‘The road up and the road down is one and the same.’ –Heraclitus


Two pennies can be considered the same — both are pennies, just as two elephants can be considered the same, as both are elephants. Despite the vast difference between pennies and elephants, we easily notice the common relation of sameness that holds for both pairs. Analogical ability — the ability to see common relations between objects, events or ideas — is a key skill that underlies human intelligence and differentiates humans from other apes.

While there is considerable evidence that preschoolers can learn abstract relations, it remains an open question whether infants can as well. In a new Northwestern University study, researchers found that infants are capable of learning the abstract relations of same and different after only a few examples.

“This suggests that a skill key to human intelligence is present very early in human development, and that language skills are not necessary for learning abstract relations,” said lead author Alissa Ferry, who conducted the research at Northwestern.

{ Lunatic Laboratories | Continue reading }

‘People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.’ –Pascal


This paper argues that there are at least five reasons why the claim that the Bible is to be taken literally defies logic or otherwise makes no sense, and why literalists are in no position to claim that they have the only correct view of biblical teachings.

First, many words are imprecise and therefore require interpretation, especially to fill in gaps between general words and their appli- cation to specific situations. Second, if you are reading an English version of the Bible you are al- ready dealing with the interpretations of the translator since the earliest Bibles were written in other languages. Third, biblical rules have exceptions, and those exceptions are often not explicitly set forth. Fourth, many of the Bible’s stories defy logic and our experiences of the world. Fifth, there are sometimes two contrary versions of the same event, so if we take one literally then we cannot take the second one literally. In each of these five cases, there is no literal reading to be found.

Furthermore, this paper sets forth three additional reasons why such a literalist claim probably should not be made even if it did not defy logic to make such a claim. These include The Scientific Argument: the Bible contradicts modern science; The Historical Argument: the Bible is historically inaccurate; and The Moral Argument: the Bible violates contemporary moral standards.

{ Open Journal of Philosophy | PDF }

photo { Roger Mimick }

‘We should not be upset that others hide the truth from us, when we hide it so often from ourselves.’ –La Rochefoucauld


Many people spontaneously use the word (or sound) “Um” in conversation, a phenomenon which has prompted a considerable volume of academic attention. A question arises though, can someone be induced to say “Um” by chemical means – say with the use of a powerful anaesthetic? Like, for example Ketamine? […]

[V]olunteers who were given “low doses” and “high doses” of Ketamine tended to use the words “um” and “uh” significantly more than those who received a placebo only.

{ Improbable | Continue reading }

‘adderall is cool bc one night i spent the entire evening reading about the geopolitical situation in antarctica’ —@deanna_havas


Most people who describe themselves as demisexual say they only rarely feel desire, and only in the context of a close relationship. Gray-­asexuals (or gray-aces) roam the gray area between absolute asexuality and a more typical level of interest. […]

“Every single asexual I’ve met embraces fluidity—I might be gray or asexual or demisexual,” says Claudia, a 24-year-old student from Las Vegas. “Us aces are like: whatevs.”

{ Wired | Continue reading }

photo { Nate Walton }

‘La bêtise insiste toujours.’ —Albert Camus


Facebook will soon be able to ID you in any photo

The intention is not to invade the privacy of Facebook’s more than 1.3 billion active users, insists Yann LeCun, a computer scientist at New York University in New York City who directs Facebook’s artificial intelligence research, but rather to protect it. Once DeepFace identifies your face in one of the 400 million new photos that users upload every day, “you will get an alert from Facebook telling you that you appear in the picture,” he explains. “You can then choose to blur out your face from the picture to protect your privacy.” Many people, however, are troubled by the prospect of being identified at all—especially in strangers’ photographs. Facebook is already using the system, although its face-tagging system only reveals to you the identities of your “friends.”

{ Science | Continue reading }

related { Bust detection algorithm }

photo { Rachel Roze }

Allo, non mais allo quoi


The weather impacts not only upon our mood but also our voice. An international research team has analysed the influence of humidity on the evolution of languages.

Their study has revealed that languages with a wide range of tone pitches are more prevalent in regions with high humidity levels. In contrast, languages with simpler tone pitches are mainly found in drier regions. This is explained by the fact that the vocal folds require a humid environment to produce the right tone.

The tone pitch is a key element of communication in all languages, but more so in some than others. German or English, for example, still remain comprehensible even if all words are intonated evenly by a robot. In Mandarin Chinese, however, the pitch tone can completely change the meaning of a word.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

‘We live among ideas much more than we live in nature.’ —Saul Bellow


DNA is generally regarded as the basic building block of life itself. In the most fundamental sense, DNA is nothing more than a chemical compound, albeit a very complex and peculiar one. DNA is an information-carrying molecule. The specific sequence of base pairs contained in a DNA molecule carries with it genetic information, and encodes for the creation of particular proteins. When taken as a whole, the DNA contained in a single human cell is a complete blueprint and instruction manual for the creation of that human being.

In this article we discuss myriad current and developing ways in which people are utilizing DNA to store or convey information of all kinds. For example, researchers have encoded the contents of a whole book in DNA, demonstrating the potential of DNA as a way of storing and transmitting information. In a different vein, some artists have begun to create living organisms with altered DNA as works of art. Hence, DNA is a medium for the communication of ideas. Because of the ability of DNA to store and convey information, its regulation must necessarily raise concerns associated with the First Amendment’s prohibition against the abridgment of freedom of speech.

New and developing technologies, and the contemporary and future social practices they will engender, necessitate the renewal of an approach towards First Amendment coverage that takes into account the purposes and values incarnated in the Free Speech Clause of the Constitution.

{ Charleston School of Law | Continue reading }

photo { Bruce Davidson }

‘If you’re critical, you’re already out of the game.’ —Jeff Koons


This paper considers when a firm’s freely chosen name can signal meaningful information about its quality, and examines a setting in which it does.

Plumbing firms with names beginning with an “A” or a number receive five times more service complaints, on average. In addition, firms use names beginning with an “A” or a number more often in larger markets, and those that do have higher prices.

These results reflect consumers’ search decisions and extend to online position auctions: plumbing firms that advertise on Google receive more complaints, which contradicts prior theoretical predictions but fits the setting considered here.

{ Ryan C. McDevitt | PDF }

Hugs Not Drugs


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 }

Keepin it real since 94 ☞ *Amaze*


“Would you please take a selfie of my friend and I in front of this window?”

She was not aware that she had approached a linguist. […]

It would not be like him to snarl that of my friend and I should be of my friend and me (or perhaps better, of me and my friend). Nor did he remonstrate with the woman over her rather extraordinary misuse of the noun selfie.

{ Language Log | Continue reading }

unrelated { Photographer countersues Empire State Building for $5M over topless photos }

‘Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.’ —H. L. Mencken


More than 400 years after Shakespeare wrote it, we can now say that “Romeo and Juliet” has the wrong name. Perhaps the play should be called “Juliet and Her Nurse,” which isn’t nearly as sexy, or “Romeo and Benvolio,” which has a whole different connotation.

I discovered this by writing a computer program to count how many lines each pair of characters in “Romeo and Juliet” spoke to each other, with the expectation that the lovers in the greatest love story of all time would speak more than any other pair.

{ FiveThirtyEight | Continue reading }

‘All writing is pigshit. People who leave the obscure and try to define whatever it is that goes on in their heads, are pigs.’ —Antonin Artaud


Ultracrepidarian (n):”Somebody who gives opinions on subjects they know nothing about.”

Groke (v): “To gaze at somebody while they’re eating in the hope that they’ll give you some of their food.” My dog constantly grokes at me longingly while I eat dinner.

{ BI | Continue reading }