ideas

The problem with crashes, you never know beforehand precisely what is the catalyst

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People loved for their beauty and cheerfulness are not loved as irreplaceable, yet people loved for “what their souls are made of” are. Or so literary romance implies; leading philosophical accounts, however, deny the distinction, holding that reasons for love either do not exist or do not include the beloved’s distinguishing features. […]

I defend a model of agency on which people can love each other for identities still being created, through a kind of mutual improvisation. […]

I draw another analogy to jazz, this time relating the attraction and concern constitutive of interpersonal love to the reciprocal appreciation and responsiveness of musicians who improvise together as partners. Musicians who improvise together as partners recognize each other to be trying to express the same musical idea, even though the contents of their ideas are still being worked out.

{ PhilPapers | PDF }

‘I’d hate to die twice.’ —Richard Feynman

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Since 1990, the Gerontology Research Group has assumed the role of record keepers for the world’s supercentenarians, or persons older than 110. […]

When it comes to age forgery, Coles has seen it all. He recently received a claim from India of an individual who is supposedly 179—a feat that is almost certainly physically impossible. The deceit can be harder to spot, such as the time a man in Turkey tried to pass himself off as his deceased brother, who was ten years older. And in one particularly challenging case, the government of Bolivia issued false documents to a man who was 106, stating that he was 112.

These problems are well known among those who study the very old. “Ninety-eight percent of ages claimed over 115 are false,” says Thomas Perls, a professor of medicine and geriatrics at Boston Medical Center, and director of the New England Centenarian Study. Based on a research paper he published on the topic, Perls says that “There’s a total of ten different major reasons why people do this.”

Sometimes, the motivation for lying is monetary. In the U.S., for example, a handful of people inflated their ages in order to claim to be Civil War veterans, giving them access to pensions. […] In other cases, a government or group might want to demonstrate that theirs is a “superior race.”

{ Smithsonian | Continue reading }

How would it be possible, if salvation were ready to our hand, and could without great labour be found, that it should be by almost all men neglected? But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.

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An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected? […] Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a ‘‘backfire effect’’ in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.

{ Springer Science+Business Media | PDF }

Hugs Not Drugs

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The term “stress” had none of its contemporary connotations before the 1920s. It is a form of the Middle English destresse, derived via Old French from the Latin stringere, “to draw tight.” The word had long been in use in physics to refer to the internal distribution of a force exerted on a material body, resulting in strain. In the 1920s and 1930s, biological and psychological circles occasionally used the term to refer to a mental strain or to a harmful environmental agent that could cause illness.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

The modern idea of stress began on a rooftop in Canada, with a handful of rats freezing in the winter wind.

This was 1936 and by that point the owner of the rats, an endocrinologist named Hans Selye, had become expert at making rats suffer for science.

“Almost universally these rats showed a particular set of signs,” Jackson says. “There would be changes particularly in the adrenal gland. So Selye began to suggest that subjecting an animal to prolonged stress led to tissue changes and physiological changes with the release of certain hormones, that would then cause disease and ultimately the death of the animal.”

And so the idea of stress — and its potential costs to the body — was born.

But here’s the thing: The idea of stress wasn’t born to just any parent. It was born to Selye, a scientist absolutely determined to make the concept of stress an international sensation.

{ NPR | Continue reading }

art { Richard Phillips, Blauvelt, 2013 }

The Aleppo Codex was never meant to be a dead museum exhibit

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Four experiments examined the interplay of memory and creative cognition, showing that attempting to think of new uses for an object can cause the forgetting of old uses. […] Additionally, the forgetting effect correlated with individual differences in creativity such that participants who exhibited more forgetting generated more creative uses than participants who exhibited less forgetting. These findings indicate that thinking can cause forgetting and that such forgetting may contribute to the ability to think creatively.

