Wednesday, October 7, 2009
There was a recent paper posted to the general physics arXiv about how it's better in various ways to represent the table in a circular format. An article in the MIT Technology Review suggests somewhat hilariously that this is a bad idea because it's "impossible" to rotate it on most computer screens. Right: because whenever I have a portrait style photo I have to physically pick up the monitor and set it on its side (luckily I can do the impossible!). The article is pretty bad in general. My favorite is the claim that "The periodic table has been stamped into the minds of countless generations of schoolchildren." Let's see: when was it invented, again? 1869? Hmmm. . . . At least the author didn't claim that it's literally been countless generations. . . .
Anyway, it turns out that something like this has been considered many times before. There's even a site where one can buy a t-shirt of the "Mayan Period Table". Now that's some cutting-edge nerd attire. . . .
Saturday, August 29, 2009
From White Plume:
Now, I don't mind if words change their meaning as long as we have some word to stand for each of the meanings that are useful to preserve. As precise/literal sense of 'literally' is gradually being eroded away (not literally!), perhaps we should be on the lookout for words that might take its place.
According to Steven Pinker's book, The Stuff of Thought, Roger Tobin coined this acronym. The book says:The charter member was Rabbi Baruch Korff, a defender of Richard Nixon during his Watergate ordeal, who at one point protested, "The American press has literally emasculated President Nixon."As our language evolves, using literally when speaking figuratively is becoming more accepted in informal speech as a method of exaggeration. However, in formal writing, I recommend you use both words precisely. When you're literally correct, you avoid figuratively pushing proper English out the door.
How about 'metaphorically' or 'figuratively'? We could just gradually swap the meanings of 'literally' and 'figuratively'. Say I want to emphasize that what I'm saying is not a mere figurative exaggeration (I really was knocked out --- i.e., rendered unconscious --- by last night's band), I could say, 'I was figuratively knocked out by the band last night!' --- meaning not figuratively. Maybe after a while their meanings would swap back --- rather like the earth's magnetic field.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
My friend Amanda had never seen a whole Star Wars film. When I asked her if she wanted to watch the original trilogy she said that she would, but that she already knew what happens. So I took out my voice recorder and asked her to start from the top.
Even though I have seen the trilogy a bunch of times, I'm not confident that I could do significantly better if someone was holding a mic up to my face. Well, okay, I wouldn't have left off the Ice Planet Hoth. . . .
It's kinda funny thinking about how one would describe any movie's plots at a medium-level of detail. For example, though one could describe The Big Lebowski as about a lazy middle-aged stoner's "misadventures" or some such, how the hell would you explain its plot to someone? "So there's this guy who comes home to find these two thugs, one of which pees on his rug. . . ." Go on?!? . . .
Friday, July 31, 2009
A while later, one of them (who turned out to be a graduate student in psychology, I think) emailed me back: "We greatly appreciate your interest in the project and we are including the essay you directed us to among our submissions. We will be getting back to you in June ’09 once our selections are finalized."
Me: "Thanks for your message, but before you consider my paper submitted to your volume, would you please answer my questions about it? Publisher? Committed authors? The focus is then on philosophical aspects of creativity?" If this book is vaporware, not in (or near) philosophy, not done by a good publisher, I don't need to go there — I'm happy enough to let the paper simmer on my research backburner for a while. It's crowded there, but I'd make room.
Them (roughly): [Some of the details requested. A well-respected publisher "has expressed interest".] Having dealt with publishers, I know that "expressing interest" is worth about zero when it comes to pushing through to a volume (on the topic, I just saw this). And there were other things that made me somewhat concerned.
Dear Matthew Slatter [sic],
Though we enjoyed your essay, “Two aspects of scientific creativity,” and we hope you will find a good home for it in publication, we are sorry to inform you that it will not be included in the volume we are editing on the philosophy of creativity. We received a windfall of excellent potential chapters and, alas, we can only include a few.
Given your interest in the subject, however, we thought you might be interested to attend a conference we will be hosting on the philosophy of creativity next year. The exact details are still to be determined, but it will be held at Barnard College, Columbia University, most likely in November 2010. If you would like to be notified about this event once the schedule is confirmed, please let us know and we’ll keep you posted; we would be happy to have you join us.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Emboldened by their success in declaring Pluto not a planet, the International Astronomical Union determined this week by a close vote that February is too short to be considered a true month. It has, however, been granted the newly created status of "dwarf month." It shares this dubious distinction with several other calendar time spans, including Labor Day Weekend, Christmas Vacation, and the Time Between When You Were Supposed to Get Your Oil Changed and When You Actually Did.
"It only seems fair," said IAU President Ron Ekers. "February reaches a peak size of 29 days, averaging only 28 days for 75 percent of the time. Recent research has shown that other periods, such as the Time Between When You Were Supposed to Get Your Oil Changed and When You Actually Did, often exceed this meager time frame. In fact, this erratic behavior only strengthens our case that February does not belong in the same classification as the eleven 'true' months."
