2017 World Happiness Survey – Thoughts on Happiness

There are a lot of very short news stories about the Global Happiness Survey – most of them read something like “Norway is the happiest country in the world” – and then they talk about the top ten countries and the places and the place of the USA and the bottom two or three countries … Continue reading “2017 World Happiness Survey – Thoughts on Happiness”

There are a lot of very short news stories about the Global Happiness Survey – most of them read something like “Norway is the happiest country in the world” – and then they talk about the top ten countries and the places and the place of the USA and the bottom two or three countries and maybe how countries shifted from the last survey. When you read the actual report, there is a lot more to it. Here is the link to the full report: https://s3.amazonaws.com/sdsn-whr2017/HR17_3-20-17.pdf

On page 122 of the report (yes, it is nearly 200 hundred pages long) what I consider to be the most revealing chapter begins – it is titled “The Key Determinants of Happiness and Misery” – it begins with this:

This chapter is directed at policy-makers of all kinds—both in government and in NGOs. We assume, like Thomas Jefferson, that “the care of human life and happiness … is the only legitimate object of good government.”1 And we assume that NGOs would have similar objectives. In other words, all policy-makers want to create the conditions for the greatest possible happiness in the population and, especially, the least possible misery.

Which sounds great but which is obviously not true. Policy makers in 2017 want money and power for their financial backers. The problems with the world are well known and easily solved – if that were what those in control wanted to do. They do not. And to prove that point the last paragraph of the chapter:

To conclude, within any country, mental health explains more of the variance of happiness in Western countries than income does. In Indonesia mental illness also matters, but less than income. Nowhere is physical illness a bigger source of misery than mental illness. Equally, if we go back to childhood, the key factors for the future adult are the mental health of the mother and the social ambiance of primary and secondary school. The implications for policy are momentous.

If we wanted to have a better world filled with happier people, we would be focused on taking care of mental health, ensuring that mothers (and fathers) had the support they need to be good parents, and that schools were creating the type of atmosphere which brings about psychologically healthy and confident individuals – instead of factories that create workers filled with fear, anxiety, and depression. Simple. Business does not create happiness, nor does war/defense, nor do jobs, nor do any of the other things we spend trillions of dollars on. Security in childhood, healthcare, and education. That’s it.

This report is a treasure trove of information about creating a happier planet like this:

The effect from the increase in the numbers of people having someone to count on in times of trouble is by itself equal to the happiness effects from the 16-fold increase in average per capita annual incomes required to shift the three poorest countries up to the world average (from about $600 to about $10,000).

From my point of view – this fact alone shows why the two working parents, dog-eat-dog, get out when you are 18, take care of yourself, ‘sorry, I can’t help you’ society of capitalism in the USA is leading to unhappiness, stress, anxiety, overeating, alcoholism, and drug abuse/overdose. We can’t count on each other here. People give lip service to being there for their families, but in my experience (in my awful family) when it comes time to put their actions where their mouth is, Americans turn selfish. My wife’s family in Morocco mean it when they say you can stay as long as you want or need to, they mean it when they tell you that their home is your home, they are there for you in whatever capacity they can be – without excuses. They are not rich – they work hard to survive – but I know for certain that they would never turn away a dear friend or family member even if it meant they had to work harder. When I think of them in comparison with myself or my family, I feel ashamed – and I should. They are poor and they suffer in their poverty, but they are happier than most Americans I’ve met.

And…one last quote just to drive home a point

Overall, the chapter concludes that falling American happiness is due primarily to social rather than to economic causes.

