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Showing posts from February, 2015

Farewell, old friend

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My introduction to Leonard Nimoy was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, probably spun from a TV-to-VHS cassette recording like we did back in the 80s. More recently, he was brilliantly sinister in Fringe, which I thought to be one of the best science fiction shows on television in quite some time. Recently I made my way through all of the various Star Trek series, including the remastered original series which I found to be surprisingly contemporary and well-written. In interviews he exhibited an unassuming warmth that belied his tremendous success and influence and, while obviously I didn't know him personally, I hear that friendliness was simply part of his character. He was, of course, most famously known for his long and illustrious acting career, particularly for portraying Spock; but he was also a poet, a musician, and a photographer.

I read a few days ago that he'd been hospitalized, and I knew he suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. But even though he …

What color is that damn dress? No color at all.

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Tonight the internet's been ablaze with an image of this hideous dress:

The thing is, people are having a difficult time agreeing on what color the dress is. I don't know why some people perceive the dress differently — I initially saw it as white and gold, while my wife insisted it was blue and black. The actual color of the dress, apparently, is blue and brown.

Notwithstanding this rather odd optical artifact, this is a good reminder of the fact that color doesn't actually exist. Well, at least if by 'exist' you mean something like 'a property that inheres in objects'. Color is the result of interactions between wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, the cones in our eyes, and the neural circuitry of the brain.

What color we perceive something to be depends on a myriad of factors: the ambient lighting, what colors are adjacent to each other, and even our prior knowledge of color relationships. There are big philosophical implications here. If I say, …

A cosmically significant demise

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In a longtime favorite book of mine, Religion Explained, anthropologist Pascal Boyer argues that contrary to the shoot-from-the-hip explanation, religion hasn't given us an afterlife just to ease our anxieties about death. The idea that our mortality is unbearable or that religion provides salvation is culturally specific, not a general characteristic of either humans or religion [p.21]. The popular jab from non-believers that a hereafter provides some kind of disingenuous comfort to credulous fools is a wanting explanation for two reasons — one, because a comforting fantasy is well enough, but it must have some air of plausibility for believers to act upon it; and two, because in order to be comforted by the idea of salvation in the hereafter, one must first become convinced that there is something to be saved from.

Anxiety about death is certainly a real human phenomenon. Boyer mentions studies in which participants are asked to read passages from stories or articles which highl…

Life is beautiful: A fond farewell (updated: just kidding)

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Update: as of March 2016, I've decided to return to Blogger. You'll see selected posts written on my relatively short-lived SquareSpace site imported here; otherwise, the break from here was much-needed, but it's good to be back!

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As the new year has started, I've had to think hard about what is most important to me in my life. More clients at work has meant less time at home, and less time to divide between my passions. Far and away my greatest passion is guitar, and I've resolved this year to spend much more time practicing regularly. Of course my wife comes first and foremost, and quality time with her must take priority over... well, everything.

I thought last year that I'd continue The A-Unicornist on a semi-regular basis. I even still have some material drafted that's very close to being finished. But after some reflection, I've realized that The A-Unicornist simply is no longer representative of this chap…