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Echoes and Mirrors » logic

Archive for the ‘logic’ Category

The Monty Hall Problem

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

One of my favorites. Learned about this the first day of a course on Lonergan, oddly enough (or not, really, as much of Lonergan says is counterintuitive and made a nice lead-in). This video is a very eloquent explanation of the problem. Easily half of my classmates refused to believe it. I was skeptical at first, too, admittedly.

I think little exercises like this can make philosophy (Lonergan & Wittgenstein included) less intimidating. This sort of exercise pairs well when you are looking to understand something as frustrating as Wittgenstein’s language games, or anything from Lonergan’s Insight for example.


I smell fear

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

It may be possible to smell fear on another person:

“The chemical transfer of anxiety may cause a feeling of discomfort in the perceiver. It’s like a sixth sense,” says psychologist Bettina Pause of the University of Düsseldorf in Germany, one of the authors of the paper.

Here is the paper at PLoS ONE.

I’ve mentioned before how posture can affect your confidence, but could your body chemestry betray your anxiety anyway? Only if you let it. If you’ve worked on your self-affirmation enough, and are harnessing the power of the feedback loop of confidence from good posture, then it shouldn’t.

Also, it’s an unconscious perception, this smell of fear. It can be overruled and flanked. Of course, by doing so, you might remove the “anxiety sweat” from the equation altogether. Deodorant might also work.

Confidence is key to life, whether you mean to dominate a board meeting or are trying to beat Wilt Chamberlain. You are awesome, but not as awesome as me.


Americans don’t understand what "Rights" are

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

When it comes to philosophy (in this case political philosophy,) how you state your argument is arguably just as important as the context of and point you are trying to make.

Chuck posted something interesting about the dialectal process being used in the abortion debate.

Egalitarianism has slithered its way into our pocketbooks once again; this time under the highly dubious guise that all women have a right to an abortion. If everyone has the right, by all means, the government has to fund it.

The problem with their argument isn’t about whether or not women should have abortions (as they claim) but whether or not somebody else will pay for them.

I happen to be pro-choice (because I’m a nutty libertarian, you see) and see the argument in terms of Negative rights:

  • People (not just women) have self-ownership. They have the right not to have the state interfere with their personal property.
  • If a right guaranteed to any person violates another person’s rights, it is unjust. Only negative rights fit this standard.

This line of thought ensures the right to choose to have an abortion, but puts it on the mother to pay for it.  Which is fair.  I don’t see other people paying for me to have convenient parking, which is also fair. What gives somebody the right to make me pay for anything of theirs? Of course, this same line of thought would make prostitution and drugs legal.

The obvious choice is to cloud the fucking question with slippery word-play and convince everyone that they are entitled to shit; the result is that they don’t question the fact that they can’t do perfectly reasonable things like get high.

I won’t go into the consequences of the freedom to abort (which I think are positive, at least for me) or the fact that the laws would almost certainly exclude any input from the father, who provided at least half of the potential child.  Those are messy areas.

But what the fuck do I know? I’m just a guy who doesn’t want children and doesn’t like stupid the American Paternalism that has blossomed since the late 19th century.


I’m so proud of myself – apparently I am an eco-warrior

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Ecosalon has a list of the top 20 things we throw away, but shouldn’t. I won’t bore you with the details, but anyone who is as poor as I am might look at this list and say, “seriously?”

I’ll admit to using paper-towels because my roomie got a metric ass-ton of them for free from his mother. I’m not buying bar rags until they’re gone. That was my plan, anyway, though because I don’t like spending money on shit like that. Being single leads me to this novelty idea:

Napkins = Paper Towels = Counter Wipes = Tissue
or, given more sensitive noses:
Toilet Paper = Tissue

The only notable thing on the list was reusable coffee-filters. I had never heard of such a thing… I mean, you can buy them in boxes of 200 for $5. Which means I might buy two boxes in any given year. I generally drink coffee every day, but I don’t always make coffee every day (there is a chic little hippie coffee shop downstairs that has great coffee).

