October 17, 2006
From: David Bryson, MD (Yale 63) aka Lieutenant Breakfast
To: Potential Participants in this Project
The great futurist and science-fiction writer H.G.
Wells, who died 70 years ago, wrote, "Human history becomes
more and more a race between education and catastrophe."
Cosmopolitics column presents an exponential time series called
"human history in a hurry." The race between education
and catastrophe is now being littered with casualties. Katrina
was a catastrophe. So is the mess in Mesopotamia. Polar bears
in the Arctic and elephants in Africa are in rapid decline and
disruption. We watch and worry as the world gets worse.
Enter education to the rescue! The intellectual content of the
first 2 columns will be turned into a web-based curriculum and
conversation anticipating Darwin 2009, the worldwide celebration
200 years after his birth and 150 after the publication of the
of Species. Focus on Darwin brings the question: Who Are We
& How Did We Get Here? My panoramic pedigree from the birth
of the earth to the beginning of this uncertain century (September
24 column), mixed well with the Circadian
Theory of Learning (October 1 column), is cognitive cooking
for global whistleblowers. Bring us on!
At this grand scale of awareness, no one is to blame. Since
the onset of urban civilization, we are flying faster and faster
without a flight plan. The age of the earth (5x10^9) is about
a million times older than the first cities on its surface (5x10^3).
If the Darwinian world could speak, it would proclaim that aliens
have arrived, driving cars and dropping bombs.
The goal of this project is not peace and love, nice as that
would be. The goal is produce an unbiased neutrality about who
we are and how we got here - a big picture of time past with a
big question mark for time future. The urge for a creation story
has been universal in all cultures, and here for the first time
is a creation story with a scientific basis and an exponential
Smith is a professor of physics at Haverford College and the
host of http://physicssongs.org
. His response to Cosmopolitics: "Congratulations! Very interesting!
I'll definitely pass the web address to a few friends."
Christian, author of "Maps
of Time: An Introduction to Big History" and featured
in Wikipedia's "Big
History". That's very neat! My instinct is that perhaps
its slightly too neat, but then I'm a historian and historians
are trained to be very suspicious of neat conclusions. And when
I look closely I must admit that each of the turning points looks
plausible to me."
Eady is Science in Society Officer for the British
Association for the Advancement of Science, said by email,
"I enjoyed reading your article and wish you all the best
with your writing."
Please read the first
2 columns and listen to the NPR
interview. A second NPR
interview has been recorded and will be posted next month.
I'm now ready to hear from you directly. Email: email@example.com
October 1, 2006
Huxley suggested that bureaucracies behave stupidly because,
unlike its individual members, a bureaucracy nevers sleeps and
therefore never benefits from a fresh start in the morning of
Sleep deprivation in most mammals promotes aggression as well
as stupidity. The cosmopolitical headline here: International
Sleep Disorder Causing Epidemic Dumbness and Hostility.
Almost 40 years ago a dream starring Darwin
led to the publication of the Circadian Theory of Learning (University
of Chicago Press).
That dream was both brief and silent. As the dreamer watches
from behind a tree, Darwin puts his index finger to his lips indicating
silence is required. Then he wiggles that finger telling Freud
to follow him, and it is apparent to the dreamer that Darwin is
leading Freud into the forests of time.
Darwins finger then points to a host of many types of mammals
sleeping peacefully all around them, and then finally admonishes
Freud by wagging his finger. The dreamer gets the message: Darwin
is instructing Freud that mammals have been sleeping and dreaming
for at least a hundred million years and, therefore, must have
some important evolutionary function, something Freud never considered
when he studied and wrote about dreams in Victorian Vienna.
The dreamer awakes with a great sense of scientific adventure
ahead, and already has a one word clue... the Darwinian function
of mammalian sleep and dreaming is Learning.
discovered that the earth has two great motions revolving
around the sun, producing the cycle of the seasons, and rotating
around its own axis, producing the circadian cycle of day and
Cosmopolitics corresponds with two radical notions of time
exponential time series based on our annual revolution around
the sunstar, and now ciradian time which gives equal billing and
importance to waking and sleeping.
The engines of human history would not have started without dreams
dreams of discovery (what is) and dreams of invention (what
The circadian theory provides the best explanation of free will.
