Time-off notice: no new posts for the time being

What have you been telling yourself?

Nicholas Epley’s article on Nautilus brings more evidence on Why We Can’t Get Over Ourselves.  Among others: cognition biases, egocentrism,  and otehr selfish reasons.  This is not a core case of immanence debate, but telling of cultural landscape that seems to be a reversed cocktail-party problem: too many people talking about themselves and no one trying to listen.


And while you listen to yourself, take Shruti Ravindran’s on aeon about how ‘Hallucinated voices can be helpful life guides, muses of creativity, and powerful agents for healing the fractured self‘.

As a society, we may also benefit from improved listening.  Instead of cold forecasts, organic stories may be more effective.  As Adam Frank posted on Nautilus, we need to go beyond predicting the future and begin telling the future.

“What Desires Are Politically Important?” – Bertrand Russell

From Bertrand Russell’s Nobel prize acceptance lecture

“All human activity is prompted by desire. There is a wholly fallacious theory advanced by some earnest moralists to the effect that it is possible to resist desire in the interests of duty and moral principle. I say this is fallacious, not because no man ever acts from a sense of duty, but because duty has no hold on him unless he desires to be dutiful. If you wish to know what men will do, you must know not only, or principally, their material circumstances, but rather the whole system of their desires with their relative strengths.

(…)  man differs from other animals in one very important respect, and that is that he has some desires which are, so to speak, infinite (…) : four in particular, which we can label acquisitiveness, rivalry, vanity, and love of power.
Continue reading

“Light dawns” by Sidney Perkowitz, on fundamental constants

Article published at aeon.

“We have now fixed the speed of light in a vacuum at exactly 299,792.458 kilometres per second.

Why this particular speed and not something else? Or, to put it another way, where does the speed of light come from?

(…) thanks to Maxwell and Einstein, we know that the speed of light is connected with a number of other (on the face of it, quite distinct) phenomena in surprising ways.Continue reading

“The Man Who Wasn’t there” book review by Alun Anderson

Review of “The Man Who Wasn’t There: Exploring the science of the self” by Anil Ananthaswamy.

“For ordinary folk, a unified sense of self is taken for granted. We sit comfortably inside a body we feel is ours, seeing, hearing, touching and smelling. Gloomy or happy, our feelings plainly belong to us.(…) This self appears to us seamlessly and effortlessly as a whole.

The Man Who Wasn’t There could be described as a dedication to a different group – those whose unity of self has fragmented – and to the way they have helped us understand the self through their cooperation with scientists and philosophers, and their long hours in brain scanners.Continue reading

More on how brain adapts to internet

In “How has the Internet reshaped human cognition?“, Kep-Kee Loh and Ryota Kanai move forward the debate on how cognitive processes and brain structures are adapting to our interaction with the instant access to information through internet.

They study information processing, memory consolidation, brain circuitry, multitasking, distractions, addictive behavior, and other promising lines of research.  To their credit conclusions are often that more research is required.  Having such broad view on the matter is welcome.  There are signs of some precipitated condemnation as ‘internet is bad for people’ we expect from resistance to change.


Nicholas Carr book ‘The Shallows” was part of growing criticism on how the internet was affecting negatively our brains.  One typical culprit was the excessive multitasking.  When studies showed heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability those critics felt vindicated.  Then as studies with shorter titles are cited more often by other scientists more people were certain: ‘even’ scientists were affected by the shallow effect.

How can we tap this shallow information pool to go deeper into our minds?

birdly 3DVR

Environmental ‘fixing’ ?

This robot hunt and kill invasive starfish…

Fine.  May the starfish ask how non-invasive is the robot?

Jim Morrison on why fat is beautiful