Thu, 01 Apr 2010 16:31:00 GMT

Breaking Newton's Third Law of Motion

Newton's third law is a wonderfully simplistic rule that has overwhelming implications. In a single sentence it describes the interactions between all the objects in the universe.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Humans even follow this rule to a certain extent. If a person hits you, you'll get angry. Getting angry is an equal and opposite automated reaction. These kind of responses can be useful. For example, touching something hot will cause you to pull your finger back. However, these reactions aren't always useful. Consider a person who skips an interview with a prestigious company because they're nervous. In this case, the automated reaction to avoid stress worked against the person.

The difference between a human and an inanimate object is the ability to turn off these automated responses. Our actions don't need to be equal or opposite. Between the forces acting on us and the actions we perform is a choice. You are the sole owner of that choice. We have no control over external actions that happen to us, but we do have control over the resulting actions. That choice makes every person infinitely powerful.

However, what happens when we rely on our automated reactions? We forfeit the power we have to the initiator of our automated response. We become very similar to inanimate objects. We are bound to the rules of determinism. If instead we choose our action we cause indeterminism because the universe isn't choosing how we behave anymore. We start our own chain of actions which the universe must react to.

With this kind of power you can never be defeated. You could be bound, shackled, and locked in a dungeon and still have power. Those are just external predicaments that prevent your external action. However, your power does not reside in your hands; It rests in your ability to make a choice. As long as you never forfeit that, the universe has no control over you.

Mon, 14 Sep 2009 14:45:00 GMT

Conditioned Happiness

Ivan Pavlov is famous for his experiment where he trained dogs to salivate when they heard a bell. He did this by preceding every feeding with a bell ring. Eventually, the dogs began to associate the presence of a bell ring with the arrival of food and would start salivating even though no food was presented.

This is an extraordinary phenomena that is also present in humans. Pavlov's experiment was artificial, but we as humans have several natural associated responses. One that is especially useful is the association between smiling and happiness. The mind treats the feeling of happiness and the action of smiling as synonymous occurrences. Typically, happiness precedes smiling, however, it is not necessary that it happen in that order. When smiling happens first it can invoke a feeling of happiness without any other qualifying events.

This association can work wonders when doing things that you don't want to do or after a serious of unfortunate events. For example, when I was learning to snowboard I would always smile and laugh to myself whenever I fell. It allowed me to make it through the hard parts so that I could enjoy the fun parts.

So, smile more!