How Wabi and Imperfection Gave Me Peace of Mind

As I look around at the general shortcomings of not only this blog, but my life in general, I had to take some time to reflect on where I was. Like many other times in life, I got an answer from one of my favorite books of all time.

人和書 ( Men and Books) : Zen and Japanese Culture: 禪與日本文化

On page 284 the page reads:

[speaking of wabi] And wabi is not merely a psychological reaction to a certain pattern of environment. There is an active principle of aestheticism in it; when this is lacking poverty becomes indigence, aloneness becomes ostracism or misanthropy or inhuman unsociability. Wabi or sabi, therefore may be defined as an active aesthetical appreciation of poverty;

To put this another way, wabi is the appreciation of the beauty that is the result of imperfection.

If an object has wabi, it can be thought of as having “character.”

I think that the meaning behind this is that there can be hidden treasures lying underneath troubled circumstances. The person who understands wabi realizes his trouble: his lack, his want, his failure. But despite the knowledge of this, the person decides to reshape his impoverished environment.  Doing the absolute best they can, and with a genuine heart.

And with the study of wabi, the genuine heart is the gold that emerges from underneath the trouble. The other benefit is the authenticity that comes with overcoming a problem while living within your means.

House Hunting

Now that I am nearly finished with a car build that I have been working on for a few years, I am focusing more attention on purchasing a house or condo.

There are a few reasons that I would like to buy a house this year.

The first reason is that it will save money long-term in comparison to renting. I have heard counter-arguments to this, and the woes of homeownership costing huge amounts of money: roof leaks, plumbing repairs, etc. However, it is hard to quantify the cost of home repairs a place would need before purchasing.

However, let’s take a look at potential costs of home ownership versus renting. Say you pay $600 a month in rent. That’s $5000 a year. That is relatively flat, with no home repairs needed.

Okay, let’s compare this to home ownership. Your mortage is $600 a month. You have to pay a plumber $700 once, and you pay additional taxes.

Maybe your grand total is $7,000 a year, and you have to pay an additional $2,500 in property taxes.

So that’s $9,500 vs. $5000 if the math is right. Ok, so it looks like renting is winning. But let’s consider the fact that your $5000 goes to the landlord and is not invested in any way. It basically just goes out the window.

The house on the other hand, you get to recoup some of the money spent.

I ran a projection for a 15 year loan on a house.

Frankly it doesn’t seem worth it unless a very substantial down payment is made. Over 15 years with a ~5% interest rate, you could be paying almost double what the house is worth.

Western Tradition, Symbolism

It’s been a while since I’ve written a long-form post. In fact, lately, it’s been more of “haven’t posted in a while, so here’s something quick!” So I’d like to just put to paper a lot of ideas I’ve had lately. These are things that I’ve observed and I think the reader should see a connection as well.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people in the USA are very opposed to Western mysticism in a variety of ways/forms. I’ve also noticed that many people are really receptive to Eastern mysticism—particularly yoga or eastern forms of meditation.

I guess what I don’t understand is why people are closed off to the Western mystical traditions in favor of the East. I think there are a variety of reasons. First and foremost, I think Western mystical traditions are a repressed aspect of our culture. This is in spite of the fact that many major Western scientists, mathematicians, and revolutionary thinkers dabbled in Western mysticism. I also think that the West is not developed enough to understand ideas that go beyond logic, although there were/are many Western scientists that are pushing for greater understanding of irrational ideas and paradoxes.

For example, Isaac Newton had multiple manuscripts about the philosopher’s stone. Leibniz was influenced by the I Ching.

I suppose another reason that the West is largely closed off to it’s own traditions of mysticism is because they do not even know they exist. We are usually told that Christianity is the basis of Western culture, which is only partially true. Christianity has greatly influenced Western civilization, but there are other “root” structures that affect our way of thinking that run so deep they can’t be ignored.

