I recall that in my earliest days of childhood since four years old, I would look up and experience a sense of wonder and exhilaration that captivated me throughout much of my boyhood. There was a certain beauty about nature which I could hardly grasp. Before I started first grade, my parents bought me a science encyclopedia which explained, in laymen terms, the beauty and elegance of the universe. It explained that nature can be viewed as a kind of hierarchy of different complexities and patterns starting at the submicroscopic level and going all the way to the scale of galaxy clusters and beyond. The word for this feature is Cosmos. I would marvel at the astonishing diversity of things: from the complicated actions and mechanisms which occur within the interior of a cell, to the various different plants and animals, to the subtle harmonies between the ocean and the wind and the Earth’s atmosphere, and other extraordinary aspects of nature. But in particular, I was fascinated by the solar system and the stars. I read about the evolution of the Sun and the then nine known planets. It said that in the earliest stages of the universe about 700 thousand years after the Big Bang—a colossal expansion of spacetime which resulted in the formation of the lighter elements—vast aggregates of hydrogen and helium atoms collected and condensed, by virtue of gravity, to form the stars. But it wasn’t until after the first generation of stars died out did life and conscious systems emerge. After these stars went supernovae, they would form vast enriched clouds of gas and dust, called nebulae, which would span the light-years. The final ingredients needed to make life as we know it was created. The gas and dust within these nebulae would then conglomerate and condense to form the second generation of stars. Circling around those stars, smaller aggregates of gas and dust formed the planets—and smaller still moons, comets and asteroids—every one of those worlds containing the ingredients for life. Those countless worlds span billions of lightyears in a vast web of trillions of galaxies across the heavens. Indeed, if the spontaneous emergence of organic chemistry—the building blocks of life—is inevitable after eons of time as some studies suggest, then those worlds up there in the heavens must be brimming with life and, perhaps, intelligent and thinking beings such as we. All my life I have wondered about the diversity and differentness of all those alien places. Since humanity first ventured into space a half-century ago, we have uncovered icy worlds such as Europa and Enceladus—the moons of Jupiter and Saturn—which contain enormous underwater oceans of liquid water; far off, mighty, Earth-like exoplanets in distant solar systems; Mars and Miranda, a moon of Uranus, which contains mountains and cliffs which ascend far higher into the sky than those on any other world we know of; Saturn, the crown of our solar system, which contains an exquisite and magnificent system of rings; Titan, a place with yellow skies and oceans made of liquid methane; and a place we call Earth containing a rich and diverse ecosystem of tens of millions of creatures.
When I was eight years old, I would make hundreds of drawings of the planets and the solar system. This fascination continued to cultivate throughout my childhood and carried all the way over until when I was in third grade. When I was in third grade, my school teacher taught about science in general. We went over all sorts of things. We talked about the different components inside of cells, how the cells aggregate to form more complex structures such as tissues and organs, and we went over various different facets in Earth and space science. Towards the end of the semester, we learned about the solar system and on the last week, I and the rest of my class went on a little excursion. We went out into the school’s soccer field and took ten differently sized balls (representing the Sun, Mercury, Venus, etc.) and separated them in accordance to a size and distance ration which realistically resembled that of our actually solar system. We measured how far away from one another they were using tape measures. After the measurements were done, we ran strips of colored strings from the ball representing the Sun to all the other balls representing its corresponding planets, and placed sticks into the ground next to each ball (the ones representing planets). At the end of this, when I had to actually walk across the entire field to collect the strings and sticks with my classmates, it struck me to discover how small we really were. This experiment captivated me in a deep way at a very early age. It was the first true perspective I obtained about this cosmos, and our place within it. Almost a decade later, I would discover that even our solar system—as big as it is—is merely a speck upon a speck in a much vaster universe.
