Blog Entries



Talking about evolution

Posted 10-Apr-2015 at 01:09 AM (01:09) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Evolution happens, but it's not a simple thing at all, and it's often burdened with projection and myths by people with agendas. Evolution only really gets interesting once we talk about complex things; and those things are the hardest to explain, of course. One of the most comon agendas driving myths about evolution is based on the myth that simple answers can be given off-the-cuff to complex questions, which is of course wrong. One book that really helped me begin understanding evolution is a...
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And now that book will never be written. My personal tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett

Posted 12-Mar-2015 at 08:58 PM (20:58) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

I first met Terry Pratchett around twenty years ago, at a SF/fantasy convention in the Netherlands. I had not read any of his books, and I had thought they must be silly because of the book-cover design. This was not the only huge mistake I was to make. A year later, and a neurology research colleague at Duesseldorf university recommended his books to me. Eventually I actually read one, and I was blown away, hooked for evermore. Once I actually read his books, the book-cover design made perfect...
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Why doesn't Žižek understand Orwell's 1984, or freedom?

Posted 17-Sep-2014 at 09:31 PM (21:31) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 17-Sep-2014 at 10:40 PM (22:40) by Gurdur

Slavoj Žižek misunderstands freedom and control. He doesn't get George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984). Why is that, and why is it important, and what does it say about us all? Žižek (you can just call him Zizek) is one smart guy; he's a philosopher and culture critic who has quite often written on theological issues. He's quite famous these days (VICE magazine calls him a superstar), and he's proud of thinking dangerous ideas. We as a public need to be confronted with dangerous ideas, we need...
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Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Nerdist throw astrophysics in the crab-bucket?

Posted 14-May-2014 at 01:13 AM (01:13) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 14-May-2014 at 06:29 AM (06:29) by Never (fixed typos)

Astrophysics, what use is it? The stars are far away, and as Cassius in Shakespeare's play says, the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings. You could add the fault is in ourselves, not in our stars, when we are ignorant, or simply stupid. Put all that in a different way: when I was a teenager, working in cruddy factories and on worse building-sites, reading a book was seen socially as a bad thing, akin to Communism or being gay. Reading a book was a major no-no. Oddly...
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Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.

Understanding life through the Strandbeest art of Theo Jansen

Posted 11-May-2014 at 07:28 PM (19:28) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 21-Dec-2014 at 03:38 PM (15:38) by Gurdur (fixed typos)

On Saturday May the 3rd, I drove up to the Hague. It was easier than I had thought; it only took three hours. I was enormously lucky to catch the last day of an exhibition of the Strandbeest art of Theo Jansen in the Electriciteitsfabriek in the Hague (Den Haag), in the Netherlands. The building is a former power-station - its name in Dutch translates to "Electricity factory". The building is huge; it was very suited to the exhibition, done up there as a mock dig for fossils, with several of his...
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Always sailing to Kilwa

Posted 04-Dec-2013 at 01:55 AM (01:55) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 04-Dec-2013 at 08:16 PM (20:16) by Gurdur

Below is a photograph a couple of decades old. The digital form was made from an old slide, already much degraded, as tends to happen to slide-film over the years. It is a photo of me, most likely taken by my father, and it shows me on a dhow, sailing to Kilwa. There are three different Kilwas in Tanzania, all neighbouring each other. There is Kilwa Masoko, which means "Kilwa of the market", a large, sprawling town. Then, around 12 miles away as the crow flies, there is Kilwa Kivinje, a small town,...
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In the future, you can have all the authenticity that can be faked

Posted 10-Sep-2013 at 04:58 PM (16:58) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 10-Sep-2013 at 07:53 PM (19:53) by Gurdur

There is a video that hit the news. Supposedly a selfie video, one taken by a woman of herself while practicing twerking, it shows her being knocked over onto a table where her yoga-pants catch fire from a candle. Hundreds of TV news shows in the USA went hogwild over the video as a massive #TwerkFAIL. It fed right into a complex many have of wanting to laugh at others, of feeling superior - and of commerce being only too willing to sell you what you want, not what you need. Schadenfreude, not just...
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Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

Why the strange absence of both science and theology in Game Of Thrones?

