Saturday, August 29, 2009


Here in the north side of America school starts in Summer. By the end of August, usually. Along with that, there is a clear change in the campus panorama. During most of June, July and August; campus is pretty much deserted. Empty classrooms, lonely buildings, clear streets. All the food places close early. There is even no place to get a coffee in the afternoon. That's particularly annoying if ---like me--- you wake up around noon and go to work in second half of the day. Yes, long live academia!

Now the Fall term is starting. Free food in the math department to meet with the new fellows. Free food in the physics department to start up activities. Emails start arriving with the schedules for colloquia, seminars and talks. Welcome parties for the new students. Parents helping their undergrads to move in to the dormitories in the middle of the of the hot and humid day.

Hot humid days. That's summer around here. People surrender to the heat wearing shorts, sandals and t-shirts. They make a feast for the eyes. Sometimes it looks as if the beach is nearby. Formality of attire is gone. Only those that work where the jobs demands it still wear suits. But don't forget a light sweater because air conditioning makes it cold inside the some buildings.

In few days a new horde of students will hit the university campus to begin a new term, eager to learn. Activities and people everywhere. The free buses will ride more frequently and later in the night. The companies will come again for recruiting. Luring students to their talks with free food.

And I finally will be able to get coffee in the afternoon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On death

Death is the ultimate experience. You can't tell about it. You can't remember it. You can't learn from it. There is no a posteriori thinking about it. Death is the end. There is no learning from first hand experience. There is even nothing going on when you are dead! So there even is a paradox: how are supposed to experience death if you are already dead? At most you can experience the process of getting dead. The continuously vanishing of your consciousness. I think the closest thing would be the process of falling asleep, without any dream. Consciousness vanishes. Then suddenly, you wake up. And you feel that no time has passed since the moment of closing your eyes and waking up. As if time has no meaning there. There was no mental process or perception to keep track of time. Maybe death is just like that. The difference being that you never wake up again.

There are people that have being clinically death and come back to life and tell their experience. But even that's true, I wouldn't label that state as dead. For what matters here, death is definite. You don't come back from it.

Now, the process of dying itself, must affect whatever you may feel at the moment of its occurrence. I don't think it's the same dying hung from the neck than by lethal injection. Pain, one side, must be a powerful influence in whatever your last thoughts might be. A particularly curious way of dying is decapitation. Does the person is aware of the rest of the body after being beheaded? How nasty... Oh, but what about pleasure? Can somebody die feeling pleasure...?

How funny is whole matter. You don't remember your birth and you can't make much about your death. And that's because the brain wasn't fully developed at birth and it is shut down at the dying moments. Those two things are part of the definition of life, plus growing and reproducing. You may go in life without reproducing. Nevertheless, the other three are unavoidable. Growing is as certain as you are older today than yesterday. So even if you don't do anything in life whatsoever, at least you will achieve three feats.

Death seems to be the natural state. Before we were born, were we death? Perhaps not. But for sure we were not. And if we are in life, we certainly are not again after death.

Life seems to be sustained momentarily by everyone of us. Life has existed for millions of years on earth, but the living ones are always changing. Life turns out to be a something resembling a traveling wave. We contribute to it for a while and pass on the task to others. Like the atoms that make up our own bodies are continuously changing, the beings that make up the living wave are also continuously changing.

Is this a game of repetition of patterns at different levels? If you know the answer, leave it the comments. ;)