ideas

‘It depends on what the meaning of the word is is.’ –Bill Clinton

How do we navigate a deeply structured world? Why are you reading this sentence first - and did you actually look at the fifth word?

{ Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews | Continue reading }

‘The trouble with comparing yourself to others is that there are too many others.’ –Sarah Manguso

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The Game is a mental game where the objective is to avoid thinking about The Game itself. Thinking about The Game constitutes a loss. 

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

art { Taryn Simon, Finance package for the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Baku, Azerbaijan, February 3, 2004, Paperwork and the Will of Capital, 2015 | Ralph Gibson, Beautiful Parlor, 1968 }

To remind me of. Lff!

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Let’s begin with a simple fact: time passes faster in the mountains than it does at sea level. The difference is small but can be measured with precision timepieces that can be bought today for a few thousand pounds. This slowing down can be detected between levels just a few centimetres apart: a clock placed on the floor runs a little more slowly than one on a table.

It is not just the clocks that slow down: lower down, all processes are slower. Two friends separate, with one of them living in the plains and the other going to live in the mountains. They meet up again years later: the one who has stayed down has lived less, aged less, the mechanism of his cuckoo clock has oscillated fewer times. He has had less time to do things, his plants have grown less, his thoughts have had less time to unfold … Lower down, there is simply less time than at altitude. […]

Times are legion: a different one for every point in space. The single quantity “time” melts into a spiderweb of times.

{ Guardian | Continue reading }

photo { Julie Blackmon }

‘Goethe’s theory of the constitution of colours of the spectrum has not proved to be an unsatisfactory theory, rather it really isn’t a theory at all.’ –Wittgenstein

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With a few minor exceptions, there are really only two ways to say “tea” in the world. One is like the English term— in Spanish and tee in Afrikaans are two examples. The other is some variation of cha, like chay in Hindi.

Both versions come from China. How they spread around the world offers a clear picture of how globalization worked before “globalization” was a term anybody used. The words that sound like “cha” spread across land, along the Silk Road. The “tea”-like phrasings spread over water, by Dutch traders bringing the novel leaves back to Europe.

{ Quartz | Continue reading }

art { Josef Albers, Interaction of Color, 1963 }

‘You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.’ ―Dita Von Teese

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Here, we analysed 200 million online conversations to investigate transmission between individuals. We find that the frequency of word usage is inherited over conversations, rather than only the binary presence or absence of a word in a person’s lexicon. We propose a mechanism for transmission whereby for each word someone encounters there is a chance they will use it more often. Using this mechanism, we measure that, for one word in around every hundred a person encounters, they will use that word more frequently. As more commonly used words are encountered more often, this means that it is the frequencies of words which are copied.

{ Journal of the Royal Society Interface | Continue reading }

‘A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu’ –Arthur Rimbaud

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Grapheme-color synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which viewing a grapheme elicits an additional, automatic, and consistent sensation of color.

Color-to-letter associations in synesthesia are interesting in their own right, but also offer an opportunity to examine relationships between visual, acoustic, and semantic aspects of language. […]

Numerous studies have reported that for English-speaking synesthetes, “A” tends to be colored red more often than predicted by chance, and several explanatory factors have been proposed that could explain this association.

Using a five-language dataset (native English, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean speakers), we compare the predictions made by each explanatory factor, and show that only an ordinal explanation makes consistent predictions across all five languages, suggesting that the English “A” is red because the first grapheme of a synesthete’s alphabet or syllabary tends to be associated with red.

We propose that the relationship between the first grapheme and the color red is an association between an unusually-distinct ordinal position (”first”) and an unusually-distinct color (red).

{ Cortex | Continue reading }

A Black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
Someday I shall tell of your mysterious births

{ Arthur Rimbaud | Continue reading }

art { Roland Cat, The pupils of their eyes, 1985 }

‘Never will this prevail, that the things that are not are.’ –Parmenides

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If you write clearly, then your readers may understand your mathematics and conclude that it isn’t profound. Worse, a referee may find your errors. Here are some tips for avoiding these awful possibilities.

1. Never explain why you need all those weird conditions, or what they mean. For example, simply begin your paper with two pages of notations and conditions without explaining that they mean that the varieties you are considering have zero-dimensional boundary. In fact, never explain what you are doing, or why you are doing it. The best-written paper is one in which the reader will not discover what you have proved until he has read the whole paper, if then

2. Refer to another obscure paper for all the basic (nonstandard) definitions you use, or never explain them at all. This almost guarantees that no one will understand what you are talking about

[…]

11. If all else fails, write in German.

{ J.S. Milne | Continue reading }

photos { Left: William Henry Jackson, Pike’s Peak from the Garden of the Gods, Colorado Midland Series, ca.1880 | Right: Ye Rin Mok }

What’s going on in that precious vessel called you?

