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Author Topic: Favorite TED talks: NOW with TED club and metaphysical discussion. Join today!
Juxtapose
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by Juxtapose:
Why couldn't those things become part of the scientific method?

Well first of, I suppose they could. We could change the scientific method so it includes anything we want from crystal gazing to foofoo dust, but it would be something fundamentally different from what it is now.

But second, and much more fundamentally, the scientific method requires objectivity. Coming up with hypotheses and ways to test them are creative processes that are fundamentally subjective. The process is no different than writing poetry or composing music. The difference comes in after the creative process where we try objectively to determine the validity of a scientific idea. Coming up with the idea in the first place is not something that can be objectified.

I grant certainly that the creative process is something that is currently difficult to deal with objectively. I don't grant that it is necessarily so.

By analogy, at some point in the past the "test your hypoythesis" portion of the method was also pretty vague. There weren't established standards for conducting experiments. Then someone invented the double-blimd concept, and someone else the control group. Why is it so impossible that, as our knowledge of the human brain improves, we will one day be able to reliably reproduce creativity?

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swbarnes2
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
QUOTE]Give me a reference please. To what extent this is even interesting depends a great deal on what information these robots were given and how they made their deductions.

Adam:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19342587

"To set up Adam for this application required (i) a comprehensive logical model encoding knowledge of S. cerevisiae metabolism [1200 open reading frames (ORFs), 800 metabolites] (15), expressed in the logic programming language Prolog; (ii) a general bioinformatic database of genes and proteins involved in metabolism; (iii) software to abduce hypotheses about the genes encoding the orphan enzymes, done by using a combination of standard bioinformatic software and databases; (iv) software to deduce experiments that test the observational consequences of hypotheses (based on the model); (v) software to plan and design the experiments, which are based on the use of deletion mutants and the addition of selected metabolites to a defined growth medium; (vi) laboratory automation software to physically execute the experimental plan and to record the data and metadata in a relational database; (vii) software to analyze the data and metadata (generate growth curves and extract parameters); and (viii) software to relate the analyzed data to the hypotheses; for example, statistical methods are required to decide on significance. Once this infrastructure is in place, no human intellectual intervention is necessary to execute cycles of simple hypothesis-led experimentation. "

Emphesis mine.

The physics one:

https://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/324/5923/81

"We have demonstrated the discovery of physical laws, from scratch, directly from experimentally captured data with the use of a computational search. We used the presented approach to detect nonlinear energy conservation laws, Newtonian force laws, geometric invariants, and system manifolds in various synthetic and physically implemented systems without prior knowledge about physics, kinematics, or geometry."

NASA antenna:

http://ti.arc.nasa.gov/projects/esg/research/antenna.htm

quote:
High school students can come up with Newton's Laws of motion given properly designed experiments and proper guidance.
Of course. But you don't need to suggest something magic or scientifically inscrutable to explain how the computer or the kids come to the solutions.

The antenna thing is relevent because you can't tell the difference between an antenna designed by someone with an "a-ha" moment, and one designed completely without one. And yes, the computer tried a whole lot of possibilities, but people internally try and reject a whole lot of possibilities too, before picking a few to pursue, so I don't see a whole lot of difference.

When 99% of the time, there is a direct correlation between having a deep knowledge of the subject matter, and coming up with correct hypotheses, I just don't see why the process is dubbed a spooky mystery.

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Strider
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quote:
My aside (and it was just an aside) was to point out to anyone foolish enough to think that science provides any sort of complete system of understanding of the nature of reality, that the scientific method itself, the very bastion of rationality, depends for its functioning on this fundamentally irrational, non-reproducible, and quirky process of inventing new correct hypotheses. Science doesn't understand how to generate new correct hypotheses, and the problem "how to generate new correct hypotheses" isn't the sort of problem science can solve.
Yeah, well, look what your aside has done to us!

