I love an articulate contrarian, a person that can totally change the perspective of a conversation, making everyone (within listening distance) tilt their heads and say 'hmmm, you know I never thought of it like that.' Well it's been almost 3 weeks and I'm still thinking about the 'Social Media is 32,000 Years Old' post by Paul Flanigan. Yes, in an age with no electricity, no email, no mail, no telephones, and no buildings, the foundations of social media can be found painted upon the walls of the cave. The point is this, social media is not just technology. Social media is a combination of human interaction through media and the technologies which make it easier, faster, better to create, transmit, store, and share said interactions.
It's no secret that content farms are overtly bloating the internet with vapid information. The cause? In my opinion, it's a combination of the high stakes game of getting onto page 1 of google coupled with essentially NO barrier to entry to create volumes of 'content' by outsourcing to penny-per-hour freelance writers in southeast Asia, India, and China. The truly creative content spammers take it one step further, writing perl scripts that harvest and shape-shift other people's content, cutting and smashing together disparate ideas and phrases, creating frankenstein sentences that any native speaker could identify as gibberish.
"Would it be possible to make some nano janitors to clean out my lungs?"
Initially, I laughed at this brilliant, off-the-cuff question by my youngest brother Ryan. He's known for a long time that my PhD research centered around carbon nanotubes, which, when brought up in conversation, inevitably led to my endless lectures on how these amazing materials could change everything: devices that were already small (CPUs) could become incredibly small and reduce their power consumption by factors of 100x or more; drugs could be delivered through syringes almost too small for molecules to pass through them; and the truly sci-fi applications, nano-machines that could roam the world and our bodies while doing god knows what!
Lessons Learned: I love being pleasantly surprised at how life lessons are delivered to me. When I began this journey, I tackled it like I would a series of affirmations: sticking to one component for 30+ days before moving onto the next. The goal was simple: do not take on too much and really internalize each part. It was a reasonable approach, but there were at least two flaws that I will share with you right now.
Touch screen devices are all the rage: iphones, iPads, android tablets, etc. I admit that I get a great deal of satisfaction using the multi-touch pinch movements to either zoom in or zoom out of a picture or an application window. Yes, the screens are technically a glass barrier that we cannot penetrate. But it creates the illusion, at least for me, that I can actually reach in and touch, grab, and otherwise manipulate my data. And in a world of increasing technical complexity (remember when cell phones could do nothing but make a phone call?), this return to finger-painting like simplicity is a welcome reprieve to many who say "I just want to do X" without reading a 200 page pdf.
As I sit in my chair, still chewing on my pen cap while staring across pen marked index cards and loose leaf paper, I ponder the 20+ rough drafts worth of material that I would like to share with the world. I can tell you the history of each little scribble with the same enthusiasm and vividness as a man with battle scars who, living vicariously though his favorite memories of yesteryear, smiles proudly while rattling off the number of stitches received, surgeries survived, and other key pieces of minutia. Yes, these ideas are like precious children to me. They started their lives as flickering flashes of inspiration, caught simply by careful observation and awareness in otherwise ordinary moments. This begins the panicked phase 2: a mad dash to find a clipboard and capture these ideas before (and this always happens) the narrative in my head gets marred by too many self-edits and other thoughts trying to compete for my mental RAM.
Mr. V. (my high school math teacher who, having faith in me, personally drove me to visit MIT when I even gave the slightest hint that I was afraid of not being able to handle a school of that intensity), would either be proud or offended at my new discovery in life... that 1+1=7. Clearly, yes, my calculator will never agree with this conclusion. But their job is to be boringly predictable and rigid, reporting on the facts versus paving the way forward to the future.
I honestly couldn't figure out what was causing him to tuck his tail and cower in such fear. Linus, my 85 pound muscle of a dog, was definitely known for being scared of just about everything. His biggest fear of course was the UPS man (I still can't believe Linus tried to flee with such intensity that he pulled me over). But on this occasion, I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was tripping him off: No garage doors were moving; no people were around us; it wasn't windy. I was at a loss.
I've long forgotten many/most of the excruciatingly detailed derivations that I slogged through doing my college math and physics courses, which spanned 2 degrees over a decade. Yet it's the divergence theorem that I can always describe and remember. Why? Because of a stupid and yet powerful illustration by Craig Carter, my thermodynamics professor and thesis advisor.
I was so proud of my accomplishment: high jumping 4' while competing in my very first track meet during my 4th grade year at FFCS. It was the launch point for a 12 year career that ended with my senior year at MIT, where I upped my personal best to 6'6" (a full inch above my own height—another proud accomplishment). I had great coaches, reckless determination, and over a decade of practice.