Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Taylor Wilson, Tom Clynes, & the story of playing with fusion

At the annual CAGT (Colorado Association for Gifted & Talented), I just had the pleasure of listening to non-fiction travel and science writer Tom Clynes share the story of a precocious and incredibly gifted young man named Taylor Wilson, who basically built a nuclear fusion reactor at the age of sixteen. What began as a magazine article for Popular Science became a book called The Boy Who Played with Fusion. The story of Taylor is most certainly an engaging - and quite unbelievable - one. But I am equally impressed with the skill and craft of Clynes whose keynote presentation was perfect for the CAGT crowd.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ben Sasse, Loneliness, & the Partisan Divide

Do we have "an epidemic of loneliness?" And is that what is driving the uncomfortable partisan divide that many people believe is the new normal in the United States.

Loneliness? Hmmm. Well, that's what Ben Sasse, the junior senator from Nebraska, is positing as the root of the anxiety and tension and general malaise he sees in contemporary American society. In Sasse's latest book Them: Why We Hate Each Other - and how to Heal, the senator describes how loneliness and a lack of community is the primary challenge the nation is facing. There is plenty of data to support his concerns that "Loneliness in “epidemic proportions” is producing a “loneliness literature” of sociological and medical findings about the effect of loneliness on individuals’ brains and bodies, and on communities (thank you to George Will for summarizing). Certainly, Americans are less connected to their communities than they were decades ago when the nation was smaller, less mobile, and less economically stratified. Even though people seem to be more connected to the nation as whole through media and technology, it's been pretty clear that community connections are weakening, a phenomenon described in sociological works such as Robert Putnam's well known book Bowling Alone

However, I'm not sure I agree that it's loneliness as much as it is emptiness. Not all people need people, but people definitely need something. We might be less consumed by tribalism and ideological divisions if we had more art, music, nature, fitness, wisdom, nutrition, and quiet in our lives. Solitude is not loneliness.