Again, I agree that the scientific method, currently, relies on a process that currently seams fundamentally irrational, or at least unknowable. What at least a subset of us are arguing is that even if that process forever remains out of the realm of the scientific process, there is no reason to assume that this process will forever remain out of the realm of science to be able to study. You say that if we figured this out, we could suddenly have a hypothesis generating device and answer all of life's questions. I don't really understand why. Isn't it possible that science will be able to determine exactly what goes on in people's brains during these aha moments, or hypothesis creations, and yet still not be able to create a system that can generate them? We know exactly how the visual system works, and yet we haven't been able to create robots that see perfectly.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Juxtapose:
I grant certainly that the creative process is something that is currently difficult to deal with objectively. I don't grant that it is necessarily so.

By analogy, at some point in the past the "test your hypoythesis" portion of the method was also pretty vague. There weren't established standards for conducting experiments. Then someone invented the double-blimd concept, and someone else the control group. Why is it so impossible that, as our knowledge of the human brain improves, we will one day be able to reliably reproduce creativity?

Juxtapose, I'm not sure that we mean the same thing by subjective so let me present a few dictionary definitions to illustrate what I mean

From the free online dictionary
quote:
1. a. Proceeding from or taking place in a person's mind rather than the external world.
b. Particular to a given person; personal:

From the OED.

quote:
3. a. Relating to the thinking subject, proceeding from or taking place within the subject; having its source in the mind; (in the widest sense) belonging to the conscious life.

4. a. Pertaining or peculiar to an individual subject or his mental operations; depending upon one's individuality or idiosyncrasy; personal, individual.

In those to senses of the word, the creative processes is fundamentally and inherently subjective. It isn't simply an artifact of current limitations. Just like a poem or painting, a scientific hypothesis arises from the working of the conscious mind of an individual. It is inherently subjective, it can't be objectified without making it something all together different from what it is.
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Mike
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quote:
In those to senses of the word, the creative processes is fundamentally and inherently subjective. It isn't simply an artifact of current limitations. Just like a poem or painting, a scientific hypothesis arises from the working of the conscious mind of an individual. It is inherently subjective, it can't be objectified without making it something all together different from what it is.
I'd say that the creative process is instead currently usually subjective[1] and often arises in non-conscious or semi-conscious minds; even when it does arise in conscious minds the bulk of the processing is typically not conscious.

[1] Similarly, it used to be that computation was exclusively[2] the purview of (human) minds, yet now it is regularly carried out on hardware. The creative process is similarly being offloaded.[3]

[2] Not quite true: counting on fingers, abacuses, and similar techniques have been around for a long time.

[3] Unless you want to make the argument that computers are simply an extension of the brains that interact with them and that their calculations are an extension of the users' minds.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Juxtapose:
By analogy, at some point in the past the "test your hypoythesis" portion of the method was also pretty vague. There weren't established standards for conducting experiments. Then someone invented the double-blimd concept, and someone else the control group. Why is it so impossible that, as our knowledge of the human brain improves, we will one day be able to reliably reproduce creativity?

That isn't historically accurate. The concept of a control has been around pretty much as long as the scientific method. Double blind tests are a not something fundamentally new either, they are a technique for ensuring objectivity, which has always been part of the scientific method.

What you are proposing is different from the scientific method employed today in a very revolutionary way. Its is in many ways more revolutionary than Newton's overthrowing of Aristotelian physics.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
[2] Not quite true: counting on fingers, abacuses, and similar techniques have been around for a long time.
The fact that a person uses an aid to assist in thought processes is beside the issue. Fingers and abacuses can't count unless they are being used as part a conscious human process.
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The Rabbit
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I've been looking at the references swbarnes linked and while I find them very fascinating, they miss the crux of the issue we are discussing.

I'm afraid I don't have time to explain it properly now. I'll try later.

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Juxtapose
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by Juxtapose:
By analogy, at some point in the past the "test your hypoythesis" portion of the method was also pretty vague. There weren't established standards for conducting experiments. Then someone invented the double-blimd concept, and someone else the control group. Why is it so impossible that, as our knowledge of the human brain improves, we will one day be able to reliably reproduce creativity?

