Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Friday, May 8, 2015

Odds and Ends


In the End, They Always Eat Their Young

This is just as funny as Richard Carrier outing himself as a polyamorous-American. (Hinting why atheist conventions are no-fly zones for women.) An organization calling itself Atheist Ireland dissociates themselves from one PZ Meyers because the latter is too intemperate. Meyers for his part attacks Dawkins, Hitchens, and others. There is blood in the water, amigos. Recall Kissinger's remark when Saddam Hussein and the ayatollahs went after each other. But to those of us who remember the 60s the faction-forming, fissioning, and infighting is all very familiar. "Atheism +" for those out of the loop who did not receive the memo, is "atheism plus feminism, environmentalism, [secular] social justice, etc." A fine illustration of the totalizing tendencies in that region of the spectrum. Diversity will not be tolerated. Orthodoxy will be enforced, even in so heterodox a place as "free" thinking.

300 Years of Philosophical Squid Ink

Philosopher John Searle (he of Chinese Room fame) slaps early modern philosophy across the chops with a dead fish. He's not quite there yet, but he does see the problem. Way too many people will post comments like "Hume proved that causation is not demonstrable" or "Kant proved that we only experience our sensations, not the outside world" -- or even that they "refuted" the Cosmnological arguments -- without any inquiry as to how they might have done these things. Fortunately, natural scientists gave only lip service to Hume and continued to be closet Aristotelians in most things.

Useful Road Signs

Caution: Science Ahead
h/t Dr Boli

The Nanotech Chronicles

In The Washer at the Ford and then again in one of the Firestar books, TOF featured in passing nanomachines that would disassemble harmful molecules or otherwise render them harmless. Now science is catching up with fiction. "Two years ago, [Professor Thalappil Pradeep and] his team developed ... a combination filter that kills microbes with silver and breaks down chemical toxins with other nanoparticles. It’s portable, works at room temperature, and doesn’t require electricity." This is a tremendous accomplishment in providing potable water in ill-watered regions. It is also why drinking vessels in ancient times were so often made of or lined with silver [or gold]. It was not so much a flaunting of wealth as a health measure!

Wasn't One Enough?

In an article breathlessly titled "The Man Who May One Up Darwin" we are told of Prof. Jeremy England who is explaining how life may emerge from non-life, despite-or-because he is a devout Orthodox Jew who prays three times a day.
"Under the right conditions, a random group of atoms will self-organize, unbidden, to more effectively use energy. Over time and with just the right amount of, say, sunlight, a cluster of atoms could come remarkably close to what we call life. In fact, here’s a thought: Some things we consider inanimate actually may already be 'alive.'" 
It's all models and equations right now, but who knows. The problem with any of these inevitable-outcome-of-natural-processes ideas is that by implication life ought to be starting up all the time, here, there, and in milady's chambers. Well, "under the right conditions," whatever they are. Yet it seems to have originated only once in the course of Earth's history. Howcum? Or maybe, as suggested by the dazzling novella "Where the Winds Are All Asleep," it has happened more than once!

VE Day

David Warren has a tribute to the Canadian troops who liberated Holland. Mark Shea salutes his father for winning the war single-handedly.

Super-Heroes Who Did Not Make the Cut

Dr. Boli provides a list, of which my two  favorites are:
  • The Plant. Has awesome vegetative power that can crack sidewalks and split rocks. Moves very, very slowly, so evildoers never notice him until it’s too late.
  • The Accountant. His preternatural ability to detect financial irregularities has stopped many a supervillain’s evil plan.

12 comments:

  1. As a complement to the superheroes reject list, a supervillain: THE MODEL RAILROADER. Breaks into banks by building a model railroad layout in the basement of the building next door; as model railroads always tend to expand, the layout will eventually remove the basement wall, allowing easy entry into the bank. He is stopped by introducing an anachronism onto the layout: "Amtrak equipment mixed with steam? Noooo!"

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  2. Atheist conventions are no-fly zones for women because the main reason for being an atheist is to bang co-eds without that icky guilt thing.

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    1. That's not fair. More often the main reason for being an atheist, at least of the "combox anti-evangelist" kind (as represented by Dawkins, Myers, and their ilk), is that some religious bigots find their hatred for their religion's enemies more important than the religion itself.

      That's the origin of "scratch an atheist, find a fundamentalist" and the fact Protestant anti-Catholic canards exploded a hundred years ago are still bandied about on the "freethinker" internet. It's also the explanation of the Greek atheist Fabio Barbieri mentions somewhere on his livejournal, whose chief complaint about the Latin Church had to do with the filioque.

      Sometimes they attack religion as such for something about the religion they left; ex-Catholic atheists are almost always anti-clericals (historically, much if not most anti-clericalism was by the lay faithful—it is often patriots that want to assassinate their leaders). Most Jewish atheists' attempts to critique Christianity are mis-aimed attacks on Judaism (e.g. Ayn Rand's assumption that Christians share Kabbalah's identification of self-interest, as such, with evil). And Belloc wasn't the first to point out that atheists from Protestant countries usually assume Catholics are Biblical literalists.

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    2. (Many other ex-Catholic atheists, if their parting with Catholicism was somewhat amicable, are extraordinarily nasty to Fundamentalist Protestantism. Forgot that one.)

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. The comment I deleted was a copy of the one that's not deleted.

    Not this one.

    The other one.

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  5. The comment I deleted was a copy of the one that's not deleted.

    Not this one.

    The other one.

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  6. I particularly like that Searle 'won't argue the point' if people want to include Hegel among the Great Philosophers. Teehee!

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    1. For given values of "great", he is.

      In the same way that Friedrich II Hohenzollern, of "a treaty is just a lot of pretty filigree work" fame, was a king deserving the title "the great".

      He ruined a lot of the world, just like Hegel did.

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  7. Mr. Flynn, I sent you an e-mail, in case you're not in the habit of checking.

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    1. By what channel? Resend it please?

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    2. Will do. Please reply when you get it. theofloinn@aol.com

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