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This just about sums it up:

Dec. 17th, 2010 | 08:04 am


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Oct. 29th, 2010 | 10:55 am

So it seems I have a confirmed postdoc in Geneva once I finish my PhD. There's a catch - they are very protective of their language over there, so in order to teach I must learn French.

I have decided to use this as my study guide.

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Election coverage

Aug. 23rd, 2010 | 08:41 am

From the ABC:

"Here's how the country's major newspapers are reporting the political deadlock.

The Age: three independents are poised to hold the balance of power in the House of Representatives have indicated they could act as a bloc.

Daily Telegraph: a potential split among the independent MPs could force the nation back to the polls.


Does anyone get the impression that our newspapers just make stuff up?

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Jun. 18th, 2010 | 08:07 am

For those of you who are watching the world cup, you may find this interesting: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2010/06/how-to-silence-vuvuzela-horns-with-an-eq-filter/

If anyone knows who's in charge of any sports news network's sound engineering, you may do the world a favour by passing this along.

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Paul Kurtz

Jun. 11th, 2010 | 10:23 am

There are many different aspects to a person. In my head I've always kept the two biggest parts of myself separated - the thinker and the feeler, or the scientist and the human. But I am first and foremost a mathematician. I say this for two reasons: The first is that I think like a mathematician, it's how I discover things, it's how I work things out. It's the way I've been trained to think. The second reason is that it's my passion. In other words, it's what makes me happy as a human. So it permeates both aspects of myself.

I've never really thought much of Paul Kurtz until this morning. I was listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry, and I must have finally been in just the right mood to really understand what he was saying. The episode is about science, religion, morality and the meaning of life. He was making the point that as a humanist, while it's fine to state that you're an atheist, it's important to also state that you do believe in people. While it's fine to argue against religion, it's important not to forget to have empathy for the person you're arguing against. In a sense, separate out the argument from the person, and criticize the first while appreciating the second. I view this as separating thought from feeling.

So in the realm of thought, we have questions like "How did the universe start", "How did humans come to be", "How does everything work", etc. Everything here includes the human mind, and human emotions, but in an analytical way. Religion and other worldviews have tried to answer these questions, but it is clearer and clearer that science is the best way of addressing these.

In the realm of feeling are all the questions that have to do with how to live your life. How to be happy, how to deal with other people. Science can inform these questions but it cannot answer them. It doesn't hurt to have a bit of a scientific approach, within reason. Some people also try to get these answers from religion, whether it works or not depends entirely on the circumstance.

There is also always the question of the meaning of life. Perhaps the problem with this question is that it assumes that the answer must be the same for everybody. A better question is the meaning of your life.

Some people get meaning from religion. Some of these people make the mistake of assuming that it is the only way to get meaning. Some people get meaning from science. By this I don't mean that they get their meaning scientifically, but that they get their meaning from the joy of doing science. Some people get meaning from music, art, exploration, sensuality, all sorts of things which we generally find nice, fun, or enjoyable in some way. The bottom line is that this is a question which rests in the realm of feeling, not thought, so there is no definite answer, and no definite way of finding an answer.

What I'm trying to say is that it isn't possible to live your life entirely scientifically. You can get meaning from science, and you can use science to answer the questions about the universe that you have. But you're a human, and to deal with other humans you just need to feel your way through.

(Morality is another kettle of fish, one which I think lies partly in both realms. I think morality should be neither entirely relative nor entirely universal. What we generally agree on as moral is not written in our instincts, because if it was we would do it automatically and there wouldn't be a problem. As it is, murder, rape, theft, jealousy, and hate are all instinctual. I see morality as the rules needed to govern the relations between people in a society which is too large to rely on instinctual habits. This means it should be worked out thoughtfully, but based on feelings. It is a hard question.)

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Another optical illusion (props to Bad Astronomy)

May. 20th, 2010 | 08:28 am

Take a look at this picture: http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/news/uploads/LROCiotw/M126752534RE.thumb.png

Then look at this one: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/files/2010/05/LRO_dome_crater_flipped.jpg

What you're looking at is the bottom of a crater. The edges of the picture are sloped down towards the centre, and the middle circle is a slight mound. The first picture looks to me like a plateau, with strange looking white things all about. I can make them out as boulders, but then the light looks strange.

The second picture has been flipped, and it took me a long time to see it for what it was and not a plateau at the bottom of a crater with very strange lighting effects. It looked very weird.

Anyway, apparently we assume that light comes from above, which is why I still see the first picture as a plateau on a hill and not the bottom of a crater.

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May. 19th, 2010 | 10:21 am

I've always found eggs* a little strange, and I think I just figured out why.

Why are they skin coloured?

* By which I mean chicken eggs, the kind you eat. Unless you're vegan. Or allergic. Or don't like them.

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May. 10th, 2010 | 09:36 am

This blog here is a beautiful and simple introduction to many mathematical concepts. It's interesting, bite-sized and clear. Go and read it. The list of entries is here.

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Way of the Master

Mar. 23rd, 2010 | 08:02 am

Kirk Cameron on some nonsense about Creationism.

"Only God can take the sinful heart of a man or a woman and cause them to love that which is right and just and good."
So why not just let Him do it?

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Chick Tracts, Dino Style

Feb. 26th, 2010 | 05:21 pm


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