Celebrating Einstein’s birthday on Pi Day

Besides today being World Kidney Day, which I incorrectly listed on the blog for yesterday, the 14th of March is also the celebration of Pi Day, commemorating the mathematical constant π (pi), which, to two decimal points, equals 3.14.

Enjoying 3.14 pies on Pi Day.(© All Rights Reserved)
Enjoying 3.14 pies on Pi Day.
(© All Rights Reserved)

OK, we’ve already celebrated Pi Approximation Day on the 22nd of July (22/7 is also used to approximate π), but surely this amazing number deserves another mention.

So bake yourself 3.14 pies and share in the celebrations!

Making today extra special, we also celebrate the birthday of Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955), the greatest scientist of the 20th century. What makes Einstein such an endearing figure is that, besides his numerous groundbreaking contributions to science (thermodynamics, relativity, quantum theory, wave-particle duality, statistics, cosmology, nuclear physics and much more), he has also made deeply profound contributions to secular subjects as diverse as war and peace, religion, human rights, economics and government.

The ideas and opinions of the great Albert Einstein - a continuous source of insight and inspiration. (© All Rights Reserved)
The ideas and opinions of the great Albert Einstein – a continuous source of insight and inspiration.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Many volumes have been written about the great man, so rather than trying (and no doubt failing) to adequately capture his contributions in a single blog post, I will rather leave you with one of his many, many wonderful quotes:

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Do the opposite!

The 25th of January is Opposite Day. Or perhaps it’s the opposite of that, making it non-opposite day, which would be just another normal day, or… but if I keep going down that track I will just get confused and start wasting precious blog space.

Anyway, so today is all about opposites – black and white, light and dark, sharp and blunt, hot and cold, fast and slow. It’s the day to acknowledge and celebrate the yin and the yang. The great thing about opposites is that the one is often critical in your appreciation of the other. As John Steinbeck once said, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”

Appreciating opposites - black and white, light and dark, hot and cold.(© All Rights Reserved)
Appreciating opposites – black and white, light and dark, hot and cold.
(© All Rights Reserved)

A few days ago I wrote about getting out of your comfort zone in order to really feel alive, and it feels to me like Opposite Day is the perfect opportunity for doing just that.  By doing the opposite of what your automatic comfort-zone action would be, you will definitely force yourself into some uncomfortable, or at least unusual (and potentially rather amusing) experiences.

Right-handed? Then why not brush your teeth with your left hand today? And how about having breakfast at dinner time? Have a warm beer with a cold pizza. Sleep at the opposite side of the bed, or facing the opposite direction. Walk backwards. Call your job and tell them you’re taking the day off because you’re feeling healthy.

I’m sure you can think of many more fun opposites without needing to revert to anything dangerous, like driving on the wrong side of the road (not a good idea!). Opposite Day can be particularly fun when you get your kids to play along. Get them to think of things to do the opposite way – I can almost guarantee they will come up with some mind blowing ideas, simply because their minds are still completely open, and their creativity still fully intact.

Go ahead, make the most of the day – live a little (or live a lot)!

Open your mind: think, reason, question, engage

It’s World Philosophy Day today. An official UNESCO day since 2002, World Philosophy Day is celebrated annually on the third Thursday of November. The theme for 2012 is ‘Future Generations’.

The objective of the day is “to encourage the peoples of the world to share their philosophical heritage and to open their minds to new ideas, as well as to inspire a public debate between intellectuals and civil society on the challenges confronting our society.” On the day, governments, educational institutions and organisations of all kinds are encouraged to organise workshops, dialogues, debates, and other events to promote intellectual debate, reasoning and informed thinking.

Getting your brain in a knot on World Philosophy Day.
(© All Rights Reserved)

In terms of this year’s theme, the focus is specifically on promoting philosophical thought among young people, to nurture their taste for the the joys and rigour of critical thought. The great philosophers challenge us to question accepted truths; to not merely accept opinions as the truth; to test hypotheses; to reach our own conclusions. Surely developing this mode of thinking among the next generation is the wisest means of ensuring the future well-being of the world and its people. Abraham Lincoln captured it well when he said: “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”

So, today is the day to don your thinking cap, and tackle the big subjects – or, as Douglas Adams would say, “Life, the Universe and Everything”.  Philosophy is not about passively sitting around thinking – it’s about actively engaging with those around you. Take a stand, don’t shy away from controversy. Get the big debates going.

Just remember that philosophical debate is not a competition – differences of opinion is a good thing. To quote Thomas Jefferson: “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend.”