Thursday, 14 October 2010
Sunday, 3 October 2010
Consider the predicament of a young woman in a philosophy class, who (like 71% - 75% of women in the Starmans & Friedman study) does not find it obvious that the characters in Gettier vignettes do not have knowledge of the relevant proposition. Rather, her intuitions tell her that the Gettier characters do have knowledge, though her instructor, whether male or female, as well as a high percentage of her male classmates, clearly think she is mistaken. Different women will, of course, react to a situation like this in different ways. But it is plausible to suppose that some women facing this predicament will be puzzled or confused or uncomfortable or angry or just plain bored. Some women may become convinced that they aren’t any good at philosophy, since they do not have the intuitions that their professors and their male classmates insist are correct. If the experience engenders one or more of these alienating effects, a female student may be less likely to take another philosophy course than a male classmate who (like 59% - 64% of the men in the Starmans & Friedman study) has the “standard” intuitions that their instructor shares. That male student, unlike the majority of his female classmates, can actively participate in, and perhaps enjoy, the project of hunting for a theory that captures “our” intuitions.It is enough to convince me that I should be careful in presenting thought experiments as evidence, since my intuitions won't predict those of other people. (It's likely that gender isn't the only bias in the "received" interpretation of thought experiments. See this post.)
Saturday, 2 October 2010
One of the worst things about the forgotten letter is that it never stands for a sound in native English words. Indeed, it could be argued that it never appears as a letter within the plain form of any lexeme, and never occurs initially in any word in modern English. But it does appear as the first letter of the two-letter genitive singular suffix of regular nouns; as the second letter of the two-letter genitive plural suffix; as the middle of the three letters that spell the suffix identifying the negative form of auxiliary verbs; as the first letter in the written clitic forms of am, are, had, has, have, is, will, and would; and it has miscellaneous other uses. But though obligatory where it occurs, it never corresponds to any sound in native words.
CALL FOR PAPERS
“The Regimen of Bodily Health: Nourishment and Natural Knowledge”
HAPSAT 7th Annual Conference
“The body” as both a material object and metaphor, provides a rich source of inspiration for both philosophical and historical studies of the production and transmission of knowledge. Lawrence and Shapin’s influential anthology, Science Incarnate: Historical Embodiments of Natural Knowledge (1998) broke new ground in this area with discussions of bodies as tools for philosophical inquiry, what it means for knowledge to be “embodied” in physical artifacts, and how bodily self-presentation can generate disembodied knowledge. The body also presents an arena for interplay of ideas about proper management of health and diseases and the application of scientific and medical expertise. Seventeenth century physicians, for instance, recommended a mixture of medicine and dietetics for consumptive patients; proper dietary regimes were often based on theoretical ideas about nourishment and health. Moreover, the body and our ideas of the body have been a political battleground: within the “culture of dissection” and public executions; as displays of ecclesiastical value and status; as technologically manipulable aspects of the self; as and as subjects of experimental philosophy.
On Friday March 18, 2011, HAPSAT, the Graduate Student Society at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto, will host its seventh annual conference, The Regimen of Bodily Health: Nourishment and Natural Knowledge.
This year’s distinguished keynote is Steven Shapin (Dept. Of History of Science, Harvard University): “The Long History of Dietetics: Thinking about Food, Expertise, and the Self.” The keynote is jointly hosted by HAPSAT and the IHPST Colloquium Series.
We invite graduate students and recent graduates working in fields such as HPS, STS, history, sociology, philosophy, public health, anthropology, gender studies, and law, to submit paper and panel proposals that critically engage with this theme. For papers please email abstracts of up to 250 words to HAPSAT@gmail.com by December 1, 2010. For panels, please email a document with a 250 word abstract describing the panel as a whole in addition to individual abstracts for each paper (also 250 words). Each presenter will be given 20 minutes.
We welcome papers addressing, but not limited to, the following questions:
- What is the relationship between embodied lives and disembodied knowledge?
- How have health regimes influenced historical or philosophical ideas about the body?
- Do philosophical ideas about the nature of the self, identity, and human agency affect society’s treatment of bodies?
- To what extent have technologies of the body influenced science in practice (e.g. technologies of blood transfusion)?
- How are food, bodies, and personal and institutional authority related within the modern medical establishment?
- What is the relationship between personal appearance and epistemic authority?
- How have ideas about the degenerate body (e.g. monsters, deformity, disease) been shaped by cultural or social beliefs?
- How do different modes of food production and consumption affect the political relationships between bodies?