That isn't historically accurate. The concept of a control has been around pretty much as long as the scientific method. Double blind tests are a not something fundamentally new either, they are a technique for ensuring objectivity, which has always been part of the scientific method.

What you are proposing is different from the scientific method employed today in a very revolutionary way. Its is in many ways more revolutionary than Newton's overthrowing of Aristotelian physics.

Really? Because this timeline seems to show a gradual improvement over many centuries. In particular, it credits Robert Bacon with describing a repeatable cycle of observation, hypothesis and experimentation in 1265. It also credits Francis Bacon with controlled experiments in 1590. I realize I'm working off a wikipedia page here, but my impression regarding the scientific method has always been that it's a largely evolved method, and your statement genuinely surprised me.

quote:
In those to senses of the word, the creative processes is fundamentally and inherently subjective. It isn't simply an artifact of current limitations. Just like a poem or painting, a scientific hypothesis arises from the working of the conscious mind of an individual. It is inherently subjective, it can't be objectified without making it something all together different from what it is.
Or we realize, at some point, that the definition of subjective that we've been using is largely a fiction - a fiction that's roughly analogous to me talking about the documents folder in my computer. There are certainly neither documents nor folders (in the traditional sense) in my computer. I suspect that, over time, "subjective" will grow ever closely more synonymous with "perspective".
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Tatiana
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I thought this new XKCD comic was entirely apropos to the discussion we're having here. I think the XKCD guy must read hatrack, or something. [Smile]
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steven
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quote:
Originally posted by Tatiana:
I think the XKCD guy must read hatrack, or something. [Smile]

I've thought this might be true.
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Raymond Arnold
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One of us is secretly Randal...
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Tatiana
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I've been plugging away at TED talks. Nothing particularly wonderful has come up that I felt I had to share with you. But some things of interest certainly have resulted from my wanderings though the TEDiverse.

Murray Gell-Mann talked about how nature behaves and had some interesting things to say. He said that when you find a law that's simple, elegant, easy to write in mathematical formulas, short, concise, etc. then it's a lot more likely to be right. He gave examples of times when his group and Einstein published theories that disagreed with experimental results at the time, simply because the theories were so beautiful, and they turned out to be right. The experiments were all mistaken in those cases.

He said that nature has this elegance about her, beauty, and simplicity. Also nature is self-similar on all scales, and that when you peel the onion skin (so to speak) to get closer and closer to the ultimate truth (if such a thing turns out to exist) then each layer of the onion has mathematics that are similar to those at adjacent layers.

I love it when physicists talk about the deeper understanding of nature they've gleaned from looking at the character of physical laws. Feynman's book by that name The Character of Physical Law was probably my favorite book about the universe that I've ever read. It gave me a deep sense of what nature is like in her very fabric.

I also watched this talk entitled "Life Lessons from an Ad Man". The guy was entertaining and fun to watch. I definitely don't want my 20 minutes back. But the things he was saying, though they sounded maybe kind of good on the surface, didn't sit well with me at all. He talked about how advertising adds value to products by changing how they're perceived, not anything about the nature of the product. And that in order to have a less destructive footprint on the planet, the human species needs to do less actual engineering changes (which after all are expensive and resource-heavy) and more just showing people how to appreciate what they already have.

It sounds all green and stuff and yet I don't buy it. He gave an example of the potato, how some king at some point wanted his subjects to grow potatoes as well as rice, so they would be more famine proof and have two main sources of energy instead of only one. So at first he tried to mandate potato growing but it didn't work. Then he got smart and issued a decree that the potato was a royal vegetable, and only could be grown in one royal garden where he posted guards. The guards were instructed not to guard the plot of potatoes very well, and hence the peasants stole the potatoes and began growing them themselves.

Now first of all, I'm pretty skeptical about that story. But we do all know that it's the sort of thing that could work. Ads do change people's perception of a product. But I'm still not sure it's a good thing.

