Pure signal.

Daf Yomi Physics

I’m not quite ready to start this idea, but it is getting closer and closer all the time. I have wanted to do something like the Daf Yomi, but for “my people”. I am really impressed with what the Daf Yomi does — in terms of educating and providing unity to contemporary Jews the world over. If I was Jewish I would participate in it — (if you are Jewish and haven’t heard of it please look it up, its really awesome.)

So I got to thinking, could I take this idea and use it to create a stable center for a secular population? To preserve values and education that benefit humanity in some way? Of course to answer this question I would have to first answer the question “Who are my people?” If I want to create a center for a population what center is it that I want to serve?

There are three broad answers to this that are mutually exclusive (as I see it) — first would be readers. What would be a course of daily reading that would serve readers world wide? Unfortunately I don’t think that there is a common cannon which would provide benefit to everyone — I think the question is better answered individually so that population would not be served by that tool.

Secondly I came up with “Those who understand and appreciate the rule of law.” — because I think that the rule of law is the most important political concept ever to have been created.  But while I believe this to be true, I don’t have a background in legal history and I could come up with a list of books and ideas, but I don’t have any sense that what I would come up with would be the best possible set — I would like to see a “Daf Yomi” for the rule of law, but I don’t feel competent to create one.

A subset of this might be “What it means to be American.” — a course of reading through the founding documents that make up the unique history of our nation. The contemporary political field has been both dividing us and dumbing us down. I think a focused, one page a day, reading list going through the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, various Supreme Court decisions etc. would be an incredible exercise. I also think that the people who would be willing to participate in such an exercise would be bound to be interesting, and that it might be possible to pull together a group of people who could accomplish a lot of good for the country.

Finally I came up with science and technology — and I’ve looked at this from a couple of angles — from a theoretical angle and a practical angle. In keeping with the spirit of the original Daf Yomi I think that the theoretical angle is the best one to take — a 7 year page a day course of reading that firmly establishes the scientific principles that make the modern mind what it is. It is not a program for specialists, but for everyone who wants to live in the modern world and know about it what there is to be known. So the focus is not on exotic problem solving or speed, but thoroughness of understanding.

Following the theoretical direction would be something along the lines of elaborating this document.

If I were to go with the practical direction I would use something like the McMaster Carr catalog (look it up) and go through page by page and explain what everything is and how it works — a thorough rendering would provide a phenomenal level of practical insight — I would love to sit in on that class.

I would love to get feedback from people about what the best direction for this project would be — like I said, I’m not quite ready to start it, but I think that I will be within the year. I will only be able to start one project like this in my life, so I want to make the choice well.


October 18, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. I’m not sure what sort of community or communities I’d be interested in considering myself a part of with regards to a secular daf yomi but I think that any sort of book club (which is really what this would be) that would have masses of people reading the same educational material on a daily basis would be cool to join.

    I’d stress that the material ought to be objectively “educational” (such as scientific or source documents that have had an affect on world history) rather than morally based for be to be in favor of the idea though. Having no grand unifying theory relating to morals, ethics or the “increased wellbeing of mankind” I’d be uncomfortably wary of any sort of curriculum that would attempt to moralize the masses in any particular direction but I WOULD love to become better educated with regard to scientific and historical subjects in unity with millions of my fellow humans with similar interests.

    Anyhow, with regard to daf yomi itself, I made my first grand attempt at it on the day of my Bar Mitzvah when I resolved to learn Daf Yomi daily for the next seven and a half years. Being an ADDer meant that it stopped happening some few months down the line but being a stubborn self-punishing ass meant that I managed to continue it daily for quite a few very difficult months, including those that saw me get up at 5:00 AM in sleepaway camp so that I could join two of the camp’s Rebbes for their daily chavrusa session on the daf.

    Anyhow, chaval al d’avdin v’lo mishtakchin… 😉


    P.S. If you actually spent a few hours IN a daf yomi get-together I’m pretty sure you’d find the subject matter more creepy than cool, or, when you’d realize that millions of small boys are raised to believe that this sort of study is the entire purpose of their (and everyone else’s) lives you’d be overwhelmed by an enormous sense of tragic sadness. Hey, I didn’t open this conversation but pesach pasuach mutzusi ne’eman l’oisruh.

    Comment by mnuez | October 18, 2008 | Reply

  2. Daf Yomi for “y/our people”…

    Hmmm… I see two main strands here: the social and the spiritual. Socially it might be classified as leaning towards liberal democratic, and that’s “liberal” in the 18th century sense of the word. Spiritually it would be the track taken by many: psychedelics, meditation/magick, and ultimately science.

    Liberty & Reason.

    The grand liberal democratic tradition as exemplified in the preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence? (That part about equality which we’re just getting around to realizing.) Would it begin with Rousseau, Locke, Milton’s Aeropagitica, etc and build up to Paine’s Common Sense and Franklin’s Autobiography? Frederick Douglas’ Autobiography? A review of the history of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee? Would class theory enter into it? Would the whole thing culminate with Crowley’s Liber Oz?

    I’ll defer to you to come up with the scientific curriculum. I barely know my plastids from my plasmids.

    Comment by Chuk | November 27, 2008 | Reply

  3. Ah, crap. I forgot… The whole reason I was going to comment on this article…

    Speaking of Daf Yomi, my paternal grandfather from Kentucky did something similar. He read the Bible all the way through at least once for every year he was alive. He just decided to do it and then spent a few years getting caught up. After that, he slowed down a bit and read the whole book all the way through, cover to cover, every year. He could quote from it off the top of his head. That was kinda spooky. He was the one who had one thumb and worked as a chemist for Libby’s. He was into taxidermy and entymology. He had carcasses in vats of chemicals. On his walls he had glass cases filled with every size and shape of beetles, moths and butterflys; all pinned and labled. His father was a one-room schoolhouse teacher and sunday preacher who had a room in the house filled with ancient National Geographic magazines. Kinda awesome really.

    Comment by Chuk | November 27, 2008 | Reply

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