s life re-occurs when it is offered by him to his first love.  She recognizes the chain as a proof of his genius.  However, she refuses to take the chain as a gift.  His first love leaves him; partly for another man, but primarily because of her youth and the wish to experience the adventure of life.

The chain reappears at the end of Milo’s life.  The most important people in his life are present; e.g. an early mathematics competitor of Milo’s who marries Milo’s first love, his first love, his wife, his son, his daughter, and two grandchildren.  A confrontation occurs.  One of the links in the chain is chipped when the chain is thrown, by the daughter, at the husband of Milo’s first love.  Milo’s former mathematics competitor explains to the assembled group that Milo is the failure he predicted he would be when they were young.

The uproar from the mathematics competitor’s declamation reinforces two themes in Canin’s story.  One, science proofs are at best leaders to future unknowns or, at worst, false starts that are dead-end mistakes.  In either case, a genius, let alone an average seeker, never achieves a satisfying conclusion.  In searching for the unknown, life is wasted.  Second, all the genius or average seeker can do is “never give up”.

Canin has written a good story; expertly narrated by David Baker.  It is a tribute to the seekers of proof about the nature of existence.  The nature of existence seems beyond the grasp of the human mind but Canin implies neither men nor women should ever give up.

What Canin’s hero confirms is that women are the sun and men are the moon.  Nature and nurture make us who we are but the principal source of our power is the sun.