Life's endlessly interesting. This haphazard zone of my web-site might be
accused of philosophy, but that's more grandiose than what I aim to do with
it. I've written less here than in other areas; not because it's less
important, but because I can't articulate my thoughts on it as fluently. The
fragments that exist are:
It seems worth mentioning Arthur Clarke's three laws (far more
relevant to the real world than Asimov's):
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is
possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is
impossible, he is very probably wrong.
The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a
little way past them into the impossible.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
One of humanity's greatest unsung triumphs has been the defeat
of leprosy. Although
around a quarter million
victims remain, the WHO campaign to
eradicate leprosy makes steady progress. Many millions of victims of this
ancient scourge have been cured. A 1991 WHO policy to reduce levels of
leprosy to below one in ten thousand by 2000
was completed on
that a human brain contains of order 1e11 (a hundred milliards of)
neurons, say N of them, suppose the length scale of a typical neuron (they're
quite gangly, for cells, so maybe 2 mm isn't too unrealistic) is r times the
length scale of the human head (something like 200 mm), say r ≈ 0.01 or
so, the fraction m of the total brain-cells within reach of each is about
1/r/r/r; so m.N is still pretty big (still 1e5, a hundred thousand). If each
neuron connects to k others, it's got chose(m.N, k) = (m.N)!/k!/(m.N
−k)! choices open to it and there are N such neurons; we count each
connection twice (once for each of the two neurons connecting at it), so this
gives N.(m.N)!/k!/(m.N −k)!/2 possible patterns of interconnection. If
k is reasonably small compared to m.N (as seems likely to my guesses) this is
of order N.(m.N)k, something like ten11 +5.k, which is
going to be pretty huge for even quite modest value of k. That's just the
possible patterns of interconnection: each neuron has potentially quite
complex state and the brain has chemical signaling going on via other paths
than direct neural connections. The number of possible states of a human
brain is pretty big.
us all to be willing to stretch the limits of our ability to make sense of
the universe; and, at the same time, to sanity-check by experiment the answers
we get thereby.
Quotes from Lord
Kelvin, e.g. To live among friends is the primary essential of
A quick riposte to Nietzsche's oft-quoted silly
remark about gazing into the abyss. While finding the links for that, I
stumbled on some interesting philosopers of the century leading up to my
If you ever feel like everyone else is more successful, bear in mind that
this might just be because they're all unwittingly conspiring
to play a prank on you.
Auguste Rodin's Fallen Caryatid with Stone (which I long
mis-remembered as Caryatid broken under her load)
is a potent
symbol of fortitude, from which Robert Heinlein
(and later fans) drew
inspiration in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land.