A few great videos.

Stud's human voice.

I wanted to share a few videos that I really enjoyed. Via Chicagoist and 3 Quarks Daily, respectively.

This first video comes from StoryCorps (link to their videos via Vimeo below) a group that brings a recording studio to people with something to say. Studs Terkel is featured below. I met Studs once at the Printers' Row Book Fair when I was in college. I don't know if fully appreciated then what a legend I had met - maybe I don't appreciate it now.

I would love to hear Studs' thoughts on the big news of the day - the proposed Qur'an burning in Florida on 9/11. Clearly it is protected speech and no free expression should suffer the blackmail of violent threats, but it is also clearly a shallow grab at attention (which the media is only too happy to dole out). Why does the Qur'an more deserve burning than his Bible or any kind of text? Because of some superstitious fear of a mysterious "other"? Of all the things this man could do with his Saturday, does burning any book accomplish anything? Doesn't the voice of this man's mother or father ring in his head? "What do you hope to accomplish - was that really a good idea?"

The act is disgusting not because it burns a sacred text, but because it is such a bald-faced and misguided act of religious exclusionism and hate mongering. He doesn't want to destroy the book because it is a symbol of religious oppression or foolishness, he wants to burn it because he misunderstands it as a symbol of a vast covert network of Muslim extremism (or maybe just plain Islam). He calls his group the Dove World Outreach Center - an ironic name at the least. It is a destructive act and only a very small set of destructive acts have positive effects - listening to this man speak about his idea, I don't think he can pick out the right acts from the wrong ones.

Maybe instead of paying attention to it we should just all listen to Studs.

The Human Voice from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Our subjection of beauty as a method to select the right theory describing the physical law.

I am not always a huge fan of TED videos. There are a number of great ones, but there are also many that merely give the veneer of education. Someone said that these are going to replace the university, which I find laughable as there is no room for error or useful interaction with these lectures. They are a nice place to start and offer people outside of a university setting the chance to watch some really brilliant people explain why they spend their lives doing what they do, but to really understand something you have to do more than watch a luminary describe it.

I really liked this video because it explains why we can use subjective concepts of beauty to pick out the right theory in the abstract field of particle physics. Gell-Mann stays away from explaining exactly how beautiful something needs to be in order to qualify as the "right" theory or if there are exceptions to this idea, but it is a really compelling idea about why we see beauty in the correct answer. Moreover, he stays away from explaining why something that is simple, symmetrical, universal, etc stimulates those feelings of awe or wonder, but the connection between why we see beauty in a simple mathematical expression and why we see beauty in an elegant photograph is obvious - because they explain something complicated in a disarmingly concise way. He also mentions Coulomb with whom we all became familiar yesterday.