The Regulated Society

I remember having a conversation with a ‘gun nut’ friend who insisted that she should be able to carry and shoot her gun anywhere she likes. I disagreed. I found it astounding that she couldn’t see that 1) her gun created a power inequality between her and anyone without a gun and 2) that unless she could guarantee that her bullets had a certain trajectory and stopping point, she was impinging on the freedom of others to move about without concern over being hit by stray bullets. She, on the other hand, was bothered that I thought there should be regulations in place to protect people who she had no intention of threatening – her problem with my arguments could all be boiled down to “Who is given the power to enforce these regulations?” and further that anyone given that sort of power is almost certain to use it for their own advantage. Why should she have to give up power to someone else in the interest of unknown others? Why should she have to give up her own best interest to the interest of others with uncertain motivations? We were at loggerheads – I tried to argue that it wasn’t her, a person with presumably benign motivations, that the regulations were protecting society from, but from people with darker reasons for having or shooting a gun. Her counter-argument was that criminal person wouldn’t be swayed by regulations so all the regulations were actually doing was dis-empowering her while empowering an enforcer class that would create more regulations thus depriving her of more power and beefing up the power of the enforcer class which would eventually come to be controlled by those without an altruistic intention. I tried to argue checks and balances, protection of the weakest members of society, representative government, and more – and left the table pretty sure that I was right and she was wrong – and a part of me still wants to believe that – but in my heart, I know she was right. I don’t like it because I want to believe in the hallowed institutions of self-governance and U.S. style democracy – but damn it – she was right. Or at the very least, we were both missing some ‘right’ middle ground.

The regulated society is a disaster. It’s a disaster that most people are completely blind to. As humans we made a bad turn- this idea of disempowering individuals for the betterment of all is a terrible idea – like lowering test standards to increase the average score. The regulations are not working. All the gun laws we have did not stop any of the mass shootings (or individual shootings) that happened anyway. Speed limits do not stop people from driving fast. Food regulations do not keep companies from selling poison as processed food or using dangerous pesticides – yes, if they get caught they get penalized – which is what the regulated society is when it comes down to it – the penalized society – or the penal society – or the prison society. We live in the Prison Society. There is no freedom except that you are allowed to have from the enforcer class, the guards, the regulators, the power elite. We have willingly given up our power and they have willingly taken it.
I have never wanted to live in the Prison Society, but here I am. There are ways out, but none of them are easy. My world travels and travels within the United States have shown me that the Prison Society is a worldwide phenomenona – there are different flavors, but no escaping it. The Prison Society lives on enforcement and bureaucracy and the illusion of the common good. A dictatorship can offer more freedom than democracy, or less – it depends on the levels of enforcement, bureaucracy, and regulations. The only way out of the Prison Society is self-empowerment – we must re-empower ourselves and refuse to give up that power to anyone – and the only way to create a society that is good for all is to create a new way of thinking about power and wealth and humanity. My friend was right about the regulation society and that we should not give up our power to an enforcer class and she was right about the need to arm ourselves, but I think she was wrong about what we need to arm ourselves with – we don’t need to be armed with guns, we need to be armed with knowledge. The Knowledge Society is the only path that leads to freedom from the Prison Society.

The Joy of Teaching

One of the great joys of my life is being Sophia’s primary teacher. From the time she was born, I’ve tried to never overlook an opportunity to open her eyes to the way the world works – from pointing out the science and math in everyday objects to letting her know about the vast amounts of information she can find in books and libraries. Sophia is a kindergartner who reads at a high level and now has a firm understanding of addition and subtraction and a basic level of multiplication – she can tell you about planets, elements, and a huge array of other things. She has (I think) a decent understanding of birth, life, death, and how the body works. All of this wasn’t learned from someone standing in front of a classroom or from hearing a lecture – it was learned because I saw her interest and helped to guide it to the things I think it is important that she learns. This idea didn’t come from a vacuum either. In the 1990s, I read a lot about un-schooling and different ideas about how education could be reformed – changed from an industrial model. In the early 2000’s I was introduced to the work of Tsunebaro Makiguci and his philosophy of education (Makiguci was not only an educator but the founder of one of the schools of Buddhism I follow – SGI) Makiguci was persecuted by the Imperial Japanese government for his pursuit of non-traditional education methods – in particular – the idea that a child should be encouraged to follow their passion and it is the educator’s job to guide that enthusiasm into the subjects the child needs to learn…that is what I have been doing with Sophia. I wish I had been given that kind of education, I wish we all had. I can only imagine how different the world would be. Not a world where money is the driving force, but a world where knowledge is. I hope that this reaches someone and allows them to find the sort of joy I am finding in helping my daughter to become the person she is meant to be.