Symbolism Cropping Up

Another thing I want to point out is how repressed mystical thought ends up cropping up in our culture in really unexpected ways. The main way that repressed mystical thought pops up is with societal obsession with fantasy movies, superheroes, and things like that. Take Harry Potter for example. The same people who insist on their rationality have no problem spending $15 to see a wizard child fly around, buy books, and even dress like him. All while insisting it’s just make believe. What they usually don’t know is that JK Rowling borrowed a lot of ideas from Roman/Greek thought, pagan/norse influence, and alchemical thought. Take a look at the images below. What do you see?

The Harry Potter snitch

The winged sun, from the Rosary of the Philosophers

Does this look familiar? Looks a lot like the snitch, doesn’t it? This idea was borrowed, or maybe stolen, from the Rosary of the Philosophers (1550). It runs even deeper than that though. Check out this other image below.

The caduceus or the staff of Hermes. It is now used to represent the medical profession (sometimes)

Hermes with Caduceus

In the caduceus you see again the idea of a golden ball with two wings. This time it is on a staff with two serpents wrapped around it. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is another “enlightenment” symbol just like the winged sun and the snitch. In the “snitch” case, if you retrieve it, you win the game of Quidditch. This is a metaphor for the other symbols. Capture the mercurial sun, or the staff of Hermes, and you “win” a game in life so to speak. They are all mythological ideas that correspond to life experience as a human.

The staff’s serpents represent the Western form of the idea of “kundalini” as it’s called in the east/yoga traditions. This is the idea that human life force resides in the base of the spine and rises up the spinal column to the brain where it can be transformed or causes a change in the human brain. Hence the two serpents coiled around the staff (the spine) rising up to the golden winged ball (human head).

What’s the Point?

I guess at the end of the day the point is that these ideas are repressed but still a part of our collective Western psyche. Enough so that they still awaken fascination in people when they are seen, despite the historical background not really being obvious. They make such a deep impression that people “get” the idea unconsciously.

The other point is that the West has it’s own traditions of higher human understanding just like the East does with Yoga, Zen, Buddhism, and so on. It is just that many of these ideas were repressed for centuries and even up until modern times. And even better, the ideas tend to run in parallel with eastern though (the kundalini idea as mentioned earlier).

The other point is that it could be easier for Western people to understand their own culture than to try to understand and adopt another culture’s religious and mystical traditions. Since english is partially based on Greek, Roman, and Latin, the words are easier to understand and relate to. And since our psyche’s foundation rests on Greco-Roman-Egyptian traditions, the ideas are usually easier to digest than those from China/India/Japan and so on.

Website for SMART-Treat™ MBBR

Check out the new website for SMART-Treat™ MBBR here. This was a simple WordPress build. It’s hosted on a Digital Ocean droplet. Encrypted with free Let’s Encrypt cert. Cost’s only ~$6/mo to maintain.

This was a “one-man-band” type build. I did everything.

I like working on these projects because it gives me freedom to make design decisions, work in the server’s back-end, and work with command-line interface.

Also, I like the product. It’s an innovative approach to cleaning water at a small scale.

88.9 ThinkMinded Rooftop Meetup

Yesterday was the 88nine ThinkMinded Rooftop Meetup.

A lot of great Creative, tech startups, and entrepreneurially-minded individuals made it. For example, there were podcast recorders from Everyday Media, freelancers, Students working with The Commons, the RokkinCat team, and a representative from Spin Group (me).

Image result for 88.9 radio milwaukee rooftop thinkminded
I didn’t take this photo, but it’s a lot like what last night looked like.

Pilot Wave Theory: An Alternative Explanation to the Double-Slit Experiment

bouncing silicon droplets
An image of silicon droplets bouncing on oil, imitating the behavior of light particles according to Pilot Wave Theory

“Instead of non-real waves and real particles, why not just have real waves that push around real particles?” – Matthew O’Dowd, faculty at CUNY

There are a lot of weirdness in the quantum physics world. So much weirdness that quantum physics actually refers to some phenomena as quantum weirdness. And believe me, it lives up to it’s name. One example of very weird behavior is the wave-particle duality of light. The wave-particle duality is an explanation for how light behaves. Basically, it says that under certain circumstances, light is a particle. Under other circumstances, it behaves like a wave. Specifically, there is one experiment that is the “classic” case of demonstrating the apparent shift back and forth between the states called the double-slit experiment. The reason this topic gets attention is because of the outcome. Scientists expect electrons being shot through a double slit to behave like a particle — producing only two lines on a screen, but it behaves as a wave, producing a pattern of lines.

