Archive for March, 2009

“The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds” says Theo Jansen, a Dutch artist and Kinetic sculptor.  Jansen uses light weight materials to create life like inspired “animals” which collect the wind into lemonade bottles.  The animals later release their stored energy to roam alone along beaches and deserts.  There is a mystical beauty in his creations.  He has been called the modern day DiVinci.

Theo Jansen Animaris Percipiere

Bio-mechanical perfection.

Jansen’s mechanical wonders are able to sense their surroundings.  Some can detect the dry sands to change direction before they become stuck.  They can tuck their sails to protect themselves from high winds or even detect the ocean water to reverse their steps and head back towards the dunes.  All of this is achieved through purely mechanical methods.

In Holland, Jansen intends for roaming herds of his mechanical animals to carry sand from the waters edge to the dunes as a method of protecting the dunes from erosion.  These herds will wander along the beaches with no human assistance and no need for power except that which is collected from the wind.

In Jansen’s work, beauty, intelligence and creativity are indistinguishable from one another.

If you liked this story, you may also enjoy: Math to Metal: The Art of Bathsheba Grossman

More Theo Jansen:

Wikipedia

BMW Commercial (1:06)

Strandbeest – The Spirit Within (2:58)

Animaris Rinoceros (0.19)

TED – Ideas Worth Spreading (10:10)

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Munch, Death in the SickroomReligious cancer sufferers are more likely to employ extreme measures to postpone an inevitable death than are the non-religious.  This is the finding of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this month.  Journalistic reporting on this study has generally focused attention on the seemingly paradoxical finding that the most religious people appear to avoid “meeting their maker”.  So, is the finding contradictory to what one would expect from the faithful?  Let’s come back to that.

The study participants were all dying of cancer, which means they had the somewhat unique experience of knowing, at least roughly, when they would die.  That must be a psychologically stressful experience for many.  After all, death is a rather big transition (understatement).  For the devout, death is a precursor to judgment as well.  I doubt many talked much about that, but it must be on their minds.  The fact is, death is a bigger deal to the devout than to the atheist whose expecting little else than lysis of the cellular membranes followed by the spilling of intracellular contents once  their biologically sustaining functions have ceased, and then, nothing.

I relate to the devout, I was once a devout fundamentalist Christian.  My purpose in life was the avoidance of sin, the conversion of others and the constant study of scripture.  But I can also relate to the atheist because I was raised by my parents to be an atheist. I am at neither extreme now, but having spent much of my life at the extremes, I empathize with the experience of both groups and I did not find the researchers outcome to be surprising.

For an atheist, or at least for this atheist, the love of life was undermined by a deep sense of meaninglessness.   I think the full scope of this is hard for many to grasp.  The ultimate purposelessness of life and the universe is so weighty as to render all relative meaning and purpose as inconsequential.  As a result, depression becomes a natural outcome, and even seems quite rational to the atheist.  I was deeply depressed throughout my childhood. I have come to believe it was the black hole inside me, left by the absence of spirituality.  It is no wonder that the atheist does not pursue drastic end of life measures.

I converted to Christianity at 19 and the pendulum swung full arc.  Ultimately, despite my youth, I became an important leader in my church.  As such I taught bible studies and counseled other members on a weekly basis.  I came to the realization that many deeply devout practitioners had become that way, at least in part, due to an overwhelming fear of death; a fear which propelled their devotion.  Others among the most devoted were reacting to a deeply painful sense of guilt and worthlessness.  Such a negative self worth appears humble and  righteous when expressed religiously.  It is not paradoxical to imagine such people taking extraordinary measures to extend their final hours.  I left my church five years later and since that time I have never fit nicely into any religious description (you might say I am post-denominational).

Ultimately, as Shakespeare once mused, death is that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns.  It’s presence in our minds, whether ominous or victorious, gives weight to our lives.  The finite length of a lifetime imparts an immeasurable, if earthly, value to our final moments; and perhaps an infinite value to our souls.

Reference:
JAMA
Economist

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Where the Wild Things Are is an upcoming 2009 film adaptation of the Maurice Sendak children’s book of the same name.  The book has introduced so many children into the addictive world of imagination.  Some of us still live there much of the time!  My children love this book as I did long ago, but I am doubly excited about the movie as the musical score includes one of my recent faves, Arcade Fire which you will hear in this trailer.

