Friday, July 13, 2018

Personal Note: Gary Ropp Has Passed Away at Age 65, May He Rest in Peace

Gary Allen Ropp, 1952--2018 RIP
Gary Allen Ropp, aged 65, crossed over to the spiritual plane at 4:10 AM on Friday, July 13th. The dog started barking around 2:15 AM, alerting me to an emergency. I found Gary passed out and gasping for breath on the floor. He was unresponsive. The ambulance arrived within minutes. The medics were unable to revive him to consciousness, although there was a weak pulse. He passed away from a massive heart attack soon after arriving at the hospital. 

Before and after his death, I quietly recited “Onward and Upward” to him, as a reminder to go forward with eyes up, seeking the Light of God. I also asked Franny and Zoey, our recently deceased dogs, to come out to greet him and help him over the Rainbow Bridge. I prayed to Christ and to the All to receive him. Gary was raised in the Christian church and was Born Again and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Now it is up to his soul to complete its journey home; I will continue to recite “Onward and Upward” for a full week as recommended by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, just in case he forgets his place in Christ and his soul is confused and wandering.

Gary and I were married for 38 years. We met in an advanced-placement math class on our first day of high school. He went on to do very well in math, majoring in math and statistics, and taking a Master’s degree in Math from the University of Idaho. Gary served for eight years in the U.S. Navy and then spent his civilian career as an operations manager in support of Navy personnel management. After retiring from civil service, Gary went to work as IT support for the College of the Siskiyous in Weed, California. Gary and I also co-owned and operated a bed and breakfast in Ashland, Oregon, the Albion Inn,  from 2008 through 2014, commuting between Ashland and Weed for six years.

Gary was a wonderful pet parent and he doted on the family cats and dogs. He was a thoughtful husband who didn't mind grocery shopping, vacuuming, and taking care of our large yard. Aside from the pets, Gary’s favorite hobbies involved games—board games, card games, computer games. He had endless patience inside game worlds, and he enjoyed exhausting every single challenge a video or VR game threw at him. He was also a world traveler and always up for an adventure. He is now adventuring his way up to heaven where he will be able to see and understand it all.

Gary Ropp, 2017

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Critical Thinking: Dr. Puett's Classroom Blessing

My brother, Dr. Bill Puett, retired from teaching philosophy a few years ago. This is the handout he gave to every student who passed through his classrooms over the years. I hope they remember the lesson and are practicing it. This is what an enlightened electorate would look like:

"Other than your living a loving and compassionate life, I wish for you more than anything that you become autonomous. Be fully informed on all important matters and apply critical thinking before making choices. Regard no one as an authority, challenge all beliefs, but listen to others before reaching decisions. Before offering criticism, know an opposing position so well that you can argue it better than the opponent proposing it. In so doing, you may risk your own position. Challenge even well founded beliefs. Reject indoctrination, even from the sciences. Theories never become facts. Not even the earth can be shown to orbit the sun! Once in a while, give Santa's beard a tug."

Cyd's brother, Bill Puett, Ph.D.

Monday, July 2, 2018

First confirmed image of the birth of a planet--arising from a torus!

In the article below, scientists refer to the torus around the baby planet's home star as a "proto-planetary disk."  You will recognize the familiar pattern as what the Simple Explanation calls a "proto-torus." 
This is the first clear image of a planet caught in the act of formation around the dwarf star PDS 70.
It's always fun for me to see scientists run across new toroidal patterns, as each instance confirms my hypothesis that the basic material in our universe arises out of toroidal energetic patterns aggregating into material form. In this case, the energetic material is likely growing out of the center of the proto-disk and aggregating into this new planet rather than the other way around--it is not merely matter trapped by the sun.

Here is a reprint of the July 2, 2018 CNN article by Ashley Strickland, announcing the new planet:

A planet-hunting instrument has captured the first confirmed image of a newborn planet that's still forming in our galaxy.
To the right of the black circle at the center of the image, the round bright planet can be seen within the disk of gas and dust around the young dwarf star PDS 70. Of course, the center isn't naturally this dark. Instead, the researchers used a coronagraph to block the bright light of the star in order to look at the disk and the planet.

It's carving out a path through the disk around the star, which is in the Centaurus constellation. The protoplanetary disk is the "planet factory" full of gas and dust around young stars. The planet was found in a gap in this disk, which means it is close to where it was born and still growing by accumulating material from the disk.

The planet, dubbed PDS 70b, was detected by an international team using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile and its planet-hunting instrument, called SPHERE. The instrument is considered to be one of the most powerful planet hunters in existence.

