Interest: Breast Milk Under The Microscope

The Magic of Breast Milk, Not only is it the source of nourishment for my baby but also it looks magical under my humble microscope.

Interest: The Unbelievers

I have been waiting for this movie for a while now and it’s finally out!! I recommend watching this with a bunch of people with different religious backgrounds. It is a great way to have deep, meaningful, civilized discussion. Personally, I find it mind stimulating, especially when we live in a place where it is rare to find something stimulating and inspiring to talk about, people here are rarely honest with their beliefs because of social pressure and religious guilt or simply because they don’t want to think! It is much easier for people to accept what they have been told or have faith in something , which might be wrong,  just because it brings them comfort.  I think facing reality heads on, which science does, is more challenging and mind altering. Regardless of your belief system, watching this, hopefully, with an open mind, might give you a different perspective on how some people understand the world we live in. Watch it and let us discuss 🙂

UnbelieversPoster

For the full movie, click here.

Interest: The Scale of the Universe

What better way to understand the size of the universe than through our eyes. We are visual people and this website is absolutely amazing. There are more than 10 languages you can choose from. All you have to do is scroll to the left to see the world of the very tiny or scroll to the right to see the massive size of the stars to the beginning of time and space. I truly recommend it!

Here is the website: http://htwins.net/scale2/index.html

Scale-of-the-Universe-2012-14

Interest: My Interview With Bazaar Magazine

the-generalist-sup-yoga-kuwait
Read the full article here 

Interest: Consensus? Science Talks Event

I was very excited to attend this event in London on November 16th 2013.  To my surprise, Consensus? Science Talks was organized to raise awareness for Alfred Russel Wallace, the man who for years, in parallel with Charles Darwin, approached thoughts and observations that would lead to the breakthroughs on the theory of evolution.  I did not really know anything about Wallace or how he contributed, in writing and research before and with Darwin prior to the event, but from the quality of the speakers and a full auditoreum, I understood that this might be a case of Wallace slipping through on deserved credit in the annals of historical records.  This was confirmed when we were informed that the proceeds of this event were to be for the newly erected statue of Wallace outside London’s Natural History Museum.  Each speaker spoke about how Wallace influenced them in their own particular way. Bill Bailey, Patron of the Wallace Fund and comedian, spoke about The Making of a Jungle Hero, a documentary by the BBC of Wallace’s exploits in the Indonesian archipelago and his fervor for collecting samples. Richard Fortey, a paleontologist, spoke about the evidence in fossils and the DNA of evolution long after the death of the two great men. Richard Wiseman presented the psychological take of the sciences, and perception, for even a scientist like Wallace believed in superstition and ghosts.  Jonny Berliner, sang songs about Wallace, dark matter, DNA and a classic eighties rendition power ballad dedicated to Faraday . He was, in my opinion, the star of the event. Very smart and witty, scientific, and a talented musician. Richard Dawkins emphasized education, and how evolution is the new classics and how it should be tought in universities as a major department because evolution is in everything; examples of which were given for economics, literature, ideas, politics, environment and other compnents of any syllabus.  It was a long day and after the lectures, Entangled Bank organized an intimate dinner party at the Linnean Society of London which I had purchased tickets for.  I did not make the dinner.  I think not going was the biggest regret I will have in my life, but I was so tired and my body took a hold of me. Ghadah, prettygreenbullet.com , your business cards were too precious for me to give away anyways :), but I promise I will use them next time when I attend future events like these.

Interest: Alastair Mitchell A.K.A. Aly

I had the chance to meet Aly for 24 hours. We talked for 12 of them, on topics ranging from life, religion, philosophy, music and science.  He sang a few Scottish folk songs from long ago and never before heard in the place we were; the old dialect effortlessly moulding with our mountainous surroundings. This is a man who left his homeland, Scotland, to travel, to volunteer, to explore the world.  Not all people can do this, and especially if it comes down to leaving a developed country with all its personal, economic, and social comforts behind.  A few weeks ago, I came back from one of my own mountaineering adventures and today, along with Aly, we happen to be in Bayan Ulgii in Western Mongolia.

