packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
Post edited ~5:20p EDT - thanks, [livejournal.com profile] zwol!

Well, I'm coming back into blogging with a fury, aren't I? First politics, and now religion!

Those of you who do not follow the atheist blogosphere may not be aware of the long, boring back-and-forths between the "New Atheists" and the "accommodationists". To summarize: the latter frequently accuse the former of being mean to theists (people who believe that one or more gods exist) and the former retort that the latter are being intellectually dishonest. What's annoying about it is that the argument never actually connects to the essential disagreement, edit: rarely gets back to actual questions of fact. The latest brouhaha, for example, relates to a question which "New Atheists" answer in the negative and many "accommodationists" answer in the positive: do any people have sufficient intellectual justification to believe that a god is real?

And for that reason, I want to congratulate Larry Moran, who is addressing this question.

This brings me to my challenge. I challenge all theists and all their accommodationist friends to post their very best 21st century, sophisticated (or not), arguments for the existence of God. They can put them in the comments section of this posting, or on any of the other atheist blogs, or on their own blogs and websites. Just send me the link.


(Link via pharyngula.)

If anyone in the audience believes that there are good reasons to believe that a god exists (or has a friend who so believes), please contact Prof. Moran (or have your friend do so) by Saturday, October 2.

As a footnote, though: I realize that there are a subset of people who would answer in the affirmative to the question above without answering Moran's challenge: some people believe that they possess evidence good enough to convince themselves, but that their evidence cannot be communicated to anyone else. Whether this is true is a philosophical question, and one which I would be glad to discuss ... but unrelated to the announcement.

Remember: if you believe that a God exists and you can prove it, or if you know someone who so believes, tell Larry Moran by Saturday, October 2.

Thanks!
packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
Via kirabug, a proper description of the instinctive drowning response:

  1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.


Read the rest, and read the prequel about cold water survival.
packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
Via JamesAndrix on lesswrong.com, a talk from Adam Savage on his method of problem solving:



Second half is Q&A, which is awesome but mostly unrelated.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Via lesswrong.com, a brief foray into the realm of philosophy.

SMBC May 12, 2010 )
packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
The breakdown is here, if any of you missed it. I find most of these results fairly unsurprising (although the "yellow" region of the saturated color space contains a startling amount of green), but it's really cool to read through the details anyway. Favorite bits:

  • The mnemonic* for how to spell "fuchsia".
  • "Actual color names if you're a [girl/guy]..."
  • The list of colors.
  • The entire "Miscellaneous" header.
  • "Baige".
* Fun fact: I instinctively put a "u" after that "e". Perhaps you can guess how I pronounce that word...

(P.S. Word up, Mr. Munroe.)

(P.P.S. I'm feeling much recovered, save for residual sleep-dep from catching up on grading.)

(P.P.P.S. Less Wrong taught me a lot more about teaching than I expected.)
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
Via Making Light, Paul Cornell: Wish Me Luck, I'm Going In. What with the recent stalling of the Equality Bill in Britain, he's had enough.

I wish there were a Christian organisation like British Muslims for Secular Democracy, who could liaise with the various gay Christian organisations, but also include those who aren't directly involved, who just think this cause is just. Then there would be a phone number for that liberal voice that the UK media could lay their hands on. If they ever wanted to call it.

In the meantime, I've started a hashtag on Twitter: #godlyforequality. If you're on Twitter, go and have a look, and let's see if we can retweet the message a long way. It's only a tiny thing. It's the least I can do.


I'm not a Christian, and I think that Christianity is factually wrong - but what he's doing here is fighting homophobia, and on those grounds he's fighting for the side of good.

Good luck, Mr. Cornell. Do the right thing.
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
Joshua Kors tells the story.

Luther insisted to doctors at Camp Taji that he did not have personality disorder, that the idea of developing a childhood mental illness at the age of 36, after passing eight psychological screenings, was ridiculous. The sergeant used a vivid expression to convey how much pain he was in. "I told them that some days, the pain was so bad, I felt like dying." Doctors declared him a suicide risk. They collected his shoelaces, his belt and his rifle and ordered him confined to an isolation chamber.