The current consensus explanation is that light can shift between particles and waves depending on the scenario. However, there is an alternative! The Pilot Wave Theory of light provides an excellent explanation for this experiment. It is also highly intuitive. Basically, it states that light does not shift between particle and wave, it is both at the same time. It is basically light particles riding on light waves, like surfers riding on ocean waves. This theory has a lot of traction in physics circles, but tragically is not accepted by mainstream science. This theory accurately explains the outcome of the double-slit experiment and challenges firmly held beliefs about the nature of light.

The double slit experiment shows how light behaves

Let’s zoom out here, and see exactly what the double-slit experiment is. The double slit experiment starts with the single-slit experiment. The single-slit experiment is basically setting up a particle beam that shoots either photons (small particles of light) or electrons through a slit in some kind of shield. The media shot through this is then observed on the other side.

1 Double slit Exp Single slit results | From the mid 1600 ...
The single-slit experiment produces results that we expect. A beam of light goes through a slit and produces a single strip of light on the other side.

Like the illustration shows, the single-slit experiment produces the expected result. This is how light acts as a particle. It travels straight through and produces a strip of light on the screen. Nothing really strange here at all, eh? But things get strange when another slit is added to the slit partition.

Superposition, Interference and Decoherence - Quantum ...
The double-slit experiment produces an interference pattern of light, similar to how a wave would behave.

Didn’t see that one coming, did ya? Well neither did a lot of scientists. However, when we now view light as a wave, the reason this happens is pretty clear. The waves are stacking on one another and producing an interference pattern on the screen. Essentially, waves of light are constructively and destructively interfering as they travel towards the screen, and producing the pattern of light and dark fringes. View the illustration below to see a visual of this.

As a wave goes through the two slits, it produces two waves that interfere with one another, producing an interference pattern and the resulting strips of light particles on the back screen

So what is the confusion exactly? Well, the confusion lies in the fact that the particles being collected on the back screen are behaving like waves. Remember in the beginning of the article when I talked about how the particles are collected on the back screen? Take a look at what they look like.

Strange! So it appears as though the light/electrons do in fact behave like both particles and waves. The particles are going through the slits, but they are distributed exactly like waves would be. But the current explanation is…they change between the two?

Enter Pilot Wave Theory

The alternative explanation to the wave-particle duality is to model the light particles as moving on waves. This is referred to as Pilot Wave Theory. This way, we don’t have to believe that light somehow flips between one state and another in a logic-defying way. Take a look at the animation below of the double-slit experiment. It accurately depicts a discrete light particle riding a light wave to it’s destination: one of the interference patterns bars on the back collection screen.

Pilot Wave Theory and Quantum Realism | Space Time | PBS Digital Studios
This animation from PBS Digital Studios provides a visual of the Pilot Wave theory. Light particles “ride” the waves of light, instead of transforming into them. The particle takes a specific trajectory (based on classical wave mechanics) and hits the screen as expected.

Where is this theory from? A man name Louis de Broglie formulated this theory in the early 20th century. He modeled the light waves using the Schrödinger equation. [For information regarding the origin of the Schrödinger equation, please read this article]. However, his idea was ultimately rejected at the Solvay Conference. Mainstream academia’s strict adherence to Einstein’s general relativity and special relativity do not allow for light particles to travel on “guiding waves” as de Broglie describes. However, the elegance and brilliance of pilot wave theory has maintained many followers since it’s inception, and has lead many to abandon Einstein’s theories altogether in favor of de Broglie’s.
Einstein’s (fifth from right, bottom row) relativity theory overcast de Broglie’s pilot wave theory (third from right, middle row) at the 1927 Solvay Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

One person who pushed Pilot Wave Theory to a new height was David Bohm. David Bohm completed the Pilot Wave Theory. In fact, it was even renamed after his work in the 1950s, giving it it’s current name: de Broglie-Bohm Pilot Wave Theory.