In the brief time we spent with Aly over lunch and drinks, then dinner and drinks, and breakfast without the drinks, I found that he is of the rare breed of people I have encountered that understands life through the analysis of experience, reason, logic, and a well-read history of both outsourced and personally sourced material.  Although brief, the time we spent was a complete pleasure, and I decided to ask Aly a few questions to share his insights and his perspectives on things.

  1. What would be considered your favorite “time to yourself” kind of activity?
  2. Where would you go to disappear?
  3. What do you think of humans, historically and presently?
  4. What is the greatest virtue?
  5. What do you think the future will look like?

Alastair-Mitchell

  1. I am not sure if I have a favorite ‘time to myself activity’. There are many things that I like to do alone and maybe, through the years, they have been different things at different times. However, consistently throughout my life, from childhood right up to now, I have always loved being in the countryside, walking in the hills and the mountains. Walking has been a consistent favorite activity; if I do not do it, I do not feel right. I used to live in London when I was a teenager and although that great cosmopolitan city has its charm, I always felt constrained by the concrete and the sheer number of people made me feel claustrophobic.  I yearned always for the wide open spaces.  I need to walk and have always done a lot of it. Reading also, has always given me great satisfaction. Although, nowadays, I do not read with the same intensity as I once did, I still love to read. Recently, whilst here in Mongolia, I have re-read ‘Les Miserables,’ that great book of 19th century Humanist Romanticism, which I read as a young man, it  was even better reading  it the second time round, as I understood more. I recently watched the film version – I loved it!
  2. Where would I go to disappear? I am not sure if I would want to disappear, at least not quite yet, but I suppose being here in Mongolia is a kind of disappearing, at least from the so-called modern world. There have been times, when here, seated upon a horse, in this wilderness, I have felt an almost primordial sense of oneness with nature and I have loved it. Gone completely has been that sense of alienation I have often felt, especially when living in a modern city.
  3. What do I think of humans, historically and presently? I was once optimistic and then I became pessimistic as a result of world events coupled with personal disappointments. The same evils seem to be perpetrated over and over again, regardless of what kind of society is in existence. But then I realized that pessimism, like optimism, were two sides of the same coin, the coin of man’s self- deception of his own self-importance. The pessimist thinks the Universe is peculiarly arraigned against them and the optimist that it is for them, in the ‘best of all possible worlds.’ The truth, I realized, is that the Universe is indifferent to the destiny of man. Although I do not agree with the general proposition of Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy, he has some interesting ideas, including the idea that humans are so constituted, that they need to struggle for existence and that once: ‘man has thrown off all other burdens he becomes a burden to himself.’ Human beings have for most of their existence struggled to survive, they are made that way. Nowadays, people in the ‘developed world’ no longer have to do this and consequently, they do not know what to do with themselves; they are always looking for distractions, to fill up their time, to stave off boredom. They are not happy or content. Although it may not be very scientific, Plato’s concept of the tripartite division of the soul I find illuminating. I believe we are all born with some combination of reason, will (spirit) and appetite. Appetite and spirit we share with the rest of the animal kingdom. Reason seems to be unique to humans. Some people are all appetite, with little spirit or will and very little reason. Others have too much spirit and not enough reason. l think we are born that way, an accident of birth. Nowadays, I agree with Victor Frankle, that survivor of 20th century horror, the concentration camp; that:  “only two races of men exist: decent and non- decent ones. These are found in all races and classes.” That, I suppose, is what I now believe about human beings. Societies may improve and they have in many ways, but human beings, essentially, have remained the same. There are good people and bad people.
  4. What is the greatest virtue?  Perhaps to me this seems, at least superficially, the easiest question to answer. All the Cardinal Virtues are important: temperance, prudence, courage, justice. The founders of the Christian church added faith hope and love to these classical virtues and so I suppose, if love is considered a virtue, then I would agree with Paul the Apostle, that to love without condition, (Agape)is the greatest virtue. Although, I may be persuaded to think that hope against all reason is the greatest virtue.
  5. What do I think the future will look like? Depending on my mood, the future will either see the final extinction of all human life on earth, or it will continue to progress with scientific knowledge and hopefully, one day, we will finally grow up and put an end to pre-history and begin constructing a decent, socially just world. Or perhaps it will continue much like the past and the present – that is the curse of the human condition, to keep repeating past errors. I remember watching on television when I was a child the distinguished and long since dead English historian, AJP Taylor, he was asked by the interviewer: “What do you think the future will look like?” His answer was, possibly with his tongue firmly in his cheek: “Communism, but with democracy.” Maybe!