He said he loved the idea of using placebo as a drug. It's cheap, effective, there are no side effects, or if there are then it's perfectly safe to ignore them because we know they're not real, and lots of people get better from them. I disagree, though. You can't dismiss the side effects and not also dismiss the effectiveness, for instance. Everyone knows that placebos aren't really doing anything, right? What doctors do by giving them is lose their patient's trust. To me there is such thing as the real truth, and it's important. Ad people seem to think differently. Anyway, a fun talk and interesting thought experiment.

I've watched more, too. A couple that I stopped in the middle. The lady who wrote the Vagina Monologues was telling all of us to get in touch with our inner girl. The trouble is that she ascribed everything nice to that girl, all our empathy, kindness, tenderness, etc. and everything harsh and violent to our attempts, I guess, to banish our inner girls. But that all sounded horribly sexist to me. I think the female and the male both partake equally in good and bad. I don't like that brand of gender essentialism that she was peddling.

Another one was a Harvard ethics class, and they talked about a lot of either-or situations. Would it be ethical to swerve a train car to a different track and kill just one person instead of five? Okay? Then how about pushing one really fat guy in front of the train to save the rest? And so on. Fun stuff to think about but after half an hour I'd had enough. To me those type thought experiments are so contrived that I don't feel their applicability to real life very strongly. They become an exercise in meaninglessness to me after a while, because they claim to know with absolute certainty what will happen in each case, and I think our tough life decisions are always made in a state of uncertainty as to outcome in all directions. So to me, ethics doesn't consist of the sort of philosophical thing they're discussing by asking that sort of question. There are never just two choices, for instance.

Anyway, much fun and inspiration abounds. Please share what you find as well!

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Raymond Arnold
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I have conflicted thoughts about the placebo effect. I definitely think it should be utilized more/better, but that in order to preserve the integrity of doctors it'd be best if it was used by 3rd party people who's trust is not so integral to society as a whole. Which basically leaves us with random spiritual groups and companies, who can target people who prefer either faith or techno-babble. Which is what we have already. And while I suspect that spiritual groups are slightly more likely to have the best interests of their audience at heart, in both cases a lot of the time there's a price tag that can be just as steep as a real drug would be (even if it comes in the form of a "recommended donation to the church.")

It'd be kinda neat to have a non-profit charity go out of its way to provide "pain medication" for low income families, with a recommendation of an alternate treatment (i.e. real doctors) in the event that their medication doesn't work. (Hell, maybe this already exists and we don't know about it).

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King of Men
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quote:
To me those type thought experiments are so contrived that I don't feel their applicability to real life very strongly. They become an exercise in meaninglessness to me after a while, because they claim to know with absolute certainty what will happen in each case, and I think our tough life decisions are always made in a state of uncertainty as to outcome in all directions.
Then you are not doing it right. You consider simplified cases where you know all the outcomes so you can develop an intuition, or a method, useful in the full complexity of real life. It is the equivalent of teaching beginning physics students to neglect friction and air resistance. Of course real-life ethics decisions are made in a mist of uncertainty as to outcomes; but that doesn't mean you have to start with the full expected-utility calculation when you think about that sort of problem. Indeed, this is seriously counterproductive. You want to simplify so you can actually think about the core of the problem, not the arithmetic of your uncertainty. The ethical core, "There is a difference between choosing to minimise the casualties in a group where everyone is already under threat; and minimising the casualties by adding someone to the threatened group", remains the same whether or not your thought experiment includes uncertainty.
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Tatiana
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
"There is a difference between choosing to minimise the casualties in a group where everyone is already under threat; and minimising the casualties by adding someone to the threatened group", remains the same whether or not your thought experiment includes uncertainty.

Actually, I like your formulation of the problem, but in the first scenario, the one person would in fact have been safe if we took no action at all and let the train car careen into the five people at the end of the track. So he wasn't under threat at first either.

It wasn't really easy to define why it was okay to swerve and miss the 5 and hit the 1 guy but not okay to shove the fat guy in front of the train, because the lecturer then modified the problem so the fat guy was standing on a trapdoor that you could release by turning a wheel to the right (the exact same motion required to swerve and hit the one track worker while avoiding the 5).