The film will be directed by Spike Jonze and written by Dave Eggers and combines live action with suitmation (industry term for a guy in a big monster suit), animatronics and CGI. Its release is currently scheduled for October 16, 2009.  Something to look forward to!

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arne_garborgFor money you can have
everything it is said.
No, that is not true.

You can buy food, but not appetite;
medicine, but not health;
soft beds, but not sleep;
knowledge but not intelligence;
glitter, but not comfort;
fun, but not joy;
acquaintances, but not friendship;
servants, but not faithfulness;
grey hair, but not honor;
quiet days, but not peace.

For money you can have the husk of all things,
But not the kernel.
That cannot be had for money.

Arne Garborg, Norwegian Writer (1851-1924)

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shakespeare-twitter“Brevity is the soul of wit” according to the great bard, William Shakespeare.  The same applies to the social networking fad, Twitter.

What is Twitter? It is a website that allows users to post very short messages, called “tweets”, which will be seen by their “followers”.  Honestly, that is about it.

So why are people  excited about it?  With a little wit, effort and dedication, one can build a large following.  So large in fact, that a simple tweet can drive a lot of traffic to a blog or sales site, thus influencing ideas and purchases.  In fact, I recently conducted a Twitter experiment to help promote this blog.  I plan to post about that soon.

The defining feature of Twitter is the 140 character limit per tweet.  At first, this limitation seems extraordinarily annoying.  But there is wisdom in this design, and this feature is at the heart of Twitter’s success.

It truly is an art to learn how to say something effective with as few words as possible.  Is it possible to move the world of public opinion in 140 characters or less?  Consider the following example from history.

Perhaps the worlds greatest example (in my humble opinion) of saying the most with the fewest  words would be the preamble to the American Constitution which is as follows:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (BTW, This preamble, with some abbreviation, would fit comfortably into two Tweets.)

No words have had a greater impact on the history of political thought than these.  They accomplish a number of things we should not take for granted.  They establish “the people” as the seat of sovereignty, vs an abstract entity like “the state”.  Next are the enumerated roles of legitimate governments.  And lastly, they move to introduce the Constitution itself, the foundational document of what would become the most powerful nation in the world.

My point is this… Creative Brevity changes the world.

Ah, Brevity really is the soul of Twit(ter).

Follow SpillSpace on Twitter

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Arnold Palmer and Tom SullivanTom Sullivan (famous blind musician) met Arnold Palmer (famous golf legend) and said “Arnold, I can beat you at golf, I know I can, it doesn’t matter that I am blind, I will bet you $1000 that I can beat you.”

Arnold says “Tom, you know I respect your accomplishments and I know you have overcome many obstacles and you pursue so many sports despite your blindness. But Tom, you can’t beat me, I am a golf legend. I would be practically stealing your money.”

But Tom was irrefutable and persistent and finally Arnold grew weary and a bit irritated and said “OK Tom, you are on. I’ll take your $1000 bet and I will beat you any time, any where, you just name it!”

Tom replied “Tonight! At midnight!

The moral of the story: Every obstacle is an opportunity when viewed from another perspective.

Mark Victor Hansen tells this great story, you may know him as the creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.
Tom Sullivan also authored the book “If you could see what I hear.”

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mri

This post was inspired by a true story and the numbers are all real…

A friend of mine I will call “Mark” began suffering from moderate low back and neck pain. Occasionally the pain would shoot down an arm or leg. He went to see his doctor who ordered two MRI’s at a local hospital. “Mark” is a self-made millionaire and as such, finds health insurance to be unnecessary opting instead to pay his bills himself.  “Mark” decided to shop around for a bargain, and he found one… in Mumbai, India.  Here are the numbers.

$3700: The cost for MRI’s of the Cervical and Lumbar spine in an American hospital.

Compared to:

$100: The same MRI’s in a hospital in Mumbai, India by American trained physicians.

$1080: Round trip tickets to Mumbai, India.

$340: One week stay at the luxurious Four Seasons Mumbai.

Total Cost for an MRI vacation to India: $1520

Total savings for a patient willing to take a vacation to India and outsource their medical care vs going to the American hospital 3 blocks away: $2180


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