Sex with a partner is 400% better

Sometimes it is more than 400%…..

LOVERS know only too well that men usually need a “recovery period” after orgasm, and that sexual intercourse with orgasm is more satisfying than an orgasm from masturbation alone. Now scientists think the two phenomena might be linked.

Following orgasm, the hormone prolactin is released into the bloodstream in both men and women. The hormone makes us feel satiated by countering the effect of dopamine, which is released during sexual arousal.

Stuart Brody of the University of Paisley, UK, and Tillmann Krüger of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, measured blood prolactin levels in male and female volunteers who watched erotic films before engaging in masturbation or sexual intercourse to orgasm in the laboratory.

Surprisingly, after orgasm from sexual intercourse, the increase in blood prolactin levels is 400 per cent higher in both sexes compared with after orgasm from masturbation (Biological Psychology, vol 71, p 312).

This explains why orgasm from intercourse is more satisfying than masturbation, says Brody. Since elevated levels of prolactin have been linked to erectile dysfunction, this may also explain why most men need a recovery period after sex.

From issue 2540 of New Scientist magazine, 22 February 2006, page 21

New Scientist Sex with a partner is 400% better – News

A Matter of Some Gravity – The Meaning of Black Holes

A Matter of Some Gravity – The Meaning of Black Holes


There are forces in the universe which affect all of our lives. Through the centuries madmen and scientists have tried to recognize and label these forces. The difference between madman and scientist is whether the theories of the individuals are accepted or rejected.

A fundamental premise of the scientific method is that no theory is ever proven true, but if it is unable to be disproven, its validity is generally accepted. Current conventional scientific wisdom says that the universe is curved in time and space. Much of this theory rests on the work of Albert Einstein, especially his theory of relativity (E=MC2). The bending of space and time would be most likely to occur in the vicinity of a massive amount of gravity. A black hole is conjectured to be one of these gravity sinks. In the process of its evolution a star would eventually be acted upon by a contraction of matter, which causes an increase in the gravitational pull at the center of the star.

Eventually the matter becomes so contracted that it becomes a single point or singularity. This singularity is so dense that light ( which appears to be one of the only constants in the universe) is unable to escape and so a black hole can be detected as only an absence of anything detectable. The proof of black holes has been that we cannot detect them, however in 1973 Stephen W. Hawking discovered that quantum effects will cause black holes to emit particles, as this happens the black hole will evaporate, leaving none of the original mass, maybe.

In such a situation particles are packed so densely together that fundamental movement is arrested on the quantum and molecular level. Time stops. A less than perfect analogy is that of water going through a funnel. At some point the width of the funnel becomes so narrow that the water stops. But instead of going still the water would keep swirling because the force of gravity is still acting upon it from below. At this point the water above the narrowest point of the funnel is pulled into the swirling motion and the curvature of space and time occurs.

The swirling causes a stronger gravitational pull which draws in more water which increases the pull drawing in more water etc. etc. etc. Relativity points out that time moves more quickly when acted upon by outside gravity. The closer you are to the source of the gravity, the slower time moves. On a minuscule level this means that the higher your altitude on earth the faster time moves for you since the center of earths gravity is presumed to be somewhere in the center of the earth. If time is arrested inside a black hole how does a particle have time to escape?

A problem arises with paradox. If time is stopped at the center of a black hole, then further collapse is impossible because the collapse occurs in time. This could mean that extending outward form the center of a black hole time would gradually stop leaving a solid body of stopped particles. The singularity no longer exists, the black hole is now an extending solid which changes the entire set of equations which define a black hole. Another problem is that if time is observed to have stopped within the black hole from the outside, what is observed both inside and outside from the black hole?

