“Origins of Art” in National Geographic

A few years ago I reviewed Werner Herzog’s documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams about the Chauvet cave art, so I was interested in this article about what it was like to photograph the cave paintings for a story in the January issue of the National Geographic. It turns out that the story itself, called The Origins of Art, is available online to non-subscribers. It’s an interesting read and covers Chauvet and other sites worldwide, considering both paintings and artifacts and putting art in the context of human evolution. The map and slideshows in the sidebar are worth a look too.

Rilke on being patient with the unknown

“…be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, translated by M. D. Herter Norton

Happy new year, everyone. I hope 2015 brings you not only answers, but also some good new questions to live with.

Alan Watts on past and present

“You cannot compare this present experience with a past experience. You can only compare it with a memory of the past, which is a part of the present experience. When you see clearly that memory is a form of present experience, it will be obvious that trying to separate yourself from this experience is as impossible as trying to make your teeth bite themselves.”—Alan Watts, from The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety

Book spine poetry: The Human Cycle

I recently took an interest in book spine poetry. I posted my first effort, The World Without Us, at another blog, Science Word Geek. Here’s a new one:

book spine poetry 3

The Human Cycle

A gradual awakening,
Moments of being,
The voyage out in search of Eden.
The immense journey from certainty to uncertainty:
Inevitable illusions, being wrong, stumbling on happiness, doubt.
The sense of an ending. Nothing to be frightened of.

I’m grateful to the authors: Colin M. Turnbull, Stephen Levine, Virginia Woolf (two titles), Leo Hamalian, Loren Eiseley, F. David Peat, Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, Kathryn Schulz, Daniel Gilbert, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Julian Barnes (two titles).

Recent Nature issue on depression

Nature recently devoted an issue to depression, and some of the articles (commentary rather than research reports) are available for free download as PDFs. Start with this infographic about depression worldwide and scroll down to the list of other titles at the bottom. All of the titles from 2014 and two from 2013 are currently available at no charge. Lots of interesting stuff there, including a comparison of research on cancer and on depression and a discussion of current ideas on what makes cognitive behavioral therapy work.

Our spacecraft, ourselves

Last week I watched live video from the European Space Agency on the day Philae landed on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko as part of the Rosetta mission. When the people in the control room first heard from the lander on the surface and burst into cheers, I yelled and pumped my fists and cried a little. Maybe that’s one reason that I Continue reading →