Friday, March 20, 2020


I have about 3700 books in my Kindle.  In my files on Amazon's computers, really.  I am interested in the good we can do ourselves by sitting still and looking at a spot on the wall or floor for 5 or 10 minutes. The evidence is very strong that doing that is good for many aspects of our minds and bodies, as well as for getting along well with others.

That has to do with what I attend to.  But I am also interested in what is going on when I am not attending to anything, or at least I think I am not.  That excellent book, "Incognito" by Eagleman, has made it clear that all sorts of parts of me live and function outside of my awareness.  He makes useful descriptions of my typical attitude that I know who and what I am while all the while unaware, and even unable to be aware of my physical balance mechanism, my digestion, blood pressure, and much else, including background mental processes.  

The only book I knew of about not attending was "The Wandering Mind: What the Brain Does When You Aren't Looking" by Corballis. Then, by chance, I found the book "Brain Cuttings" by Carl Zimmer, a well-known science writer has a section on the wandering mind.  While getting that book from my Kindle archive, I saw that I also had purchased Zimmer's "Planet of Viruses". Well, isn't that relevant to staying home and giving up social gatherings to stem coronavirus-19 and its spread?

I read some of the virus book.  I found that the word is much older than knowledge of biological micro-germs and has been used over the centuries to mean various things.  But when a Dutch scientist in 1849 did experiments to try to help farmers whose crop was sick and dying, he proved that something about 1/20 the size of a small bacterium existed and caused the plant disease.  Of course, since then, we have learned quite a bit but not everything we need and want.

These little things are genetically simple and have about 10 genes instead of the 20,000 humans have.  They can't do much and often hijack processes and abilities cells have. They can and do mutate quickly and easily so their structure and vulnerabilities modify when we don't want them to.  That makes them hard to chase down, to resist, to eliminate. Zimmer says that the worst virus for humans has been the smallpox virus and that is an example of a disease that has been globally erased. 

Zimmer writes that it was a surprise to find that viruses are important for the earth's supply of oxygen and that human lungs have many agreeable viruses in them.

Popular Posts

Follow @olderkirby