What does it feel like to understand a language you don’t know how to speak?

Answer by Mira Pravitasari:

I came from a Minang family where every gathering involves a lot of Mamak (uncles) and Etek (aunties) conversing in fast-paced minang language (or known better as Bahasa Padang). Growing up and being very much exposed in this environment, I learned a lot of minang words and I can now understand when my Mak Gadang (eldest uncle) is referring to me in his conversations, new gossips my Eteks are conferring, basically I have good listening and reading comprehension.

But I feel like an outcast when some of my cousins who has been extensively raised in an all minang family, were talking in this language. I didn't get to express my opinions because I got tongue tied as soon as I was trying to make a proper sentence in my mind. I'm always mixing languages, messing up structure, and making up new words since it'd got me frustrated over answering in the first place.

I was okay with the adults talking but when the cousins are doing it, I feel a desire to be able to speak it as well, I want to jump on the bandwagon of speaking the language of my family. But it's not very practical, since there are no courses for it out there and everybody speaking Bahasa Padang is going to absolutely understand everything I say in Bahasa Indo anyway.

So I feel like being able to speak it. But impracticalities turn me off.

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What are some trippy thought experiments?

Answer by Gagan Gupta:

Sal Khan offered an amazing and inspirational thought experiment in MIT's Commencement address to the class of 2012:

Imagine yourself in 50 years. You’re in your early 70s, near the end of  your career. You’re sitting on your couch, having just watched the State  of the Union holographic address by President Kardashian.

You  begin to ponder your life. The career successes, how you’ve been able to  provide for your family. You’ll think of all the great moments with  your family and friends. But then you start to think about all of the  things you wished you had done just a little differently, your regrets. I  can guess at what they might be.

Sitting in 2062, you wish that  you had spent more time with your children. That you had told your  spouse how much you loved them more frequently. That you could have even  one more chance to hug your parents and tell them how much you  appreciate them before they passed. That you could have smiled more,  laughed more, danced more and created more. That you better used the  gifts you were given to empower others and make the world better.

Just  as you’re thinking this, a genie appears from nowhere and says, “I have  been eavesdropping on your regrets. They are valid ones. I can tell you  are a good person so I am willing to give you a second chance if you  really want one.” You say “Sure” and the genie snaps his fingers.

All of a sudden you find yourself right where you are sitting today.You are in your shockingly fit and pain-free 20-something body and begin  to realize that it has really happened. You really do have the chance  to do it over again. To have the same career successes and deep  relationships. But, now you can optimize. You can laugh more, dance more  and love more. Your parents are here again so it is your chance to love  them like you wished you had done the first time. You can be the source  of positivity that you wished you had been the first time around.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pn24jP0YbTI

View Answer on Quora

What are some trippy thought experiments?

Your gravitational field had reached Proxima Centauri when you were 4 yo! I never think of it this way 😮

Answer by Gabriel Harper:

Your personal field of gravity expands hundreds of trillions of miles into space, and will continue its journey millions of years after you die.

In a way, we're all sort of eternal. We all have gravity.

Any object with mass exhibits a gravitational field. So basically the day we are born  our gravitational field becomes distinct, and begins to propagate out   into space in an ever-growing sphere at exactly the speed of light.

Gravity eternally deflates. Our gravity field weakens over distance, but never  reaches zero. Profoundly pervasive little infinitesimal waves expanding through space at light speed. 8.3 minutes after we're born, our field of gravity is touching the surface of the sun. 5.5 hours later it reaches Pluto.

By one year of age, our field of gravity extends  in a sphere around Earth with a total diameter of 11.8 trillion miles.  At a little over four years old, our gravity field is brushing  the  surface of our nearest known star neighbor, Proxima Centauri. By  the  time we're 30 years old, our gravitational field extends some 300 trillion miles around us into space.

Still feel small?

But the really crazy part is that when we die, our gravity will continue to  exist  forever, infinitely stretching out into the universe, passing  through  Andromeda millions of years from now, and beyond.

Everyone you have ever known, alive or not, is traveling right now through the  depths of  space. The gravity of our most distant ancestors, and everyone that has  ever existed in the history of the world, faithfully hurtling out into the universe, eternally diminishing into nothingness but never truly disappearing.  Like a glass of water that you pour, and  pour, and pour but it still always has just one drop left to give.

