Three Minute Philosophy – Kant, Locke, and Descartes

I found a YouTube user () who creates these amazing “Three Minute Philosophy” videos, which is a great way to get yourself introduced to important Philosophers and their ideas.  Here’s three videos, one for Kant, one for Locke, and one for Descartes. Enjoy

Centuries-Old Japanese Tsunami Warning Markers Saved Lives

Via Star-Telegram; story via @stevesilberman.

“High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,” reads the centuries-old stone tablet above. “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”

This marker, and several more like it, some more than 600 years old, “dot the coastline” of Japan, according to a report in The Canadian Press. Not all of them were quite as specific: Some acted more as general warnings, lasting reminders of a risk that might only recur every fourth or fifth generation.

One, in the coastal town of Kesennuma, gave instructions: “Always be prepared for unexpected tsunamis. Choose life over your possessions and valuables.” Another, in the city of Natori, simply advised, “If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis.” This was a warning that not everybody heeded: in Natori, where 820 bodies have been found and 1,000 people are still missing, people still left “work early after the earthquake, some picking up their children at school en route, to check the condition of their homes near the coast.”

But in the tight-knit community of Aneyoshi, where marker pictured above still stands, the wisdom of their ancestors saved the homes and the lives of the tiny village’s inhabitants. All of Aneyoshi’s houses are built on higher ground, and 12-year-old resident Yuto Kimura explained to The Canadian Press:

Everybody here knows about the markers. We studied them in school. When the tsunami came, my mom got me from school and then the whole village climbed to higher ground.

First Habitable Exoplanet? Climate Simulation Reveals New Candidate That Could Support Earth-Like Life

Via Science Daily

Schematic of the global climate model used to study Gliese 581d. Red / blue shading indicate hot / cold surface temperatures, while the arrows show wind velocities at 2 km height in the atmosphere. (Credit: © LMD/CNRS)

Are there other planets inhabited like Earth, or at least habitable? The discovery of the first habitable planet has become a quest for many astrophysicists who look for rocky planets in the “habitable zone” around stars, the range of distances in which planets are neither too cold nor too hot for life to flourish.

In this quest, the red dwarf star Gliese 581 has already received a huge amount of attention. In 2007, scientists reported the detection of two planets orbiting not far from the inner and outer edge of its habitable zone. While the more distant planet, Gliese 581d, was initially judged to be too cold for life, the closer-in planet was thought to be potentially habitable by its discoverers. However, later analysis by atmospheric experts showed that if it had liquid oceans like Earth, they would rapidly evaporate in a ‘runaway greenhouse’ effect similar to that which gave Venus the hot, inhospitable climate it has today. A new possibility emerged late in 2010, when a team of observers led by Steven Vogt at the University of California, Santa Cruz, announced that they had discovered a new planet, which they dubbed Gliese 581g, or ‘Zarmina’s World’. This planet, they claimed, had a mass similar to that of Earth and was close to the centre of the habitable zone. For several months, the discovery of the first potential Earth twin outside the Solar System seemed to have been achieved. Unfortunately, later analysis by independent teams has raised serious doubts on this extremely difficult detection. Many now believe that Gliese 581g may not exist at all. Instead, it may simply be a result of noise in the ultra-fine measurements of stellar ‘wobble’ needed to detect exoplanets in this system.

Today, it is finally Gliese 581g’s big brother — the larger and more distant Gliese 581d — which has been shown to be the confirmed potentially habitable exoplanet by Robin Wordsworth, François Forget and co-workers from Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (CNRS, UPMC, ENS Paris, Ecole Polytechnique) at the Institute Pierre Simon Laplace in Paris. Although it is likely to be a rocky planet, it has a mass at least seven times that of Earth, and is estimated to be about twice its size. At first glance, Gliese 581d is a pretty poor candidate in the hunt for life: it receives less than a third of the stellar energy Earth does and may be tidally locked, with a permanent day and night side. After its discovery, it was generally believed that any atmosphere thick enough to keep the planet warm would become cold enough on the night side to freeze out entirely, ruining any prospects for a habitable climate.

To test whether this intuition was correct, Wordsworth and colleagues developed a new kind of computer model capable of accurately simulating possible exoplanet climates. The model simulates a planet’s atmosphere and surface in three dimensions, rather like those used to study climate change on Earth. However, it is based on more fundamental physical principles, allowing the simulation of a much wider range of conditions than would otherwise be possible, including any atmospheric cocktail of gases, clouds and aerosols.

To their surprise, they found that with a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere — a likely scenario on such a large planet — the climate of Gliese 581d is not only stable against collapse, but warm enough to have oceans, clouds and rainfall. One of the key factors in their results was Rayleigh scattering, the phenomenon that makes the sky blue on Earth. In the Solar System, Rayleigh scattering limits the amount of sunlight a thick atmosphere can absorb, because a large portion of the scattered blue light is immediately reflected back to space. However, as the starlight from Gliese 581 is red, it is almost unaffected. This means that it can penetrate much deeper into the atmosphere, where it heats the planet effectively due to the greenhouse effect of the CO2 atmosphere, combined with that of the carbon dioxide ice clouds predicted to form at high altitudes. Furthermore, the 3D circulation simulations showed that the daylight heating was efficiently redistributed across the planet by the atmosphere, preventing atmospheric collapse on the night side or at the poles.

Scientists are particularly excited by the fact that at 20 light years from Earth, Gliese 581d is one of our closest galactic neighbours. For now, this is of limited use for budding interstellar colonists — the furthest-travelled human-made spacecraft, Voyager 1, would still take over 300,000 years to arrive there. However, it does mean that in the future telescopes will be able to detect the planet’s atmosphere directly. While Gliese 581d may be habitable there are other possibilities; it could have kept some atmospheric hydrogen, like Uranus and Neptune, or the fierce wind from its star during its infancy could even have torn its atmosphere away entirely. To distinguish between these different scenarios, Wordsworth and co-workers came up with several simple tests that observers will be able to perform in future with a sufficiently powerful telescope.