- What sorts of new political relationships, and political philosophies, are likely to arise if technological advancement makes the transhumanist dream a reality?
We hope to be able to offer billeting and small travel subsides for graduate students travelling to Toronto for the conference.
Friday, 1 October 2010
Thursday, 30 September 2010
we have a frame of prior contrasts in which we typically (and traditionally, since these are inherited from teachers and other cultural influences) set up our problems and thoughts.Wilkins pictures these contrasts as dimensions in a space of possibilities, explaining that
If you think that God may or may not exist, for example, then believing God does exist is to assert a coordinate in a binary space. If you think God’s existence is a matter of confidence or likelihood, then you settle on (if you do) a coordinate on a continuum.
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Monday, 27 September 2010
In the recent case of Berghuis v. Thompkins the U.S. Supreme Court ruled five to four that persons being interviewed by the police are required to articulate their answers to the Miranda warning that they have the right to remain silent.
Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, opined that Thompkins' mere silence in the face of questioning was not a clear and unambiguous invocation of his right to remain silent.
Justice Sotomayer wrote the dissenting opinion, saying (1) that it is counterintuitive for defendants to speak after they are told they have the right to remain silent, (2) that in such cases detectives should presume that the suspects have invoked their rights to silence when they remain silent for almost three hours of questioning [as in this specific case], and (3), citing Miranda: "…the fact that an individual eventually made a statement is consistent with the conclusion that the compelling influence of the interrogation finally forced him to do so. It is inconsistent with any notion of a voluntary relinquishment of the privilege."
Sunday, 26 September 2010
The final two groups that were studied consisted of 256 children with ASD [autism spectrum disorders] and 752 matched controls. One very interesting aspect that looks as though it were almost certainly placed into the experimental design based on concerns of anti-vaccine advocates like Sallie Bernard is a group of children who underwent regression. Basically, the study examined whether there was a correlation between ASD and TCV [thimerosal-containing vaccines, i.e. mercury-containing vaccines] exposure. It also examined two subsets of ASD, autistic disorder (AD) and ASD with regression, looking for any indication whether TCVs were associated with any of them. Regression was defined as: "the subset of case-children with ASD who reported loss of previously acquired language skills after acquisition."
(via Kottke)So what did the investigators find? I think you probably know the answer to that question. They found nothing. Nada. Zip. There wasn't even a hint of a correlation between TCV exposure and either ASD, AD, or ASD with regression: "There were no findings of increased risk for any of the 3 ASD outcomes. The adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) for ASD associated with a 2-SD increase in ethylmercury exposure were 1.12 (0.83-1.51) for prenatal exposure, 0.88 (0.62-1.26) for exposure from birth to 1 month, 0.60 (0.36-0.99) for exposure from birth to 7 months, and 0.60 (0.32- 0.97) for exposure from birth to 20 months."
Saturday, 25 September 2010
Friday, 24 September 2010
The UK's tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Efficiency is the ratio of useful work performed by a process as compared with the total energy expended. What we slot into those boxes says everything about our values. What vegans (the ones worried about efficiency) are up in arms about is that large tracts of arable land are being used to feed cows instead of people. Fairlie is saying that needn't be the case, and it would be best to compare the overall amount of land dedicated to growing food for humans in each case.But idiocies [like feeding human-edible grain to cows], Fairlie shows, are not arguments against all meat eating, but arguments against the current farming model. He demonstrates that we've been using the wrong comparison to judge the efficiency of meat production. Instead of citing a simple conversion rate of feed into meat, we should be comparing the amount of land required to grow meat with the land needed to grow plant products of the same nutritional value to humans. The results are radically different.
If pigs are fed on residues and waste, and cattle on straw, stovers and grass from fallows and rangelands -- food for which humans don't compete -- meat becomes a very efficient means of food production. Even though it is tilted by the profligate use of grain in rich countries, the global average conversion ratio of useful plant food to useful meat is not the 5:1 or 10:1 cited by almost everyone, but less than 2:1. If we stopped feeding edible grain to animals, we could still produce around half the current global meat supply with no loss to human nutrition: in fact it's a significant net gain.
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
A brief history of publication.
Essays via the iTunes model.
A lit review on serifs and readability.
A store for time travellers. (h/t SA)
Deleting one gene makes mice smart. (h/t GL)
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
Nearly 20 percent of [right wing terrorists] had engineering degrees.While terrorist groups probably have incentives to recruit engineers and others with specialized knowledge, the statistical anomaly holds for right wing terrorists, not left wing ones.
