Monthly Archives: March 2011

Albert Einstein’s “The World As I See It”


Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in ...

Image via Wikipedia

Uploaded by on Mar 24, 2011

I think it’s interesting to read some of how Einstein saw the world he lived in. He addresses societal commitments, ethical ways of living, and religious views.

I’ve trimmed out huge sections of this book-length essay. For the full text, go to Amazon and buy it.

As the rain patters on my window…


…I sit here at my desktop without a written draft in front of me, neither in paper nor onscreen, and I think about how things have changed since that fateful day of posting on my first blog, on the evening of January 15th, 2008, only a little over three short years ago.

Forgive me if I ramble a bit…

Then I knew nothing of responsible blogging, and precious little of skepticism. But I certainly hope I’ve improved at least a little since then, having started out with the angry blogger persona and gotten to my current pseudonymous persona with an odd mixture of writing styles.

Those last have ranged from a sort of quasi-Carl Sagan-ish with lots of purple prose to the ‘evil and snarky’ style that has occasionally pissed people off, and for good reason – no one likes being ridiculed, especially when it comes to core beliefs – but let me make this clear: it’s people who have rights, it’s people, especially innocent victims of nonsensical claims, whom I think deserve respect, but not the ideas they hold, the claims they accept without thinking them over before doing so.

It’s not people I attack, only ideas. Even when it involves ridicule, that’s directed at the silliness of an idea, though the claims of cynical promoters of these ideas are fair game to me.

I’m not interested in controlling peeps, for example, telling peeps what to think, or telling them how to think just so. There are different perspectives on clear thinking, different styles of critical thought and various approaches to empirical rationalism, but without being dogmatic, they all boil down to a few essentials despite the differences in perspective: a respect for sound reasoning, valid evidence, and reality, with the use of science as the best criterion for what’s demonstrably true and real.

Most of you know of my interest in science, and in pseudoscience, and the distinctions between them. To me, being skeptical involves questioning everything within reason, though it’s nihilistic and strikes me as ill-founded to be skeptical of skepticism, since nobody can truly be skeptical of literally, consistently, and without qualification everything.

Even me. Especially me.

For newcomers to the site: My unequivocal view is that there is a real world, in which things exist external to myself, that are not dependent on my thoughts about them, my society, nor my theories about them, and which despite the legitimacy of our different internal maps of the territory of reality, our personal models of it, is what it is no matter who is doing the looking.

Why else can two people in different parts of the world see exactly the same thing when they look at a comet or spiral galaxy through a telescope, even the same spiral shape of the latter, and indeed can objectively compare what they see and come to some measure of agreement on it if neither is in error, and objectively resolve their dispute by resorting to some common ground upon which to base their conclusions if one or both are, common ground that would not exist if all truth were relative.

I’ve been reading a book, “Proofiness,” by Charles Seife, on all the ways in which we are all fooled by some form or other of mathematical deception, in thinking numbers that relate to real-world measurements infallible and so falling for all sorts of chicanery by others and ourselves simply because of the way numbers work with our attempts to quantify the things around us and the inherent impossibility of perfect precision in any measurement when so quantifying.

I must say, I’m about half-way through, and the book has been interesting so far, with more than a few of my sacred cows having been soundly debunked, but I feel less naive, not more cynical, about it, and I highly recommend the book.

Uncomfortable realities can be enlightening.

Even so, even by now, I’m still struggling to find a consistent ‘voice’ in my writing style, having tried lots of ways out, and found none of them completely satisfying. So I’m interested in hearing from you all which sort of writing style you would most prefer be used on this site. Thanks, and stay brilliant, all.

Baroque Mandelbrot Zoom


Uploaded by on Feb 18, 2007

A zoom into the “Seahorse Valley” region of the Mandelbrot Set. Set to “La Villageoise” by Rameau, performed by Trevor Pinnock. (Music — and therefore this video — are subject to the Creative Commons license. Check out http://www.magnatune.com.)

Nina Jablonski breaks the illusion of skin color


Neil deGrasse Tyson on “how smart we think we are”.


Uploaded by on Sep 3, 2010

Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, the man who brings astrophysics down to the ordinary level for all to understand.

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