I'd  like to think when we go, our souls might hitch a ride on that wave of  gravity and we can all spend eternity cruising the cosmos together.

This  is wild to think about, but grounded in fact. Maybe not a "thought  experiment" in the strict sense but it is certainly a trippy thought  that our imaginations can experiment with. (Taken from my post entitled In  a way, we're all sort of eternal.)

Image by NASA/ESA

View Answer on Quora

Farewell, Madiba.

Perhaps this is going to be one of the countless of posts on this particular matter on the web but I need to write this down.

As you know I haven’t been writing for so long. I write when I’m overwhelmed. Lately it’s been all routine and nothing happened before yesterday’s morning news. Which saddened me to my core.

Nelson Rolihlala Mandela has departed at the age of 95.

I didn’t know how to explain why this happen but I did spent a good hour in the morning crying alone over the news. And any mention of it throughout the day upset me. I won’t say I know so much about this particular man except for what I read in books and watch in movies, what the pop culture has to say about him. But I have come to admire him so.

His story is a constant reminder to never become angry and cynical but always challenge oneself to do good. He, in the face of adversity, was not embittered. He was instead empowered. To fight for the freedom for his people and in lieu get labeled as a communist terrorist by western authorities. He was not in turn becoming a resentful person. He came to terms with his situation and bring a lot of good into the world.

Isn’t that something we need to try to strive for in our relatively short lives? Bring some good into this world? Then we can leave contented to know we have brought something that can put a smile on one’s face.

How do you deal with the fear of dying?

This answer is one of the reasons why I follow the topic Big Philosophical Question in Quora :") Touching, encouraging, giving me back the sense to why we had been born in the first place and that there's something to make out of it.

Answer by Kai Peter Chang:

I too, find myself contemplating my mortality from time to time.

I cope by flipping it around into something a bit more optimistic. Perhaps this will work for you. 🙂

Consider this: In a harsh and unforgiving universe, your very existence represents an unbroken line of ancestors, ALL of whom survived to sexual maturity, found a mate, had a child, and raised him/her to maturity – all the way back into antiquity.

You are their heir.

In your DNA lies the genes of survivors, survivors who have experienced human-caused mayhem, and those wrought by the elements. They have witnessed and endured the horrors of war, pestilence, plagues and natural disasters.

Not only did they endure them, they successfully birthed children amidst that chaos.

This is no small accomplishment, and your life is a goddamn miracle.

Most living things fail to pass along their DNA. You represent an unbroken line of those who have succeeded.

What matters is what you make of your life right now. Purpose is what we make of it – things that resonate real and whole and true to your core.

Personally, I find my own mortality motivating, not depressing.

It's a trope in fantasy or science fiction where humans coexist alongside immortal/long-lived races (Elves in Lord of the Rings, the Asari from Mass Effect, etc.), that the long-lived races marvel at how much humans accomplish in their comparably-short lifespans.

To those with centuries to burn, any given year (or decade) can be wasted with little consequence. And so the long-lived and immortal do just that.

We humans don't have that luxury.

When the occasion arises where I speak to a group (a conference, discuss forum, whatever), I like to conclude with a seemingly-easy question: "Without looking it up or using a calculator, how many days do you think an average human in a modern society lives?"

Audience members futz around, offer guesses, but rarely does anyone every get it right.

The answer?

Take your own guess before scrolling down.

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30,000 days.

That's it.

I continue:

"Since we are here right now, as adults, roughly 10,000 of those days are already gone.

Spent. Irretrievably.

Likewise, your final 10,000 days will be likely be in diminished capacity –  physically or mentally enfeebled … or both."

As adults, we are in that middle 10,000 days at our prime, right now. What we do, when our strength is at its zenith, is what defines us.

Finding meaning through self-absorbed pursuits (accumulating money beyond living expenses, social status, luxury possessions, Quora upvotes, Facebook 'likes' etc) is futile and dissatisfying.

Narcissists fear death with great dread, and rightly so, for death is the great equalizer that obliterates everything they strive for.

Attempt to join their ranks, and you will know their dread firsthand. I'd advise against it.

Instead – find meaning through service to your fellow humans.

Are you literate? Volunteer to teach a recent immigrant to read English. Are you employed? Anonymously donate 10% of your income to a cause that sings to you. See a fellow human being suffer? offer them comfort and give them hope. Are you in good health and over 120lbs? Donate blood and know that a pint from your veins (which your body will replenish in but a month) will keep as many as three other human beings alive.

