Monday, October 20, 2003

An Interesting Take on Education

Professor Theodore Gray, co-founder of Wolfram Research, makers of Mathematica software, has some very strong opinions about what today's children need to know. He believes that children need to learn a different set of skills than their parents, today more than ever. He says:

"The most profound engine of civilization is the inability of a larger and larger fraction of the population to do the basic things needed to survive....Technology's greatest contribution is to permit people to be incompetent at a larger and larger range of things. Only by embracing such incompetence is the human race able to progress." He states his case articulately and with great sense and some humor.

Read the story here: Brain Rot

Another Take on "Like"

Language purists have long decried the rampant use of "like" and "you know" among younger speakers of English. Mike Guest, writing for the Daily Yomiuri On-Line, drawing a parallel to similar interjections in Japanese speech, offers a thoughtful analysis of these grammatical puzzles. He suggests that these terms may have reached a level of usage that might qualify them as legimate and acceptable alternatives to the phrases they usually replace.

Can you, like, see the signals?

Sunday, October 12, 2003


"R.D. Laing said, according to Bill Eddy,
'The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.' "

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Breaking Down Elementalism

Scientists have detected a neurological signal in the brain when a human experiences an emotional pain. The big news? This signal occurs in the same area of the brain that senses physical pain. That fact caused the science writer for ABC to state "emotional and physical pain are more closely related than was previously thought." My reaction? DUH.

This story represents an outstanding example of how elementalism in thinking can affect perception. Our language distinguishes between the "emotional" and the "physical" and because of that, we find it remarkable when they overlap. Even though science has never found evidence of a soul, or any other mechanism for the existence of emotions or thought separate from the physical brain, our language encourages us to see a split where none exists.

A similar split occurs between the terms "cold" and "heat". These "two" "entities" have no physical equivalents. In the physical world, a material experiences more or less agitation of its molecules due to one or another of the thermodynamic effects. Depending on the circumstances in which we find this material, we might call it "hot" or "cold" when in fact, its temperature falls somewhere on a single spectrum from "warmer" to "not so warm".

If you start with terminology that recognizes the more "true-to-fact" "organism-as-a-whole" nature of the human body, you would probably expect the result of this study, rather than finding it noteworthy. Pain registers in the brain, in an area of the brain devoted to registering pain. End of story.

News in Science - The anatomy of a broken heart - 10/10/2003