Extensive medical records written by Luther's doctors document his confinement in the aid station for more than a month. The sergeant was kept under twenty-four-hour guard. Most nights, he says, guards enforced sleep deprivation, keeping the lights on and blasting heavy metal music. When Luther rebelled, he was pinned down and injected with sleeping medication.

Eventually Luther was brought to his commander, who told him he had a choice: he could sign papers saying his medical problems stemmed from personality disorder or face more time in isolation.


I can't even joke about this. It's horrible, pure horror.

Edit: Link via [livejournal.com profile] ceruleanst, here.
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
Via [livejournal.com profile] roaminrob: Arithmetic, Population, and Energy by Dr. Albert A. Bartlett, uploaded in eight parts. ~75 minutes.

Part One.

I've posted some links because I was curious about your opinion; this one I think is important, clear, and convincing. Unfortunately, I don't see a good way of summarizing it - wonderingmind42, who uploaded it, did a pretty iffy job with the title, in my book - but I'll try: the lecture is about the nature of steady percentage growth (e.g. 7%/year) and the policy implications that come out of the arithmetic. You don't need anything more than multiplication and division to follow the reasoning - the most difficult calculation is for the doubling time, and that goes

years to double = 70 / % growth per year

which is accurate to one part in twenty for any growth rate up to 12%/year.

I think it's worth at least 90 minutes of your time - 75 minutes is a steal at the price.
packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
Academian on LessWrong talks about the apparent disconnect between our experiences and philosophical materialism. 2227 words. The author edited it down to 771 words.

Please comment there or here if you read it - I have my own opinion, but it's not written for me.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
(Don't answer that.)

Saw xkcd today - I think it's one of the good ones. Behold:

xkcd #701: Science Valentine



Positivity!

Feb. 9th, 2010 11:45 am
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
bliumchik i.e. [livejournal.com profile] maggiebloome had a tasty, tasty post+links about the sort-of self-destructive anti-ego thing which a lot of women do to avoid seeming too self-confident establish their femininity ...

... and that reminded me of an entirely different self-destructive anti-ego thing that I do, when I don't get things done that I wanted to have done. The thing is, I have this self-image of this feckless, flaky ass who blows off important assignments and mooches financially and emotionally off everyone he meets ... but the whole basis for this persona is that I'm ADD. I don't concentrate well, and I don't have the tools established to work around it (other than "be so clever that you can solve the problem in fifteen minutes or less"...). And given that I'm the only person I have ever met who has given any weight to the ass-hypothesis, I suspect the truth is closer to "my organization skills need a little work".

The self-destructive part, then, is whinging about being a horrible person who deserves to die (a total lie, for the record), rather than doing that little bit of work. Because I can - I have the technology - and everything else is just that I haven't, yet.

Abrupt transition!



Reply to this post, and I'll tell you one reason why I like you. Then repost this [if you like] and spread the love.

Except! Amendment!

Reply to this post with something you like about yourself. No cop-out complinsults please! I know you've got it in you! And if you don't I will still do the original meme above, so no pressure or anything, but try. For me.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
On AlterNet.

Caveat: If the title suggests that you don't want to read this, then please don't read it. I'm mostly posting for my own reference.
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
A link to pass on: Slacktivist explains the lie Tony Perkins is telling for money about the expansion of hate crime legislation to cover LGBT persons. Money quote:

The only extent to which hate-crime protections pertain to "thought" is in the way that all criminal law does, which is to say that motive matters. If you truly believe that the law should make no distinction between accidental manslaughter and premeditated first-degree homicide, because you truly believe that any such distinction constitutes the establishment of "thought crime," then I will accept that you are making this "thought-crime" objection to hate-crime legislation in good faith. (I'll think you're kind of an idiot, but at least a sincere idiot.) But you can't accept that distinction and still argue in good faith that hate crimes are "thought crimes."


P.S. If anyone you know is concerned that hate crime legislation could infringe their freedom of speech, two words: Fred Phelps.

P.P.S. On a related note, a riddle courtesy of eyelessgame in the comments: What terrorist organization has killed more Americans than al Qaeda?
packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
"What's the easiest unsolved math problem to explain?" I asked my dad tonight, just out of curiosity. I asked because the two obvious, famous answers - Fermat's last theorem and the four-color problem - are both (probably) solved.

