Sunday Assembly to explore the power of change this Sunday

By Lisa Seel

Photo by Pavel Chusovitin on Unsplash

“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one. Go out into life, you will find your chance there, and only there.”

While often misattributed to Henry David Thoreau, this quote actually comes from English historian and novelist, James Anthony Froude (1818-1894), in his 1849 book, The Nemesis of Faith. Regardless of who said it, however, the point is still very clear— becoming the person you want to be requires work, thought, and yes, sometimes even change! This month’s topic is “change.” Whether you struggle with change, embrace change, or need change, we will be talking about it and how change can affect happiness in our lives.

Our speaker this month is Angie Phares, an Integrated Health Coach and Yoga Instructor in Pittsburgh ( Angie will be talking about how changing different aspects of our lives can not only increase our happiness quotient, but can also improve our overall health and well-being. In addition to her talk, Angie will be sharing information from the Greater Good Science Center at U.C. at Berkeley, which “is at the fore of a new scientific movement to explore the roots of happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior—the science of a meaningful life.” To learn more, visit them on the web at

Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh is a secular community that celebrates life! Visit our Events page to see what’s happening in the community.

Sunday Assembly announces first ‘Family Play Date’ of 2019

Photo by Charlein Gracia on Unsplash

Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh is a community benefit organization, and families are a significant part of the community. Every year the first Family Play Date gives families and children a chance to break out from their cold-weather hibernation, and have some fun outside.

Attendees are encouraged to kiddos, snacks, and lots of energy! Of course, plan ‘A’ is weather dependent. However, there is a contingency plan.

If the weather doesn’t look promising, the plan will be to head to the Carnegie Science Center where members will use their guest passes to get everyone in free.

The Family Play Date is planned for Sunday, March 24, 2019 at 10 AM – 12 PM. It will be held at Super Playground located at Reservoir Dr, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15206

Please follow the Facebook event for updates.

What is 5G technology and how different is it from 4G?

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

President Trump pushed 5G into the news last week when he tweeted the United States is “lagging behind” in developing the technology. But what exactly is 5G, and how different is it from 4G LTE?

First, let’s explore what a ‘G’ is. There are certain standards developed for mobile communication, which are largely influenced by an organization called Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN). With each leap in technology cell phone service moves up a generation, which is what ‘G’ stands for. The first cells phones were 1G, allowing us to talk. Technology improved to allow texting, which was considered 2G. Next, 3G gave us the internet on our phones. We are currently at 4G, which is similar to 3G, but much faster. Now, 5G is over the horizon.

Five G consists of five major technologies focused largely on decreasing latency. Latency is the delay between data being sent and when it reaches its destination. The latency standard developed for 5G is one millisecond, which is about 50 times faster than 4G — data will be transmitted and received almost instantaneously. The technologies that make up 5G consists of millimeter waves, small cell networks, Massive MIMO, beamforming, and full duplex.

Most cell phones and wireless technology carry data along the same radio frequencies, which are overcrowded and becoming slower and less reliant. A great metaphor to describe the overcrowding of radio waves is the overused metaphor of vehicle traffic during rush hour — the road represents the radio waves and the vehicles represent the traveling data. The majority of data is carried on radio waves between 3 KHz and 6 GHz. As we move up in frequency, the waves become closer together. Millimeter waves will be used in 5G technology. Returning to the traffic metaphor, millimeter waves will allow us to open more lanes, therefore speeding up the transmission of data. Because millimeter waves are higher in frequency, it creates an obstacle, both literally and figuratively. Millimeter waves cannot travel through structures like buildings, and they are absorbed by rain and plants. The technology created to solve this problem is called small cell networks.

Small cell network stations will relay the millimeter waves around objects. To make 5G work, there will need to be thousands of these stations throughout cities.

Current 4G tower ports have approximately 12 antennas that transmit all cellular data. Massive MIMO (Multiple input and output) allows for about 100 ports, which increases the number of antennas to 1,200 — allowing for more data to be moved faster — further decreasing latency. With current technology, data is sent from the tower in all directions. With the magnitude of data being sent with massive MIMO, interference will occur due to the data overlapping, which is solved with beamforming technology. Beamforming uses computer algorithms to help the data travel the most efficient path to its destination. Beamforming also prevents data signals from overlapping.

Because of the physics of electromagnetic waves, data can only travel along a radio wave in one direction at a time. Today the problem is solved by transmitting data traveling in different directions to separate wavelengths. Full duplex technology works more efficiently by allowing data traveling in different directions to briefly be rerouted, and then return to its previous route, similar to a railroad switch.

The combinations of all the technologies that create 5G will allow us to send information 50 times faster. This will have huge implications on national security, the economy, future technologies, and in ways we cannot imagine. Five G technology is expected to be available to some this year, and to the masses in about 2025 — soon we will see the direction it takes us.

Survey: Where do atheists find meaning?

Atheists are one of the most misunderstood groups in the world. A study reported on by the New York Times and published in the journal, Nature shows most people have a moral prejudice against atheists and nonbelievers. One of the reasons nonbelievers are feared and stigmatized is because many don’t understand where they find morals and meaning.

According to a Pew Research poll, religion is the second most important source of meaning in the lives of Americans (family was polled to be the most important). However, studies show America is becoming less religious as a nation. Between 2007 and 2014, the amount of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated grew from about 37 million to 56 million people. Americans who identify as atheist, agnostic or state their religion is ‘nothing in particular’ make up 23 percent of the population — a significant amount of people. Without religion, where do these Americans find meaning in life?

