Category Archives: Religion and Philosophy

Scotch Whisky. Good for You. Good for Scotland.

BBC News:

Scotch whisky is worth nearly £4bn to the Scottish economy, according to research carried out for the industry. The analysis shows the extent of the boom in whisky from 2000 to 2008, when years of sharp export increases were stopped by the global recession. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), representing the major distillers, said the product has as much impact on the Scottish economy as tourism. It said it produces earnings per worker 12 times higher than that of tourism.

No surprise there.  After all, have you ever sat in front of a fire and enjoyed a really fine glass of 30-year-old tourism?  No, I didn’t think so.  I am a little mystified at the news that the global recession cut down on Scotch exports, though.  I mean, did you people cut back on oxygen during the recession?  What’s wrong wie ye?  Er, I mean with you.

Wise Words, Indeed

Wise words from Chip Kidd

(Photo by sukisuki)

Regarder le temps passer

Via Guy Kawasaki on Twitter, O’clock:

Nadine Grenier, a student at ESAD Strasbourg, made this kinetic installation called “O’clock”. It is made with 500 clocksworks and every 12 hours you can read this sentence: “le temps passe, et chaque fois qu’il y a du temps passe, il y a quelque chose qui s’efface”. This is a quote from Jules Romains, a French poet, which roughly translates in “Time passes, and every time the time passes, there is something that fades”.

C’est vrai.

Rant About Superstition

I'm staying in a very new hotel in New York City, which opened about a month ago. Brand new construction. Very nice. And no 13th floor. Apparently, New Yorkers are still superstitious. They still believe that a 13th floor is bad luck. I don't know whether to be angry at such medieval thinking, or simply laugh at these New York idiots.

What makes me even more incredulous, is that they are clearly not actually scared of the "thirteeness" of the floor. It's still the 13th floor, even if you call it the "14th" floor. If the 13th floor is unlucky, you should build it and leave it unoccupied, empty. That's clearly the safest course of action. What they're really saying is that they're afraid of the numeral 13. Those two digits, in conjunction, bring about bad luck. Change the number on that button of the elevator, and then you're all set. Fate averted.


links for 2008-10-03

Thought for the Day

“We are what we believe we are.”
                            —C. S. Lewis


A special date:

The hugely popular wedding date 07/07/07 has come and gone, this year the ‘in’ date is 08/08/08. While the date shares much of the appeal of 7/7/07 there are other attractions to it.

The date is not only catchy but the number 8 is also considered very favourable in Chinese culture. The Chinese pronunciation for ‘eight’ (ba in Mandarin and paat in Cantonese) sounds similar to the word for ‘prosperity’ (fa in Mandarin and faat in Cantonese). The more eights involved in a couple’s lives, the better chance they have for luck and wealth (so get booking!). Numbers play a large role in choosing a wedding date for the Chinese (many Chinese couples are given a selection of auspicious days on which to marry). This applies to any special event in Chinese culture.

Including the Olympics, of course, which officially kick off today.  Enjoy the day—we’ll only get four more of these triple dates this century, unless we start adding months to the calendar.

How Many Countries Can You Name…

…in 5 minutes?  I thought I was doing okay as I was going through it,  but once I saw the list of countries I missed, I felt less cocky.  Also, I was surprised how quickly five minute breezes past when you’re trying to do this.  Memory counts, but the time it takes to type in each country name is a significant factor as well.  I suggest you try to think of countries with short names first.  (Via Nik Fletcher at Download Squad).

Are You A Brain Floating in Space?

Cosmology can make a brain hurt, whether it’s floating in space or not.  As if to illustrate this point, Dilbert creator Scott Adams links to a New York Times article discussing a bizarre theory that’s getting serious consideration in some circles.  Adams:

Scientists haven’t disproved evolution. But I found it interesting that some cosmologists are putting a lot of effort into doing just that, albeit indirectly.

To be fair, in this context, the cosmologists can’t prove a negative. They can’t demonstrate that evolution didn’t happen. They can only show that evolution is infinitely unlikely compared to an alternative explanation.   

That potentially better explanation, subject to much dispute, is the idea that your existence and consciousness is far more likely to be a free-floating brain created instantly by random fluctuations of the universe, and imbued with false memories of your past.

Is that all?  From the article, the problem in a nutshell: 

The basic problem is that across the eons of time, the standard theories suggest, the universe can recur over and over again in an endless cycle of big bangs, but it’s hard for nature to make a whole universe. It’s much easier to make fragments of one, like planets, yourself maybe in a spacesuit or even — in the most absurd and troubling example — a naked brain floating in space. Nature tends to do what is easiest, from the standpoint of energy and probability. And so these fragments — in particular the brains — would appear far more frequently than real full-fledged universes, or than us. Or they might be us.

I’d be tempted to say more about this, but there’s no point wasting time on it if the theory is wrong, and if the theory is right, you’re just a figment of my imagination anyway.

The Wachowskis Would Love This

A philosopher makes a fascinating case that we are likely living inside a computer simulation in this article. Personally, if this is a simulation, it’s kind of boring. Sleeping for a third of your life? Having to exercise? Summer reruns on TV? If I were a posthuman building a faux world, I’d do a better job of it. And I’d leave out David Caruso.

My favorite quote:

Then again, maybe the Prime Designer wouldn’t allow any of his or her creations to start simulating their own worlds. Once they got smart enough to do so, they’d presumably realize, by Dr. Bostrom’s logic, that they themselves were probably simulations. Would that ruin the fun for the Prime Designer?

If simulations stop once the simulated inhabitants understand what’s going on, then I really shouldn’t be spreading Dr. Bostrom’s ideas. But if you’re still around to read this, I guess the Prime Designer is reasonably tolerant, or maybe curious to see how we react once we start figuring out the situation.