Einstein discovered that space-time is curved by the presence of matter. The famous analogy is a rubber sheet stretched tight with balls of various weights and sizes placed upon it. The larger a body, the larger the curvature of space. The larger the curvature of space, the more other bodies are affected by that curvature. If eneough weight is placed upon the sheet all bodies will fall to the center and movement stops. Time is measured by the movement of matter/energy. If the movement stops, time stops.

At the present time the universe is in a state of movement (expansion), debate rages at whether that movement will continue indefinitely (infinite) , stop at an outer limit (static), or reach an outer limit and then contract back to a stopping point (clockwork).
Black holes are presumed by some to be regions of such intense gravity that everything (most easily thought of as information by scientists such as Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose) captured by a black hole is irretrievable. Both scientists agree that a black hole continues to contract until the point of evaporation. It is at his point that they disagree.

Penrose believes that at the moment of evaporation information is regained by the universe and phase space volumes increase. Hawking believes that the information is lost which, violates the theories of conservation of matter and energy. His argument is that the beginning and end of the universe ( and hence time) cannot be the same. Through a single small irregularity at the beginning of time, multiple irregularities grew.

Therefore we are travelling from a orderly universe to a sloppy one. Another imperfect analogy would be a clean house (the universe) before a party (time), each guest ( irregularity ) creates a small mess, but like good guests, they clean up after themselves. Each partygoer however forgets to wash the glass they are drinking from and at the end of the night despite each person cleaning their mess, the house is filled with glasses of various liquids. Some of the glasses are still full (young stars), some of the glasses are empty (black holes) , most are in a state somewhere in between (stars between formation and collapse).

Hawking seems to be saying that the state of the house never really changed because the glasses and liquid were already there so there are no limits to the universe, things just change position.

Penrose on the other hand seems to feel that because the glasses are no longer in the cupboard or the liquid in the bottle a new state has been created which demands that at some point the glasses be washed and put away and the bottles refilled.
What keeps black holes from forming from every bit of matter in the universe? Stars and galaxies radiate heat which causes thermal pressure which acts as a temporary balancing point against gravity. The reason it is temporary is because heat has a tendency to radiate outward (almost as if it is drawn to cold) thus the material which provides the fuel which provides the heat is sent outward in tight little packets of energy called quantum.

Quantum actully fill the space between the states of matter and energy, exhibiting properties of both. Thus as the quantum is carried away, the actual matter begins to shrink. If it is no more than two times the mass of our sun, the shrinkage will be stopped on the atomic level by the motion of electrons or neutrons and a neutron star or white dwarf star is formed.

For larger mass objects this force is overcome and eventually (according to Hawking ) a black hole forms which keeps mass, energy, and quantum from proceeding outward to the edge of infinity. This is a black hole. Eventually the black hole swallows everything around it including itself leaving behind less than was put into it. Black holes a a massive solid emptyness where time stops but change continues and laws of conservation do not apply.

Is it any wonder they also lie at the center of so much debate?

Ramblin’ Man: On learning and College Tuition Costs


Is it just me or does it bother anyone else that we can’t learn just for the sake of learning?

Rather, if we do we still have to pay for it, so the only benefit we get from it is being more informed, better able to make decisions, and too poor to do anything about the problems we see.

The Learning PyramidI think that’s a problem. No wonder there are so many people in “college” who don’t want to be here. They (and us, so we) are faced with a choice of drudgery making pennies so someone else can make considerably more or suffering for a few years while we build up debt, taking classes that may not interest us but are required to fulfill a curriculum someone else has decided is appropriate for the job we may want.

Welcome to a screwed up world.

First of all decide what you want to be (never mind that you are reasonably uninformed about what is out there or what it requires.) Next, talk to a counselor who will recommend which courses you should take for what you think you want to do. Then strap yourself in for a ride. For many students new opportunities open up as they learn, seemingly unrelated classes lead to new insights. Many classes that I would be enthusiastic about are effectively not open because I have fulfilled my requirements in those areas ( I could take them, but hoping to go into debt as little as possible, I try to finish up my “degree” as quickly as possible.)