About Meandering Sobriety
Thinking is a fundamental activity of our species – those that give names to other creatures and call themselves humans. Textbooks tell us that there is about 1.2 kg of matter called the brain inside the human body. It sounds small but actually is proportionally the biggest among all animals on Earth.
I became more aware of thinking at around 5th grade upon hearing about an ancient paradox. It can be summarized as follows.
Once upon a time, there was a stupid king. In his kingdom lived a sage who was highly respected for his intelligence. The King did not appreciate this fact. Maybe the Sage made fun of the King’s intellect, but I am not so sure. Anyway, one day, the King summoned the Sage, intending to kill him.
The King said, “Wise man, I heard you earn a living by thinking and arguing. Now I give you two options to die.”
The Sage said, “Please tell me the choices, Your Majesty.”
The King continued, “You live by your tongue, so I will let you say one sentence before you die. If what you say is true, you will die by hanging. If what you say is false, you will die by beheading.”
Little did the King know that this was a stupid order. After a short while, the Sage confidently spoke his “last words”, which actually were what saved his life:
“Your Majesty, I am about to be beheaded!”
As a “wild animal” going out into life from a young age, my brain spent a lot of time and energy looking for food. Now that I have become older, my body no longer needs so much sustenance. However, my mind craves a different type of nourishment: food for thought.
Food for thought can directly lead to food (on the table). My main job as a scientist exemplifies what I have just stated. Maybe we were wrong. Maybe it has been “thought for food” all along, like in such a sequence as TFFTTTFTFFTTFFFT…
In the hyper-chaotic infosphere today, we are surrounded by the noises of information, not only as wavy shores or waterfalls but also mega-tsunamis, through Twitter, Facebook, Tiktok, Instagram, Youtube, etc. More than ever, tranquility and calmness are necessary. Like what you have seen in wilderness video clips, predators such as lions, bears, and alligators act lightning-fast when catching prey. But when food is served, the natural world returns to its peaceful, soothing silence.
This short book is in its own tidy infosphere, where each little story is also brief and self-contained. Despite this small appearance, I hope the content inside carries the value of tranquility and life observation. The book is petite, but pretty sure not malnourished. A not-too-small detail is that the way the content was shaped and distilled reflects some innovations of mine and my research team: the mindsponge theory, a new theory of serendipity, the bayesvl R package, the BMF analytics, as well as other experiences from working in the field of science. After all, scientific works were my main source of food (before this book sells well – if it does).
Much of the content, seemingly fragmented, has reflected our lab’s essential cultural values, which have led to mindsponge theory, BMF analytics and related works. Thus, under the analytical paradigm of these closely-connected concepts, the pieces come together as bits and pieces of one whole thing. I think it is a bit unfair to tell about things in a house without mentioning the house itself.
Welcome to the priceless sober moments – with a chicken-burger price tag!
I hope this book will bring readers some moments of calmness, peaceful smiles, and maybe a couple of good laughs too.
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Quan-Hoang Vuong (Ph.D., Université Libre de Bruxelles) is Distinguished Scientist of Phenikaa University (Vietnam). He has served in NAFOSTED’s Scientific Council since 2019 and the Vietnam Institute for Advanced Study in Mathematics since 2021. He has published some 200 papers and books with many leading publishers. He wrote 300 peer-review reports and provided editorial service to over 110 manuscripts.