Did someone love you enough to raise you to the literate adult that you are today? Tell them what they mean to you, while they're still alive to hear it.

There are a thousand ways to find meaning as a mortal.

Find one that resonates with you, and go at it with all your might, while you are in the prime of your life.

In 10,000 days, you will wish you started right now.

-張敦楷
 

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

Chief Tecumseh, from the movie Act of Valor.

View Answer on Quora

How would the world be different if everyone was a genius?

The best Quora answer I’ve read in quite a while >> Answer to How would the world be different if everyone was a genius

Answer by Lauchlin MacDonald:

I originally answered this question anonymously, because I assumed people might interpret what I said as bragging if I attached my name to this. However, several people in the comments and a couple people privately asked me to go public, so here I am. Nobody special, like I said, and I hope that this does not affect how people read my answer.


A lot of people have written answers to this question that I agree with the broad strokes of, but the problem with most of them is accepting that there is a meaningful category called “genius.” I have a ridiculously high IQ. Taking different tests at different times in my life, there’s been about a 15 point spread, but the highest was in the low 180s. I took the LSAT on a whim a few months ago, and with no preparation scored in the 96th percentile. People were calling me a genius all through school, until I switched from studying Physics to another discipline where people aren’t always looking for geniuses.

There is no such thing as “a genius.” I’m not one, and I’m not special. Virtually everyone I’ve ever met, aside from people with brain damage or intellectual disabilities, is as smart as I am. The only thing that makes me different is that I am extremely good at logic puzzles, and I’m better than average at math, and I am firmly convinced that those are not inborn aptitudes, but things that I learned.

So, what am I doing in my life? Am I a venture capitalist, or an entrepreneur, or an award-winning novelist? Nope. I’m just now getting somewhere in my career that I’m pretty pleased with, but I spent most of my 20s blundering around. I made a lot of emotional decisions, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and I made several aborted attempts at different professions. I moved a bunch of times, and I delayed my own plans for romantic relationships. Nearly all of my peers who were also called geniuses did similar things. The one thing that unites most people we call geniuses is intellectual restlessness and the speed with which they get bored (not positive qualities, on their own). My peers and I were lucky kids, with supportive families and lots of opportunity, and almost none of us could get our careers together before we were pushing 30. Clearly “genius” is not what gets things done.

Nearly everyone is as smart as I am. I’ve never met a cognitively normal person who didn’t have as much capacity for learning and understanding as I have. There might be Good Will Hunting people out there somewhere, but I’ve never met one of them either. So you want to know what a world where everyone was a genius would look like? You’re living it.

Our culture is extremely invested in the concept of geniuses, special people who rise above the rest of us to accomplish great things. I think this concept is a symptom of something sick in our society. Some of us like the concept because we like to think of ourselves as geniuses, and we think this somehow makes us better than the ignorant masses. Many of us also feel the need to elevate those who achieve greatness to a special intellectual category, to justify why the rest of us aren’t doing as well. We say, “Oh, she’s a genius, of course she’s a success.” We do this to trivialize the extreme hard work and absurd good fortune that is necessary to succeed in any field in this system we’ve created. Steve Jobs wasn’t a genius; he was a megalomaniacal businessman with some good product ideas who was in the right place at the right time. Change his life’s circumstances a bit, and he could have ended up as a manager at McDonald’s instead of getting rich selling us shiny pieces of metal and plastic.

Some of the other answers have said how society wouldn’t function if we were all geniuses because there would be nobody to do unskilled work. If you don’t think that there are millions of Einsteins toiling in thankless, unskilled jobs, you are fooling yourself. Some flip burgers or dig ditches or drive delivery trucks or work on fishing boats for a while, and then find a way out to something better, or work their way up to management. Some never do, and keep flipping those burgers for their entire lives. They have the aptitude and the interest that would have let them study physics, or compose a symphony, or start a successful company, but they were never encouraged to think they had the capacity, or they had no opportunity to study, or any number of other things that prevent people from doing all they’re capable of.

So what would the world look like if everyone were a genius? A few really successful people, lots of people bumbling around trying to find their way, and an enormous mass of frustrated, bored people, flipping burgers every day so you and I can afford to pontificate about geniuses on Quora.

View Answer on Quora

Not Myth.