Well, I can't guarantee the actual answer is here, but a few candidates he pointed me to:

  • The P = NP problem: if the answer to a computational yes-no question can be checked quickly (in polynomial time), does that imply it may be answered quickly (in polynomial time)? This is a marginal case, as a lot of people don't know what "polynomial time" is, so two better candidates are...
  • Goldbach's conjecture: that every even integer greater than 2 can be written as the sum of two primes, and...
  • The twin prime conjecture: that there exist an infinite number of twin primes - primes separated by two (like 3 and 5). (Bonus: this is a special case of Polignac's conjecture.) However, there are a pair which do not even require understanding primes...
  • The existence of (a) an infinite number of even perfect numbers and/or (b) the existence of any odd perfect number. Perfect numbers being, in these examples, those which equal the sum of all the divisors smaller than themselves - such as 6, equal to 1+2+3, and 28, equal to 1+2+4+7+14.


(Now, one could argue that an even easier hard problem to state is "how come things fall", but that's physics!)
packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
Day before yesterday, Jerry "Tycho" Holkins commented on his fascination with the deeply disturbing "seduction community", and Mike "Gabe" Krahulik stepped in to play devil's advocate.

I completely see where both of these people are coming from, here. But in this particular case, Tycho is very straightforwardly correct, and Gabe's instinctive fairmindness is misplaced. And normally I wouldn't be so confident staking out my spot in this minefield, but I happen to have an advantage: just last month, a completely unrelated community which I have been involved in discussed this question, and the conclusions of the discussion are pretty clear.

The seduction community, or pick-up artist community, or whatever it's called, explicitly treats sexual relations between persons as a game in which the player - singular - seeks to win against opposition. This attributes an explicit status imbalance in which only the man is an actor (cf. Bark/Bite, "Do You Tell a Football What Time the Superbowl Starts?") and in which sexual congress raises the status of the man and lowers that of the woman. It's sexist, offensive, and wrong.

End of line.




P.S. Obviously, two days being an eternity in the wonderful world of cyberspace, I have been preceded in remarking on this discussion - goblinpaladin, pandagon's Amanda Marcotte.

P.P.S. If there are people reading this is frustrated in their desire to find sexual partners, recall that people are complicated. Anyone offering shortcuts is lying.
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
On Fred Clark's blog, slacktivist:

A: Sarah Palin is lying about health care reform.

B: Whoa, hold on there. That's quite the accusation. You want to use the L-word, you're going to have to prove it.

A: That's not difficult. Here is the outrageous and demonstrably untrue lie in question, from her Facebook page:
The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

She's accusing President Obama of trying to create a "death panel" in which bureaucrats will decide whether or not to euthanize the elderly and handicapped children. That simply isn't true. It isn't close to anything that's close to being true. She's lying.

B: So you say.

A: No, what I say is irrelevant. What matters is what she said versus what the reality is. She is lying.

B: OK, let's just say for the sake of argument that what she is saying there isn't true ...












Enjoy the followup as well.
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
I've generally tended to take the position that while the people running Iran are a bunch of reactionary thugs, they're at least a fairly intelligent bunch of reactionary thugs.

After this revelation on Iranian Press TV, however, I'm not so certain.


FiveThirtyEight: Worst. Damage Control. Ever.

(As I mentioned in the Google Reader repost, NY Times noted that Iranians are allowed to vote in districts they aren't registered in. This in no way suffices to explain what we're seeing here.)
packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
A man in crazy pajamas atop a skyscraper rains laser death down on the streets. He's laughing as he does it.

Below, fires bloom for the news cameras. Reporters duck debris as they yammer on about demands and manifestoes and terror.
Meanwhile, in the background, the screams of scorched innocents melt into the wail of sirens.

It makes me angry. My cheeks burn with it -- or that just might be from the wind.

The madman grows closer and closer, impossibly fast. His eyes widen as he lifts his weapon in my direction. He won't make it in time.

My hands tighten into fists as I brace for impact.

I have a set of crazy pajamas of my own.


Truth & Justice is a superhero RPG Eric Burns-White (nee Burns) recommended ages ago.

I desperately want to play this thing.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (pale blue dot)
Via my dad*: Louis CK on the Conan O'Brien Show, Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy.