David Bohm.jpg

There is a PBS Space Time publication that does an excellent job explaining the history of Pilot Wave Theory, and provides the back story of it’s formulation. In a nutshell, a scientist name Louis de Broglie came up with the theory in the early 20th century. His idea was rejected in Copenhagen quantum meetings, however. Other contemporary quantum leaders such as Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg were adamant about rejecting “classical” physics in their interpretation of quantum phenomena. Maybe they threw out the baby with the bathwater, though. but was revived by David Bohm in the 1950s.

The “life-sized” counterparts to pilot-wave theory

Analogous experiments that show Pilot Wave behavior can be reproduced at a human scale. Physicists like Yves Couder use silicon droplets bouncing on oil to demonstrate the particle-wave interaction. The particle bounces up and down, and generates a wave that pushes it. Below is a real example of silicon droplets in a double-slit experiment.

Yves Couder . Explains Wave/Particle Duality via Silicon Droplets [Through the Wormhole]
The appeal of Pilot Wave Theory is that it does not stray far away from classical physics—let alone throw it away like Einstein’s quantum theory. Scientists such as Yves Couder demonstrate the same double slit behavior with silicon particles visible to the naked eye.
As you can see in the footage (not an animation!), the bouncing silicon droplet picks a discrete trajectory. Staunch physicists may say “the quantum world does not behave like the human scale world.” But this kind of thinking is a hindrance to progress. After all, why shouldn’t it? Why do we need to weave stories about light particles transforming into waves when more intuitive  (or perhaps even obvious) explanations exist? I will leave that up to the reader to decide.

“In physics experiments, you only see what you are prepared to see.” – Researcher Yves Couder, University of Paris-Diderot, (producer of human-scale silicon droplet double-slit experiment)

Summary and looking deeper

Pilot Wave Theory is an elegant solution to the wave-particle duality problem. Instead of making mystical demands of scientists, and making ridiculous claims about wave particle transmutations, it gives an intuitive explanation for the double-slit experiment. The main reason it is rejected is due to political ignorance and orthodoxy surrounding Einstein’s flawed general relativity and special relativity doctrines. However, the theory has gained traction in circles mainly outside academia ever since it’s inception. Please investigate the theory for yourself and leave a comment with any errors or suggestions.

In a nutshell, Pilot Wave Theory suggests that light particles travel in discrete paths as particles, guided by waves.

Works Cited

Through the Wormhole – Wave/Particle – Silicon Droplets

Double slit GIF – By Lookang many thanks to Fu-Kwun Hwang and author of Easy Java Simulation = Francisco EsquembreOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Why don’t more physicists subscribe to pilot wave theory?

Bush, John. (2015). Pilot-Wave Hydrodynamics. Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics. 47. 269-292. 10.1146/annurev-fluid-010814-014506.

Pilot Wave Theory and Quantum Realism | Space Time | PBS Digital Studios

Particles on screens –

English: Results of a double-slit-experiment performed by Dr. Tonomura showing the build-up of an interference pattern of single electrons. Numbers of electrons are 11 (a), 200 (b), 6000 (c), 40000 (d), 140000 (e).
Source Provided with kind permission of Dr. Tonomura

Pomodoro Timer

Well golly-gee! Thanks for taking the time to take a peek at this!

I am posting a link here to a project I wrote on It’s a pomodoro timer. For those who aren’t familiar, the pomodoro technique is a method that helps people fight procrastination and the fear of starting a project. It does this by challenging someone to only spend 25 minutes on a task, rather than hours. This helps break the “fear barrier” of starting a project (the “aw shit I gotta spend all day on this” mentality). In addition, it helps with focus because the other rule to using a pomodoro timer is that you work distraction-free for 25 minutes. No cell phones, no talking to other people, just 25 minutes of solid effort toward a specific goal. It has worked wonders for me and many other people. Please check out, and use the pomodoro timer I created!


