Be aware Beware

Three thinkers I can't get enough of, all contemporary with my lifetime, include polymathematician Caleb Gattegno, citizen of the world who was born in Egypt on the numerically pleasing date of 11.11.11; Chemistry Nobel Prize Laureate, Ada Yonath, born in Jerusalem just before the start of WWII; and Economics Nobel Prize Laureate, Daniel Kahneman, born in what was then Palestine in 1934.

Among the three, there is a beautiful progression of thought.

Caleb Gattegno -- Awareness

You are relying on Gattengo's thinking any time, for most of you now, you view something on a screen. Gattegno recognized that learning is in essence, the arrival of awareness.

The air feels cool to my skin. The sky is covered with clouds. The air is moving.

He observed we have multiple awarenesses, and those awarenesses require expenditures of energy for which he proposed a unit of measurement he called the ogden.

Gattegno's work on visual awareness influenced Georges Cuisenaire who created a visual and kinesthetic approach to the relationships foundational to mathematics.

Gattegno and Cuisenaire influenced Edward Tufte whose book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information developed a cult-like following among early web designers.

Ada Yonath -- Persistence

Persistence relentlessly follows the question: is there a relationship between this awareness and that awareness?

"My mother said I was always asking, 'Why is that red?' and 'Why do we have winter?' and 'Why is this liquid more viscous?'"

I hope you got vaccinated. Yonath did a lot of work to get it to you. She persisted through 25,000 failed experiments to crystallize ribosomes in order to study them.

From the Nobel Prize committee It took 25,000 tries – and the revelation that ribosomes from organisms that live under harsh conditions would be hardier during crystallisation. In the early 1980s, Yonath finally managed to crystallise a desert bacteria known as Geobacillus stearothermophilus. The next step was to figure out a way to pass X-rays through the crystal without damaging its structure. The answer was cryo-bio-crystallography. Yonath developed this method of blasting the crystals at –185°C before X-raying them in order to protect their crystalline structures.

"I was described as a dreamer, a fantasist, even as the village idiot. I didn't care. What I cared about was convincing people to allow me to go on with my work."

If you got an mRNA vaccine against the coronavirus, say thank you: ribosomal subunits assemble together like a sandwich on the strand of mRNA, where they proceed to attract tRNA molecules tethered to amino acids (circles). A long chain of amino acids emerges as the ribosome decodes the mRNA sequence into a polypeptide, or a new protein.

Daniel Kahneman -- Discernment

As noted, Kahneman was born in British-occupied Palestine, but spent formative childhood years in Nazi-occupied Paris, where he has vivid memory of his father first being rounded up as a Jew and then released six weeks later following the intercession of his employer.

The work that earned him the Nobel Prize was published as, "Judgement Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases" (1982).

His publisher's description reads as follows: Decisions under uncertainty are traditionally defined by incomplete information or knowledge about a situation—that is, the possible alternatives or the probability of their occurrence or their outcomes are not known by the subjects.

Awareness and persistence to be useful, must be guided by discernment. For Kahneman, this means: of the possible outcomes: what is most likely? Kahneman, whose awareness and persistence developed under harshest conditions of uncertainty, metabolized that awareness into the most clear-eyed study of how right we can think we are while being as wrong as can be. Be aware and beware.

Kairos for Business FAQ Terms Privacy