Also, I like getting plastic bags from the grocery store – they make nice trash bags. Most of the rest of the list (Cotton Balls, Swiffer pads, Baby Wipes) don’t apply to me. Maybe they will one day.

I am no environmentalist, so it occurs to me that most people are just lazy and wasteful and enviro-nuts are pretentious. Also, not buying stuff puts people out of work. Why do you hate America, EcoSalon?


Braaaaaaaaaaaaains! or How I Learned to Relax and The Remember that the Meta is Not Always Imaginary.

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Logic and language are not the same thing

It’s difficult for us to imagine what our mental lives would be like without language. Some theorists have even gone so far as to argue that language and logical thought are one and the same thing. A new brain imaging study challenges this notion by showing that logical inferences based on simple “not”, “or”, “if”, “then” terms activate a separate, though overlapping, network of brain regions compared with logical inferences based on grammatical judgements.

Martin Monti and colleagues scanned the brains of fifteen participants while they judged the accuracy of conclusions flowing from two kinds of logical argument. One kind was a more pure form of logic, such as “If both X and Z then not Y”, whilst the other kind was based on grammatical rules, such as “It was X that Y saw Z take”. The two types of inference were intended to be of comparable difficulty and to be equally valid (or invalid) but crucially only the grammatical version involved the interpretation of language-related roles such as “object” and “subject”.

Well, there goes my theory of symbiotic language virii that use humans as hosts and are the ‘source’ of our intelligence. A very neat.

Monti’s team said their findings were hard to reconcile “with the claim that language and logic are a unitary phenomenon”. Rather, they argued their results are consistent with language and logic being separate processes.

This will be in your psych 101 textbook next year.

Why Minds Are Not Like Computers

People who believe that the mind can be replicated on a computer tend to explain the mind in terms of a computer. When theorizing about the mind, especially to outsiders but also to one another, defenders of artificial intelligence (AI) often rely on computational concepts. They regularly describe the mind and brain as the “software and hardware” of thinking, the mind as a “pattern” and the brain as a “substrate,” senses as “inputs” and behaviors as “outputs,” neurons as “processing units” and synapses as “circuitry,” to give just a few common examples.

I don’t think they’re taking scale or complexity into consideration. Synapses don’t operate in a binary fashion and there are trillions of them in a human brain – computer processors only have a fraction of that.

Computers, then, have engineered layers of abstraction, each deriving its capabilities from joining together simpler instructions at a lower layer of abstraction. But each layer uses its own distinct concepts, and each layer is causally closed—meaning that it is possible to understand the behavior of one layer without recourse to the behavior of a higher or lower layer. For instance, think about your home or office computer. It has many abstraction layers, typically including (from highest to lowest): the user interface, a high-level programming language, a machine language running on the processor, the processor microarchitecture, Boolean logic gates, and transistors. Most computers will have many more layers than this, sitting between the ones listed. The higher and lower layers will likely be the most familiar to laymen: the user interface creates what you see on the screen when you interact with the computer, while Boolean logic gates and transistors give rise to the common description of the computer as “just ones and zeroes.”

The brain has more layers of abstraction and they probably aren’t mutually exclusive. But different areas of the brain are tuned to process specific things, and it operates in a very logical way. From the first article we can see that the prefrontal lobes handle logic, but language relies on other specific areas. When confronted with a grammar-logic problem, both areas are used.

I don’t have a link handy, but some scientists built a super-computer to simulate a single cortex of a rat’s brain. The thing is massive and uses a whole desktop cpu to simulate a single synapse. The brain is a computer, but on a much different scale. I think remembering the difference between a circle and a sphere is appropriate right now and remembering the adventures that took place in flatland (and flatterland) would be good.

Something tells me that the author of this article believes in dualism -that the brain and the mind are separate entities, which is a pleasant thought anyway.



Monday, June 8th, 2009

Yes, these are a bit old. Yes, I have been incredibly busy and unable to post. Suck it.

