Jewish Nobel Prize Winners 2013

So I haven’t really been keeping this blog up to date. The little I have posted has just been random rants. But I thought for the Nobel Prizes, I’d go back on topic again.

This year’s Nobel prizes were awarded this past week. The laureattes were as follows:

Physiology or Medicine: James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof
Physics: François Englert and Peter Higgs
Chemistry: Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel
Literature: Alice Munro
Peace:  Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
Economic Sciences: Eugene F. Fama, Lars Peter Hansen, Robert J. Shiller

The Jewish laureates are in bold. Of the 12 individuals to win awards, 6 were Jewish. This should be a surprising figure if you consider that only 0.2% of the world’s population is Jewish, or that less than 2% of the American population is Jewish. But it’s something we’ve come to expect. This happens year in year out. What’s the explanation for it? I don’t know. If you look around this blog, you’ll see various attempts at explaining the phenomena. None of them really do it for me. The explanation would have to be a multitude of reasons combined together I think, but I don’t really know.

Two of the winners, Levitt and Warshel are Israeli, but they now live in the US. A pity they’re not teaching or doing research at Israeli universities.

Source for which winners are Jewish: jinfo.org.

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Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are – TED talk

So I just watched this TED talk and it’s interesting.

In this TED talk, Amy Cuddy speaks about faking it till you make it, or better: faking it till you become it. She’s specifically talking about a change of body language, but the idea of faking it till you become it applies across the board.

People don’t appreciate the value of just going through actions, even if it’s fake. There’s a lot to be said about our actions affecting our minds.

Too many people seem to feel stuck with “who they are”. They are X and they can never be Y. I already went on a rant about this a week or two ago, but in three words: “Yes you can”. (Obviously, I’m not saying you can do anything. You can’t become the next Bill Gates, Michael Jordan or Michael Jackson, but you can do a lot more than you think).

What actually grinds my gears the most is not other people thinking they are X and that they’re stuck as X for all eternity. I don’t really care how high or low your self-esteem is and how you live your life. What grinds my gears the most is when someone judges me on how I acted in a specific situation and jumps to the conclusion that this means X, Y, Z about me and I can never act any differently in the future if a similar situation were to occur.

As a simple (and rather extreme) example, one time you don’t say thank you to someone and the person jumps to the conclusion that you never say thank you and are a person that is forever incapable of being someone that can say thank you. This didn’t happen to me, but something similar did and it pissed me off and the situation was probably just as ridiculous as this example. And it’s not just about being judged, it’s when the person’s judgement affects you detrimentally.

And that’s another thing. Jumping to outrageous conclusions from small things or little knowledge of something. Bad in all areas of life. Often we need to make decisions based off of very little information. Other times we don’t however and it just hurts everyone involved when jumping to conclusions.

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Pesach and Freedom

So yesterday I was reading an article about how Obama has a seder night every year. Despite not being Jewish, he connects to it, because Pesach is the story of slaves being freed from hundreds of years of slavery. The Exodus from Egypt is more than just a single people being freed. It represents many different people’s stories. The plight of every slave that ever lived. And the hope that one day he will be free and free of his tormenters.

What annoyed me in the article, is that the article then went on to speak about the Palestinians one day going free and that the idea of the Palestinians being free is in fact a very Jewish idea and we should do all that we can in order to give them full autonomy.

Now, I have no problem with Palestinian autonomy. I do have a problem when Palestinian autonomy causes harm to innocent Israelis. To imply that Israelis do not want peace and that Israel is enslaving Palestinians is ridiculous in my opinion and you only have to visit Israel to know that isn’t true.

For 65 years we’ve been trying to make this two-state solution work. The Palestinians had ample opportunity to accept. Israel accepted the UN partition plan in 1947. It was the Arabs that went to war with Israel. When Israel conquered Jerusalem in 1967, it was not Israel that was the aggressor, it was our Arab neighbours.

People still talk about the “two-state solution” as if it’s a solution. IMO it isn’t and we’ve been wasting too much energy trying to solve this problem. We should try and live side by side as best as possible, but there are just to many issues that cannot be solved (such as major security concerns, hundreds of thousands of people being kicked out of their homes and many others).

But whatever you think about the road to peace, the Palestinians are not in slavery. Yes, there are security checks for bringing things into the West Bank and Gaza. There are check points all over the West Bank to stop weapons smuggling. And there is a wall surrounding the Palestinian areas stopping them from entering Israel. Would it be nicer for them if these obstacles weren’t there? Yes. But they’re for a reason. The number of suicide bombings within Israel has basically dropped to zero over the last few years. A dramatic decrease, but all thanks to the security fence. I’m sure it’s a bit of a hassle being checked every time you drive through a check point, but frankly, the same thing happens to me at the airport and we even have security check points on the roads in Israel. There’s a reason for that. To stop terrorism.

We’ll have peace when the Palestinians and the Arab world in general come to the conclusion that there is a Jewish state and it is here to stay.

So happy Pesach to you. Freedom is both a Jewish and universal value and I hope in the future we’ll see a peaceful Middle East, but it would be naive to say that day will come soon.

Pesach sameach

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The Social Network

I recently watched the film The Social Network, which is about the creation of Facebook. Apparently it’s only about 40% accurate, but that doesn’t stop it being inspirational. I’m currently in my third year of a bachelors degree in Computer Science at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, so I might find it more inspiring than others.

One thing I really like about the film is the whole thing with Mark Zukerberg not getting over his girlfriend from the beginning of the film, Jessica Albright. I don’t care about how accurate the film is. There are enough articles online discussing the accuracy of the film. I’m discussing the film here, whether it is fiction or not.