So the question was mildly interesting, why do we clearly feel it's okay in the first case but not in the second? It help us also not to judge others so strictly when they make split-second life and death decisions. But I still feel contrived situations like that don't tell us very much about ethics.

I confess that I can't think of any general principle that would explain my reason for feeling it was okay in the one case but not the other. I can assume the fat guy is also a train worker who's repairing the bridge or something. I'd be interested in anyone's attempt to formulate a principle that would work, but I'm not interested in spending much more time myself trying to puzzle it out, because it just feels mostly meaningless and unreal to me.

I have a great number of ethical questions that I'm seriously pondering that have to do with decisions I have to make in life, choices concerning other people's agency when they're suffering from mental illness or dementia, for instance, and how to choose the best care for incapacitated people I'm responsible for, taking into account that what they prefer for themselves is possibly dangerous or even suicidal.

Other examples are how to decide when it's okay to force medicines on a pet when it may be nearing the end of its life. How to know to what extent parents should overrule their children's moral agency to choose whether to abuse drugs and alcohol, or simply whether to clean their own bathrooms or live in filth. Whether and in what circumstances it's okay for parents to read their children's writings, or if it's better to respect their privacy completely even to the point of averting eyes when it's left in plain view. To me none of these contrived scenarios seem to help in my real life questions.

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King of Men
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quote:
Actually, I like your formulation of the problem, but in the first scenario, the one person would in fact have been safe if we took no action at all and let the train car careen into the five people at the end of the track. So he wasn't under threat at first either.
I disagree; the train was going to hit either him or the five, consequently all six were threatened. Perhaps this becomes clearer if you modify the problem so you don't know which position the lever is in; now he's just as much under threat as the group of five. I don't think your moral intuition ought to be changed by a simple glance at a lever to determine whether the train is hitting one person or five; either way, you should prefer one, and take the necessary action.

quote:
because it just feels mostly meaningless and unreal to me.
This is plain laziness. You might as well complain that it's meaningless and unreal to neglect friction and air resistance when learning physics.
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Tatiana
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I disagree. I think it's an individual making a choice what sorts of learning will be worth the time to pursue and what things are a waste of that particular individual's time. That's a choice everyone has to make for themselves and one person's gold is another one's straw.

But I recognize that others might feel differently about this exercise than I, and might feel it is very worth their own time to pursue, which I'd certainly encourage them to do if they feel that way.

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Raymond Arnold
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Oftentimes, the person doing the learning is not the best judge of how best to learn. Ask any kid who has to do boring math homework.
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Tatiana
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This one is the most important TED talk I've ever seen. Watch it!
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aspectre
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Minority Report
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Lyrhawn
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While all of it looks cool, I question how practical or useful it really is. The exception being the video editing, which looked really cool.
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aspectre
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Consider Predator drones operated remotely from Colorado for attacks in Afghanistan.
Then consider that the gloves are gonna come off in a few years.
As gestures replace typing and mousing, add public security camera networks replacing wifi and cellphone networks.
Add a few local police drones and hackers into the mix, and voila wizard wars to end all wizard wars.

Thing is, tele-presence is becoming ever more integrated into society; eg the smart meter that sends power use measurements to your utility company can also shut off power to your home.
The DSVs working on the DeepwaterHorizon spill are controlled by tele-operators. And so are many cranes (or at least they might as well be since the operator's view is video-feed from a remote camera).

Similarly you can turn off your home climate-control system as you leave for work, then turn the system back on when you leave work to arrive at a home already maintaining the temperature&humidity level suited to your taste.
Or start your oven from work to arrive home to fresh baked bread. Heck it wouldn't take that much to design a tele-operated robot that could eg pull a roast defrosting on a cooking tray in your refrigerator then place it in the oven, which you could then start early enough that you arrive home to a freshly cooked roast beef dinner.

Or use a public security camera to take some snapshots then send the data to your computer (or into the cloud) rather than carry your own camera around. When carrying a cellphone or a smartpad is inconvenient -- eg at the beach -- use public-access electronic billboards for your communications. Don't even hafta charge cuz the advertiser would pay in the same way off-to-the-side ads pay for many internet sites. Order a pizza or Chinese take-out for delivery at a public park.

