Colours and angles

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I was wrong a while ago when I said the QI podcast isn’t available through the iTunes Store. It simply doesn’t have a name that makes it obvious that it is the QI podcast: No Such Thing As A Fish.

One nice fact is that Lawrence Burst Sperry, the man who invented the aircraft autopilot, went flying in November 1916 with Mrs. Waldo Polk, whose husband was off driving an ambulance in France. They counted on the autopilot to keep them aloft, but ended up crashing naked into a bay and being found by duck hunters.

Also, if you get a zebrafish drunk and put it among sober companions, the sober ones will follow the drunk one:

Maybe something about the drunk fish’s one-on-one interactions with the other fish made the group as a whole move in the same direction. Or maybe the sober fish looked at their non-sober tankmate and saw a leader. “It is likely,” Porfiri says, that the drunk fish’s uninhibited behavior “is perceived as a boldness trait, thus imparting a high social status.” As they followed the drunk fish, the sober ones also sped up to keep pace, swimming roughly a third faster than they would have otherwise.

The very drunkest zebrafish, though, lost their leader status. Fish that had been exposed to the highest alcohol concentration began to lag behind the rest of the group, following instead of steering. Since higher alcohol doses have “sedative effects,” Porfiri says, the drunkest fish slow down and start to display “sluggishness in response to the rest of the group.”

I listed some fun facts from QI in a previous post.

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Moonlike painting

August 14, 2014

in Daily updates

Moonlike painting

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This evening I took a bit of time off studying to watch the Clay & Paper Theatre Company’s summer show: “Animal Nature“.

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Bust in Kelly Library

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Abstract painting

August 12, 2014

in Photo of the day

Abstract painting

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It is our impression, however, that much rational choice theory is method driven rather than problem driven, and that this is partly responsible for its defects. Empirical science is problem driven when the elaboration of theories is designed to explain phenomena that arise in the world. Method-driven research occurs when a theory is elaborated without reference to what phenomena are to be explained, and the theorist subsequently searches for phenomena to which the theory in question can be applied.

Green, Doland and Ian Shapiro. Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory: A Critique of Applications in Political Science. 1994. p. 194 (hardcover)

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Painted plants

August 11, 2014

in Photo of the day

Painted plants

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This is an evolving thematic outline of the major sources for my comprehensive exam on the 22nd (Excel).

It’s a matter of remembering what these authors had to say (both in terms of their own ideas and criticism of others), remembering when they said it, and being able to sufficiently regurgitate it within the context of some kind of original argument during the exam.

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It’s inevitable, perhaps, that whatever sort of academic or professional training you get tends to be backward-looking. The people doing the teaching have succeeded under a particular set of conditions, and it’s perfectly well-meaning for them to provide the kind of advice, assignments, and requirements that were involved in their own development.

At the same time, the last 250 years of human history have been characterized by change so profound, constant, and multi-dimensional that we cannot expect the decades ahead to be governed by the same rules as the ones people have just experienced. For one thing, we have about 15 years to collectively decide if we’re going to have a future of wild climatic destabilization, with all the political, economic, and social consequences that would involve.

The prospect of trying to prepare yourself for a future that nobody can guess is daunting. Since nobody can single-handedly establish the conditions of their own future, we all need to be prepared for a range of possibilities. We can’t know what’s going be be essential, even in what remains of our own lives.

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