The discovery by two teams of researchers is detailed in two papers published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on Monday.

"These discs around young stars are the birthplaces of planets, but so far only a handful of observations have detected hints of baby planets in them," Miriam Keppler of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, who led one team, said in a statement. "The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc."

André Müller, also with the Max Planck institute and leader of the second team, said in a statement that "Keppler's results give us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution. We needed to observe a planet in a young star's disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation."

SPHERE was able to measure the planet's brightness at different wavelengths, which enabled the researchers to determine the properties of its atmosphere.

This is incredibly challenging, because even though SPHERE used the coronagraph to block the star, it had to seek out the planet's signal in multiple ways.

Researchers were able to determine that it's a giant gas planet and has a blisteringly hot surface temperature of 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit. This is at least a few times the mass of Jupiter, the largest gas giant in our solar system, and well above the highest temperature recorded on any planet in our solar system.

They also deduced that it has a cloudy atmosphere.

Although the planet looks close to its star in the image, it's 1,864,113,576 miles away. That's the same distance as Uranus from our sun. It takes the planet 120 years to orbit the star, which fits with astronomers' predictions that gas giants would need to form quite far from their stars.

Directly imaging the planet is a game-changer. Going forward, researchers will be able test models of how planets form and learn more about the history of how the earliest planetary systems formed, like our own solar system.

"After more than a decade of enormous efforts to build this high-tech machine, now SPHERE enables us to reap the harvest with the discovery of baby planets!" Thomas Henning, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and leader of the teams, said in a statement.


Proto-torus shape. Energy from the middle; containment from the boundary. Chalk drawing by Cyd Ropp.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Process Note: the absurdity continues...Cyd Onstage in "Once"

The musical production of "Once, the Musical" has just finished its run, but it turns out we are not allowed to post videos from the show. So, I've pulled a couple of still frames out to post instead.  If you are one of my friends, followers, or family, please email me and request the videos. I am allowed to privately text or mail them; just not post to social media. I've converted the videos to mp4, so they are small and easy to mail.

I was understudy for the character of "Baruska," usually played by Livia Genise, and I had the opportunity to plug into four of the shows on her behalf. This production was directed by Valerie Rachelle and featured so many wonderful actors and musicians. I was honored to be among them.
Cyd Ropp (center, gold jacket) as Baruska, in Oregon Cabaret Theatre's production of "Once, the Musical." With Charlotte Morris, Paul Henry, Michael Spencer, Olivia Nice, and Christopher Fordinal.
In the scene below, my character, Baruska, tells a tragic parable about lost opportunities in Czech, which her daughter simply translates as, "Good luck!" The two other actors onstage are "Girl" played by Olivia Nice, and "Guy" played by Christopher Fordinal. 
 Uh oh. Busted. So quickly, too. videos removed by union rules. Here's a still shot instead.

In this scene, Baruska (Cyd Ropp) joins with the flat's Czech roommates to sing "Ej Pada Pada."  Spivat!

What a great production and wonderful theatre company. Terrific troupe of players! Please visit this link for complete list of production credits. True professionals in every job! I thoroughly enjoyed working with so many people who knew what they were doing and did it so well.

Thank you, Oregon Cabaret Theatre, for the opportunity!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Apocalyptic Visions. Part 2: Intolerance

The first article in this Apocalyptic Visions series presented a review of the Simple Explanation's theory of memes. Again, we use the term "meme" to stand for a belief or a tidbit of knowledge. These memes are passed around to our friends like trading cards--most of our close friends hold the same meme cards we do; that's why they are our friends. The more memes you hold in common with someone else, the more you like them. The opposite is also true--we have a difficult time relating to people who hold a different set of memes.
Here is the bottom-line of the previous Apocalyptic Visions article:

The Simple Explanation suggests that "live and let live" would be a great meta-meme for everyone to adopt. If we could appreciate the fact that each of us has a unique perspective, then perhaps we could allow each other to hold the memes that make the most sense for our lives. This is my meme chord; that is your meme chord. If I don't like your meme chord then I can talk it over with you and see if we can move our meme chords closer to one another in agreement. If neither of us is able or willing to swap memes with the other, then so be it. Either accept the other person, memes and all, or move on. Find someone else who more closely agrees with your memes. There is enough room in this world for each of us to hold our own chords, but only if "live and let live" is an overarching meme.

