October 8, 2003
Truisms of the Moment
* Information Wants To Be Free
* Rent Wants To Be Paid
--"IronChef"'s sig on Slashdot. I have another one for today: hot water heaters want you to sit around all day waiting for the plumber or propane guy.
Small Gif Cinema of the Moment
Quote, Link, and Ramble of the Moment
"You know that everything that you hear from science and from neurology, that you are a beast, just a hairless ape which happens to be a little bit more clever than other apes. At the same time, you don't feel like that. You feel like you're an angel trapped inside this body, constantly craving immortality, craving transcendence trying to escape from this body. And this is the essential human predicament."
--Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, from his astoundingly wonderful series of lectures, Reith Lectures 2003 - The Emerging Mind.
If you have one iota of curiosity of what it means to be a human, of the mind/brain problem, you must read (or listen, they have audio links) these 5 lectures, and preferably the Q+A sessions for each one as well. He spends a lot of time talking about thos fascinating cases of localized brain damage that give us tantalizing hints about how our brains cope with the world (the "Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat" kind of thing), moves on to possible neurological understandings of our appreciation for art, and even touches on the cosmic ramifications of much of it. Admittedly the first 3 lectures are stronger than the final 2, which mostly dive deeper into some previous points. Still, I love his presentation style, which I've seen among a few really smart people who are good at given simplified but not dumbed down explanations of complex ideas. They don't present concepts as God-given facts, but in terms of "here are some observations we've made, and here's what we think it might mean." Richard Feyman reads the same way.
Two lectures have a big focus on synesthaesia, where some people have their brain crosswired so that unrelated concepts trigger each other; most strikingly, number shapes that trigger colors so strongly that the person afflicted can much more easily pick out a shape made of just those numbers out of a field of roughly similar looking numbers, because they stand out in color. (Here's a Scientific American article on the phenomenon.) I think I have just a touch of this, or something similar: some letters are likely to trigger certain numbers, and vice versa, usually tied in with phonetics. For example, I have an early drawing I made (I think of myself) that spells my name "KI4K"--R's are tied with 4's. And I once saw a poster for the movie The Fifth Elment that said "IT MU5T BE FOUND", with the S replaced with the similar looking number five. I spent a few seconds wonder why "MUFT" it be found, because for me, 5's are tightly linked to F's, not S's.