Americans were asked an open-ended question about what gives them a sense of meaning. Pew compared two groups — Christians, and the religiously unaffiliated. Christians were broken down into the subcategories Protestant, Evangelical Protestants, Mainland Protestants, and Black Protestant. The unaffiliated subcategories were atheists, agnostics, and people who identified their religion as ‘nothing in particular’.

Between Christians and the religiously unaffiliated, the topics mentioned the most when asked about a sense of meaning were finances and money. Twenty-six percent of the religiously unaffiliated mentioned finances and money, compared to 22 percent of Christians. Of all the subgroups, atheists found the most meaning in finances and money (37 percent), compared to the next highest subcategory, Evangelical Protestants, who mentioned finances 26 percent of the time.

Hobbies and activities were found to be the second most mentioned topic amongst the nonreligious. Twenty-three percent of religiously unaffiliated people mentioned hobbies and activates in the open-ended answers, compared to 16 percent of Christians. Atheists were the most likely of all the subgroups to mention hobbies and activities as giving their life meaning – approximately a third. The nonreligious were also most likely to find meaning in creative activities.

Atheists were the most likely to find meaning in travel by a large margin. Thirteen percent of atheists mentioned travel. The most likely to mention travel under the Christian subcategory were Mainland Protestants at six percent. Atheist also found the most meaning in leisure activities at 14 percent, compared to the next highest Christian subgroup, Mainland Protestant at nine percent.

People who identify as nonreligious are a diverse and complex group, however, the stigma remains. These numbers show the religious and nonreligious find meaning in many of the same areas.

Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh is a secular community that celebrates life! Visit our Events page to see what’s going on in the community.

Speaker Series: My adventure fostering kittens

Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

By Stentor Danielson

One of the things that have taught me the most about adventure is fostering kittens. When an animal shelter (such as Humane Animal Rescue here in Pittsburgh) takes in kittens or other young animals, they get in contact with a network of foster families around the area. Fostering allows the kittens to get close attention and learn to socialize with humans, something that would be hard to do at the shelter. Once a kitten weighs at least two pounds, it is big enough to get all of its shots and other medical care before being put up for adoption by its “forever home.” (Of course, sometimes a foster family can’t bear to give up a kitten and decides to adopt it — we call those “foster fails.” My own Monks is a foster fail from a litter we fostered several years ago.)

When kittens come to a foster home, they may be just a few weeks old, and incredibly tiny. Sometimes they still need to be hand-fed with a bottle because they’re not weaned yet but mama cat is out of the picture. They start to learn to walk, bumbling around on their tiny legs. In Austria, these little kittens are called ” Autodromkatzerl” meaning “bumper car kittens” because their tails stick straight up like the pole on the back of a bumper car, and they bump into things — furniture, their siblings, people — when they run. It takes a while for them to learn to use their claws as well. They may climb up things and not be able to get down.

For a tiny kitten, everything in their world is an adventure. What’s on top of the bed? A mysterious land that has never been visited before! What’s under the couch? Untold mysteries to explore! Is this new thing food? Only one way to find out! Our foster kittens stay in a room on the upper floor of our house, and it is always a major milestone when they first manage to come down the stairs on their own. And sometimes, kittens can find adventures that we didn’t expect. We were confused as to why leaves kept appearing in the kitten room, until we discovered that one of our foster kittens had managed to pry out the corner of the screen window, get out onto the roof, and bring some leaves back into the house.

Seeing the adventures in the world from a kitten’s point of view is what inspired me and my co-foster-parent Cheyenne Grimes to write Laser Kittens, a tabletop roleplaying game about foster kittens learning to grow up to be awesome cats. Right now we’re running a Kickstarter for a set of beautiful Kitten Cards illustrated by Dominique Ramsey, and a book of new scenarios and adventures for your kittens — from a farm to a spaceship to a movie set. When you back the Kickstarter you can also get the rules for the original Laser Kittens game as well.


My adventure exploring the ‘Big Bounce’ theory

big bounce
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

By: Brandon Tucker – Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh Marketing Coordinator

Full disclosure: I am not an astrophysicist, which is probably why I’m just discovering a decades-old theory in 2019. The theme for the next Assembly is, ‘Adventure’ so I figured I’d go on an adventure through the ‘Big Bounce’ theory. Like most people, I was mainly familiar with the Big Bang before I started my journey.

What exactly is the Big Bounce? Simply put, the Big Bounce is the theory the beginning of our university is the result of another universe before us “contracting”, and then “bouncing” into expansion. Based on the Big Bounce, the universe goes through constant phases of expansion and contraction.

A significant difference between the Big Bounce and the Big Bang is there is no singularity in the Big Bounce theory.  Singularity is a point in space that is infinitely hot, infinitely dense, and has no mass.  The Big Bang theory states the universe expanded rapidly from a point of singularity.

The Big Bounce is based on the theory our universe was so small in the beginning, the laws of physics were based on quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics that describes the motion and interactions of subatomic particles (photons, atoms etc.). Based on quantum mechanics, it would be impossible for the universe to condense into a point of singularity (the Big Bang). However, the point would still be very hot and dense. This theory leads to the conclusion there had to be a universe before ours that compressed into the extremely dense point, and then expanded to create our universe (the Big Bounce).

The Big Bang and the Big Bounce theories both explain the expansion of the universe. However, based on the Big Bounce the universe is in an expansion period and is constantly cooling (losing energy). When the universe runs out of energy (heat), it will contract again until it reaches a point where it has enough energy to expand, starting the process over and creating another universe.

There is still much evidence that needs to be gathered to the support the Big Bounce theory. However, I once heard the purpose of knowledge is to discover more questions.

The Next Assembly is Sunday, February 17, 2019 at 10 AM – 11:30 AM at
Community Forge, 1256 Franklin Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15221

For more info visit: