Why Climate Justice?


Seeking justice is what love looks like in public.    -Cornell West

Climate is the most public show on earth.      -the guy who makes windows.

Why Does the Unicorn Curb It’s Wrath in the Embrace of a Virgin?


I could claim that this is an exploration of deep issues in the philosophy of science. It is. But the real reason for offering it – it’s funny.

Early in my overly long career as a graduate student at CCNY,  Dan Zwanziger came up from NYU to talk about magnetic monopoles. You’ve never heard of a magnetic monopole? It’s not really a gap in your education.  In 1928 Paul Adrian Maurice Dirac, a British physicist, took the newly discovered basic equation of quantum mechanics and found a generalization consistent with Einstein’s special relativity. It predicted the anti-electron a.k.a the positron which was observed in 1932. Another discovery of his theoretical work was the magnetic monopole. An ordinary magnet has two poles – a dipole.  Dirac said a single –  mono – pole could live alone on his particle.

Mike Arons, from the high energy theory group, introduced Dan as the world’s leading expert on magnetic monopoles.  Dan reprised the old joke about an expert being a person who knows more and more about less and less. Since there was not one shred of experimental evidence for the existence of the magnetic monopole, he graciously claimed the title of the world’s leading expert – on nothing.  He compared the question of magnetic monopoles to some of the big questions of the past. In particular, “Why does the unicorn curb it’s wrath in the embrace of a virgin?”

Dan then described Dirac’s argument about why the magnetic monopole ought to exist. At the end of the talk,  Danny Greenberger put up his hand. “I have the answer to your question. It is an ill-posed scientific question, because, after all, a virgin is a mythological entity.”

…the Cosmos is Reborn each Year …


…because, at every new year, time begins ab initio.”1,2


The view from what was once known as The Women’s Annex of Harvard.


Originally built for the Harvard men who died in World War I, the Memorial Church spire rises in the distance.

New Year’s, as we moderns know it, is not a religious holiday. But it has a faint spiritual echo – an echo of sacred time. In sacred time ‘the rebirth’ of the yearly cycle really is ‘the birth’ of the cosmos:

“…sacred time is indefinitely repeatable.”3

What calls forth sacred time from the normal course of profane time? Ritual.

For Ayla who got me thinking again, after many years, about the sacred. Most especially for Alex who brings it forth for me.

1 Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, Harcourt 1987 p.73

2Eliade is referring to sacred time.

3ibid. p. 69. {Gratuitously pedantic in the age of mouse-click cut and paste. 🙂 }

On Anger


“You will not be punished for your anger,

you will be punished by your anger.”


Seated Buddha Gandhara 2nd Century Ostasiatische Museum
Seated Buddha from Gandhara 2nd Century CE in the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Berlin [Photo: WikiMedia Foundation; English Wikipedia User: PHG]

Anger is useful.      – One half of Harvard’s pair of World Historical Jacks.

Anger has failed to evolve past it’s primordial usefulness. – the guy who makes windows.

Sidney leaves us: a sentiment unsent.


Sidney was a big picture guy. I wrote this in March of 2005 not long after the Sidneyfest. I wasn’t sure if it was good enough to publish. I wasn’t at all close to Sidney so I don’t know if a lesson applies. If you are close to someone, the lesson is simple, but comes in two parts;

1. Shower the people you love with love. – Sweet Baby James

2. Do it while you can. – the guy who makes windows

In theory, some things could have been said better, but not by me(3/18/05). As for Où allons-nous? The incompleteness or incompletability of theoretical physics doesn’t matter. The incompleteness of political economic theory does. Economic engineers, mistakenly called ‘policy makers’, have gone to treacherous lengths to conceal this. Their willingness to use any weapon, whether “smart” or merely brutal, is leading us to rack and ruin. Despite some gestures otherwise, we’re still “staying the course.” The gestures were just head fakes.

Belated Black History Month.


Harriet Tubman House, Roxbury, Massachusetts - as seen from Massachusetts Avenue.

I’m a day late and more than a dollar short celebrating Black History Month. I started this project in February 2005 and it’s still not done. The page became an orphan [no inbound links] when I added pages. It was the beginning of the Iraq Veterans against the War tour and in April there was the Desiree Goodwin vs. Harvard trial. I was essentially trying to blog with bare html. It gives you a lot of freedom, but you have to keep track of everything yourself. If you get distracted – orphan pages. Three essays, High Cotton, Phd from the Edge of Hell , and Peeking Across the Color Line, are still unfinished. [Constructive comments might help me finish them.] I’ve spent a good part of my adult life on the back of the bus. I’ve learned from the people I’ve met there.

Sidney on progress in theoretical physics.


[This edition is for the tribe. I will elaborate this so that even those who have not taken calculus will understand it. In short, I will cause the blind to see and the deaf to hear. To those of you in need of such miracles, y’all come back now hear?]

Half way through Physics 253, Quantum Field Theory, after introducing vacuum diagrams Sidney would observe:

In Classical Mechanics, you can only solve the two-body problem exactly. The rest is approximation. In General Relativity, you can only solve the one-body problem exactly. The rest is approximation. In Quantum Field Theory you can’t even solve the no-body problem exactly. This is progress?

I don’t know when he started telling this story. Probably before String Theory had its Cambrian explosion of vacua. I think I heard him ad lib on this point, but I never heard it worked into his routine. Maybe somebody else did?

Sidney leaves us: And yet …


Entrance to Jefferson Hall 250. The new LISE building in the background.

Sidney used to tell a J2501 full of students, “I remember which student taught me that!” The real thing. I saw it again thursday. I had seen a hint before.

1An old J250 full of students.

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