{ APA/Psycnet | Continue reading }

art { Kazumasa Nagai }

In order to determine the characteristics of non-philosophy, we frame it in opposition to an image of an established paradigm: Deconstruction

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“I looked up at the shower head, and it was as if the water droplets had stopped in mid-air” […]

Although Baker is perhaps the most dramatic case, a smattering of strikingly similar accounts can be found, intermittently, in medical literature. There are reports of time speeding up – so called “zeitraffer” phenomenon – and also more fragmentary experiences called “akinetopsia”, in which motion momentarily stops.

For instance, travelling home one day, one 61-year-old woman reported that the movement of the closing train doors, and fellow passengers, was in slow motion and “broken up”, as if in “freeze frames”. A 58-year-old Japanese man, meanwhile, seemed to be experiencing life like a badly dubbed movie; in conversation, he found that although others’ voices sounded normal, they were out of sync with their faces. […]

One explanation for this double-failure is that our motion perception system has its own stopwatch, recording how fast things are moving across our vision – and when this is disrupted by brain injury, the world stands still. For Baker, stepping into the shower might have exacerbated the problem, since the warm water would have drawn the blood away from the brain to the extremities of the body, further disturbing the brain’s processing.

Another explanation comes from the discovery that our brain records its perceptions in discrete “snapshots”, like the frames of a film reel. “The healthy brain reconstructs the experience and glues together the different frames,” says Rufin VanRullen at the French Centre for Brain and Cognition Research in Toulouse, “but if brain damage destroys the glue, you might only see the snapshots.”

{ BBC | Continue reading }

The garden is looking better than ever

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Realism is a term that can be understood only by contrasting it with an opposite term, such as idealism or representationalism. But representationalism has indeed to presuppose something that is represented, in order for the representation to be possible at all. […]

Our grasp on reality is always determined by our own way of accessing it. A realism which can take hold of this presupposition is to be called phenomenological realism. In this sense, reality is always given only in representation, that is, mediated by our access to it, but is not itself representation.

It is an objectivity opposed to ourself, it has a particular place and it appears, but its appearance does not belong to the subject, it is simply there. Therefore, appearances are spatial and have to be described as such.

{ Meta Journal | PDF }

A man against capital punishment is accused of murdering a fellow activist and is sent to death row

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It’s a question that has plagued philosophers and scientists for thousands of years: Is free will an illusion?

Now, a new study suggests that free will may arise from a hidden signal buried in the “background noise” of chaotic electrical activity in the brain, and that this activity occurs almost a second before people consciously decide to do something. […]

Experiments performed in the 1970s also raised doubts about human volition. Those studies, conducted by the late neuroscientist Benjamin Libet, revealed that the region of the brain that plans and executes movement, called the motor cortex, fired prior to people’s decision to press a button, suggesting this part of the brain “makes up its mind” before peoples’ conscious decision making kicks in.

To understand more about conscious decision making, Bengson’s team used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure the brain waves of 19 undergraduates as they looked at a screen and were cued to make a random decision about whether to look right or left.

When people made their decision, a characteristic signal registered that choice as a wave of electrical activity that spread across specific brain regions.

But in a fascinating twist, other electrical activity emanating from the back of the head predicted people’s decisions up to 800 milliseconds before the signature of conscious decision making emerged.

{ Live Science | Continue reading }

related { Searching for the “Free Will” Neuron }

‘ I stick my finger in existence — it smells of nothing.’ –Kierkegaard

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The fact that someone is generous is a reason to admire them. The fact that someone will pay you to admire them is also a reason to admire them. But there is a difference in kind between these two reasons: the former seems to be the `right’ kind of reason to admire, whereas the latter seems to be the `wrong’ kind of reason to admire. The Wrong Kind of Reasons Problem is the problem of explaining the difference between the `right’ and the `wrong’ kind of reasons wherever it appears. In this paper I argue that two recent proposals for solving the Wrong Kind of Reasons Problem do not work.