The engineer mind-set, Gambetta and Hertog suggest, might be a mix of emotional conservatism and intellectual habits that prefers clear answers to ambiguous questions — “the combination of a sharp mind with a loyal acceptance of authority.”
Sunday, 19 September 2010
' A chemical analysis of the bones of ancient Nubians shows that they were regularly consuming tetracycline, most likely in their beer. The finding is the strongest evidence yet that the art of making antibiotics, which officially dates to the discovery of penicillin in 1928, was common practice nearly 2,000 years ago.'
'In the last two weeks, both water and fire tornadoes have been widely covered by the media. First there was the dramatic shots from Japan of a so-called 'waterspout,' then there was the unbelievable footage of this fire tornado in Brazil, followed immediately by this one from Hawaii. And as any good physicists would have, we immediately thought 'I want to do that!'
Of course, APS requires me to tell you not to try this at home. So, here's how you would do this, if you were to find yourself attempting to do it, which you should absolutely under no circumstances try to do.'
Saturday, 18 September 2010
Bikes can and should behave much more like cars than pedestrians. They should ride on the road, not the sidewalk. They should stop at lights, and pedestrians should be able to trust them to do so. They should use lights at night. And -- of course, duh -- they should ride in the right direction on one-way streets. None of this is a question of being polite; it's the law. But in stark contrast to motorists, nearly all of whom follow nearly all the rules, most cyclists seem to treat the rules of the road as strictly optional. They're still in the human-powered mindset of pedestrians, who feel pretty much completely unconstrained by rules.
The result is decidedly suboptimal for all concerned, but mostly for the bicyclists themselves. New York needs to make a collective quantum leap, from treating bicyclists like pedestrians to treating bicyclists like motorists. And unless and until it does, bike relations will continue to be marked by hostility and mistrust.
Friday, 17 September 2010
Their new technique can move objects one hundred times that size over a distance of a meter or more.
The device works by shining a hollow laser beam around tiny glass particles. The air surrounding the particle heats up, while the dark center of the beam stays cool. When the particle starts to drift out of the middle and into the bright laser beam, the force of heated air molecules bouncing around and hitting the particle’s surface is enough to nudge it back to the center.That's really clever. But it isn't a tractor beam;
it can’t work in the vacuum of outer space.
Thursday, 16 September 2010
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
“We’ve discovered what we think is a new concept in air conditioning,” says Ron Judkoff, the principal program manager on the project. “We recognize its potential, but it has a ways to go before it’s out of the lab and available to consumers.”
The new, patented system abandons the power-hungry compressor-driven refrigeration process used in many domestic (and virtually all commercial) air conditioners in favor of a couple of high-efficiency pumps and fans. But it also uses water for evaporative cooling — a concept familiar to many people living in the arid West who have roof-mounted “swamp coolers.”
Swamp coolers work well when the outside air is dry, as evaporating water carries away heat, cooling and moistening the air that is re-circulated into the house.The new system adds a desiccant to the standard swamp cooler setup to promote effectiveness even in humid heat.
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
But to repeat the impact of World War II today would require a truly massive effort. Replicating the six-fold increase in the federal budget that was seen in the early 1940s would result in a nearly $20 trillion budget today. That equates to $67,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. Surely, the tremendous GDP growth created by such spending would make short work of the so-called Great Recession.
To a degree that will surprise many, the US funded its World War II effort largely by raising taxes and tapping into Americans' personal savings. Both of those avenues are nowhere near as promising today as they were in 1941 Current tax burdens are now much higher than they were before the War, so raising taxes today would be much more difficult. The "Victory Tax" of 1942 sharply raised income tax rates and allowed, for the first time in our nation's history, taxes to be withheld directly from paychecks. The hikes were originally intended to be temporary but have, of course, far outlasted their purpose. It would be unlikely that Americans would accept higher taxes today to fund a real war, let alone a pretend one.
That leaves savings, which was the War's primary source of funding. During the War, Americans purchased approximately $186 billion worth of war bonds, accounting for nearly three quarters of total federal spending from 1941-1945. Today, we don't have the savings to pay for our current spending, let alone any significant expansions. Even if we could convince the Chinese to loan us a large chunk of the $20 trillion (on top of the $1 trillion we already owe them), how could we ever pay them back?
Monday, 13 September 2010
Many of the graduate students who were stars in the classroom during the first two years—the people everyone admired and looked up to—suddenly aren't so stellar anymore. And a few of the marginal students—the ones who didn't care that much about pleasing the professors by reading every page of every assignment—are suddenly sending their own papers off to journals, getting published, and transforming themselves into professional scholars.Munger continues with 10 great writing tips (most of the tips are obvious, but obviously still needed, since most of us don't follow them!)