No need to ever carry ID or credit cards, to wear a medical bracelet or own a wallet (not even for family photos): just being in a tele-presence environment allows ones appearance combined with finger gestures or voice to provide all of the info&confimation that anyone could want.

The possibilities are endless. Any sufficiently advanced magic looks like technology, and vice versa.

[ June 17, 2010, 07:29 PM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

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Godric
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What nano-artist Willard Wigan creates just needs to be seen to be believed. Amazing!
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Jim-Me
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I didn't look through the whole thread to see if this one has been posted... but it's my favorite so far:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4Qm9cGRub0&feature=player_embedded

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Tammy
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*bump* Should have searched for this before I posted mine. Oops.
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Parkour
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Wow. This whole thread was amazing to read.

And now I will finish posting on my hatrack religion and then go play some of my call of duty religion, get paid for my employment religion, then go drink at a fundamentally religious party with my friend-religions.

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Tammy
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quote:
Originally posted by Parkour:
Wow. This whole thread was amazing to read.

And now I will finish posting on my hatrack religion and then go play some of my call of duty religion, get paid for my employment religion, then go drink at a fundamentally religious party with my friend-religions.

I'm going to go drink, alot, then come back and read this again. Maybe I'll get it then, hun?
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Samprimary
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Just read it too. Now I want to crusade the call of duty religion with my own MW2 religion, then go back to my school religion.
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Strider
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Awesome new TED talk.

The brain as a movement controlling, future predicting device.

This really segways well with much of the stuff I've been reading for the last few years.

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Noemon
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Thanks, Strider.
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Samprimary
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That was fascinating, but so too was rediscovering this thread and reading through it again.
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wordman
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One of the TED talks I have enjoyed starts with this: [NASA's] one-year budget would fund NOAA's budget to explore the oceans for one thousand six hundred years.

Robert Ballard on exploring the oceans.

[ November 10, 2011, 12:34 PM: Message edited by: wordman ]

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Tatiana
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My interest in TED talks waned after they eliminated the "most favorited of all time" ordering. I suppose too many people were watching only the old stuff and not even rating the new, or something. Anyway, this is a good thread! I miss so much the way we used to discuss ideas on hatrack, and I'd love to see a resurgence of that. What ideas am I playing with lately? Hmmm....

Well, I've discovered the 50 year old field of Liberation Theology, and have been reading in it lately. Father Gutierrez writes that we encounter the Lord today when we encounter the poor. "I was hungry and ye fed me not," etc. This stuff, though it rose in Catholicism, feels very, very Mormon to me. It's based in praxis, for instance, rather than ideaspace. He asks the question, how do we say to the poor, "God loves you"? When poverty in our society makes for lives of sickness, suffering, and violence. In essence the poor are nonpersons. This is from the context of Latin America but applies all over the globe. The poor have no rights, essentially. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer to enforce your rights, you don't have rights. So what does our religion ask of us respecting the poor?

I think as a Mormon my religion calls on us to have no poor among us, to give of our substance to the poor, to be one. It's actually been added to the short list of the purposes of the church, to care for the poor and needy.

I came to study this stuff through the works of Dr. Paul Farmer, the cofounder of Partners in Health. My mother studied it during the 60s when she was majoring in religion, so I'd heard of it all my life, but it was reading Dr. Farmer's work that got me interested to start reading it myself.

Another thing it says that is very Mormon is that we learn of the doctrine by doing, by our attempts to live as Christians. This is very different from classical Catholic theology of Aquinas and so on, which was much more reliant on pure reason, as I understand it. But very like LDS teachings, "if you would know of the doctrine, then do my commandments", or whatever; that's a paraphrase. I can't quote it, though I'm sure many of you can.

Perhaps being such a religious set of ideas, this won't really be suitable for discussion on Hatrack. But that's one thing I'm pondering lately.

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adenam
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He manages to make books even cooler.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cC0KxNeLp1E

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