Christmas – Newtonmass – Grav-mass and Open Source

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – Christmas. At least for the Christians who celebrate the virgin birth of Jesus. For me, as an atheist geek, this is all a bit difficult – I have a Christmas tree in my living-room and as a teacher I enjoy my two week-holiday. But to be honest: I don’t buy the whole thing.

So, in secret, on December 25 I celebrate “Newtonmass”, or Grav-mass, an invention of Richard Stallman. Newton was born on 25 December 1642, in the Julian calendar. (So, in fact, he was born on 4 January 1643, but who cares: the Julian calender fits our purpose better).

Stallman is the pioneer of the concept of copyleft and started the free software movement. He defined the four freedoms:

  1. Freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  2. Freedom to study how the program works and adapt it to your needs. Access to the source-code is a precondition for this.
  3. Freedom to redistribute copies, so you can help your neighbor.
  4. Freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. Access to the source code is a precondition for this

Open source is in fact a Christmas message: share and work for a better world. Now, you should not limit yourself to software alone, there are more open source projects going on: in fact the free and
open source licensing can lead to:

  • open source designs under free licenses
  • open to do-it-yourself
  • open to end-user dialogue
  • open to peer-review
  • open to collaboration
  • open to cradle-to-cradle analysis
  • open to viewing as an ecosystem of processes
  • open to democratic participation
  • open to new design ideas
  • open to new economics
  • open to the future

(with thanks to Bryan Bishop)

Interesting projects – all scattered around the Web – are:

  • Product Hacking
  • DIY Biology
  • Oscomak: supports playful learning communities of individuals and groups
    chaordically building free and open source knowledge, tools, and simulations
    which lay the groundwork for humanity’s sustainable development on Spaceship Earth and
    eventual joyful, compassionate, and diverse expansion into space
    (including Mars, the Moon, the Asteroids, or elsewhere in the Universe).

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  • The Aesthetics and Beauty of Knowledge

    Shih was the opposite of facts and raw information; shih was the elegance of knowledge, the insight and skill to organize knowledge into meaningful patterns. As an artist chooses colours or light to make her pictures, a master of shih chooses textures of knowledge – various ideas, myths, abstractions, and theories – to create a way of seeing the world. The aesthetics and beauty of knowledge – this was shih.

    – David Zindell, The Broken God, 1993

  • Geek Attitude

    The attitude thing is about flexibility, portability, creativity, sociability and jamming (ran out of suitable “ity” words!). It’s about improvising – in the practical and musical senses of the word; not getting tangled in boundaries and the “right” way to do things.
    Definitely the only way to travel.
    Martin Delaney – “Laptop Music”.