Dreams interrupt the linearity of the previous waking state, converting
a when-based record (one damn thing after another) to a what-based
record (the gestalt of categories, concepts, and constructs).
Example for parents: when your toddler in her highchair is pushing
everything food, drink,and utensils overboard and watching
each fall to the floor at some point during dreaming the
toddler realizes that everything falls, regardless of what it
is, and having now acquired a functional appreciation of gravity
the behavior recedes and disappears.
When writing, inductive logic, and non-subjective analysis appeared
about 5000 years ago, it was no longer essential for humans to
dream in order to think with power and flexibility. But if a scientist,
even with a full arsenal of mental heuristics, cannot solve a
problem or see it in a new light, then dreaming again provides
The astoundingly brilliant mathematician Ramanujan,
when asked at Cambridge how he was coming up with his perfect
gems, said that he was dreaming of the Hindu goddess of his youth
and would awake with the theorems written on my tongue.
30 minute NPR interview about the theory at http://sciencestudio.org/bryson.wma
September 24, 2006
Suppose that an alien comes into orbit around our planet, and
requests that a single human come aboard and in less than one
hour brief the alien about the human history of planet earth.
Here is Human History in a Hurry
LB would first show the alien his 10 fingers, and explain that
this is why we use a 10-based counting system. It is a nice coincidence
that the exponential time series 5x10^9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1,0 works
perfectly for the base 10, has 10 elements, and needs each element
to be multiplied by 5 to fit the planetary, evolutionary, and
To conclude the intro to the briefing, LB would note that mathematical
concepts of Approximation and Scaling are embedded in the series,
and that so far neither of these concepts can be simulated by
Artificial Intelligence. Only the human mind can grok the informational
value of approximation and scaling.
With 55 minutes to go, the briefing begins
5x10^9 (about 5 billion years ago) a supernova explosion
just 1 light year away from the solar nebula sends a massive shockwave
into the solar/planetary disc, resulting in a large number of
planets (about 10, more at first in unstable orbits). Shortly
thereafter one of these protoplanets crashes into the early earth,
and like a billiard ball hit on its side, the collision produces
a rapidly spinning earth, setting the stage for the evolution
of a biphasic (waking and sleeping) system of learning, two time
5x10^8 (about 500 million years ago) the first fish, our
5x10^7 (about 50 million years ago) the first monkeys,
beginning the brainbranch of evolution with a prominent cerebral
cortex equipped with a biphasic/circadian system with its continuous
interaction of learning from the waking state, reorganized during
sleep. (LB now gives the alien a copy of the theory of learning,
published by the University of Chicago Press, in 1969, when the
first humans were landing on the moon. The moon is the result
of collision described at 5x10^9.)
5x10^6 (about 5 million years ago) the first humans, the
big brained biped.
5x10^5 (about 500,000 years ago) the first helpless offspring,
for at least 5 years. The pelvic outlet within the hips of the
human female can get no bigger, due to biomechanical restrictions
for walking and especially for running. For the first time in
evolution, there is huge brain growth after birth, inside the
cranium of the helpless neonate/infant/toddler.
5x10^4 (about 50,000 years ago) the first language and
the first symbolic thought..
5x10^3 (about 5000 years ago) the first writing, the first
cities, the first top-down/top-dog hierarchies, and the first
post-Darwinian dynamics inside cities, inside hierarchies, and
from the military activities of permanent armies. (LB uses the
example of pyramid building, where the afterlife of the pharoah
is more important than the life of the slave who builds the pyramid.
This is patently post-Darwinian.)
5x10^2 (starting about 500 years ago) the first printed
books with movable type, the merging of the hemispheres with the
Voyages of Discovery, the modern world (Copernicus and Columbus
5x10^1 (starting about 50 years ago) the first computers
for purchase, everything escalates, especially human population
and environmental damage.
5x10^0 (the first 5 years of the 21st Century, 2001-2005)
global warring anywhere and global warming everywhere, bookended
by 9/11 and Katrina.
With the briefing now completed, LB tells the alien of the converging
consensus that the next 10 years (2006-2015) are critical to somehow
avoid irreversible damage and even more human suffering, and asks
the alien for help