* Technically, he posted a YouTube clip of the segment, but I figure NBC won't make copyright claims against itself.

AnZac Day

Apr. 25th, 2009 06:45 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] pecunium reminds us: April 25th is AnZac Day.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Via [livejournal.com profile] jfs: http://sixdegrees.hu/last.fm/



It's a map of many (all but ~17000) of the artists indexed on last.fm, spread out in two dimensions* according to the similarity data that site has between each pair of artists. One of the cooler features here is the Interactive Map - you can look up any indexed artists and they mark them with flags. I generated the following map shown by entering a comma-delineated list** of my favorite artists and taking a screenshot.

* What would happen if it were three dimensions or more? I guess it's inconvenient to render...

** Names separated by commas. Example: Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, XTC. If you enter the list of your favorite artists this way, it works - even if the names have commas, like Peter, Paul and Mary.


Packbat's last.fm music map

I assume some interpretation could be put to why my flags all fall on a line between Avril Lavinge and Muse, but I'm not going to.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (internet)
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Issue may be a simple case of poor systems security, rather than evil - see (1) http://gawker.com/5210142/why-it-makes-sense-that-a-hackers-behind-amazons-big-gay-outrage (2) http://pastebin.ca/1390576 (3) http://community.livejournal.com/brutal_honesty/3168992.html

xposted from my Twitter feed: Amazon.com is censoring LGBT literature. See http://jesurgislac.wordpress.com/2009/04/12/lesbian-and-gay-books-disappear/ and http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/04/12/amazon-possibly-using-category-metadata-to-filter-rankings/ for more info.

I've heard people saying "don't use Amazon" before, but this is rather egregious. Another person who has been all over this is [livejournal.com profile] ironychan, including in both of her webcomics - here's a list of other online booksellers if you're interested.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Watched it today in IMAX. [livejournal.com profile] baxil has the goods - I, not having read the comic, have nothing to add.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

Describe your morning routine.

Submitted By [livejournal.com profile] its_miley

View other answers



As the man says:

Morning Routine

After that, shower, chat with Mom, go to school. (I brush my teeth in the evening, before bed.)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Silhouette)
        THE OLD MEN ADMIRING THEMSELVES IN THE WATER

        by: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

            I heard the old, old men say,
            "Everything alters,
            And one by one we drop away."
            They had hands like claws, and their knees
            Were twisted like the old thorn-trees
            By the waters.
            "All that's beautiful drifts away
            Like the waters."


- from In the Seven Woods, 1903.

(Quoted in "And So To Fade Away" by Ken Arneson, linked by [livejournal.com profile] pecunium a while ago. Text was copy-pasted from The Poetry Archive.)

Linky!

Feb. 1st, 2009 01:05 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Earth:Harmless/WikiGuide)
[livejournal.com profile] dslartoo has a couple good links about depression from [livejournal.com profile] fairgoldberry: Part 1, Part 2. Worth reading.

(Yes, a few items on that first list sound pretty familiar - both in my case and in someone else's. Dunno what I'll do about it.)

On a more cheerful note - I hope you enjoyed my Rabbit Hole Day entry this year; here are the ones I bookmarked of those I read, in no particular order:

packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (music)
...but it's an impressive music search engine. Thanks, Cody Cobb!

Cyrkle - Red Rubber Ball
Found at skreemr.com
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (filler)
  1. The last time I looked at my flist was November 5th. My pants are so bankrupt, they're getting a $1b injection of capital from the U.S. Treasury.
  2. Feeling decidedly under the weather.
  3. If you haven't checked it out before, try out Kaspall. It's a great fantasy-mystery, and the artist is doing humorous little "Character Q&A" comics for vote incentives!
  4. 2+2=4. I have a truly ingenious proof of this, but this bullet point is too small to contain it.

Comicks!

Nov. 5th, 2008 07:13 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (darwin has a posse)
Dropped by the comic shop in College Park today - I just read Issue #1 of Transmetropolitan (h/t Blake Stacey), and was jonesing for some more.

Unfortunately, Vol. 1 is out of print. Not Vols. 2, 3, 4, whatever, just Vol. 1. Great timing, Detective Comics - I'm proud of you.