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I argue that the state of boredom (i.e., the transitory and non-pathological experience of boredom) should be understood to be a regulatory psychological state that has the capacity to promote our well-being by contributing to personal growth and to the construction (or reconstruction) of a meaningful life.

{ Philosophical Psychology }

oil on canvas { Piet Mondrian, Composition in Black and White, with Double Lines, 1934 }

‘Once you are born in this world you’re old enough to die.’ ―Kierkegaard

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Several temporal paradoxes exist in physics. These include General Relativity’s grandfather and ontological paradoxes and Special Relativity’s Langevin-Einstein twin-paradox. General relativity paradoxes can exist due to a Gödel universe that follows Gödel’s closed timelike curves solution to Einstein’s field equations.

A novel biological temporal paradox of General Relativity is proposed based on reproductive biology’s phenomenon of heteropaternal fecundation. Herein, dizygotic twins from two different fathers are the result of concomitant fertilization during one menstrual cycle. In this case an Oedipus-like individual exposed to a Gödel closed timelike curve would sire a child during his maternal fertilization cycle.

As a consequence of heteropaternal superfecundation, he would father his own dizygotic twin and would therefore generate a new class of autofraternal superfecundation, and by doing so creating a ‘twin-father’ temporal paradox.

{ Progress in Biophysics & Molecular Biology | Continue reading }

The river that swallows all rivers

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More recently we have supertasks such as Benardete’s Paradox of the Gods,

A man decides to walk one mile from A to B. A god waits in readiness to throw up a wall blocking the man’s further advance when the man has travelled ½ a mile. A second god (unknown to the first) waits in readiness to throw up a wall of his own blocking the man’s further advance when the man has travelled ¼ mile. A third god … etc. ad infinitum. (Benardete 1964, pp. 259-60)

Since for any place after A, a wall would have stopped him reaching it, the traveller cannot move from A. The gods have kept him still without ever raising a wall. Yet how could they cause him to stay still without causally interacting with him? Only a wall can stop him and no wall is ever raised, since for each wall he must reach it for it to be raised but he would have been stopped at an earlier wall. So he can move from A.

[…]

In the Nothing from Infinity paradox we will see an infinitude of finite masses and an infinitude of energy disappear entirely, and do so despite the conservation of energy in all collisions. I then show how this leads to the Infinity from Nothing paradox, in which we have the spontaneous eruption of infinite mass and energy out of nothing. […]

{ European Journal for Philosophy of Science | Continue reading }

photo { Alex Prager, Crowd #2 (Emma), 2012 }

La nuit déjà nous fait méconnaissables

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Whereas women of all ages prefer slightly older sexual partners, men—regardless of their age—have a preference for women in their 20s. Earlier research has suggested that this difference between the sexes’ age preferences is resolved according to women’s preferences. This research has not, however, sufficiently considered that the age range of considered partners might change over the life span.

Here we investigated the age limits (youngest and oldest) of considered and actual sex partners in a population-based sample of 2,655 adults (aged 18-50 years). Over the investigated age span, women reported a narrower age range than men and women tended to prefer slightly older men. We also show that men’s age range widens as they get older: While they continue to consider sex with young women, men also consider sex with women of their own age or older.

Contrary to earlier suggestions, men’s sexual activity thus reflects also their own age range, although their potential interest in younger women is not likely converted into sexual activity. Homosexual men are more likely than heterosexual men to convert a preference for young individuals into actual sexual behavior, supporting female-choice theory.

{ Evolutionary Psychology | PDF }

related { Longest ever personality study finds no correlation between measures taken at age 14 and age 77 }

photo { Joan Crawford photographed by George Hurrell, 1932 }

No more coats and no more home

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Postmodernism has, to a large extent, run its course [despite having made the considerable innovation of presenting] the first text that was highly self-conscious, self-conscious of itself as text, self-conscious of the writer as persona, self-conscious about the effects that narrative had on readers and the fact that the readers probably knew that. […] A lot of the schticks of post-modernism — irony, cynicism, irreverence — are now part of whatever it is that’s enervating in the culture itself.

{ David Foster Wallace | Continue reading }

photo { Francesca Woodman, Self-portrait at 13, Boulder, Colorado, 1972 | Photography tends not to have prodigies. Woodman, who committed suicide in 1981 at age 22, is considered a rare exception. | NY Review of Books | full story }