Thursday, January 08, 2009

How lame am I?
Really quite seriously lame

So, about that New Years resolution to blog more often...
I'm going to cheat, by linking to people more clever than I am and basking in the reflected glory:
1. LemmusLemmus has turned a recent hospitalization into a thought-provoking and entertaining couple of posts.
2. Science blogger JDC asks why lies are worse than bullshit.
3. Andrew Hickey offers a very smart critique of libertarianism. He's also persuaded me to read Stephenson's new book (although I think he's mistaken to call Penrose "half-bright".)
4. Andrew Rilstone beats another "War on Christmas" myth to death
5. PJ has a detailed and really important post regarding the relationship between incapacity benefit and mental health.  

This year, I hope to be posting about the invention of the laser, more on memes, a defence of Roger Penrose, why "quantum cryptography" should really be called "quantum key distribution",  speculation about why the The Economist's coverage of religion is so poor, and why you should care about electron spin.
Of course, given last years track record, I should write two of the above. 
Happy New Year to everyone!
Edmund@Political Scientist


LemmusLemmus said...

"I hope to be posting about..."

Tell me about it. There are various posts that have been coming up at my place for a year, among them a list of weaknesses and mistakes in the film Casablance, a critique of the stupidest word in the English language and some words about a paper that looks into the relationship between match closeness and audience interest in football. Plus, I still owe pj an answer on the Daly-Wilson matter, promised about half a year ago. I've got the papers all lined up on my harddisk...

But let's face it, there are things more important than blogging. Even so, nice to hear you liked the health care posts - and a small correction: The crutches had nothing to do with my hospitalization. It seems ill health events cluster.

LemmusLemmus said...

Oh dear, two mistakes in one sentence: 1. "Casablanca 2. " the German language"

pj said...

Penrose? I hope not on his views of consciousness or I shall have to get the claws out!

Political Scientist said...

Hello, guys! Good to hear from you both.

LemmusLemmus, sorry to hear you've been hit by two blows - I hope the new year brings you better health.
There are more important things than blogging, but I feel I should aim to get more posts out there.

PJ, I think Penrose is mistaken about consciousness, but in an interesting way. I'll discuss this more if and when the post gets written, but I think he makes an important point about dualism. I expect you and I agree that the conciousness/Godel linkage is problematic

I also feel tribal affiliation to Penrose, and defend the important right of physicists to blunder outside their fields and wind up the bloody comp-scis. Although this is not the hill I intend to die on, as long as comp-scis feel no inhibitions about offering friendly advise about QM, I think the offensive should continue. [Me, I blame Gribben, who started the whole "oooh, the physicists are stuck in the Copenhagen interpretation because of the way they're taught QM. Now, with my maths free pop-sci interpretation I shall convince people that make-believe many-worlds is plausible rather than batshit insane."*]

[I am sympathetic to the notion that physicists outside their field can behave like arrogant twits, first reinventing the wheel and then claiming the wheel exists only due to to their unique physicsy insights, whilst desparaging everyone else in the field.] Hmmm.... perhaps a QM post might be in order.

*"Quote" should be taken as indicative of my mental state reading the book, rather than anything in the book.

pj said...

Ah poor old Gödel, his work has been rather abused.

Having a background in neuroscience I can get a bit prickly when physicists (and computer scientists) blunder in - the internet is rife with amusing 'theories of consciousness' that look like they've been knocked off by an undergraduate with too much time on his hands.

Of course neuroscientists can talk a lot of rubbish as well - I enjoyed Bennett and Hacker's takedown of specious neuroscientific theorising, even if it was a little po faced.

Political Scientist said...

"Having a background in neuroscience I can get a bit prickly when physicists (and computer scientists) blunder in - the internet is rife with amusing 'theories of consciousness' that look like they've been knocked off by an undergraduate with too much time on his hands."

I empathise: I think it's because there's a lot of interest in neuroscience at the moment, and what I assume to be dumbed-down articles in the media; everyone wants to give an opinion. I doubt it's much consolation, but I seem to get button-holed by "I've read a Brief History of Time, now let me tell you my theory of everything" types. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Oh, and a couple of pieces of evolutionary psychology for you: in the Guardian, the opening paragraph wins:
"The despicable acts of Count Dracula, the unending selflessness of Dorothea in Middlemarch and Mr Darcy's personal transformation in Pride and Prejudice helped to uphold social order and encouraged altruistic genes to spread through Victorian society, according to an analysis by evolutionary psychologists."
although the paragraph that begins "The team of evolutionary psychologists, led by Joseph Carroll at the University of Missouri in St Louis, applied Darwin's theory of evolution to literature" comes very close;

and in the Economist (money quote: " Singing is auditory masturbation... Playing musical instruments is auditory pornography."

LemmusLemmus said...

The full paper the Guardian refers to is here. Haven't read it yet, but the abstract sounds pretty wild.