{ Nathaniel Sharadin/Pacific Philosophical Quarterly | Continue reading }

‘Experience by itself is not science.’ –Husserl

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Just as we can design and install digital apps in our electronic devices, we can design and install mindapps in our minds. For philosophy the big-problem is the hegemonic assumption that all good thinking takes place in our ordinary, default mindbody state—wakefulness. Because of this error, the vast extensions of our minds beyond our default state are neglected, and directions for future mind development are stunted, if not outright denied. Multistate theory releases that constriction. By reformulating our minds as variables for experimental philosophy, multistate theory re-asks philosophical questions, extends current issues, and engenders fun speculations. Because psychedelics are the most dramatic example of widely known mindbody psychotechnologies, we will illustrate multistate theory with psychedelics’ contributions

{ Thomas B. Roberts | Continue reading }

‘Psychologists have hitherto failed to realize that imagination is a necessary ingredient of perception itself.’ –Kant

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For centuries, scientists studied light to comprehend the visible world. […] But in the late 19th century all that changed […] the whole focus of physics—then still emerging as a distinct scientific discipline—shifted from the visible to the invisible. […] Today its theories and concepts are concerned largely with invisible entities: not only unseen force fields and insensible rays but particles too small to see even with the most advanced microscopes. […] Theories at the speculative forefront of physics flesh out this unseen universe with parallel worlds and with mysterious entities named for their very invisibility: dark matter and dark energy. […]

…the concept of “brane” (short for membrane) worlds. This arises from the most state-of-the-art variants of string theory, which attempt to explain all the known particles and forces in terms of ultra-tiny entities called strings, which can be envisioned as particles extended into little strands that vibrate. Most versions of the theory call for variables in the equations that seem to have the role of extra dimensions in space, so that string theory posits not four dimensions (of time and space) but 11. As physicist and writer Jim Baggott points out, “there is no experimental or observational basis for these assumptions”—the “extra dimensions” are just formal aspects of the equations. However, the latest versions of the theory suggest that these extra dimensions can be extremely large, constituting extra-dimensional branes that are potential repositories for alternative universes separated from our own like the stacked leaves of a book. Inevitably, there is an urge to imagine that these places too might be populated with sentient beings, although that’s optional. The point is that these brane worlds are nothing more than mathematical entities in speculative equations, incarnated, as it were, as invisible parallel universes. […]

Scientists, of course, are not just making things up, while leaning on the convenience of supposed invisibility. They are using dark matter and dark energy, and (if one is charitable) quantum many-worlds and branes, and other imperceptible and hypothetical realms, to perform an essential task: to plug gaps in their knowledge with notions they can grasp.

{ Nautilus | Continue reading }

related { How it works: An ultra-precise thermometer made from light }

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

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I understand by ‘God’ the perfect being, where a being is perfect just in case it has all perfections essentially and lacks all imperfections essentially. […]

Given that there are good reasons for thinking that the premises of the Compossibility Argument (CA) are true, it seems to me we have a good reason to think that God’s existence is possible. Of course, this does not, by itself, allow us to conclude to the much more important thesis that God exists, and so the atheist can consistently admit God’s possibility and maintain her atheism.

{ C’Zar Bernstein/Academia | Continue reading }

The omnipotence paradox states that: If a being can perform any action, then it should be able to create a task which this being is unable to perform; hence, this being cannot perform all actions. Yet, on the other hand, if this being cannot create a task that it is unable to perform, then there exists something it cannot do.

One version of the omnipotence paradox is the so-called paradox of the stone: “Could an omnipotent being create a stone so heavy that even he could not lift it?” If he could lift the rock, then it seems that the being would not have been omnipotent to begin with in that he would have been incapable of creating a heavy enough stone; if he could not lift the stone, then it seems that the being either would never have been omnipotent to begin with or would have ceased to be omnipotent upon his creation of the stone.

The argument is medieval, dating at least to the 12th century, addressed by Averroës (1126–1198) and later by Thomas Aquinas. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (before 532) has a predecessor version of the paradox, asking whether it is possible for God to “deny himself”.

[…]

A common response from Christian philosophers, such as Norman Geisler or Richard Swinburne is that the paradox assumes a wrong definition of omnipotence. Omnipotence, they say, does not mean that God can do anything at all but, rather, that he can do anything that’s possible according to his nature.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

related { Jesus and Virgin Mary spotted on Google Earth pic }