One more wedding…

…then I’ll be back to semi-regular posting.


Could zombies ever exist?

A neurobiologist argues that they might.

An article on Spinoza

Thought I’d link to this article on a shadowy-ish figure in philosophy. We all know Spinoza was one of those rationalists, some of you may even know that he was a tent-maker of sorts (a figure of speech referencing Paul’s trade), working long hours grinding lenses. I’ve read Stewart’s book on Spinoza referenced in the article and Goldstein’s is next. Well, probably. In any case, I can’t really recommend Stewart’s book unless you’ve read Spinoza and you’ve read a more serious bio of the man. Stewart has an axe to grind; that much is apparent. But if you are able to spit out the bones, it is highly enjoyable. I concur with the article’s statement here:

Surely one reason so many thinkers remain smitten with Spinoza is the fabled beauty of his vision of the universe and God. Goldstein, a professor of philosophy at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., writes of seeing her students transformed by Spinoza’s “Ethics.” At first, they’re put off by the “eccentricity — both in form and content — of this impenetrable work.” But eventually, they make “their way into Spinoza’s way of seeing things, watching the entire world reconfigure itself in the vision … One feels oneself change, however, impermanently, as one beholds Spinoza’s point of view — the point of view that approaches, though it can never match, ‘the Infinite Intellect of God.’ One’s whole sense of oneself, and what it is one cares about, tilts — in a direction that certainly feels like up. Year after year, I’ve watched what happens with my students when Spinoza begins to take hold, and it’s always moving beyond measure.”

Any fan of Spinoza knows exactly what she’s talking about.

Girl with half a brain regains her vision

This is an amazing story:

The experts were baffled by the 10-year-old girl who was born missing the right side of her brain, whose job it is to map the left field of vision.


Scans on the girl showed that the retinal nerve fibres carrying visual information from the back of the eye which should have gone to the right hemisphere of the brain diverted to the left.

Dr Lars Muckli, of the university’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, working with German colleagues from Frankfurt, said: “The brain has amazing plasticity but we were quite astonished to see just how well the single hemisphere of the brain in this girl has adapted to compensate for the missing half.

“Despite lacking one hemisphere, the girl has normal psychological function and is perfectly capable of living a normal and fulfilling life. She is witty, charming and intelligent.”


Neuroplasticity (wiki) is surely one of the premier scientific discoveries of our generation, and stories like these continually floor me.

Flesh-eating robots? Not yet.

(HT: Antiwar)

On July 7, Cyclone announced that it had completed the first stage of development for a beta biomass engine system used to power RTI’s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR™), a Phase II SBIR project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Defense Sciences Office. RTI’s EATR is an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling.

RTI’s patent pending robotic system will be able to find, ingest and extract energy from biomass in the environment. Despite the far-reaching reports that this includes “human bodies,” the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips – small, plant-based items for which RTI’s robotic technology is designed to forage. Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI.

“We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission,” stated Harry Schoell, Cyclone’s CEO. “We are focused on demonstrating that our engines can create usable, green power from plentiful, renewable plant matter. The commercial applications alone for this earth-friendly energy solution are enormous.”


Probably the craziest thing I’ve read in a long time.

Sliding from possible worlds semantics to truth

Relativism and strong forms of contextualism assert, from what I gather, that the content of a proposition is not true or false simpliciter, but rather true or false at a time/world/context. A motivation for accepting semantic relativism is the success of possible worlds semantics. It becomes easy to make the move from thinking about possible worlds semantics (specifically, what is true at some possible world) to what is true in the actual world. Quite obviously, there is an underlying assumption here that many find it reasonable to deny: that truthmaker theory of some sort is correct.

If you deny the truthmaker theory for, say, Trenton Merricks’ TSB (truth supervenes on being) account, this slide is wholly illegitimate. Perhaps the truth of a proposition is found in it’s constituent parts or a combination of those parts (the proposition) and not in relation to a possible world. One has a good defeater for analytic relativism if you deny that the truth of a proposition is dependent on a relation to a possible world.

1984 remotely deleted from Amazon Kindles


In George Orwell’s “1984,” government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the “memory hole.”

On Friday, it was “1984” and another Orwell book, “Animal Farm,” that were dropped down the memory hole — by

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

This is why I will not purchase DRM protected crap, and the main reason I will never use Amazon’s e-book services. I may end up purchases an e-reader, but it would have to be “open”, unlike Amazon’s device, and it would not have this kind of direct internet link to any manufacturer. This is nutty.