Ekers also warned that the crop of 30-day "so-called" months should be careful to maintain their number of days. "They're already cutting it pretty close in my book."
Written by Michael Haber.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Anyway, I'll no doubt post more about this in due course, but it looks like the 2010-11 academic year will be dedicated to this research project. And the nice thing is that I'll have a year to plan what I'm going to do!
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
me: "Why not?"
he: "Well, because we don't know that there's not wine in there."
me: "But you don't know that there isn't wine in the other boxes."
he: "But I'll ask you about what the contents of those are."
me: "Then ask me about the contents of this box and I'll tell you: 'it's just books!'" [Shaking box vigorously]: "Sounds like books, right? And anyway, can't you just open them up to check?"
he: "It doesn't matter: once we close them up again, other people will wonder."
. . . . and so on.
And even after patiently covering up all indications of wine and wine references ('vineyard', 'pinot noir', '750 ml', &c.), he insists that I cover up a large logo which happens to be a rooster. "Why? Am I not allowed to ship roosters either?" "No: it's that people will know that it's a wine box with that rooster on it." Right. . . . 'cause whenever I think 'rooster' I think wine. I'm not making any of this up. . . .
So apparently the mere suggestion that there might have once been wine (or roosters) in the boxes creates a salient enough skeptical scenario for the postal service which even direct inspection cannot resolve. Maybe wine bottles will grow in the box after it is sent: you never know! I was informed, however, that I could just cover up the wine labels and it wouldn't be a problem. . . . I'm skeptical. What about the shape of the box — the fact that its dimensions are roughly those of wine bottles arranged in a 3 x 4 grid?
Turns out that the postal service is also into fine distinctions about intentionality. In confirming the contents of the non-wine-box boxes, the clerk asked if there was any "writing" in the box. "Aside from the books," I ask? "Yeah, like handwriting," he responds. I admit that there's of course plenty of handwriting in the margins of the books. "Is it about the books?" he asks. "Because you can't send them if it's not." Wow. I'm afraid that there might be some borderline cases of "aboutness" in there (notes to myself to look at another book on a related topic, for example). Better let this go: "Yes: whatever writing is in the books is about the books."
Friday, May 29, 2009
Anyway: our trip to Lewisburg saw both the successful sale of our house in Idaho and an offer that was recently accepted on this sweet little Cape Cod house about a mile and a half to campus! [photos] Like moths to flame, I'm sure we'll be drawn back to Lowes to get in over our heads with home-improvement projects. Hofstadter's Law, here we come!
Friday, May 8, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Sleeping Dog Runs Into Wall - Watch more Funny Videos
Poor guy! Look at his hackles!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I particularly enjoyed this exchange in the online comments section [SICed]:
They have philosopher ranked in the top 20 ? how does one get employement as a philosopher?
Great question! I possess some really deep thoughts too, I'd make a great philosopher! I think I'll start an independent philosophy company. If it doesn't work out, I'm sure the government will bail me out.
Here's a wee photo tour. Other photo galleries (from parties, renovations, &c.) are here.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
So I've migrated my old blog onto blogger, where I've had some decent success with courseblogs. We'll see how it goes here.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Apparently (as my favorite tech blog, Gizmodo, reports), this sent a bunch of conspiracy theorists into a frenzy. His revelation that it was a hoax and he just glue-gunned some old cell phone parts into the box hasn't calmed them down much. Perhaps it's just a smoke-screen to distract from the fact that they really ARE watching you watch TV.
I just love the image of some sinister, Dr. Strangelove-esque bunker with thousands of video feeds of staring, silent couch potatoes bathed in blueish TV-light. Hilarious!
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
So in about two weeks I somehow manage to get about a thousand pieces of SPAM in my two email accounts. After summarily deleting all of the spam in one (I occasionally glance at it just to make sure nothing good is getting lost), I thought "Hey, perhaps I should check the other."
Good thing, as I just found a ten-day old journal acceptance for my short paper (more like a story with a philosophical moral) "A Reflection on Our Freedom" for Philosophia. (Whew!) I suppose I would have found out sooner or later. . . . But add spam to the sources of publication-related headaches!
Monday, January 5, 2009
My one regret is that we never managed to make it to this new restaurant, wd-50 in SoHo, the brainchild of Wylie Dufresne (a Jean Georges alumn). Take a look at the menu. Weird stuff: roasted red pepper oatmeal as a side dish? Worshechire spetzle? Apparently, there's a lot of use of "foam" in the dishes. Someone reported to me when I asked what the cuisine was (i.e., French, Thai, New American, Fusion?) that they were referring to it as "molecular gastronomy". That's hilarious. The next obvious step is atomic gastronomy, I suppose. What about quantum gastronomy? Are molecules the last unit of taste? Do elements taste like anything?