  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).[1]
  3. Work on the task disctraction free, no cell phones, notifications, pointless email checking, Facebook, etc.
  4. End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.[5]
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a break (5 minutes), then go to step 2.
  6. Do as many pomodoros as is comfortable, usually 1-4. If exceeding 4, take a long break after 4th (usually 15 mins).


Sonoluminescence Video


Please check out a video made collaboratively with Thunderbolts project. It covers the material in the article with additional commentary from Thunderbolts. Cheers and happy Friday!

The Border of Death

A human skull

This article is dedicated to the memory of Victor Mikecz (6-20-1926 – 4-13-2018), who passed away during the writing of this article.

Death seems like a black and white subject. There is not much middle ground between alive and dead. Or is there? The law has strictly defined definitions of death that are used during examinations and in making medical decisions for those kept alive by external life support. However, the border between life and death has many shades of gray. For those in states of persistent unconsciousness, life becomes a condition ranging from hope for full recovery to death only being a matter of time. For healthy individuals going through cardiac arrest, they may have “near-death experiences” with previously unexplained “lights.” New research in these subjects is giving humanity greater insight into both conditions of unconsciousness and the electrical nature of near death experience. Though death is defined legally, our understanding of human conditions near the border of death continues to grow with advances in brain research and electrical technology.

Background, The UDDA Death Document

In the United States, death is defined by the Uniform Determination of Death Act. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws wrote the document in 1980 for adoption across all 50 states, and is currently adopted by 37 US states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The American Medical Association (AMA), the American Bar Association (ABA), and President’s Commission on Medical Ethics all approved this document. The document was necessary because medical methods throughout the 1970s were clashing with out-of-date legal standards of death. Simply put, at that time death was still defined by common law as the cessation of the cardiorespiratory system. The UDDA builds on the old common law by extending the definition of death to include complete not only heart and lung failure, but termination of all brain function, including the brain stem.

This is an important point, because the brain stem is a very tough little bugger,

The brain stem of a human brain
The three parts of the human brain stem.

and will continue to function under harsh circumstances. It is the most primitive part of the human brain. It handles some very core aspects of human functioning. Among other things, the brain stem controls the cardiovascular system, respiratory function, alertness, and consciousness. Therefore, loss of brain stem function is the end of the road for a human being. This total loss of function in the brain is a brain death.

Hello…? Any controversy in there?

Where exactly is the issue? The difference between between brain death and persistent vegetative states is critical in understanding how the US defines death and how patients are treated in each condition. Think of the term “brain-dead,” and the type of person it is used to describe—someone in a coma, someone unresponsive. This layman’s word is similar to brain-death but does not mean the same thing. Well, what many think is a brain death could be a persistent vegetative state (PVS). In a persistent vegetative state, medical care usually consists of nothing more than a feeding tube. People who have suffered severe brain trauma typically are the ones who suffer with persistent vegetative states. The condition is one in which the patient retains some function of consciousness. They exhibit sleep-wake cycles, and often can use some motor function such as use of their eye-lids. What is the difference, exactly between PVS, a brain death and a coma? The key difference is that people in PVS still retain function of their brain stem, whereas in a brain death, the brain stem has lost all function and the patient has to be supported by external equipment. Lastly, in a coma, the patient has lost all consciousness, and will not respond at all to touch, speech, or any other form of contact.

The Electric Brain

Advances in medical instrumentation now help determine the cognitive functioning of patients in PVS states. For example, in a recent article published in New England Journal of Medicine, researchers used fMRI to ask questions to a patient, and then measure the response using fMRI equipment. The article called Willful Modulation of Brain Activity in Disorders also states that

“…a small proportion of patients in a vegetative or minimally
conscious state have brain activation reflecting some awareness and cognition.”
-Martin Monti et. al,, New England Journal of Medicine
fMRI of brain
fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) allows doctors to view brain activity in real time.

