Thursday, 29 November 2012

Blog title

Intriguingly solipsism has been exercising my mind over the past couple of days, as I've been thinking about identity and the problem of other minds.

Is the problem insurmountable?

Ah, well, actually I think it doesn't matter. Whatever the "truth" of the matter one just has to get on with it and enjoy it!

The areas that have REALLY been interesting me a lot have been the philosophy of time - why does time only seem to travel in one direction? Is it really possible to travel in more than one direction in space, anyway? If a set has an infinite number of members (like the set of positive integers) does it have an infinite number of members when you take a member away? What difference does adding a member make? Can you divide a limit like the Planck length in half?

I'm not disputing that physics could give us some answers (a la Brian Cox) but which physics? Newtonian, quantum, non-Newtonian... and then what about consciousness?

Would one say that Watson (of Jeopardy fame) was conscious? After all, it performed what seemed to be a challenge of consciousness in the way that one would expect a human to?

And what about geology and vulcanology - are they really sciences, because just how experimental are they, really? Same with astronomy, isn't it just observational? How do you experiment in astronomy? All you can really do is wait for observations to prove your theory, and doesn't that run the risk of confirmation bias?

At least philosophical thought experiments really are experiments...

Sunday, 25 November 2012


Sunday always strikes me as one of the oddest days of the week.

The social convention of the "slow day" always seems to overtake the idea that it's a "catching up day", and in the end it becomes a massive compromise.

Ah well.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

More measurement and mental gymnastics

I've been thinking even more about the stuff in the last post.

And having just listened to, and read about the BBC Radio 4 podcast/show "The Infinite Monkey Cage" (henceforth TIMC).

Now, although I have a certain degree of respect for Prof. Brian Cox, I have to say that his "Philosophy is dead" angle is... misguided, IMHO.

OK, Brian, riddle me this:

If the Planck length (let's call it P) is the smallest measure possible, what is P/2? Sounds a bit metaphysical to me, mate! What is "4"? Ditto!

And just saying that "the universe is made up and follows beautiful simple, elegant rules" or similar while gazing wistfully at the night sky in HD on the BBC is making a direct appeal to aesthetics, a philosophical concept!

And don't give me all that Occam's Razor stuff as justification... just because something is simple doesn't make it right, it just makes it more likely to be so, or at least more likely to be closer to the truth. And the truth is most definitely not immutable.

Many thanks to Rationally Speaking, The Partially Examined Life and various other podcasts and blogs for inspiring and supplying much of the material for this post. If you haven't already checked these things out then you should. Now.

The Partially Examined Life

Rationally Speaking

Sunday, 18 November 2012


Been thinking about measurement... I find it interesting that we have a common language (whether it be metres or feet), and that we can measure to incredibly large distances (with a high degree of accuracy) and incredibly small ones (to a high degree of accuracy).

But... is there a limit, particularly in regard to the smaller distances, to which we can measure?

I know there is a discussion to be had as to whether there is a paucity of language and comprehension as to whether we can understand what these sort of small distances really mean.

I also know there is a theoretical limit - but why should there be? Is this a result of a pixellated universe?

Sunday, 4 November 2012


Delighted to see that there is new episode of "Rationally Speaking" to listen to.

That's me sorted for an hour or so.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


I've been taking part in a fascinating qualitative study for the University of London, looking at their advertising campaigns.

It's made me think - what appeals to me about an advert? Is it the text, is it the image... or actually is my mind already made up?

So, for example, if I'm looking for a tin of baked beans, the choice of whether it's brand X or not is a bit moot, because I'm going to buy some anyway. The only question is when and where, and if brand X is the only one in the shop then it's Hobson's choice.

I'm not sure whether there is any sort of quantitative research into the effectiveness of advertising at actually persuading someone to buy something when they are not going to buy it in the first place.

I mean, if I go to a car dealership it's really carrying a subtle signal that I want to buy a car (even if I dress it up as just passing a couple of hours and getting the salesman's hopes up only to cruelly dash them).

And what do I mean by "having already made up my mind" - questions of free will, maybe?