We are now in the midst of a social epidemic of intolerance. Intolerance is the opposite of "live and let live." When we are intolerant of others' memes, we are declaring that our memes are correct and their memes are wrong. And then we take it a step further--we refuse to "tolerate" the others' memes. We throw up resistance, we throw up roadblocks, we close our ears and refuse to listen to the other. We do not merely disagree, as reasonable people may do from time to time. When we are intolerant, we look for ways to force the other to abandon their memes and adopt ours. We shout them down because we feel we are shouting the right memes and theirs are not only wrong, they are evil and have no right to be heard. And once you declare the other "evil," it is no longer a disagreement in good faith, but a fight for the soul. 
Anti-fascist counter-protesters wait outside Emancipation Park to hurl insults as white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and members of the "alt-right" are forced out after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images
Once words can no longer be exchanged, frustration builds and violence follows. This is what we are seeing now in the U.S.  Free exchange of memes has been thwarted because of intolerance. 

Exchange of ideas is the key. You needn't agree with the other person, but you must hear them out. Because, once you agree to sit and exchange ideas and concerns, whether or not you adopt the other's ideas, the very act of hearing each other out creates a shared space that acts as a balm to soothe your soul and theirs. When you are too angry, frustrated, or afraid to listen to the other, you perpetuate the intolerance that leads to violence. This intolerance is not helpful. 

We hear a lot about the importance of "diversity" nowadays in America. True diversity can only thrive if we allow each other to "live and let live." When you seek to silence those with whom you disagree, you are not encouraging diversity; you are actually partaking in fascism. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Simple Explanation of Depression and Its Cure

Depression and suicide is on the rise and in the news. The suicides of high-profile celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week coincided with the National Institute of Mental Health's announcement that suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Death from suicide is twice as likely as accidental death, and if you are a male your risk of suicide is four times higher than a woman's. As the chart below shows, from 1999-2016 the total suicide rate rose from 10.5 persons per 100,000 to 13.4 suicides per 100,000. 
Figure 1 shows the age-adjusted suicide rates in the United States for each year from 1999 through 2016 for the total population, and for males and females presented separately. During that 17-year period, the total suicide rate increased 28% from 10.5 to 13.4 per 100,000. The suicide rate among males remained nearly four times higher (21.3 per 100,000 in 2016) than among females (6.0 per 100,000 in 2016).
During this same period of time, the use of antidepressants in the U.S. rose by 65%, as 13.9% of Americans turned to chemical solutions for their anxiety and depression. Mind you, these statistics don't even take into account the tremendous numbers of people who self-medicate through recreational substances like alcohol and marijuana. 
Clearly, the antidepressants aren't doing their job, as more people than ever before feel so miserable they would rather die. While there are many medical and scholarly explanations floating out there for all of this unhappiness, there is one truly Simple Explanation and cure. Here it is:

Humans need to join with others in common purpose, working side-by-side and hand-in-hand, to build something greater than themselves for the good of all.
This principle is known as "The Great Commandment" in religious literature. I call it the Simple Golden Rule. If you are depressed, here is how this Simple Golden Rule applies to you:

You need to join with others in common purpose, working side-by-side and hand-in-hand, to build something greater than yourself for the good of all.

This principle is also known as "Harmonious Cooperation." In other words, we are social creatures that need to contribute to society in order to feel satisfied. We are designed (or evolved, if you prefer) to work with others for the greater good. When we are not able to contribute, we feel bad.

So look around you and find someone or something that needs your positive contribution and get involved. Plug yourself into the job that needs doing and do your part to help. As Wayne Dyer put it in his commentary on Verse 68 of the Tao, "See the ball, move the ball." Meaning, as you do your best to help your teammates move the ball toward the goal, you also personally benefit by doing your part. Now you feel better. Your teammates feel better. The team is better off because of your contribution.

Johann Hari's best-seller, Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions, goes into all of this in detail, if you would like a deep dive into the importance of this principle and how to activate it in your own life. Hari puts it this way:

“It was only a long time into talking with these social scientists that I discovered every one of the social and psychological causes of depression and anxiety they have discovered has something in common. They are all forms of disconnection. They are all ways we have been cut off from something we innately need but seem to have lost along the way.” p. 59

Hari lists seven types of disconnection that form the roots of depression that need reconnecting in order to restore peace and happiness: "You need to have meaningful values, not the junk values you've been pumped full of all your life, telling you happiness comes through money and buying objects. You need to have meaningful work. You need the natural world. You need to feel you are respected. You need a secure future. You need connections to all these things. You need to release any shame you might feel for having been mistreated" (p. 256).

Hari concludes, "Because you have been given the wrong explanation for why your depression and anxiety are happening, you are seeking the wrong solution." I concur. 

