Saturday, August 29, 2015

Oh Dear Reality

People love stability, so, even a hundred years later, there are those, even scientists, who still will not give up their faith in a causal, deterministic reality. Alas, at some point it becomes an irrational belief.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Get It Before It's Banned

Can't really decide on your next weapon of choice? Planning a barbecue? Want to give something special to that Republican friend? Have you considered a flamethrower?

They are totally cool and totally legal (except in Maryland. They must be registered in California.) Otherwise this weapon, forbidden by the Inhumane Weapons Convention (signed by the U.S. but that really only pertains to military use by our armed forces), is yours for the small price of $900. The absolute definition of awesome! As you can imagine, sales are as hot as the weapon itself.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A story of Prometheus as told by Aesop

The figure of Prometheus has remained popular in practically every period of (western) history from the 8th century BC on. Here is a lesser known tale told by Aesop:

Prometheus, that potter who gave shape to our new generation, decided one day to sculpt the form of Alethia (Veritas or Truth), using all his skill so that she would be able to regulate people's behavor. As he was working, an unexpected summons from mighty Zeus (Jupiter) called him away. Prometheus left cunning Dolus (Trickery) in charge of his workshop, Dolus had recently become one of the Prometheus’s apprentices.

Fired by ambition, Dolus used the time at his disposal to fashion with his sly fingers a figure of the same size and appearance as Alethia with identical features. When he had almost completed the piece, which was truly remarkable, he ran out of clay to use for her feet. The master returned, so Dolus quickly sat down in his seat, quaking with fear. Prometheus was amazed at the similarity of the two statues and wanted it to seem as if all the credit were due to his own skill. Therefore, he put both statues in the kiln and when they had been thoroughly baked, he infused them both with life: sacred Alethia (the spirit of Truth) walked with measured steps, while her unfinished twin, the forgery, stood stuck in her tracks.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Today's Grammar Point

Naturally, we all want to improve our blogging at In Progress.  So, here is Mary Norris, a query proofreader for The New Yorker, to explain the diffeence between the hyphen, the en dash and -- the crazy one -- the em dash.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Happy Birthday Andy Warhol!

If you are looking for something to do in Pittsburgh today, maybe a trip over to St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery is in order.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Overused Evolution: Part II

Unexpectedly, my little article on the banality of evolution was met will no backlash, so I’m more confident about continuing. For those who didn’t read the first post, the main theme was: why are we even talking about evolution?—it’s neither modern nor important. It’s an old idea that has morphed into the misguided “survival of the fittest” which, per biologists, should be “survival of the reproducible”—hardly a startling idea.

But popular culture sees it differently. You can find ‘serious’ analysis on the evolutionary causes of abuse, acne, anger, allergies, baby teeth, baldness, beards, large breasts, cancer, cooperation, Chinese eyes, and crying, And those are just selective A, B, C’s. For example, just like long distance running helped us hunt, baldness and loss of body hair kept us safe around our newly discovered fires. Our current culture will pretty much trace anything to an evolutionary origin, although I haven’t yet seen the evolutionary reasoning for halitosis. 

Unlike Darwin, in Myk’s comment, these people see a rational hand dealing evolutionary explanations, and not randomness. Perhaps they should come up with an evolutionary reason for why our species must see rational patterns.

But, aside from being old, practically a tautology, uninformative, and, in my opinion, upside down science, the main reason evolution is not worth talking about is that it fails science’s greatest measure—it is not predictive. From Copernican heliocentrism to Boyles Law science is properly revered for what it says about the future. The Theory of Evolution, unlike the Theory of General Relativity or the Uncertainty Principle, does not help us predict anything other than species will change in some way in some long amount of time. We should be discussing genetics, not evolution.

However, and this is a big “however”, there is an exalted place for evolution—what it can tell us about the past. There is little more exciting than past species, as Jurassic World reminds us. Dinosaur books alone may have excited more children into the field of science than anything else. Evolution is fascinating, just not in explaining the present or the future. Let’s enjoy our evolutionary past, but forget the evolutionary augury.