So proud, in fact, I got two other DC-subsidiary books while I was there - The Plain Janes (a Unshelved recommendation that I, who read it on the bus, wholeheartedly second) and Global Frequency Vol. 1: Planet Ablaze (also Warren Ellis, but I mainly got it because of the movie that didn't get made). Oh, and I got Whiteout, Vol. 2: Melt (because I got Whiteout, Vol. 1, which because of Free Comic Book Day 2007, which because of Wings of Change, which eventually because of Dad=[livejournal.com profile] zhurnaly emailing me a link to Mark Sachs and I'm cutting this off before we get ridiculous).

So, a fun evening, even before the lasagna [livejournal.com profile] zhurnaly's got in the oven downstairs. Rawk aut!

Link

Oct. 6th, 2008 08:30 am
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

Former 1960s radical Bill Ayers appeared (as himself) in the 2002 documentary The Weather Underground, which was narrated by Lili Taylor.

Taylor was in High Fidelity with Tim Robbins who was in The Hudsucker Proxy with Steve Buscemi.

And Steve Buscemi was in Tanner on Tanner with, yes, Barack Obama.

That's only four degrees of separation -- a closer connection than either The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times was able to establish in their exhaustive attempts to find any links between the former '60s radical and the current Democratic nominee for president.



Fred 'slacktivist' Clark on connections and what they really imply.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (butterfly)
A number of people have been talking about whether intelligent design is scientific recently in some interesting new ways: Megan McArdle, Alex Tabarrok, Robin Hanson, and most notably Thomas Nagel.

The focus of these remarks is best summarized in a post three years ago by Alex Tabarrok:
Suppose that you find a watch in the forest. If you know there is no watchmaker then the theory of evolution is a brilliant and compelling explanation for the presence of complexity without design. But suppose that you know a watchmaker exists then surely the simplest and most compelling explanation is that the watchmaker made the watch. Any other explanation, particularly one so improbable (see extension) as evolution would seem to be preposterous and beside the point.


I can only conclude from the above that these people did not ask themselves, "What do we do science for?"

This is hardly a severe sin, of course. The question is hardly primary among the ones that spring to mind. But the answer is, "Science explains the world in a way which lets us predict the world." This is and always has been where Intelligent Design - and creationism in general - fail: under those views, we have no reason to expect, say, the existence of the punctum caecum (blind spot) in vertebrae eyes but not cephalopod eyes - in fact, just the opposite.

Believing that one or more gods exist is no excuse. The only reasonable explanation for the evidence is that every species now extant is descended with modification from simpler species. And once we hypothesize that, the strictly simplest explanation, even if gods are present, is the modern evolutionary synthesis.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Earth:Harmless/WikiGuide)
[livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin pointed it out here, and I managed to track back a step to here, but I don't know who actually wrote it. It doesn't matter, though. It still needs saying.

Cut for triggering potential. )
packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
Likelihood of you being FEMALE is 54%
Likelihood of you being MALE is 46%

(I always seem to fail these tests, don't I?)

Raw data... )

Take the test yourself here.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Bumper)
From [livejournal.com profile] cdave on [livejournal.com profile] snarkoleptics, here, alluding to David Morgan-Mar's 2000th-comic milestone commentary:

Instructions: Look at the list and...
1) Bold those you are reading.
2) Italicize those you have heard of before recognize from the name.
3) Underline *Star* the ones you LOVE.

(Yes, I'm already screwing with the meme, and I'm only one out from the originator. Hey - I wanted to keep the links, and those have underlines already!)

(Also, I've seen "Dragon Tails" somewhere, but I don't recognize the name.)



Tune back in for commentary, later!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (butterfly)
( You're about to view content that the journal owner has advised should be viewed with discretion. )
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Green RZ)
A few of you may be acquainted with [livejournal.com profile] kirabug of kirabug's idea files - but then, you may not be. A few of you may also have seen the latest 100-book meme floating around the LJ-o-sphere in the halcyon days of two weeks ago.

Anyway, kirabug filled out the meme, and in our shredding of "Big Read"'s list I and her other fans began to put together a list of a few items which were rather notable in their absence - and Kirabug suggested making a list of our own. So when she, a few days ago, set up a Wordpress forum on her site, she made sure to include an "Ideaphiles Book List" subforum.

