Quotations - used and unused

“Farhin, in all those years, after you and the others came back from Afghanistan, how did you stay a part of the jilhad?” I asked.

I expected him to tell me about his religious fervor and devotion to a Great Cause.

"The [Indoncsianl Afghan Alumni never stopped playing soccer together," he replied matter-of—factly. "That's when we were closest together in the camp.” He smiled. “Except when we weiit On vacation to light the communists, we played soccer and remained brothers."

Maybe people don't kill and die simnply for a cause. They do it for friends-campmates, schoolmates, workmates, soccer buddics, body-building buddies, pin-ball buddies—who share a cause. Some die for dreams of jihad—of iustice and glory—but nearly all in devotion to a family—like group of friends and mentor, of "fictive kin.”

How logical are we human beings? In some regards very logical, it seems, and in others embarrassingly weak. In 1969, the psychologist Peter Wason devised a simple test that bright people—college students. for instance—do rather badly on. You may try it yourself. Here are four cards, some letter- side-up, and some number-side-up. Each card has a numeral on one side and a letter on the other:

Your task is to see whether in this case the following rule has any exceptions: if a card bas a D on one side, It has a 3 on the other side. Now. which cards do you need to turn over in order to discover if this is true? Sad to say, fewer than half of students in most such experiments get the right answer. Did you? The correct answer is much more obvious if we shift the content (but not the structure) of the problem very slightly. You are the bouncer in a bar, and your job depends on not letting any underage (under twenty -one) customers drink beer. The cards have information about age on one side, and what the patron is drinking on the other. Which cards do you need to turn over? 

The first and the last, obviously, the same as in the first problem. Why is one setting so much easier than the...

Bach-y-Rita began to think that the localization of "one function, one location" couldn't be right...
He praised localization's accomplishments but argued that "A large body of evidence indicates that the brain demonstrates both motor and sensory plasticity." One of his papers was rejected for publication six times by journals, not because the evidence was disputed but because he dared to put the word "plasticity" in the title. After his Nature article came out, his beloved mentor, Ragnar Granit, who had received the Nobel Prize in physiology in 1965 for his work on the retina, and who had arranged for the publication of Bach-y-Rita's medical school thesis, invited him over for tea. Granit asked his wife to leave the room and, after praising Bach-y-Rita's work on the eye muscles, asked him--for his own good--why he was wasting his time…

Merzenich also noticed that animals of a particular species may have similar maps, but they are never identical. Micromapping allowed him to see differences that Penfield, with larger electrodes, could not. He also found that the maps of normal body parts change every few weeks. Every time he mapped a normal monkey's face, it was unequivocally different. Plasticity doesn't require the provocation of cut nerves or amputations. Plasticity is a normal phenomenon, and brain maps are constantly changing. When he wrote up this new experiment, Merzenich finally took the word "plasticity" out of quotes. Yet despite the elegance of his experiment, opposition to Merzenich's ideas did not melt away overnight.
He laughs when he says it. "Let me tell you what happened when I began to declare that the brain was plastic. I received hostile treatment. I don't know how else to put it. I got people saying things in reviews such as, 'This would be really interesting if it could possibly be true, but it could not be.' It was as if I just made it up."

Fisher thought in statistical terms. Natural selection "may be compared to the analytic treatment of the Theory of Gases, in which it is possible to make the most vaired assumptions as to the acidental circomstances, and even the essential nature of individual molecules, and yet to develop the general laws as to the behavior of gases, leaving but a few fundamental constants to be determined by experiment
  -- from On the Dominance Ratio, Proceeding of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 42 (1922)

Describing Roman warfare with two opposing lines of troops facing each other in protracted (day long) battle that lasted until one side broke and ran. At other points in the lecture Fagan hypothesizes that one of the main uses of calvary was to chase down and kill fleeing enemy troops. Massacre of the losing troops seems a consistent feature of ancient battle line oriented warfare.

"What really mattered was who would buckle first. Once the breaking point was reached either through fatique or too many missle casualties or perhaps a concerted well timed charge with swords then the real slaughter began as fleeing troops were mercilessly chased down especially by the calvary. That the losers of Roman battles often sustained losses serveral orders of magnitude greater than the winners shows that the undecided combat took very few lives since it was so tentative, at least so goes this model."

(Model is that Roman day long warfare would have to be less intense and hence more a battle of attrition between the battle lines; the relative size of losses is not part of the model per se but a fact cited to support the model.)

The economy of nature is competitive from beginning to end...Where it is in his own interest, every organism may reasonably be expected to aid his fellows...Yet given a full chance to act in his own interest, nothing but expediency will restrain him from brutalizing, from maiming, from murdering---his brother, his mate, his parent, or his child. Scratch an "altruist" and watch a "hypocrite" bleed.

The myth of war rarely endures for those who expericnce combat. War is messy, confusing, sullied by raw brutality and an elephantine fear that grabs us like a massive bouncer who comes up from behind. Soldiers in the moments before real battles weep, vomit, and write last letters home, although these are done more as a precaution than from belief. All are nearly paralyzed with fright. There is a morbid silence that grips a battlefield in the final moments before the shooting starts, one that sets the back of my own head pounding in pain, wipes away all appetite, and makes my fingers tremble as 1 ready myself to go forward against logic. You do not think of home or family, for to do so is to bc overcome by a wave of nostalgia and emotion that can impair your ability to survive. One thinks, SO far as it
is possible, of cleaning weapons, of readying for the business of killing. No one ever charges into battle for God and country.

“Just remember,” a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel told me as he strapped his pistol belt under his arm before we crossed into Kuwait, “that none of these boys is fighting for home, for the flag, for all that crap the politicians feed the public. They are fighting for each other, just for each other.”

The imagined heroism, the vision of a dash to rescue a wounded comrade, the clear lines we thought were drawn in battle, the images we have of our own reaction under gunfire, usually wilt in combat. This is a sober and unsettling realization. We may not be who we thought we would be. One of the most difficult realizations of war is how deeply we betray ourselves, how far we are from the image of gallantry and courage we desire, how instinctual and primordial fear is. We do not meditate on action. Our movements are usually motivated by a numbing and overpowering desire for safety. And yet there are heroes, those who somehow rise above it all, maybe only once, to expose themselves to risk to save their comrades. I have seen such soldiers. I nearly always found them afterward to be embarrassed about what they did, unable to explain it, reticent to talk. Many are not sure they could do it again.

We are humiliated in combat. The lofty words that inspire people to war—duty, honor, glory—swiftly become repugnant and hollow. They are replaced by the hard, specific images of war, by the prosaic names of villages and roads. The abstract rhetoric of patriotism is obliterated, exposed as the empty handmaiden of myth. Fear brings us all back down to earth. Once in a conflict, we are moved from the abstract to the real, from the mythic to the sensory When this move takes place we have nothing to do with a world not at war. When we return home we view the society around us from the end of a very long tunnel. There they still believe. In combat such belief is shattered, replaced not with a better understanding, but with a disconcerting confusion and a taste of war’s potent and addictive narcotic. Combatants live only for their herd, those hapless soldiers who are bound into their unit to ward off death. There is no world outside the unit. It alone endows worth and meaning. Soldiers will rather die than betray this bond. And there is—as many combat veterans will tell you—a kind of love in this.
--emphasis mine--