The difference is not complicated. It's writing.
4. Give yourself time. Many smart people tell themselves pathetic lies like, "I do my best work at the last minute." Look: It's not true. No one works better under pressure. Sure, you are a smart person. But if you are writing about a profound problem, why would you think that you can make an important contribution off the top of your head in the middle of the night just before the conference?
Writers sit at their desks for hours, wrestling with ideas. They ask questions, talk with other smart people over drinks or dinner, go on long walks. And then write a whole bunch more. Don't worry that what you write is not very good and isn't immediately usable. You get ideas when you write; you don't just write down ideas.
The articles and books that will be read decades from now were written by men and women sitting at a desk and forcing themselves to translate profound ideas into words and then to let those words lead them to even more ideas. Writing can be magic, if you give yourself time, because you can produce in the mind of some other person, distant from you in space or even time, an image of the ideas that exist in only your mind at this one instant.
For my friends who are starting grad school, preparing for quals, or just starting coursework again... the reading probably already looks pretty daunting. And it is. But here are a few tips on getting by.
First, Chad explains how to read scientific papers without reading every word. (Hint: it applies to HPS papers too!)
The first and most important point is to Know What You're Looking For. Different bits of information are found in different places and in different forms, so what you're looking for will determine where you look, and how you find it.
For example, if you're just trying to get a general sense of what a given paper is about, it's often enough to read only the introduction and conclusion. If you're just after a specific numerical result, it's probably in the abstract, or toward the end of the paper.
You should also be aware that what you're looking for may not be in the paper you're reading. If you want a sense of the context of a field, you're often looking for a reference to earlier work, possibly a review article. If you want the gory details of a measurement technique, you may very well be looking for some reference to an earlier or longer paper by the same group (a sentence of the form "using the method of [citation of earlier paper]"), or, even more annoyingly, some online supplement to the article you have.
(Of course, read the whole thing.)
Next, read Timothy Burke's How to Read in College.
Finally, check out John Bean's Helping Students Read Difficult Texts.
See also Jon's teaching tip on teaching critical reading in history.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
This is the sort of thing I think about for the half-second it takes me to gear up for the dash to shelter when I'm caught in the open by one of Toronto's sudden downpours.
Standing still, I present a relatively small surface area to the falling rain -- in a vertical downpour, just my head and shoulders. When I move through the vertical rain, I collide with water droplets that would otherwise have passed me by -- but the same amount of water should strike my top surfaces (I move out of the paths of some droplets, but into the paths of others). Standing still wins in the first approximation.
On the other hand, I'll be in the downpour for a shorter period of time, so fewer droplets will strike my head after all. Running wins in the second approximation.
Jesse, of The Virtuosi derives mathematical support for the running side of things, concluding that "if you are Usain Bolt, you can reduce how wet you get by almost a factor of two by going from a meander to a sprint!"
Saturday, 11 September 2010
I am disconnected, today. It is the way I have always felt while watching disasters unfold on television, or even across a room. I become the observer and introspector at the same time. I become self-conscious. I maintain a calm exterior, my mind stops working smoothly. In fits and jerks, I move between the inner world and the outer, but there is no longer the feeling (illusion?) of connection between them.
Outside, people are confused, in disbelief, wonderment. Senses widen, experience deepens. Not for me. I watch from behind the one-way mirror of my eyes. Events occur, and I am in disbelief, but this is a secondary emotion. Most of all I feel disconnected from the reality of the situation. I am no longer a part of the world I live in; I am an observer. Impotent.
Murmers of a distantly religious nature fill the air. "God." I cannot tell if they are asking or stating a fact. No one seems to accuse Him.
As each new development breaks, bundles of intent onlookers clump near information outlets--television, radio, internet. The internet is clogged. The television signal is scratchy. No on knows anything, but the cameras roll and the people talk. 8:45AM EST, a small plane crashes into the World Trade Center. Half an hour later, while we are listening to the first rumors of this first incident, a passenger jet--an American 767 hijacked on its way from Boston to somewhere or somewhere to Boston--explodes into the other tower on live television. The explosion, recorded from such a distance, is silent. I am surprised at how movie-like the explosion seems. I had always assumed such things were exaggerated for effect.