Posted 18-May-2013 at 03:01 AM (03:01) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 24-Aug-2013 at 10:04 PM (22:04) by Gurdur

Game of Thrones is a very readable series of books by George R. R. Martin, and has also been filmed as a series by HBO, now into Season 3. The book series is more correctly known as "A Song Of Ice And Fire", but after the HBO series more commonly known as Game of Thrones (GoT). In the fantasy, the land of Westeros has been thoroughly settled for over 5,000 years - a significantly long time, which gives emphasis to the omissions in it I wish to point out. Iron and steel seem to have been in manufacture...
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News in science communication, 03 August 2012

Posted 03-Aug-2012 at 02:53 PM (14:53) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 03-Aug-2012 at 04:09 PM (16:09) by Gurdur

Some news in science communicationn (#scicomm), so here it is. First off, a new Guardian regular blog, "The H-Word", on the history of science. It's run by Rebekah Higgitt (@beckyfh) and Vanessa Heggie (‏@HPS_Vanessa), under the Guardian's history of science section (the blog also uses the Twitter hashtag #thwb). A reminder as well; if you really like history and philosophy of science, then the two Twitter hashtags #HPS and #histsci will serve you well, and the premier networker/networking publicist...
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Rating: 6 votes, 5.00 average.

The Hunger Games, and why you should take notice of it

Posted 14-Mar-2012 at 05:56 AM (05:56) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 14-Mar-2012 at 09:44 AM (09:44) by Gurdur

The movie The Hunger Games hits the cinemas worldwide around March 22, and should be in cinemas for around 4 weeks or more after that date. It is a film adaptation of the first novel from the trilogy of the same name by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games Trilogy Box Set, USA hardcover edition, British paperback edition; the other two books in that set are titled Catching Fire and Mockingjay). The trilogy of books, meant for young adults and older children, is in my opinion quite a brilliant bit of...
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Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

Some books on psychology, neurophilosophy, and neuromania/neurobollocks

Posted 16-Feb-2012 at 12:12 PM (12:12) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 16-Feb-2012 at 03:14 PM (15:14) by Gurdur

So you want to model the human brain? So you think about how to simulate it? Been listening to Ray Kurzweil lately? Hang on, you're in for a rocky ride, because there are big, big problems in trying to do that. This is just a very quick blog post to give some reading material on various aspects of neurophilosophy. Since that's such a horribly complex area, then I add here some books thrown in in a random way on all sorts of tangential but important aspects. Anyone knowledgeable in this area will...
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Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.

Modernism, postmodernism, and cowardice

Posted 25-Oct-2011 at 03:24 PM (15:24) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 28-Oct-2011 at 04:43 PM (16:43) by Gurdur

It strikes me that if postmodernism sometimes becomes the cowardice in the face of the need to stand up for one particular, chosen ethic or idea, then modernism is the cowardice of refusing to acknowledge there are other possible ideas and outcomes. I've blogged before on why postmodernism is not going to go away and die, despite some people's fervent hopes; but then, neither will modernism or premodernism. As to what fashion will come next, that's a good question; detractors of postmodernism hope...
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Rating: 7 votes, 5.00 average.

"The Giant's Shoulders" blog carnival for October, on history & philosophy of science

Posted 16-Oct-2011 at 10:30 PM (22:30) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Welcome to the October 16, 2011 edition of The Giant's Shoulders. This is a wandering monthly blog carnival, on the on history & philosophy of science, hosted on a different blog each month.

Mathematics, history: Fëanor reports the post "Archimedes and Euclid? Like String Theory versus Freshman Calculus" at the Degrees of Freedom blog, Scientific American Blog Network.

Then a book review: "When numbers were dotty: Marcus du Sautoy on Mayan mathematics and the way...
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Last calls for this month's "The Giant's Shoulders" blog carnival, history & philosophy of science

Posted 15-Oct-2011 at 04:19 PM (16:19) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Just a quick reminder that this month's "The Giant's Shoulders" blog carnival, on the history and philosophy of science, will be posted here on this blog tomorrow.