Despite this inquisitiveness and potential, I remember that right when I got into fourth grade—right when they stopped teach us about the complexity of a cell, about the planet Earth and the diversity of life which it supports, and all the other wonder of science—this intellectual journey that I began at just four years old came to a sudden halt. It wasn’t so much the material being taught which affected me, but it was the fact that continuing my education in science at this age wasn’t even an option. Despite having had been very engaged in class previously, my academic performance started to drop. I remember that during recess, the teacher always pulled me off to the side (and other students who misbehaved or who failed to do their work) while everyone else was out playing. This lack of commitment to learning carried over into middle school and high school. And to make matters worse, I developed a chest condition at eight years old which became very pronounced when I was in middle school and high school. This caused me to isolate myself from other students and it, inadvertently, also contributed to my poor performance in school.
At sixteen and a half years old, I was forced to withdraw from my high school because my chest condition began to affect my breathing and I required a major chest-reconstruction surgery. At the time, due to my poor performance in school and other factors, it seemed as though my life was without direction or any ultimate aim. As I slowly began to recover, in a very gradual and natural sort of way, my attention was diverted to learning about physics and the stars. This marked the beginning of my self-education: an intellectual journey which would bring about unprecedented achievements. I remember that I would be sitting up-right in bed struggling to breathe and move while watching YouTube videos comparing the sizes of the various different stars to that of the Sun and Earth. A month later (when I was healed enough to turn a stirring wheel), I would drive out to my library each day to watch Khan Academy videos which were posted on YouTube. (This was when the Khan Academy was relatively new; there were only 38,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel at the time.) Gradually, as I continued to learn, I became more and more inquisitive. One day, quite by accident, I came across a speech by Carl Sagan called Pale Blue Dot. This speech was the most awe-inspiring and profound sermon on humanity I had ever heard. Astonishingly, I came across this speech purely by an accident of circumstances. Had it not been for my poor performance in school and an extremely rare chest condition, I can now reflect upon the fact that I almost certainly would have never stumbled across Pale Blue Dot in the fashion that I originally did—I simply wouldn’t have had any reason to. In hearing this speech, I knew—right then and there—that I wanted to become a teacher and popularizer of science so that I could inspire others in the same way that Carl Sagan and Salman Khan did for me. The number one obstacle towards accomplishing my dream was in that I had virtually all of life’s circumstances going against me. In particular, I was very poorly educated. At the time, I couldn’t even use a comma correctly in a sentence, I couldn’t even add negative numbers or do pre-algebra, I had never even read an entire book. At the time, a thought arose in my mind—rather out of the blue—what about those Khan Academy videos? If I wanted to become an educator of science like Carl Sagan, I knew right away that my first step towards reaching this achievement would be to learn math and physics—lots of it. Pale Blue Dot instilled within me a profound vision—one which I had long pondered since childhood—of humanity one day journeying to the planets and the stars. This sermon, single-handedly, inspired me to self-teach myself writing, mathematics, and science (albeit, on and off) to eventually win a scholarship at school—and in the longer run, to eventually create this educational website.
And so, I started to watch Khan Academy videos (posted by Salman Khan who, at the time, was the only person making online tutorials) from the physics playlist—after all, this was the field I was interested in. I would be following along well for the first 30 seconds or so, but then he would divide by time on both sides of the equation and I’d be completely lost. And after many more futile attempts of trying to learn the material, I eventually came to the decision that if I was to do this, I would need to start from scratch. And so I started at Khan Academy’s basic arithmetic video (which literally started at 1+1=2) and worked my way up. I rather easily progressed through his videos on basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I also learned about how to add/subtract and multiply/divide decimals and fractions very easily. When I got learning how negative numbers add, the way that Salman Khan explained it using a number line was intuitive and made sense. I finished self-teaching myself his arithmetic playlist in about three weeks and his pre-algebra playlist in about a month. Afterwards, I started his videos on algebra. The first four videos were on solving for the “x term” in a basic linear equation. I remember that this was something which I struggled with very much—it seemed extremely abstract and confusing to me for some reason. But after about a month, I finally started to get it—somewhat gradually, it just started to make a lot of sense and it became very natural. I progressed through the rest of these videos in steadfast fashion until I reached his videos which were on conic section—I was struggling with the first one which was on the equation of a circle. But after perhaps a week or so, I learned this too. I finished watching his algebra playlist in three months. After that, I spent three weeks self-teaching myself geometry from his geometry playlist. After that, I progressed through his first few videos on physics which were about distance equaling velocity times time and one-dimensional projectile motion. But then, when I got to his two-dimensional projectile motion videos, this required an understanding of trigonometry. And so, accordingly, I self-taught myself trigonometry in three weeks. I was about five or so months into this, and I started to hit some mental barriers. When I was watching his videos on electricity and magnetism, I started to doubt myself and to tell myself that maybe I couldn’t do this. This of course turned out untrue. I eventually self-taught myself from his calculus playlist and, after a year, I had finished learning from it. In that same year, I had finished most of the physicist playlist and, shortly after learning calculus, I finished learning from his physics playlist. After this, it was fascinating to me to learn from his chemistry, biology, and later astronomy and cosmology videos.
