News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 24, 2010 in News

NYT summarizes how language shapes our thought. (via) Language can give you superpowers, such as the ability to instantly know geographic directions in any situation.

Yudkowsky on standard scientific method, Bayesianism, and Copenhagen vs. Many-Worlds. (The full series is here.) Massimo Pigliucci responds.

The most bizarre rituals in human history.

Andy Egan and Joshua Knobe on moral relativism, a view too quickly dismissed by philosophers, on many levels.

First ever human-powered ornithopter. Not relaxing.

Videos from the 2010 St. Thomas seminar in philosophy of religion (van Inwagen, Plantinga, Sober, Fales, etc.).

For tough economic times: How to Make Instant Ramen into a Gourmet Meal.

Tariq Ali on “The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad.”

Reader Dan Nelson paid to have CastingWords produce a transcript for my interviews with Erik Wielenberg and Robin Hanson. If you’d like to get transcripts made for past or future episodes, please contact me.

Great quote:

What did liberals do that was so offensive to the Republicans?

I’ll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions ……of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things… every one!

So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, ‘Liberal, ‘ as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won’t work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor.”

- Matt Santos, The West Wing

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Zeb September 24, 2010 at 11:45 am

Luke, I thought you learned a lesson from the whole sexy scientists thing. That was misguided at worst, but promoting Dan Savage’s stupidest idea ever and providing an image is a straight up dick move*. Dumb and shameful.

*Pun intended.


lukeprog September 24, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Eh, you’re probably right. I’ve removed that link.


Zeb September 24, 2010 at 1:38 pm

On behalf of the community of desirers (aka the “generally people”), thanks! Seriously, I’m glad my favorite blog is run by a genuinely good guy and I can recommend it to all my friends without caveat. Well done.

I’m surprised Dan Savage (whose column I enjoy and who also seems like a genuinely good guy) doesn’t see the difference between this and the “santorum” thing. He’s crossed the boundary between sensational and skeevy here, and should be called out for it. I will be very interested to see how the liberal and progressive communities respond to this.


Scott September 24, 2010 at 1:55 pm

That’s not the first human-powered flight. It’s the first human-powered ornithopter (a plane with flapping wings), but certainly not the first overall. The first human-powered aircraft that functioned well was the Gossamer Condor; its successor, the Gossamer Albatross, crossed the English Channel. This is all back in the 1970s.


Jeff H September 24, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Zeb, I’m curious what you’re referring to. I have heard briefly about his “It Gets Better” campaign, but haven’t really paid much attention to it. Is this what you’re talking about? And if so, why do you think it’s stupid/skeevy?

And Luke, as cool as that flight is, it is certainly not the “first ever human-powered flight”. There have been other flights using pedal-power that have flown for quite long distances. (According to Wikipedia, the longest one was 119km.) But this was the first human-powered ornithopter flight. Which is still totally awesome.


lukeprog September 24, 2010 at 2:25 pm


Thanks for the correction!


Zeb September 24, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Jeff H, his “it gets better” campaign is great, his bad idea is “masturbate to Christine odonnell days”.


Scott September 24, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Forgot to mention – human-powered flight is awesome: “Peddle faster! Peddle faster!”


Silver Bullet September 24, 2010 at 7:54 pm

I love Dirk’s comment after the list of bizarre human rituals:

“Very informative. You could add the strange ritual where people go to a big building every Sunday and give collection to child molesters.”


lukeprog September 24, 2010 at 7:55 pm



Slappy September 24, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Does anyone have direct download links for all of the videos of “The 2010 St. Thomas seminar in philosophy of religion” mentioned in the news above? I’m having trouble streaming them directly.


Slappy September 24, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Ixnay my above questionay… I was able to get them with a rtsp downloader. Never was able to watch the stream directly though. Windows media player would complain that the server was unreachable.


snafu September 25, 2010 at 1:53 am

Seconding Slappy…I can stream the St Thomas videos, but my firefox plugin won’t convert them to mp3 (the only format that’s of use to a train-bound commuter who enjoys looking out the window). At this rate, I won’t get to watch them for about four years.

Any tips, or a friendly person converting them to something (anything!) downloadable would be great.


snafu September 25, 2010 at 1:55 am

Slappy…the name of that rtsp downloader would be fantastic.


lukeprog September 25, 2010 at 2:45 am


I always download that kind of thing with Orbit Downloader first.


piero September 25, 2010 at 7:50 am

Luke, that NYT article was great. An it affords me the chance to explain why these verses startled me the first time I read them:

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;

“He”? To a Spanish or Italian speaker, Death is a “she”. There is no way I can think of personified death as a man, even when thinking in English. Gender is so deeply ingrained in my brain that I cannot help assigning it to English nouns: my brain is masculine, but my mind is femenine.


lukeprog September 25, 2010 at 8:30 am




Jeff H September 25, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Jeff H, his “it gets better” campaign is great, his bad idea is “masturbate to Christine odonnell days”.

Ahh, I see. I wasn’t aware that was his idea as well. Thanks for the info.


mojo.rhythm September 26, 2010 at 3:24 am

Dawkins lays the smack down on the pope here. Thought it might be worth mentioning.


Gabriel September 26, 2010 at 8:21 am

There should be a CSA Wikipedia project, where we collectively rewrite an entire article relating to religion. The philosophy of religion page is a mess….


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