You can still submit links to articles and posts for it here. I will post the actual big long list tomorrow. You can find a description of the wandering blog carnival here.



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Comments are welcome! Please keep in mind if you are not registered that comments posted here to this blog post may take a while to appear - up to 16 hours after you post them, since they go onto a moderation queue and have to be individually approved, in order to stop spammers. The answer to the so-called "Random Question" is always "human".

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An idea is only as good as its movement: Julian Baggini and the heathen's headway

Posted 05-Oct-2011 at 07:11 PM (19:11) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 06-Oct-2011 at 01:41 PM (13:41) by Gurdur

Every time I have an idea, I remind myself usually a million people have had the idea before me. This time round, the atheist and philosopher Julian Baggini (@microphilosophy) is working towards a couple of ideas I've already had. But every idea is only worth as much as those who support it, every idea is only as good as the movement it inspires, so let's look at Julian Baggini's ideas. Baggini has realised that the God debate is a boring stalemate, that neither religion nor atheism will be vanquished...
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Issues for the underground — discussing with Methodist renewalists and dissidents at Greenbelt and beyond

Posted 16-Sep-2011 at 08:05 AM (08:05) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 16-Sep-2011 at 02:33 PM (14:33) by Never (fixed a few typos)

In my last blog post, I gave some background to the Methodists in Britain. Now let's start to look at them in-depth. The Methodists started as an underground movement in the Church of England, wanting to reform, revitalize and redirect the CofE, and along the way being very active in campaigns such as prison reform and ending slavery. Owing to their own confusion at times as to direction, and to disapproval and occasional repression from the establishment of the day, they eventually formed their...
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Meeting new great people - Savi Hensman and Simon Sutcliffe

Posted 29-Aug-2011 at 12:59 PM (12:59) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 29-Aug-2011 at 10:56 PM (22:56) by Never (fixed a few 1 letter typos)

What has been really good, ignoring the catastrophes as of my last blog post and any disappointments, has been meeting new people who turn out to be great. You could have knocked me down with a feather when Savi Hensman commented on one of my older blog posts, and then arranged to meet at Greenbelt - Savi Hensman is one of those writers to whose level of skill I only aspire. She writes very well, with great factual sourcing, and a lack of emo or other invalid rhetoric, as you can see from here Guardian...
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Rating: 11 votes, 5.00 average.

Mathematics, religion and history, and symbol as opposed to reality

Posted 12-Aug-2011 at 08:15 PM (20:15) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 13-Aug-2011 at 01:55 AM (01:55) by Gurdur

Mathematics in its history has often being intertwined with religion, which shouldn't be all that surprising at all. One of the roots of religion was to be the memory of the tribal group; such a memory is necessary when building and following reasonably accurate calenders, rather vital in agriculture, and necessary even for hunter-gatherers; knowing when herd animals will be migrating back into your area can be very handy if you depend on them for food. Then mathematics was often thought of as more...
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New bookcover designs for Oliver Sacks books (neuroscience, psychiatry and philosophy)

Posted 05-Aug-2011 at 04:15 PM (16:15) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 06-Aug-2011 at 06:02 AM (06:02) by Gurdur

There are apparently new releases of old Oliver Sacks books coming out, the new releases with new cover art. These new designs are apparently done by the Carbon Webb designer (and thanks to the blog "The Beautiful Brain" for the alert); they're made to fit together very well - see the picture below of six Sacks books with their new covers. I can't find the relevant editions yet on British Amazon (, but on USA Amazon, the relevant editions that are now available include paperbacks, "Uncle...
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Twelve practical suggestions for promoting ways of understanding history better

Posted 27-Jun-2011 at 10:56 AM (10:56) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 27-Jun-2011 at 12:37 PM (12:37) by Gurdur

This post is born out of a couple of things; one, the question being raised of "ways to get the insights of history of science, as developed by historians in the past few decades, more widely known", and two, some large and muddled fights involving many. Since I want to get back to positive blogging for a moment, I'm passing by the free-for-all random fights for the time being. So here are some practical suggestions for how to get more historiographically-informed discussion into the public sphere,...
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