If Gliese 581d does turn out to be habitable, it would still be a pretty strange place to visit — the denser air and thick clouds would keep the surface in a perpetual murky red twilight, and its large mass means that surface gravity would be around double that on Earth. But the diversity of planetary climates in the galaxy is likely to be far wider than the few examples we are used to from the Solar System. In the long run, the most important implication of these results may be the idea that life-supporting planets do not in fact need to be particularly like Earth at all

When Insults Had Class…

Via Al Lowe

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”

–Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”

–Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

–William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

—Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.”

–Groucho Marx

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”

–Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.”

–Oscar Wilde

“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend… if you have one.”

–George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

“Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second, if there is one.”

–Winston Churchill’s response to George Bernard Shaw

“I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.”

–Stephen Bishop

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.”

–John Bright

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.”

–Irvin S. Cobb

“He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.”

–Samuel Johnson

“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.”

–Paul Keating

“He had delusions of adequacy.”

–Walter Kerr

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?”

–Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”

–Mae West

“Winston, if you were my husband, I would poison your coffee!”

–Lady Astor to Winston Churchill at a dinner party

“Madam, if I were your husband, I would drink it!”

–Winston Churchill’s response to Lady Astor

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.”

—Moses Hadas

“There’s nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won’t cure.”

—Jack E. Leonard

“He has the attention span of a lightning bolt.”

—Robert Redford

“They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.”

—Thomas Brackett Reed

“He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them.”

—James Reston (about Richard Nixon)

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.”

—Charles, Count Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.”

—Forrest Tucker

“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any one I know.”

—Abraham Lincoln

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts — for support rather than illumination.”

—Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.”

—Billy Wilder

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.”

–Oscar Wilde

“You, Mr. Wilkes, will die either of the pox or on the gallows.”

–The Earl of Sandwich

“That depends, my lord, whether I embrace your mistress or your principles.”

–John Wilkes’s response to The Earl of Sandwich

“A modest little person, with much to be modest about.”

—Winston Churchill

Since When Does a Topless Woman Reading The News Constitute Pornography?

Via Times Live

Errol Naidoo of the Family Policy Institute in Cape Town has called on advertisers to boycott because of its naked news broadcasts. Chris Barron asked him …

We’ve got so much death and misery to contend with, and you’re getting steamed up about a naked woman reading news on TV?

When one considers the research I’ve done and the evidence around the world on pornography and its impact on women and children .

Since when does a topless woman reading the news constitute pornography?

It does, it does. People hooked on pornography .

Are you saying any nudity is pornographic?

When you put it on national, free-to-air television for children to see .

But this is late at night.

It doesn’t matter. We have evidence that children are watching it.

Then surely the parents are to blame, not the TV channel?

No, no, no. Parents have a responsibility, of course, to see that their children are not watching it, but we live in a real world where children are not always supervised. Parents go out and they leave children at home alone. There are dysfunctional parents.

Surely you should be more concerned about dysfunctional parents than a bit of nudity on TV?

You’re trying to minimise this thing. It’s not a bit of nudity, it’s a lot of nudity. It’s not only naked news it’s other porn movies that have consistently shown.

If children didn’t have nudity to watch on TV they might get up to something even more dangerous, like drugs. Isn’t that more of a threat?

Of course it is, and we’re dealing with that as well. We’ve done a lot of work with young adults who are addicted to pornography. And the kind of things they do is similar to when they’re addicted to cocaine. Stealing money from their parents, using their credit cards to go online, all kinds of things. It has a devastating effect on the life and emotions of young people. And if you ask how did it start, you know how it starts. With nudity. Like naked news, women stripping. They’re attracted to this, then after a while it doesn’t give them the same rush and they go onto something harder.

What about adults? Shouldn’t they have the right to watch what they want?

Yes, I agree. But not on free-to-air television where everybody else is forced to watch it as well.

Nobody’s forced to watch it, surely?

The point is it’s on free-to-air television.

But nobody’s forced to watch it.

I know, I know. But young people are drawn to it.

So you’re asking for censorship of TV content?

No. We’re asking for decency and responsibility. We live in a country where 50000 women are raped every year, 25000 children are sexually molested, by the very same adults watching the porn on so that they can get inflamed with lust and go out and rape somebody.

Are you saying there’s a link between nudity and morality?

No, not nudity.

But you’re saying nudity leads to porn?

If you put a strip show on free-to-air television and young people are exposed to it, it piques their interest and leads to harder porn.

So you are saying there is a link between nudity and morality?

I don’t understand.

Would we be a more moral society if there were no nudity?

We’d be a more moral society if women weren’t portrayed as sex objects on national television.

So we’d be a more moral, decent society if there were no porn?

I think we’d be a more moral and decent society, yes.

No porn was allowed under apartheid. Did that make us a more moral and decent society?

We didn’t have the rapes of women and children like we have today.

So you’re saying we were a more moral, decent society under apartheid?

No, I’m saying . you see, after apartheid was abolished we went from one extreme to the other. Nudity and porn and all these things were allowed. And now we see that sexual abuse of women and children has skyrocketed. I believe porn played a huge role in that.

Have you called for a boycott because of violence on TV?


Isn’t violence more of a threat than nudity?

I wouldn’t call it more of a threat. I think it’s an equal threat.

So why haven’t you called for a boycott around violence?

We’re dealing with one issue here.