I had this line in my 20 things to do before 20 list:

Watched a Keane concert in the front row.

Yes, and only several months before me hitting twenty the band really visited this (awfully) disorganized corner of the world. I grasped, my mouth gaped, and  the sky once again became a possibility.

A concert, besides all the glamour it advertises and the somewhat (now but not-really-then) mortifying starstruck moments we all must’ve experienced once upon a time (yep, I’m talking when I, for one, could not hold myself back from hysterically screaming “Tom Chaplin I LOVE YOU!!! I LOVE YOU!!!!!” till I supposed the man got a chill), has so much more to it. For me personally, when the whole stage is all dark and everybody’s getting quiet, and your heart starts beating faster for you know your favourite great musicians are only a second away from hitting your all-time favourite tunes. And when it does happen, all of a sudden, the stage glows, music fills your ear and your soul, it kind of feels as though you were back in your bedroom with your tiny music player, only this time with the actual stellar stars playing live and only thousands other souls were in the same room experiencing similar thing, more or less.

Yet, that is only the beginning of something truly wondrous.

The utter magic kicks in when the crowd starts singing in one perfect unison. When no matter how different you and the tattooed guy next to you are, each of you gathers there to sing along to the same melodies, forgetting each of your own problems, united by this feeling of bliss, together. When even the vocalist, singer, (or whoever really) on the stage gets too captivated by all of you that he could not help himself but to point his cool, extravagant microphone to you, the chanting people, who are pretty much there singing all your heart out.

Oh, and the front-rowers, they get all the beauty of it. UP CLOSE.

Imagine you stand there, with the lamps and FXes and all the sort of lights in the world and the sweet, sweet music blasts from directly in front of you where the men with the mics, bass, drums, and piano giving their super best. Then you hear your own voice with the gloriously thunderous backing vocal of approximately a thousand of people behind your back.

Oh-so-spectacular. Because concerts are not only about watching a performance, it’s about enjoying the performance with a bunch of other souls present.

You’ll just know that you’re not in your tiny little room anymore.

And oui. It’s all worth the pennies, the rush, the waiting, and instead now I have this line:

Watched a Keane concert in the front row.

Cheers, M.

 

 

Quote

The tiny dot that is our home.

pale_blue_dot

Earth photographed from the Voyager craft at a point beyond the orbit of Neptune.

It seemed to me that another picture of the Earth, this one taken from a hundred thousand times farther away, might help in the continuing process of revealing to ourselves our true circumstance and condition. It had been well understood by the scientists and philosophers of classical antiquity that the Earth was a mere point in a vast encompassing Cosmos, but no one had ever seen it as such. Here was our first chance (and perhaps also our last for decades to come).

~~

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Carl SaganPale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

I’m reading the book right now!

Vingt

t_Zwanzig_Uhr_Krasnojarsk_Hanoi_Bangkok_Jakarta_Phnom_Penh

I turned twenty a few days less of a month ago. I have many a good times, although still not sorrow-free, but I really cannot complain. Twenty years living though, I am still very innocuously immature. And coming to this day, I’m all the same wondering, of what I will become. The whole world lies ahead, awaits. And this song particularly (and might I add, pretty accurately) represents this perplexing sentiment of mine.

After years of expensive education
A car full of books and anticipation
I’m an expert on Shakespeare and that’s a hell of a lot
But the world don’t need scholars as much as I thought
Maybe I’ll go traveling for a year
Finding myself, or start a career
I could work for the poor, though I’m hungry for fame
We all seem so different but we’re just the same
Maybe I’ll go to the gym, so I don’t get fat
Aren’t things more easy, with a tight six pack
Who knows the answers, who do you trust
I can’t even separate love from lust
Maybe I’ll move back home and pay off my loans
Working nine to five, answering phones
But don’t make me live for my Friday nights
Drinking eight pints and getting in fights
Don’t wanna get up, just have a lie in
Leave me alone, I’m a twentysomething
Maybe I’ll just fall in love
That could solve it all
Philosophers say that that’s enough
There surely must be more
Love ain’t the answer, nor is work
The truth eludes me so much it hurts
But I’m still having fun and I guess that’s the key
I’m a twentysomething and I’ll keep being me
I’m a twentysomething, let me lie in
Leave me alone, I’m a twentysomething.

And by the way, I’m really back here posting. For good.

M.