The Plastic Brain

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Plato’s Head

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A Poem Inspired by The Republic

That Plato turned things on their head

When Socrates, to Glaucon, said

“The bed you sleep on is no bed.”

Glaucon’s heart was filled with dread,

The man’s gone mad, his brain is dead.

“Why, reason from your mind has fled!”

“The one true bed is in your head,

dear Glaucon, think on that instead.

You’ll reach enlightenment” he said.

“But if it is a phantom bed,

how does it yet support my head?”

Socrates then scratched his head,

and scratched until his pate turned red

“The bed’s not real, nor is your head.

All will be gone when life has fled.

The form of these, this bed, this head,

rest evermore, and this has led

me to conclude what I have said”

He turned, and dove into the Med.


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The simple genius of Christoph Niemann.

Perhaps more relevent to this blog, though, is his post on Unpopular Science

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Anti-Darwin Logic

I am having a fine old time whetting my teeth on the anti-Darwinism classic “The Neck of the Giraffe: or Where Darwin Went Wrong” by Francis Hitching.

My favourite bit of logic so far centres on the paradox of transitional species.

Part 1: If man has evolved from monkeys, where is the transition species? Why are there no half-monkey, half-man species around today? -> If evolution worked by Darwinian mechanisms, there would be extant transition species

Part 2: If so-called transition species are alive today, then they can’t be transitions after all, since they have “obstinately refus[ed] to evolve” between the time that speciation occurred until now. -> If the are extant transition species, then evolution cannot work by Darwinian mechanisms

There is a slight logical contradiction between Part 1 and Part 2. Can you find it?

The "solar" salamander

I well remember the first time I heard that mitochondria and chloroplasts may be the remnants of intracellular symbionts. How and when could that have happened?, I wondered. Surely only in a very primitive uni- or multicellular organism. Well, it turns out that such symbiosis can even occur in vertebrates. Click the link in the title to read more.

Mindblowingly awesome discovery

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…more on the utility of mathematics.

saratron of the Lazy Sunday tumblelog was not too impressed with my foray into mathematics blogging:

WTF is this guy talking about? Many maths teachers insist on stressing its utility, even when it has none. 

EXCUSE ME? I must have been living under a rock for the past 23 years cause last I heard we use math EVERYDAY and oh yeah it holds the universe together, y’know little stuff like that. 

I feel I should therefore expand on my thesis:

Of course mathematics is useful. Mathematics has both scientific and engineering applications, and as such, can help us not only understand the universe, but help us built machines to explore it.

But that’s not all there is to it. And some might argue that that interpretation leaves out the best parts. The parts that are pursued for the love of numbers, their beauty and the unexpected revelations that emerge from studying them.

It is true that these sometimes turn out later to be useful. But the point is utility should not be the driving force.