Weekend Thoughts - 9.2.17

Image  by  cydog66 , courtesy of  Creative Commons  licensing.

Image by cydog66, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. It's that time of year again—hordes of people are flocking to Black Rock City, Nevada for the life-changing, transformational festival known as Burning Man. Modern-day cities could stand to learn something about urban infrastructure from the awesome and totally bizarre architecture that is found at the festival. Sure—it's controlled chaos, but the fact that the 2,000 organizers and volunteers are able to build and take down a 70,000-person city in just two months is an amazing feat. Not only is the scale and speed impressive, but the structures and artwork are visually stunning and innovative as well. If you haven't taken a look at any images from Burning Man before, check out this photo gallery of insane pictures from the previous years of Burning Man.

2. Neuroscientist, long-time meditator, and bestselling author Sam Harris believes that the scientific community should take back the word "spirituality". In essence, the underlying argument is that spirituality can be used to describe "a 'soaring feeling', a feeling of poetic wonder in the face of our sublime and incomprehensible cosmos, or the works of extraordinary human beings". Although the term is usually used to relate to religious or mystical events, Harris is asking the agnostic and atheistic communities to reclaim the word, because it does a better job of describing a domain that cannot be accurately represented by words like "awe" and "well-being", or "love" and "positive psychology". Those words simply don't go deep enough to provide a full understanding of the concept, nor do they address and acknowledge the traditional etymology that surrounds "one of the richest sources of meaning within the human experience". I tend to agree with him on many matters (Harris is also an honest and rigorous seeker of truth), and this is one topic I certainly agree with. However, I'd like to add that I don't see any problem with using the word "spirituality" to relate to matters of religion and mysticism as well. In fact, I think the main issue here is the negative opinion that these communities have about religion, and Harris is attempting to get these people to open their minds a bit. Many scientists, academics, agnostics, and atheists can stand to do just that!

3. There's been yet another update to the TRAPPIST-1 system story this week when scientists found evidence of water on five of the planets orbiting the ultra-cool dwarf star. Bear in mind that the star system is 39 light years away and that the data and telescope technology available at this time cannot decisively prove that water currently exists—nor that it ever existed—however this is pretty exciting news!

That's all for this week's edition of Weekend Thoughts. Until next week, keep thinking wilder.