The rules are pretty straightforward - one thread ("topic") per author, or a thread called "[your name here]'s book list", and no calling each other names.

C'mon - I know the lot of you are inveterate readers; here's your chance to make a case for your top lists. And if you need inspiration, here's a bit I wrote on my first book-crush, Hal Clement:

Read more... )

Come on in, register, and contribute!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Earth:Harmless/WikiGuide)
Here I go - I made a stretch, just now, where I gave Apple's Safari browser the old college try, but the World Wide Web of today is simply too thoroughly infested with the worst sorts of scripted garbage to do without NoScript any longer.

In any case, the latest bookmarks file. Exeunt.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

What are some gripping opening lines from films or books, and why do you think they work so well?

View other answers



I have never seen a book, film, song, or anything with an opening line to match one old entry by [livejournal.com profile] daysgoby (formerly anjimito), here:

On the way home today, while crossing the Fuller-Warren bridge, someone threw a kitten out of their window.


God themself could not write a more gripping first sentence.

(Edit: This entry was reposted to [livejournal.com profile] readers_list here, in the event that [livejournal.com profile] daysgoby is lost.)

(Also: The kitten came out all right, and went to live in a new, loving home. Sorry to spoil the ending for you. ^_^ )
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (pale blue dot)
Eliezer Yudkowsky of "Overcoming Bias" asks: what would you do if you learned that there was no morally right or morally wrong.

What *would* I do? )




Of course, in reality, the odds that something like that would happen are remote. If morality were as easily crushed as that, it wouldn't still be here.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (tired)
Philosophy

*sighs*
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (pale blue dot)
I know some of you all (I'm thinking m'dad [livejournal.com profile] zhurnaly and the Dread Medievalist [livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin for starters) will love this blog, for three reasons.

First, Overcoming Bias is a cool goal.

Second, because it's written by people who know stuff and like to share. (Like Edward Slingerland in What Science Offers the Humanities, and yes, I still owe [livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin the review, it's halfway done.)

Third, tasty, tasty writing.

Decoherence is implicit in quantum physics, not an extra postulate on top of it, and quantum physics is continuous.  Thus, "decoherence" is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon - there's no sharp cutoff point.  Given two blobs, there's a quantitative amount of amplitude that can flow into identical configurations between them.  This quantum interference diminishes down to an exponentially tiny infinitesimal as the two blobs separate in configuration space.

Asking exactly when decoherence takes place, in this continuous process, is like asking when, if you keep removing grains of sand from a pile, it stops being a "heap".

The sand-heap dilemma is known as the Sorites Paradox, after the Greek soros, for heap.  It is attributed to Eubulides of Miletus, in the 4th century BCE.  The moral I draw from this very ancient tale:  If you try to draw sharp lines in a continuous process and you end up looking silly, it's your own darn fault.

(Incidentally, I once posed the Sorites Paradox to Marcello Herreshoff, who hadn't previously heard of it; and Marcello answered without the slightest hesitation, "If you remove all the sand, what's left is a 'heap of zero grains'."  Now that's a computer scientist.)



From The Conscious Sorites Paradox, by Eliezer Yudkowsky on Overcoming Bias, as part of a long digression-from-a-digression-from-a-digression-from-a-digression on quantum physics (and, back up the chain, philosophical zombies, reduction, the Mind Projection Fallacy, and ultimately - I think - AI research. Unless ultimately is "Overcoming Bias", in which case ... what am I saying?).

Anyway, you know the problem with WIkipedia? You can totally get the same groove here. Very hypertext.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Via [livejournal.com profile] jfs, this remarkable little piece:

packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
P.Z. Myers on Benedict XVI meeting George W. Bush - outraged, as you should be. Outraged, to a great extent, because in all the "coverage" of this "event", and indeed in the "event" itself, there is not shown the slightest awareness that these men we are seeing praise each other and be praised in return are complicit in horror and terrible horror.

I know I, for one, am tired of this eternal drumbeat of dreadful revelations, each of which has effected not the slightest visible good in its wake. But that exhaustion is no excuse. Each beat of this drum stands for the agony of hundreds, thousands, or millions of people. The least we can do is stand for them.

(P.S. On a much more minor point, Expelled came out today. Do not watch it. Expelled is a terrible movie, morally and cinematically.)

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