While busying myself learning about mathematics and science, I had also self-taught myself—albeit somewhat incorrectly and oddly—how to write using a dictionary, comment sections (for practice and Wikipedia. Now, I had made it up in my mind that in order to grow up to become someone who was capable of inspiring others, I needed to learn how to write like Sagan did. I initially thought that I would need to make it into a university—and so these were new goals that I set out to accomplish. I watched all of Carl Sagan’s videos and I read parts and sections of his book, Pale Blue Dot (I only read sections because, at the time, I was a somewhat sluggish reader). This effort in trying to learn how to write academically and to make the leap to a college or university marked the most difficult period of my life. I failed repeatedly. In fact, I think I can recall to this day failing at least 10,000 times. But every single time I fell short, I envisioned myself succeeding. What motivated me to keep going was the prospect of becoming an influential science teacher, and this profound vision of human beings exploring the solar system, and the galaxy, and beyond. I was moved to put together a single paragraph which would describe this vision and my life’s goal which, to this day, I remember word for word:
Life is a comparative rarity. You can survey dozens of worlds and find that on only one of them does life arise, and evolve, and persist (Pale Blue Dot, 8). And yet, through the visage of such stupefying odds it is only you and I who emerge in our ordinariness here on the planet Earth. There may be intelligent civilizations on a scale of engineering which dwarfs even humanities greatest of technological achievements. Even if there are—such civilizations, such beings—are profoundly rare distillations and special occurrences. They will safeguard the fragility of knowledge and life’s sacred meaning as they spread through the many worlds in their galaxy, and beyond.
Shortly after the culmination of this profound vision, I went on to achieve unprecedented results in college. But as I was going to college, I realized that there was something profoundly flawed about this so-called educational system. In my physics and math classes, I noticed that half—and in some instances, up to two-thirds—of the class would drop out. Clearly, all of those people dropping out were not learning anything. Even worse, I must confess that as being the top student in my physics class for two years, the entire educational process consisted entirely of rote learning and memorization drills for tests, and doing a lot of pointless busy work. I believe that this “schooling system” has squandered the creative and artistic gifts and abilities of many generations. But the work that I do on this website and the content I share on social media will be an attempt to hopefully salvage some of this lost potential. My entire goal of going through school was to become an educator and popularizer of science; but I realized that within the rigid and inflexible class curriculum, it is exceedingly difficult to do anything creative in the classroom. This is madness that we have taught the same thing, the same way, for more than a century—despite having made numerous advances in the last century in science, mathematics, literature, and art. I realized that school is not about producing creative problem solvers, or poets and artists, or writers of the likes of Melville or Sagan. This is why I voluntarily decided to quit school and find some other way of achieving my goal.