People are indecisive. Myself included. None of us are sure whether to watch or get back to work. We waver between. More rumors float about: a plane has crashed into the Pentagon building. A fire burns in the nation's Mall. The Whitehouse evacuated; the President speaks from an elementary school in Florida.
The nation reels from the blow. All air travel comes to a halt. Tunnels in and out of New York are closed down. The Sears and other towers are evacuated. One of the towers collapses, the smoke too thick to pierce with distant cameras. Thousands had already been reported injured. Surely that number has grown. Trading stops on Wall Street. Markets closed.
It has been over an hour now. The news has settled slightly; people begin to digest, to think again. Theories sprout. Reactionary political statements are made.
The notion of going to war seems obvious to some, oddly distant and unlikely to me.
Strikes, actions, bombing--yes. But war? With whom? Bin Laden? Palestine? Terrorism itself?
I read: the second tower has collapsed. Another hijacked plane flies toward DC from the south. Will we shoot it down?
Another plane crashes 80 miles outside of Pittsburgh. A Palestinian Liberation group takes credit.
What the hell is going on?
An hour of conscious attempt to return to work, in addition to the conscious attempt to isolate myself from news outlets, has resulted not in a feeling of normalcy but in a feeling of inadequacy. I cannot ignore the situation--to do so simply feels wrong. At the same time, I have a responsibility to remain on task. And I cannot possibly be of any help to the situation, or to the gossip circles that coalesce so easily today.
Why is this violence so inevitable? Why does talking never seem to work? How is it that the perpetrators believe these acts of terrorism could aid their cause? Are these political acts? Spiritual? Symbolic? Is there a difference?
- Mike Thicke, Curtis Forbes, Michelle Hoffman, Jonathan Turner, Andrew Munro, Ellie Louson, Michael Cournoyea, and Rebecca Moore are all contributors to The Bubble Chamber (as time goes on, the list will grow).
- Jaipreet Virdi discusses history of medicine, deafness, and quackery at From the Hands of Quacks.
- Ellie Louson muses about grad school at Productive (adj).
- Aaron Sidney Wright is a historian of physics who has been saying interesting things about scientific practice at his blog, False Vacuum.
- Jonathan Turner writes about grad school, teaching, and Cold War defence research in Canada over at Boffins and Cold Warriors.
- Sarah Kriger's Ramblings are more focused on writing, plays, and television than on her research, but it's still great stuff.
- Allan Olley occasionally discusses his work on the history of computing on 4ll4n0.
Friday, 10 September 2010
That's been a source of worry for philosophers of science as long as there have been philosophers of science. Abstractly, the problem is one of splitting hairs: the very lifeblood of (some) philosophy. But answers to the demarcation question have definite and important implications far beyond the groves of academe. I won't bother rehearsing those implications now.
Swans on Tea points me to David Brin's take on things, which cuts against the grain. Rather than distinguishing between science and non-science, why not distinguish between skeptics and a deniers.
I urge you to read the whole thing.What discrete characteristics distinguish a rational, pro-science “climate skeptic” who has honest questions about the AGW consensus from members of a Denialist Movement that portrays all members of a scientific community as either fools or conspirators?
Thursday, 9 September 2010
- Adopt a growth mindset. "Students who believe that intelligence and academic ability are fixed tend to stumble at the first hurdle."
- Sleep well.
- Forgive yourself for procrastinating.
- Test yourself.
- Pace your studies. "the optimal time to leave material before reviewing it is 10 to 30 per cent of the period you want to remember it for."
- Vivid examples may not always work best.
- Take naps.
- Get handouts prior to the lecture.
- Believe in yourself.
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Monday, 6 September 2010
On an ordinary 72 dpi monitor it’s just over half a mile wide, making it possibly one of the largest pages on the web.
Sunday, 5 September 2010
Saturday, 4 September 2010
Campaigns are built to fool us into thinking that we're voting for individuals. We learn about the candidate's family, her job, her background -- even her dog. But we're primarily voting for parties. The parties have just learned we're more likely to vote for them if they disguise themselves as individuals. And American politics would work better if we understood that.
Click through for her assessment of Ozzy.I have nothing but admiration for this singer. Listen how he starts off with a soft growl, then moves seamlessly into a well-supported, sustained high full-voice sound that then evolves into an effortless long scream! His diction is easily intelligible, regardless of the range he's singing in or the effect he's going for. He achieves an intensely rhythmic delivery of the lyrics without losing legato and musical momentum, something a lot of classical singers struggle with, especially when interpreting the many staccato and accent markings that crowd scores by Bellini, Donizetti, etc.