Meditate on this and let it seep in:  "need to join with others in common purpose, working side-by-side and hand-in-hand, to build something greater than myself for the good of all. 

Now find a project you can help with and do your best to contribute.

Seriously, that's the simplest way I can put it. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Repost: A debate over plant consciousness...

I'm reposting this excellent, fact-based article, written by  for Quartz. The science presented in this article supports the Simple Explanation's view of consciousness. If you are new to the Simple Explanation blog, be sure to read these Simple Explanation articles on consciousness, too. 
Cheers.  dr cyd


A debate over plant consciousness is forcing us to confront the limitations of the human mind

 The inner life of plants arouses the passions of even the mildest-mannered naturalists. A debate over plant consciousness and intelligence has raged in scientific circles for well over a century—at least since Charles Darwin observed in 1880 that stressed-out flora can’t rest.
There’s no doubt that plants are extremely complex. Biologists believe that plants communicate with one another, fungi, and animals by releasing chemicals via their roots, branches, and leaves. Plants also send seeds that supply information, working as data packets. They even sustain weak members of their own species by providing nutrients to their peers, which indicates a sense of kinship.
Plants have preferences—their roots move toward water, sensing its acoustic vibes—and defense mechanisms. They also have memories, and can learn from experience. One 2014 experiment, for example, involved dropping potted plants called Mimosa pudicas a short distance. At first, when the plants were dropped, they curled up their leaves defensively. But soon the plants learned that no harm would come to them, and they stopped protecting themselves.
But does any of this qualify as consciousness? The answer to that question seems to depend largely on linguistics, rather than science—how humans choose to define our conceptions of the self and intelligence.
Plant biotechnologist Devang Mehta, for one, says the answer to the question of whether plants are conscious “is unreservedly no.” In a February article for Massive Science entitled, “Plants are not conscious, whether or not you can sedate them,” he vehemently opposes the notion that plants can be conscious or intelligent.
Mehta was responding to a New York Times story (paywall) about a 2017 study in Annals of Botany. Researchers had arrested plant motion with anesthetics—a new take on a 1902 experiment by biologist and physicist Jagadish Chandra Bose, who used chloroform to put plants to sleep. The Times wrote that the vegetal response to anesthetics suggests that plants are intelligent. Basically, the article argued that to lose consciousness, one must have consciousness—so if plants seem to lose consciousness under anesthetics, they must, in some way, possess it.
The Grey Lady was making a major leap when it suggested that plants responding to anesthetics indicates intelligence, according to Mehta. He explains:
For one, definitions of consciousness and intelligence are hotly contested even when talking about humans and animals. Second, plants lack a nervous system, which has long seemed requisite for discussion of animal-like behavior. Third, while the way in which many anesthetics function in humans is still a mystery, there is no reason why they or other chemicals shouldn’t induce a response in any organism, let alone plants.
Mehta believes that plants deserve respect. He just thinks confusing their qualities and abilities with those of humans is unnecessary anthropomorphizing. Venturing into the territory of philosophers, he argues that in order to qualify as “conscious,” a thing must be aware of its self-awareness, or meta-aware.
Danny Chamovitz, director of the Manna Center for Plant Biosciences at Tel Aviv University in Israel, says that plants are neither conscious nor intelligent, though they are incredibly complex. Plant awareness shouldn’t be confused with the human experience of existence. He tells Gizmodo, “All organisms, even bacteria, have to be able to find the exact niche that will enable them to survive. It’s not anything that’s unique to people. Are they self-aware? No. We care about plants, do plants care about us? No.”
The thing is, Chamovitz can’t prove that plants don’t care about us. No one can, really. We know that hugging trees, literally, makes us feel better. It has a medicinal effect. But we can’t test the reciprocity of this—whether plants love us back, or feel good when we care for them.
Green philosophy
Philosopher Michael Marder, meanwhile, says we’re underestimating plants. The author of Plant Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life, Marder tells Gizmodo, “Plants are definitely conscious, though in a different way than we, humans, are.” He notes that plants are in tune with their surroundings and make many complex decisions, like when to bloom. Marder concludes, “If consciousness literally means being ‘with knowledge,’ then plants fit the bill perfectly.”
That said, Marder admits that we can’t know if plants are self-conscious, because we define both the self and consciousness based on our human selves and limitations. “Before dismissing the existence of this higher-level faculty in them outright, we should consider what a plant self might be,” he says.
Marder points out that plant cuttings can survive and grow independently. That suggests that if plants do have a self, it is likely dispersed and unconfined, unlike the human sense of self. It’s notable, too, that many scientists and mystics argue that the human feeling of individuality—of being a self within a particular body—is a necessary illusion.
He further argues that because plants communicate with one another, defend their health, and make decisions, among other things, they may well have some sense of self, too. He explains:
The project of an ongoing vegetal integration through feedback loops and other communication strategies and mechanisms may be considered analogous to what we, humans, define as self-consciousness. The trick is to let go of our fixed association of biological, if not psychological, structures and the functions they fulfill, imagining the possibilities of seeing and thinking otherwise than with the eye and the brain. Maybe once we manage to do so, we will finally become conscious of plant consciousness.
Stuck in the self
Because we are steeped in an ancient tradition of human-centrism, we believe that our experience of life is what defines consciousness, and that our brain’s processes are the height of intelligence. But there is some evidence that other modes of existence are equally complex, which suggests that other living things have arguably intelligent or conscious experiences.
Evolutionary ecologist Monica Gagliano insists that plants are intelligent, and she’s not speaking metaphorically. “My work is not about metaphors at all,” Gagliano tells Forbes. “When I talk about learning, I mean learning. When I talk about memory, I mean memory.”
Gagliano’s behavioral experiments on plants suggest that—while plants don’t have a central nervous system or a brain—they behave like intelligent beings. She says that if plants can summon knowledge about an experience repeatedly—as was the case with the potted plants that stopped curling their leaves after they learned they would come to no harm—then plants are clearly able to remember and learn from experience.
Gagliano, who began her career as a marine scientist, says her work with plants triggered a profound epiphany. “The main realization for me wasn’t the fact that plants themselves must be something more than we give them credit for, but what if everything around us is much more than we give it credit for, whether it’s animal, plant, bacteria, whatever.”
She’s aware of the criticisms of fellow scientists, who warn against anthropomorphizing vegetation. But she argues that there is no other doorway to understanding the inner life of all these other beings. Thinking about ourselves provides a subjective sense of a tree or a shrub’s inner life, but it doesn’t preclude the possibility that vegetations may be leading a rich existence in its own right. On the contrary, it propels us to explore the difficult questions about their lives. “To me, the role of science is to explore, and to explore especially what we don’t know. But the reality is that much research in academia tends to explore what we already know because it’s safe,” she argues.
Acknowledging plant intelligence could put us in an awkward position. Perhaps there is nothing we can eat that isn’t some form of murder, not even salad. Moreover, if we discover plant kinship relations are real, we’ll need to acknowledge that cutting trees down for furniture means splitting up families. More than that, expanding definitions of consciousness and intelligence could mean admitting we’ve been limited in our worldview altogether. What if everything around us is intelligent in its own way, and we’re just not smart enough to see it?
“I’ve been talking to people who work with amoebas and the slime molds and it’s the same all over,” Gagliano tells Forbes. “These guys, the critters, are amazing. They do stuff that we don’t even dream of. And by not dreaming of it, we assume that it does not exist.”

