Friday, October 29, 2010

AZ Propositions

Last-minute cramming for the propositions on the AZ ballot? The Morrison Institute is here to help.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My all-time favorite verse of scripture

Whence this creation has arisen—perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not—the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows—or perhaps he does not know.
Rig Veda 10.129.7 (Nāsadīya), from The Rig Veda, tr. Wendy Doniger (New York: Penguin, 1981).

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Two more podcasts

1. Marcus du Sautoy's 10-part, non-technical A Brief History of Mathematics, for BBC 4 Radio. Finished this one (at 2x acceleration) in two bus trips today.

2. Peter Adamson's in-progress History of Philosophy Podcast, from King's College London, which ambitiously intends to go through the entire history of the field with no gaps. I would do this myself, but I think my speaking voice is horrible, and the pace of my written history of philosophy (still on Anaximenes!) inspires no confidence.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wikileaks war logs

Wikileaks has released more Iraq war logs. The information coming out is important: reports of detainee abuse and executions by Iraqi civilian forces, a formal policy by coalition forces to effectively ignore such actions, and a secret civilian death tally. I do not at all buy the government's refrain that all of this should be kept under wraps because it endangers US troops. Both times I was in Iraq, I would have been happy to see this information come out, even if it would have increased my risk of being killed: when a democracy goes to war, the citizens need to understand what is actually happening on the ground. I would not have wanted such information withheld, even to protect me; having actually served, of course, I'm quite sure that the only thing anyone is trying to protect here, is his or her career.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lunar transit

Another absolutely mind-blowing image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, brought to you courtesy of NASA's Image of the Day. Be sure to look at the amazing detail in the full-sized version.

Friday, October 15, 2010


M8, the Lagoon Nebula, courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope, and NASA's Image of the Day.

How can we be sure about anything at all?

It has been ages since I published anything at my parent site (, but, happily, I managed to find a little bit of extra time today to do so. Naturally, by "extra time," I mean "time during which I should be asleep."

I covered Descartes this week in my Introduction to Philosophy classes, and spent considerable time using odd neurological conditions to motivate a very disturbing skeptical move Descartes makes almost in passing in the Meditations on First Philosophy. I had produced a rough draft of an article on precisely that topic for my website about a year ago, but never got around to finishing it. Being able to discuss the vexing matter in class was sufficiently awesome that it motivated me to pull the article out of the dusty file archives of my computer and finally complete it. So, here's the question: how can we be sure about anything at all?

And no, I do not talk about Putnam and internal realism. I'm putting most of my readers through enough without all of that.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Invisible Gorilla

Yesterday, I finished The Invisible Gorilla, which I had been listening to in audiobook format during my transit to and from work. The book is one of a long line I have read which describe how vast the difference is between the way our minds function, and the way we think they function. Our minds feel transparent to us, but they most assuredly are not. The Invisible Gorilla is, in my humble estimation, the best book of the lot—no surprise, since the authors are the researchers who came up with the original test for which the book is named. If I teach another introductory logic and reasoning class, I will use this book.

A video of the original test is below. I have included a second test after that, in case the first is already too familiar to have any effect, or if the name of the book clues you in too much.