Interest: The Yoga Center Kuwait

Two of my sisters and I  have been planning a project over the past year to open a yoga center in Kuwait.  Catering strictly to women, June 1st 2013 was our first official day of operation after a long year of planning, construction and interviewing for instructors.  Still awestruck by the fact that we are now open for service, my initial impulse was that yesterday was a hell of a day, a mixture of sheer joy and excitement, especially in seeing women of all ages and backgrounds coming to support us and showing their interest in this ancient practice of yoga.  To me, it was sensational.

The Yoga Center Kuwait is located in Kuwait City offering several kinds of yoga for women. Unfortunately, Kuwait law imposes segregation between genders in all businesses that involve a form of exercise, unless the business itself belongs to or is adjacent to a hotel.  In this case, a license for a mixed gym can be granted.  Without getting into the hypocrisy of such a law, this is an element of Kuwait we either have to adapt to or change (requiring a time and effort by many, amongst other things.)  If step one is to introduce the lifestyle of yoga one gender at a time, then so be it, as we understood that there were already patches of exposure to the practice sporadically throughout Kuwait, mainly through individual interests and personal sessions.  Combining the chance to work with my sisters and for us to consolidate our mutual admiration for the discipline we all had a history with, the idea was to create an inviting environment and service for all things yoga.  Yoga has many benefits, whether in the mind or the body, but it also comes with many misconceptions and preconceived generalizations.  Some may think that you have to be a Buddhist to be a yogi, but that is not true, as yoga has evolved from ancient traditional practices in India to the shores of the western world where it is now a popular and hip lifestyle.  To me, what we want to offer is the simplification of yoga, in the novice’s application of it, in the understanding we may have of it, in the vitality of its construct, in that feeling, in that achievement, in that relaxation, in that reflection.  Yoga may have a certain foundation and a history, but for each one of us it should have no rules.  In a purely scientific view we can look at it to better understanding the human brain, the effects of actually breathing, the mechanics of anatomy and the counter mechanisms of the human body in states of balance, muscle memory and focus.  Other views may skew towards meditation, destressing, or an actual momentary awakening of the senses when we force ourselves to actually reconnect with what is truly ours and put the static noise to sleep albeit for a little while.  The noise from the street, the noise in our heads, the constant noise of today’s speedy global world, slowly fading as it becomes the sound of breathing, the sound of silence.  The message is that whatever it is, it’s ok.  Whatever yoga may be to you, whatever the belief, it is ok.  The overarching fact is that yoga is about loving and accepting our differences as humans and coming together to relax and unwind from everyday life, and what better way to do so than by starting with thinking clearly and feeling great yourself.  Yoga takes time and patience, and the results (mind and body) are usually secondary to the fact that by yoga we are really changing the way we live.

I took this picture below in my home studio with a friend who volunteers to model for our center.  She sits on my late father’s vintage book trunk reading my favorite book of Richard Feynman.  She also wears specialized yoga clothes available at the store at The Yoga Center Kuwait.

The-Yoga-Center-Kuwait

Interest: Happy 95th Birthday Richard Feynman

A few days ago, I posted about my excitement here about the upcoming celebration of Richard Feynman’s 95th birthday at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London.  After a quick three day getaway to London, here is my review of the event:

I always get excited when I walk around the UCL campus, away from the hordes and surrounded by what I imagine to be the studious silence of its streets and buildings.  Walking into the Bloomsbury Theater UCL allows me to feel the same way with all the posters of past and future events on the walls.  Well, I am here for part one of the Richard Feynman commemoration.  The first event was divided into two segments, with the first consisting of a lecture given by John Butterworth, a physicist at the UCL, as he explained Feynman’s diagram and its impact on the Large Hydron Collider (LHC) in CERN, where Butterworth spends much of his time analyzing what can be some breakthrough findings.  I can’t remember the last time I saw an overhead projector, but to ask me now I would say two days ago while a physicist was breaking down the essence of propator in a Feynman diagram.   The science was followed by more of an intimate perspective on Feynman by way of discussion (interspersed by classic videos of Feynman) between the organizer of the event Robin Ince, a comedian and a lovely host, and the wonderful Christopher Sykes. Sykes met Feynman by chance as he was sent by the BBC to film a documentary on another member of the faculty at Cal Tech, and that chance was when the original target actually recommended that Feynman was the man he needed to see.  He went on to carry out these famous sitdowns with Feynman, and was responsible for “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out” and “Fun to Imagine.”  He provided the insight and shared really personal anecdotes about how Feynman didn’t want to do the films at first, his final moments on before his death, and many other stories about their time together as they ended up being quite good friends.  I was very jealous to hear all the stories and it reinforced my wish to have had the chance to meet Feynman as well.  At the end of the second part of the first segment, we watched few clips of the new documentary about Feynman directed by Chris Riley called “The Fantastic Mr. Feynman” The full movie was screened the day after but unfortunately I had to come back home and didn’t get to see it. Once its on the internet I will definitely post it on this blog.

The evening segment of the program was all entertainment.  Dr. Neutron and his sidekick were there, performing with hoola hoops and explaining the constructs of elements like hydrogen and oxygen and their molecular attractions using the hoops.  There were physicists doing standup, yes science standup, sharing their love for Feynman and presenting their own comedic insight on the Theory of Least Action.  Grace Petrie performed a very touching and moving song, using the words of Feynman himself, from a love letter he wrote for his first wife Arlene after her death from tuberculosis years earlier.  Marcus Chown, the author behind ” We Need to Talk About Kelvin” relayed stories of what he directly learned from Richard Feynman, as he was enrolled in his classes at Cal Tech.  Even Feynman’s famous Lock Picking course.  Tamsin Edwards presented her life’s work following in the footsteps of Feynman from being an artist, to becoming a physicist, to going to Brazil and playing with the local samba schools. There was a segment of images of the Aurora Borealis accompanied by a harp player, and that served as an homage to both Richard Feynman and his sister Joan, who is a pioneer in her own right when it comes to the Northern Lights.  The show went on and on, and from the audience to the presenters on stage, there was one constant, and that was that we were all here today for a special man, who had a special way of thinking, in all its uniqueness, craziness and genius.

To conclude, it was an inspiring day for me to see and hear people who also were inspired by Feynman. Bloomsbury theatre hosts many events, a day before, it was Charles Darwin’s birthday, and it was a full performance as well and ended with Richard Dawkins as a speaker!  I wish I had known about it as it would have been a full weekend of festivities. I recommend checking their website for the upcoming events and maybe even next year’s birthday festivities.  After all, Feynman’s legacy will be with us for many more generations to come. Happy Birthday Richard Feynman

Bloomsbury-theatre-richard-feynman-tickets Robin-Ince-Chris-Riley-Christopher-Sykes-on-Richard-Feynman-Birthday Hoola-hoop-richard-feynman-birthday John-Butterworth-lecture-on-Feynman Tamsin-Edwards-on-Richard-Feynman Aurora-Borealis-harp-bloomsbury-theatre

Interest: A Day Celebrating Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman is no ordinary man. He is something else. Every once and a while the gene pool produces a human being who has the full package; intelligent, humble, funny, artistic, positive, and socially smart. Feynman has a unique perspective of the world, the way he got to all his ideas through examples of everyday life from a spinning plate in the air to jiggling atoms. He seemed to be at ease with life. I wish I had the chance to meet him. On Saturday May 11th 2013 I am attending a full day celebration of his memory in London at Bloomsbury theatre . “A variety evening mixing particle physics, comedy, music and contemporary dance, celebrating Richard Feynman with Robin Ince, Marcus Chown, Jon Butterworth and Festival of the Spoken Nerd”.

I have been a big fan of Feynman, I have collected all his books, art work and lectures. Watched almost all his videos on the interent. I will post my review of the event later next week. I am very excited I can’t hide it 🙂

feynman2

Richard-Feynman-books-collection2Richard-Feynman-books-collection1

Interest: Home Microscope

A few years ago, my family got me a digital microscope for my birthday. The samples that come with the package include slices of onion skin, a horse fly leg, cotton and a wood stem. It’s fascinating to see cells form into patterns and designs on a microscopic level through artistic eyes, when the reality is what we see is years of evolution, construction and the random complexity of life. There is so much to see and I can’t wait to look into more fun stuff. Any recommendations?

Microscope-LCD-Stem-cotton-3

Microscope-LCD-Stem-wood-Dicotyledon-4

Microscope-LCD-Stem-wood-Dicotyledon-7 Microscope-LCD-Epidermis-Onion-1 Microscope-LCD-Stem-wood-Dicotyledon-3 Microscope-LCD-horse-fly-leg-2 Microscope-LCD-horse-fly-leg-1

Interest: Taibah Al-Ibrahim ‎طيبة الإبراهيم

Back in 2005, a few months after it was announced that women can both vote and run in elections, Taibah took the chance to run in her district in the up coming elections in 2006. Her platform was the separation of state and religion to the shock of many people at the time. Brushed aside and discredited for her views during the elections, what Ms. Al-Ibrahim achieved in her stance was opening the door for some of the tolerance of differing views we have today. Even though she knew she would not win, she knew that her message had been heard. She is one of my idols, one of the few Kuwaiti females with fearless courage to express her views openly, relentlessly and without censor. In my opinion, she is the female version of Christopher Hitchens, but in a much milder manner. I wish I had the chance to get to know her more before she passed away in 2011. This is the only picture I took of her during the election campaign and the internet has no images at all.

  عندما حصلت المرأة الكويتية على حقوقها في التصويت والانتخاب في عام 2005، اختارت طيبة الإبراهيم الترشّح في أول انتخابات تشريعية للمرأة بحماس انعكس على رسالتها التي حملت شعار فصل الدين عن الدولة والتي كانت بمثابة الصدمة للمجتمع آنذاك. ورغم كل ردود الفعل السلبية التي أثارتها الحملة، لم تكترث طيبة بل استمرت بنفس الجرأة بما يشير أنها لم تنوي الفوز بمقعد المجلس بقدر رغبتها بكسر الاحتكار الثقافي للتيارات الدينية. تفوقت طيبة بشجاعتها ووعيها على مجتمع لا زال يعالج مشاكل اليوم بحلول الأمس. في رأيي، طيبة الإبراهيم قد تكون المثال الكويتي الأقرب لكريستوفر هيتشنز، وإن كان الاختلاف في النمط والطابع موجود. لم تسنح لي الفرصة للتعرف عليها قبل أن ترحل بكل هدوء عن عالمنا الذي هو بأمس الحاجة لمن هو في طرازها

 حاولت أن أجد لها صورة مناسبة من أرشيف الإنترنت دون جدوى، لذا أرفق هنا الصورة الوحيدة لدي والتي أخذتها أثناء حملتها الانتخابية في عام ٢٠٠٦

Taibah-Al-Ibrahim-Kuwait-Female-Activist

Interest: Icons For Icons – Gucci Book. 2013

Gucci and Canvas magazine have collaborated to produce a book featuring portraits of a selection of Kuwaitis. Icons for Icons is a coffee table book. It was a pleasure working with Nadine Kanso, the photographer, and the team behind the photot shoot.  The location was at my late father’s library at home.

Gucci-Icon-Book-2013-Canvas-magazine-photo-shoot-Kuwait

Interest: Art. Ghadah Alkandari

Ghadah Alkandari is one of my favorite artists in this current time. Her shows offer a unique experience to the audience, allowing them to attend dressed in her themes, creating a unified atmosphere where one is completely sucked into her parallel world of contemporary artistic expression. A true icon of womanhood. checkout her blog prettygreenbullet.com
Art Ghadah AlkandariArt Ghadah Alkandari

Interest: The Khaldoun Alnaqeeb Archive

This was a one year project of documenting all my father’s books, notes, photos, articles, lectures and video in one electronic site. To me, The Khaldoun Alnaqeeb Archive was like a time machine of knowledge. He dedicated his life analyzing human behavior and its relationship to its country, politics and religion. His ideas could be the stepping stone to evolutionary progress of globalization and democracy in the Middle East.

Khaldoun alnaqeeb