Video Source: TED Talk (March 2014).
Friday, July 17, 2015
Thursday, July 16, 2015
You can read Bertrand Russell, Problems of Philosophy (1912), chapter two, for free online here. According to Russell, the original problem from Decartes' "I think, therefore I am" confronts the distinction between subjective and objective, rather fitting for a bathroom wall in Virginia, or anywhere else for that matter:
Philosophical discussions on how to verify truth and reality have never been more relevant than they are now, with malleable truth dominating the Internet and a growing confusion about the distinction between virtual reality and everyday 'real' reality."'I think, therefore I am,' he said (Cogito, ergo sum); and on the basis of this certainty he set to work to build up again the world of knowledge which his doubt had laid in ruins. By inventing the method of doubt, and by showing that subjective things are the most certain, Descartes performed a great service to philosophy, and one which makes him still useful to all students of the subject.But some care is needed in using Descartes' argument. 'I think, therefore I am' says rather more than is strictly certain. It might seem as though we were quite sure of being the same person to-day as we were yesterday, and this is no doubt true in some sense. But the real Self is as hard to arrive at as the real table, and does not seem to have that absolute, convincing certainty that belongs to particular experiences. When I look at my table and see a certain brown colour, what is quite certain at once is not 'I am seeing a brown colour', but rather, 'a brown colour is being seen'. This of course involves something (or somebody) which (or who) sees the brown colour; but it does not of itself involve that more or less permanent person whom we call 'I'. So far as immediate certainty goes, it might be that the something which sees the brown colour is quite momentary, and not the same as the something which has some different experience the next moment.
Thus it is our particular thoughts and feelings that have primitive certainty. And this applies to dreams and hallucinations as well as to normal perceptions: when we dream or see a ghost, we certainly do have the sensations we think we have, but for various reasons it is held that no physical object corresponds to these sensations. Thus the certainty of our knowledge of our own experiences does not have to be limited in any way to allow for exceptional cases. Here, therefore, we have, for what it is worth, a solid basis from which to begin our pursuit of knowledge. The problem we have to consider is this: Granted that we are certain of our own sense-data, have we any reason for regarding them as signs of the existence of something else, which we can call the physical object?"
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Image Source: Facebook.
Bloom County, the beloved 1980s' American alt-politics comic strip that out-alted them all has returned after 25 years. Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed announced the return, which may or may not have had something to do with Donald Trump's presidential candidacy, on Facebook on 13 July 2015. Bloom County grew out of a late 1970s' comic, The Academia Waltz, from Breathed's student days and inspired sequels Outland (1989-1995) and Opus (2003-2008).
The cartoon above is from Gary Clement at Canada's National Post (27 December 2014). Clement pokes fun at the six-volume autobiography of Norwegian novelist Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle (Min kamp), known for its minute-by-minute examination of all minutiae of the author's life. It was a publishing sensation. Unlike Clement's cartoon, there was nothing funny about the personal outcome. Knausgård admitted that in exposing so many intimate details about himself and those close to him, he committed an "unmoral" act and gave away his soul. But he said: "The point was not to please. It was to speak the truth. To write reality." The first volume was published in 2009, the last in 2011; the whole series is 3,600 pages long.
Monday, July 13, 2015
Ralph Fiennes as Hades, God of the Underworld, in Clash of the Titans (2010). Image Source: invisionfree.
Pluto, the planet whose value was downgraded, is fittingly named after the god of the Underworld, because this planetoid guards the point where the solar system ends and the outer system around our sun, the Kuiper Belt, begins. Pluto was discovered in 1930, but only in the new Millennium has our technology become advanced enough for us to begin to understand the vast Netherworld over which Pluto presides along with another minor body, Eris, once designated as the tenth planet. Our new awareness of the Kuiper Belt is the reason why Pluto was downgraded, and why Eris, discovered only in 2005, was downgraded too. Pluto at this time dominates the wild area beyond the planet Neptune, where we reach the limits of knowledge of our solar system.
On to the teeny tiny moons Kerberos & Styx! Did you know my science team found them after I launched? #PlutoFlyBy pic.twitter.com/tudRSnAm3M— NASA New Horizons (@NASANewHorizons) July 13, 2015
Depictions of the hellhound, Cerberus, and the Hydra in the film, Hercules (2014). Images Source: fxguide.
Always a pecking order: the top four planetoids or 'dwarf planets' are accepted by the International Astronomical Union as minor planets of the solar system. The bottom four are candidates for dwarf planet status. Image Source: Wiki.
Extending the outer limits of knowledge: the outer bodies of the solar system are a huge source of carbon-bearing molecules, which are found in the DNA of every creature on Earth. The Belt also abounds with frozen volatile ices, which means that water and life on Earth may have originated in the Kuiper Belt and been borne by comet strikes to our planet. That is why the close fly-by by NASA craft New Horizons on 14 July 2015 is so stunning. Astronomers have already photographed something glittering at Pluto's north pole. You can follow the live NASA news briefing on 14 July 2015 at 7:30 a.m. EDT here. There will be another live Pluto flyby media briefing on 14 July 2015 at 8:15 a.m. EDT here. After New Horizons passes Pluto, it will continue taking photos in the Kuiper Belt if NASA receives a sufficient budget to continue the project.
- Twitter, NASA New Horizons
- Twitter, #PlutoFlyby
- Twitter, #PlutoTime
- Live Comet Data, live data on the spacecraft
- See Pluto Now
- NASA television / media coverage
- NASA documentary, The Year of Pluto, discovery of Pluto up to New Horizons mission
- NASA press conference on New Horizons call-in, 14 July 2015 at 9:30 p.m. EDT