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Trump's N. Korean Strategy--Welcome to High Society, Mr. Kim!

As you know, the border village of Panmunjom recently hosted the historic meeting of the Presidents of South and North Korea, Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un. The two leaders shook hands, shared cold noodles, hugged, and vowed as a common goal to completely denuclearize both Koreas. They said they wish to realize a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and finally bring an end to the long war. 
photo credit: Korean Press Pool 
From what I see on the news, it looks to me like diplomatic experts and commentators are misreading the event, and I'd like to give you my simple two cents on the matter. This is my opinion, of course, but let's see if I turn out to be right...

Yes, we all know that North Korea has a record of prevarication and false promises. But last week's summit between the two leaders looked genuine to me. I think the two Korean Presidents have come to a true rapprochement, and that both sides want nothing more than peace. We shall find out soon enough whether or not the doubts of the dubious prove themselves out. Meanwhile, the declarations of the two Presidents are sufficient to allow both parties to retire their nuclear ambitions with no loss of face, so why go throwing shade on Kim Jong-un's motives or North Korea's current capabilities? Congratulations are due them both!

Now, with a stipulation that the rapprochement is genuine and Kim Jong-un truly desires to retire from the role of ignorant backwater despot, why would he still wish to meet with President Trump? This is why:

Do you understand now? Kim Jong-un admires President Trump. He would like to be friends with President Trump. He would like to learn how to live like President Trump. He wants to know where to eat and where to shop and where to golf and, gosh, just everything! Of course he does! Why the heck not?! And if all three Presidents share the Nobel Peace Prize this year--would that be so bad?

Cyd Ropp, Ph.D.
A Simple Explanation of Absolutely Everything