After quitting school, the next year or so of my life was wasted mostly working and not furthering my education. In that stretch of lost time, I realized that not just are our schooling systems completely outdated and invalid, but so are most things in this industrialized so-called civilization such as our socioeconomic system, our cities and roads, our value system, and so on. This eventually led me to become interested in a non-for-profit organization known as the Venus Project which was founded by Jacque Fresco and Roxane Meadows. The core message of the Venus Project is this: apply the scientific method to the socioeconomic system. After the fall of classical civilization, the Dark Ages was shrouded in ignorance and superstition: during that time, we had astrology, religion, alchemy, and witches. But during the European Renaissance—the intellectual and cultural revival from a long period of darkness—Grosseteste, Bacon, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and others gave us the scientific method. This allowed us to transition from astrology to astronomy, religion to physics, alchemy to chemistry, and from witchcraft and sorcery to biology and germ theory. The Dark Ages was a miserable period of immense human suffering and loss—this is the price of ignorance and superstition. In our time, as of this writing in 2017, the richest eight people in the world own as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity (about 3.6 billion people) while about 40% of the human race is consigned to live in abject poverty on less than $2/day; over one billion people are starving to death; and our entire global civilization and society is now on the brink of collapse. Is this merely the repetition of history? During the Dark Ages, we made a mistake in relying on superstition, ignorance and mere opinions to answer natural questions concerning the motions of the planets, the origin of disease and sickness, and the cause of chemical reactions; but, perhaps, we made precisely the same mistake with regard to our socioeconomic system and how we should design societies and manage economic and industrial activities? According to history’s greatest scientists, science and the scientific method is the best tool we have for understanding natural phenomena. Since socioeconomic phenomena is also natural phenomena, then perhaps the best way of understanding it would be to use the tools of science?
One of the biggest mistakes during the Dark Ages, in our investigations of natural phenomena, was to assume that through sheer thought alone, through the use of only reason, logic and opinions, we could arrive at accurate pictures of how the worlds works. But this is an impossible feat which even the great logician Aristotle failed to achieve. For millennia, Aristotle was, more than anyone else, history’s most influential thinker who many thought of as god-like. How could such a being be wrong on matters concerning the nature of things in the world? Analogously, for many centuries, people thought of Isaac Newton—who in one sweep overturned the entire Aristotelian worldview which had prevailed for millennia—as god-like. But here is where science diverges from philosophy. The experiment of tomorrow always has the potential to overturn longstanding ideas. Newtonian mechanics and physics had prevailed for nearly three-hundred years; but eventually, it was discovered that some of its core predictions were irreconcilable with experimental observations. As a result of these great ideas not matching experiment, they eventually had to be overthrown with the new worldviews of Einsteinian relativity and quantum theory in order to match experiment.
The use of experiment and peer-review in science is essential: it is nature telling us how she really is. Whenever any idea is not consonant with what we observe in nature, it must be discarded. As Feynman once said, it does not matter how smart the people who came up with that worldview were, or how beautiful the view is, or how simple it is—because experiment and peer-review are the ultimate measure of so-called truth. The core ideas and doctrines of today’s economic and social system (i.e. people are poor because they are lazy, the wealth produced by economic growth gets “trickled down,” or that there is a correspondence between economic growth and social progress and rise in technological efficiency) have been exhaustively debunked, to the point of redundancy, by countless experiments. It is now time that our socioeconomic system changes so as to be consonant with experiment. This is the primary goal of the Venus Project which draws from the experiments and pioneering research of those such as Robert Sapolski, James Gilligan, Gabore Mate, Jacque Fresco, and others whose research demonstrates that human behavior is shaped by the environment. This, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs (and of course other truths in the sciences), will be the scientific basis of our new social system in the future.
In addition to my interests in the Venus Project, I also help write scripts for the educational YouTube channel Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur. We are a team of nearly 30 people which includes scientists, engineers, writers, artists, musicians and graphic designers. It is an amazing opportunity to be able to work with so many talented people and I look forward to helping them with more work in the future. Currently, the channel is quite popular and has about 90,000 subscribers. It is my goal that we can continue to offer high-quality, educational content in order to educate and inspire the next generation. I also will, hopefully, in the future also be able to volunteer and collaborate with the Venus Project. But in the meantime, I’ll be very busy publishing educational content on Greg School. The goal of this website will be to explain the order and simplicity and elegance which underlies all physical phenomena in the universe and to use our knowledge of nature to also discuss technology—which of course, was created from the knowledge of how the world works.