Thursday, August 30, 2001

In My Opinion

If the WORD is not the thing, how about the thought? Does a thought constitute an act? Does thinking about doing something have the same effect as doing that thing? Consider this Arabic proverb:

"The willing contemplation of vice is vice."

I believe this proverb confuses two levels of abstraction in such a way as to result in confusion and needless difficulty in those who would try to act in accordance with it. The consequences of a thought that does not lead to action, in my mind, differs in meaningful ways from the consequences of taking the action, regardless of any evaluation of the morality of the action itself.

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Does this medium become the message?

Advertising delivered in a most unusual place. : Bathrooms Are Latest Spot for Interactive Advertising

What a lack of critical thinking skills can get you

Pregnant, in this case...
BBC News | HEALTH | Teenage myths about contraception

Thursday, August 23, 2001


A man is too apt to forget that in this world he cannot have everything. A choice is all that is left him.
--Harry Mathews, author and member of OuLiPo (1930-)

Words form the thread on which we string our experience.
--Aldous Huxley, writer and critic (1894-1963)

Friday, August 17, 2001

A case of an "Inconstant Constant"?

Most people "know" that physicists consider the speed of light a constant, the same for all time and for all areas of the universe. Recent research suggests that we might not completely understand the issue...

From the NY Times: Cosmic Laws Like Speed of Light Might Be Changing, a Study Finds

From Space.Com: Speed of Light, Other Constants May Change

Moving from higher abstractions to lower, from inference to observation

Some scientific measures develop from observation and some from theory. If we combine both methods of analysis and evaluation, we have a higher probability of closing the gap between what we think we know and what we can directly observe and measure. Do we ever nail down the "real" answer though?

Take a look at this story from the Boston Globe about a change in the meaning of the wind chill index. One might infer from the headline that the writer believes that the previous scale did not have any "real" basis.

However, according to this page at the National Weather Service (NWS) on the revision of the scale, they adjusted the parameters used in the wind chill calculation based on new technologies and the result of recent research that more accurately predict the actual experience of a human standing in the wind on a cold day.

In the meantime, an international commission has begun research and negotiations intended to develop a "Univeral Thermal Climate Index" that may go far beyond the NWS definition of wind chill, integrating activity, humidity, and other thermophysiological effects to pin down an even more accurate measurement of the human experience. Will their efforts, due out later this year, come up with the "real" answer? Stay tuned...

Hearing voices

What do I mean when I say "I am of two minds about that."? Perceiving that I have multiple viewpoints about a "single" issue really suggests to me that no "single" issue exists. Most experiences involve many layers of meaning and event. Perhaps listening to the many "voices" speaking about the experience in my head will give me the opportunity to increase my awareness of the those many layers. I find that the more I "know" about a issue or experience, the more appropriate my reaction to it.

On the other hand (or should I say, "another voice inside me says...") what does the author of the article below mean when he refers to a person's "true voice" as distinguished from all the other voices inside? He states "A few of my clients admitted they usually couldn't tell the true voice from the rest of the noise until after the fact. " Does this experience describe the existence of a "true" voice or does it suggest that once people discover how they "should" have acted, they perceive that they "knew it all along."? In a world with multitudinous layers of event and meaning, perceived by people with a myriad of experiences and desires creating meaning inside their heads, can we really designate a "true voice"?
Boston Globe Online / At Home / Your quiet inner voice has best advice

Brain cell (1949) "is not" Brain cell (2001)?

Does the process of aging unconditionally imply the slow loss of mental skills? Scientists have begun to doubt what they "knew" about the aging brain. From Judy Foreman of the Boston Globe:

The lesson of old geniuses: Scientists once thought brain cells did little but die as they aged. But new research raises the hope of intellectual growth to the very end.... The neuroscientists' gloom was based on their belief that aging causes a steady loss of neurons (brain cells) all over the brain. They ''knew'' the adult brain could not generate new neurons. Worst of all, scientists assumed that nothing could be done to boost the odds of having a healthy, aging brain.

Some mental skills decline with age...but wisdom and common sense may increase.

Read the rest of the story...

What People do with Signs and Symbols

What's in a name? Some people barely know the names of all their grandparents. Others trace their family trees back several generations to the founders of this country. Sometimes, the process uncovers a story that comes to signify a great deal in the minds of the descendants.

Giving five 'witches' their good names back


To be a real philosopher all that is necessary is to hate some one else's type of thinking.
--William James, psychologist and philosopher (1842-1910)