Showing posts from February, 2018

Smarts, don't it?

Aristotle, I mean. In the older sense of causing pain. From the PIE *smerd- pain.

Say What?

My hearing isn't what it used to be. Actually, it hasn't been that great ever since rifle training. Anyway, I now find it hard hear softly spoken speech in background noise. I mention this because I took my Ancient Philosophers exam today and noticed that one of the questions was not grammatical enough for me to decipher it. I pointed this out when I turned in my exam and the teacher said a sentence or two to me, which I didn't manage to understand. I asked, but didn't hear that answer either - she was speaking softly so as not to bother the other students. So I have a few theories: (1)"No, you dolt, it's perfectly clear." (2)"Buzz off, and never darken my classroom door again!" (3)"We will take your point under advisement." What do you think? Should I just withdraw from the class or attend the next class and take my chances? I am getting a bit tired of trying to compare and contrast Parmenides' outlandish theories with th

Gun Laws

Among the minor palliative measures being gingerly talked about by Republicans is the idea of raising the age to buy a long gun to 21. I suppose that's reasonable, but I would suggest a slight tweak: given that the Las Vegas shooter was 64, how about raising that age to 70? The minimum should be detailed workups on all gun buyers (paid for by the buyer), registration of all guns, mandatory liability insurance for gun owners, and banning of so-called assault weapons. Mandatory liability insurance for gun owners would effectively outsource background checks to insurance companies, since they would have big incentives not to insure high risk individuals and would have big incentives to charge plenty for the most dangerous weapons (this idea is due to WB .)

Taking on the NRA

Despite the fact that less than 2% of Americans belong to the National Rifle Association, the NRA is one of the most, perhaps the very most, potent political organizations in the US. Only about 25% of Americans own guns, and only 3% of the Americans own half the guns, but no meaningful legislation to limit guns has passed the Congress in recent memory. In contrast, laws to protect the "right" to pack guns everywhere have expanded dramatically, and one of the first laws passed in the Trump era prevented FBI background checks from using mental illness as a grounds for limiting gun ownership. The strength of the NRA is its ability to mobilize a fanatical minority of single-issue "gun-rights" voters, as well as the financial support of gun manufacturers. Every gun outrage, like the most recent one in Florida, has prompted a storm of anger from citizens, but the NRA knows how to weather these - hunker down and release yet another cloud of bullshit claims that more gu

First Class

Federal employees, apparently including cabinet secretaries, are expected to endure economy class air travel. According to The Washington Post: Verbal confrontations with members of the public prompted Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to switch to flying first or business class whenever possible, officials said Thursday. Henry Barnet, who directs EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training, said in an interview that the head of Pruitt’s security detail, Pasquale Perrotta, recommended in May that he fly in either first or business class to provide “a buffer” between him and the public. Perrotta’s memo was prompted by an incident that month when a person approached Pruitt “with threatening language” that was “vulgar,” Barnet said. Heaven forfend that public officials should be forced to listen to public opinions about how they do their jobs. And never mind that some of Pruitt's explanations of why he needed to travel first class seem

Philosophy, Math and Science

It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is...............20th philosopher WJC. Despite (or maybe, because of, their common origins) there is a fair amount of tension between philosophy and science. I don't know why or precisely how the mutual hostility arose, but I have some guesses. For one thing, it looks to me like Aristotle and especially Plato took some wrong turns that held back science for a couple of millenia. In particular Plato emphasized thought at the expense of experience, and thought that reality could be grasped by thought and argument alone. In this he was following in the footsteps of Parmenides and his pupil Zeno, who made the same argument. Aristotle was far more open to experience, and was a tireless investigator of every kind of phenomena, from physics to writing plays. Unfortunately, though, his vast and manifold genius seems to have discouraged those who might have thought to go beyond him. Moreover, he, like Plato, gave primacy to thought ove

Race and IQ - Again

Some high school student has injected himself (or perhaps herself) into the most radioactive issue in social science by doing a science fair project on the subject as above . The hypothesis of the project: “If the average IQs of blacks, Southeast Asians, and Hispanics are lower than the average IQs of non-Hispanic whites and Northeast Asians, then the racial disproportionality in Humanities and International Studies Program (HISP) [the school program the student is in] is justified.” Well, kids make bad decisions, perhaps regardless of their own IQs. But I doubt that the student in question has advanced his or her chances of getting into an elite university. The article adds: The student who prepared the project was of Asian descent and has a history of making racists remarks in class, reports said. That's the article's entire characterization of the alleged perp. Fair and balanced? I report, you decide. The article helpfully adds: The controversial theory that rac

Have a Headache?

No? Then you probably haven't been to the mLab . PS - If you get the joke, then you probably know too much math to be wasting your time on this blog! PPS - See here. PPPS - And here.

Big Books

I suppose that I've always been a bit of a sucker for the big book. War and Peace , Moby Dick , and The Brothers Karamazov made big impressions in my youth. I let myself be talked into buying The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring before heading to a remote Army post in Arizona - but I wasn't about to lay about big bucks to buy the whole series. I quickly devoured those while in the temporary barracks there when another soldier arrived fresh from Vietnam, where he had only had The Two Towers , so a trade was quickly arranged. I still like the big books, but my tastes have changed a bit. Gravity's Rainbow , Infinite Jest , Ulysses , and Atlas Shrugged dimmed my enthusiasm for modern fiction. I have, however, acquired way too many thick physics and astrophysics books. Gravitation , AKA "The Black Hole", by Misner, Thorne and Wheeler is a familiar heavyweight at 1336 large format pages. Not one to rest on his laurels, Thorne teamed up with Blandford

Ancient India

The Washington Post has a story on very ancient stone artifacts from India. Humanity's origin story has gotten increasingly tangled in recent years: New discoveries suggest that Homo sapiens interacted and interbred with other species and ventured out of Africa in more than one wave. Researchers have compared the ancient world to J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth — but instead of hobbits, dwarves and elves, our planet had modern humans in Africa, Neanderthals in Europe, Homo erectus in Asia. Now, a treasure trove of ancient stone tools suggests that humans' circuitous path to modernity also wound through India. In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers described thousands of stone implements uncovered at Attirampakkam, an archaeological site in southern India. The tools span about a million years of history, they say, and illustrate the evolution of big, blunt hand axes into finely sculpted stone points. Starting about 385,000 years ago — long before