May 8, 2017 – Random Thoughts for a Random Day

Today I realized just how packed the month of May is.  Between graduations, birthdays, weddings, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and the odd work day, he month seems to already have gotten away from me.  The sheer volume of events this year has turned me somewhat ADHD, which led me to a number of random, interconnected thoughts as I started my week.

It started with history. As I mentioned yesterday, I have been watching a series on empires and today’s viewing was on Greece and the rise of philosophy.  I was a little surprised to learn that the great Greek general Themistocles was one of the generals at the battle of Marathon.  He later proved his ingenuity when meeting and defeating the Persian empire in the shallow seas around Greece with a huge navy of triremes, which were mainly used as missiles to ram and sink opposing ships.  For those interested in military history, the story of Themistocles is a good one.  The more random thing I learned, however, dealt with the runner sent to the Spartans to appeal for help in the battle of Marathon.  While everyone knows the legend of Pheidippides running 26.2 miles from Marathon to Athens to proclaim the victory, he actually never made that run.  It was the Athenian army that marched back the 26.2 miles the day after the battle.  People confused that march with the actual run of Pheidippides.  His actual run to Sparta for help was even more impressive.  Rather than the paltry 26 miles, Pheidippides covered 140 miles in 2 days.  This is just another case where the truth is even better than the legend. 

While pondering that, I got distracted yet again, this time getting sacked into a discussion on numbers.  I have always been intrigued by interesting numbers and today I found a few more that surprised me.  It started with the concept of the number zero, which did not exist for ages.  This led me to two interesting numbers for today.  The first is 1,000,000,007, which is the smallest 10-digit prime number with the maximum number of repeating numbers.  A more interesting number to me, however, is 3435, which is the sum of each of its digits raised to their own power. This means if you add 3 cubed, 4 to the 4th, 3 cubed, and 5 to the 5th power, you get the number 3435.  There are many other interesting numbers, but these are the ones that jumped out to me today.

Then I shifted gears a bit and started thinking yet again about the concept of “fake news”, media bias, wiki leaks, and the problem of the echo chamber.   I still have no solution other than for everyone to take a step back and, as advised previously, independently seek the truth, but I did have a few thoughts about the whole problem that are probably worth further exploration. My first thought is that we can’t solve this problem as long as people are too lazy or opinionated to examine all sides of an issue dispassionately.   I posted awhile ago that when we seek the truth, we don’t have to fear the results.  Even if we don’t like the truth we find, at least we can evaluate and respond based on it rather than false assumptions.  The second point I considered was that this isn’t a new phenomenon.  People have had biases since the beginning of humanity and we have spent most of that time trying to convince each other our biases are correct, so the concept isn’t new, just the tools we are using.  That led me to my final thought, which was the importance of breaking through the echo chamber.  Google, Facebook and Twitter have made it a matter of pride to feed us ads and links that support our biases.  If you regularly go to the Huffington post and do searches on Rachel Maddox, you will more than likely be fed more liberal links and ads, while if you hit Fox News and Breitbart you are more likely to be fed conservative content.  While it is not bad to read similar thought, it is limiting to not read anything that disagrees with your point of view.  It is hard, but worth it to understand the broader picture by understanding those who agree and those who disagree with us…and to learn to disagree agreeably.

There were many other random thoughts running through my mind today, but most of them were about inane things, like how the size of a bag determines how much stuff I will pack (it sounds obvious but the next time you get ready to go on a trip select a larger bag and see if you don’t cram it full).  I hope you all have a great week and…oh, look, a squirrel…

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