First, from May 15th, Fattie gets all upset because her yearbook signature page said the truth:

“I just feel like sitting in my room and crying,” said freshman Marie Gray. “I don’t feel like doing anything.”

Marie has spent the last two days crying. Her Tonopah Valley High school yearbook came out and beneath her signature for the class of 2012 is the word “fat” followed by a three letter word we can’t say on television.

Her mother, Rae Knowlton, admits, “I was just like there’s no way and I looked at it and there it was. I wouldn’t wish that on any child at all.”

Marie texted her mom from class with pictures of the embarrassing words. Knowlton explains, “I zoomed in on my phone and I was like ‘What is this?’ and then I saw it and I was like, ‘Oh No’.”

There was also a derogatory word about another boy’s sexuality. The yearbook teacher sent an apology letter with the class’ signatures calling the act immature. The class starting marking out the words after they had already handed it out to hundreds of students.

Which isn’t fair to her, granted, but it is also unfair to society as a whole to tell her it is okay to look like that. With any other species one would suppose nothing should be said at all and social norms would take care of this. However, we have all but disposed of the brutal survival of the fittest manifestations in our evolutionary track. Fat girls reproduce regularly. But is it genetic?

The obesity epidemic in the US is due solely to increased food intake:

Melbourne, Australia – The amount of food Americans eat has been increasing since the 1970s, and that alone is the cause of the obesity epidemic in the US today [1]. Physical activity—or the lack thereof—has played virtually no role in the rising number of expanding American waistlines, according to research presented at the 2009 European Congress on Obesity in Amsterdam last week.

The finding is contrary to the widely held assumption that decreased physical activity is an equally important driver of overweight and obesity in the US, said lead author Dr Boyd Swinburn (Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia).

Yes, you can run your plump little tushie off; you will still be fat. Have you ever seen a fat Ethiopian refugee? No. That’s not to say physical activity cannot help – it does stimulate your metabolism. But eating less is the key here. In the US, food is plentiful – even for the homeless (I assure you, this is the case – they eat better than I do sometimes) and to not snack regularly is seen as deviant behavior. I’m giving those with Diabetes and legitimate Thyroid problems a pass, of course.

However, I think it might actually be kind of a good thing. It certainly does help weed out the less desirables in the opposite sex, don’t you think? You may argue that if we recognize it as such, then we are harnessing Natural Selection for eugenics. However, the lack of control dismisses such a theory – it is simply an observation.

And one I have no problem with.



Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Why DO babies turn so many brilliant women into slummy mummies?

Why is it that when so many women become mothers they turn into boring frumps with one-track conversational minds that rarely stray from the oh- so fascinating subjects of nurseries, nappies and (lactating) nipples.

These women infuriate me. They think they are doing what’s best for their children when, really, they are committing the worst form of self-neglect, and insulting their marriage into the bargain.

This is the most brutally honest article about women I have ever read in the mainstream. The simple truth is that men require a woman to be physically attractive – women can build the attractiveness of a man out of his personality and strengths.

Men have a profound interest in their own children, but they also have adult sexual human urges – women ignore them at their peril.
When a woman puts her child first, she is making a choice.
For every mother with greasy hair and a flabby bum (even though she can afford gym membership) who has lost interest in herself and the world, there is a husband ready to go on the prowl.

WHY DO men sleep with their secretaries? Because they really do want to talk about work.

Children are part of a family. But they are not the family. They are not an excuse to drop standards. Women who prefer the company of children need to ask : ‘What am I avoiding?’

They are avoiding life and opting out of adulthood.

And part of being an adult is sexuality. If you can’t attract others to have sex with, you’ve removed yourself from the equation.


Trevor Paglen is my hero

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

So awesome. Worth the hour.

The biggest lesson that can be gained from this (along with the entertainment) is that there is a lot of value in what is omitted. The negative image of anything can be just as enlightening as what is visible.


Self-Referencial Quiz

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

This is an ingenious test of reasoning and logic skill.