Albright breaks up with Zukerberg at the beginning of the film. Later on, once Facebook has launched at Harvard already, he bumps into Albright and asks her if she’s heard about Facebook and she hasn’t. This spurs him on to spread Facebook to more campuses across America to increase its popularity – all to get his ex-girlfriend to notice it. At the end of the film, when Facebook is already a world-wide success, we see that Mark still hasn’t gotten over his ex. We see Mark adding her as a friend on Facebook and continuously refreshing the page hoping she’ll accept.

I relate to this. What a magical story. A guy makes one of the world’s biggest companies just to impress a girl (yes… it wasn’t really like that… even in the film, but you’ve got to love the concept). It’s bloody hard getting over someone you really liked, perhaps even loved.

The continuation is also fascinating… If we see assume the continuation is what happens in real life… Mark ends up getting over Erica and marrying someone else. He manages to get over the girl he makes Facebook for.

You never know where life is going to take you. One day you think you think you’ve found the one for you and the next you’re married to someone else. Slightly depressing IMO. Gets you thinking there is no “one”. You could end up marrying a bunch of people. It’s just whoever you happen to bump into first out of this group that you’ll marry. I find that heart-wrenching.

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A Story About Friendship

There is an Oriental Jewish romance from about 150 years ago that deals with the nature of friendship. In this story, a father complains that his son spends too much money and time on his friends. The father inquires of the son how many friends he has, and the son estimates them to be about one hundred. The amazed father replies, “I have lived much longer than you, and in my entire life I have accumulated only one and a half friends.”

They devise a plan to test the friends, whereby the son goes to one of his friends at midnight, carrying a loaded sack, saying that he has just killed the Crown Prince in a duel, and asking for help in burying the body and a place to hide. One friend after another throws him out immediately upon hearing the story, and none of them is willing to risk giving him help. The son returns to the father and says, “I understand now what you said about my friends, but are yours better?” The father then sends him first to his half-friend. The son knocks on the door at midnight, and upon hearing the story, the half-friend says, “You behaved very badly, but you are my friend’s son, so come in. I will bury the body and hide you as best I can.”

I like this story. Never read the original myself. Don’t even know what the original is called. The above was taken from Simple Words by Adin Steinsaltz.

What do you learn from the story? Whatever you want to.

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Who are you?

There’s this thing of discovering yourself. Finding your true self. People blog about it all over the internet. As if I care who you are? Well, that’s a bit harsh. Somebody probably does. And even if nobody cares, that shouldn’t stop you from blogging. “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song” as Maya Angelou says (no idea who she is, but it’s a nice quote).

I think a lot of people blog because they have a craving to be recognized. Even the people that blog about themselves to try and discover themselves or some mumbo-jumbo like that, they could just as well be writing in a diary instead of the internet, so why put it online? I think it’s a craving for others to appreciate us.

Anyway, about finding yourself… What are you searching for? What does finding yourself even mean? It’s not like there’s a you hidden away somewhere that never changes that is your true essence. We change everyday as to who we are. We decide who we want to become. We decide what to make of ourselves. There is no fixed way a person will act in a certain situation. You decide how to act and it isn’t set in stone. You don’t need to believe in free-choice to realize you can react in many different ways in very similar situations.

There is no essential you. I’m not talking theology. I’m talking reality. We develop as people and nobody is the same person at the age of 10 as they are at the age of 15. Nor are we the same people at the age of 30 and the age of 40.

You don’t need to be terribly self-aware of yourself to understand that you’re a quiet or a loud person. That you’re confident or not. That you’re intelligent. That you have a gift for English, but that you suck at Maths. That you’re stubborn. That people think you’re funny. That you’re a good speaker. That you’re kind. etc. etc.

Yes… some people are more self-aware of themselves than others. There are definitely people that imagine themselves to have many skills that they don’t have. And there are just as many that imagine they are a lot less than they really are. But the problem here is just arrogance or low self-esteem. Fix it. Work on it. Whatever. This isn’t about discovering your true self.

And lastly, people sometimes say this is who I am. I know myself. I am this. I am shy. I will never be a good speaker. As if it is there essence to be a bad speaker, etc. This stuff isn’t set in stone. You can change. You make the decisions on how to live your life and you can become who you want to become.

Stop looking for your true self. We make ourselves anew daily. We choose the people we wish to become.

Who are you? You decide.

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Back to blogging and a change of direction

So I’m back now. I just have a desire to write. I’m going to leave the topics I’ve previously posted about. There’s more to be said about the Jewish miracle. There are still things I could write about that I haven’t yet already. I could write about Jewish doctors and lawyers (see Gladwell’s Outliers). I could write about Jewish poker players (which I decided not to write about because I’m not proud of it, but they are heavily over-represented in the game). There are another million things I could write about and if I see something that really sticks out I will post about it. I’ve also written about Israel quite a lot and Israeli politics, but for now I’m going to be focusing on other topics.

I need an outlet to express my thoughts and this will be it. I could open up a new blog, but instead I’m just going to continue with this one.

We’ll see how much I actually end up posting on this blog. I don’t have so much free time and I don’t actually know what the point of me blogging is. Anything I write will have been said before, whether or not it is “true” or not. Either way, I’m starting now.

 

So, just a question. Why do we blog? Why do I feel the world has to know what I’m thinking? Why do I feel the world has to hear my insights? What is it that drives me to write these posts?

I don’t actually know why I’m writing. It isn’t to teach anybody anything. It isn’t to make the world a better or smarter place. I plan to make the world a better place and make my contribution to mankind, but it will not be through this blog (or will it?). It’s just a desire to express myself. But why?

Perhaps if I had other outlets to express myself, I wouldn’t turn to blogging. I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like there’s no one that gets me. Half the problem is also that I don’t make an attempt to get people to get me, but often it’s just because they can’t. Perhaps I just need to change my social circles and to open up more to those people that could get me.

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