The article states that scientists could ask questions and patients responded “yes” or “no” via measurement with fMRI. These researchers also state that new methods are required to make diagnoses of conditions of consciousness such as comas and persistent vegetative states. The article states that 40% of these conditions are misdiagnosed!

fMRI of yes/no answer
Actual “yes” and “no” responses of patients correspond with similar brain activity of control patients. Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Despite these scans appearing promising for all PVS patients, it is important to note that only a minority of PVS patients in this study exhibited this ability to “communicate” via fMRI in this study. Specifically, five of fifty-four patients (~9%) could do so. This is important to note, as fMRI is by no means a miraculous means of communicating, but can be effective for investigating the state of a patient’s conscious state.

On that same token, vegetative states encompass a wide range of conditions. The definition of the state is rather broad in most contexts. The Royal College of Physicians defines vegetative states as “A state of wakefulness without awareness in which there is preserved capacity for spontaneous or stimulus-induced arousal, evidenced by sleep–wake cycles and a range of reflexive and spontaneous behaviours.” In plain English, aside from sleep-wake cycles and some motor movement, vegetative states can be applied to a very broad range of states of consciousness after a traumatic brain injury. This is probably why fMRI communication does not work with all patients, some simply have more damage than others and are in lowered states of consciousness.

Life After Death for a Healthy Brain

Aside from other states of consciousness that linger near death, healthy human brains actually exhibit strange electrical activity after death. In a article published in PNAS called “Surge of neurophysiological coherence and connectivity in the dying brain,” researchers at the University of Michigan state that their research partially explains why many cardiac-arrest patients have “near-death experiences.” Their research shows that when rats clinically die, and blood flow stops to the brain, the brain actually exhibits electrical activity similar to that in conscious perception.

Jimo Borjigin
Jimo Borjigin
“High-frequency neurophysiological activity in
the near-death state exceeded levels found during the conscious
waking state. These data demonstrate that the mammalian brain
can, albeit paradoxically, generate neural correlates of heightened
conscious processing at near-death.”

Jimo Borjigin, et al., University of Michigan

The quote above paints a picture different from what researchers expected. After a clinical death, they expected brain activity to slow down to a halt. However, what they saw was quite different. Researchers found that the brain activity actually increased for a period after the death, resulting in a heightened state of consciousness processing. The brain scientists state that this electrical activity could account for the “lights” that people experience during near-death experiences of cardiac arrest patients.

Looking Deeper

The human brain is a miraculous work. Lingering states before death can be confusing for all involved, and education is critical to making decisions regarding loved ones. Currently, the US law has very specific rules for handling patients in comatose, PVS, and brain-death conditions. Current law also accounts for legal statements made before the patient fell into their condition.

Advances in fMRI technology are allowing doctors to make more accurate decisions in diagnosis. Physicians achieve this by comparing fMRI imagery of patients with severe brain trauma with control patients. Are some PVS patients capable of even more communication beyond yes or no questions? Will the use of this technology change our medical procedures and law? It is hard to say, but the future looks promising for using more advanced communications methods with brain damaged patients on the border of death.

Our understanding of near-death experience continues to give credence to reports of cardiac arrest patients. How will this body of research continue to grow? If electrical activity in the brain really is responsible for the “lights” experienced in death, can we officially include this experience in medical texts? Readers are encouraged to continue to push the boundaries of our current understanding of death. Doing so will not only increase our understanding of the ultimate commonality among creatures, but can bring feelings of peace when we or a loved one has to face it.

Legal Docs

UDDA Document

Scientific Articles

Monti, Martin, et al. “Willful Modulation of Brain Activity in Disorders of Consciousness | NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine,

Borjigin, Jimo, et al. “Surge of Neurophysiological Coherence and Connectivity in the Dying Brain.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 27 Aug. 2013,


Top Skull Photo – Title: Memento Mori!, Author: Milan Nykodym, from Kutna Hora, Czech Republic,

fMRI (first)- John Graner, Neuroimaging Department, National Intrepid Center of Excellence, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, 8901 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20889, USA

fMRI (second) – Photo sourced from “Willful Modulation…” by Monti, Martin et. al.