Berfrois

Enigmas will remain to challenge our remote descendants…

Enigmas will remain to challenge our remote descendants…

Albert Einstein said that the ‘most incomprehensible thing about the Universe is that it is comprehensible’. He was right to be astonished.

Read More

Mind Out

Mind Out

Kurzweil has honors from three US presidents (so says Wikipedia) and was the “principal inventor of the first CCD flatbed scanner” and other useful devices, as well as receiving many other entrepreneurial awards. He is clearly a man of many parts—but is ultimate theoretician of the mind one of...

Read More

Another Year in Dissenters’ Paradise by Mircea Pitici

Another Year in Dissenters’ Paradise by Mircea Pitici

Contrast (Order and Chaos), M.C. Escher, 1950 by Mircea Pitici The world of mathematics is a dissenter’s paradise. Although mathematical reasoning binds the mind to rigor and constrains it to obey rules of inference and to accept semantic conventions shared by the community of its practitioners, the world of...

Read More

Life and Chemistry, Melancholia and Depression

Life and Chemistry, Melancholia and Depression

I’ve spent a good deal of time lately reading up on the set of historical, medical and philosophical conditions known for centuries as melancholia and more recently as depression. My interest is that I’ve been commissioned to write a book about melancholia, but I’ll be writing it because it’s...

Read More

With Atomic Power

With Atomic Power

From Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: After being discharged from the Air Service at the end of the Great War, Buck Rogers was hired by the American Radioactive Gas Corporation as an inspector; while investigating a mine, he was overcome by (what else?) radioactive gas, and it preserved him...

Read More

Desires

Desires

Scene From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania and Bottom, Edwin Henry Landseer, 1848 From Threepenny Review: As in Freud’s own time, the “boundary violation” (the discipline’s contemporary euphemism) remains embarrassingly common. Usually the clinician is a man, often professionally distinguished with years of experience, and the patient a younger...

Read More

Sound and Sight

Sound and Sight

Steamboat Willie, Walt Disney Studios, 1928 by Bill Benzon Neuroscientist Seth Horowitz has an interesting piece in the New York Times: The Science and Art of Listening. He talks of hearing as the passive registering of sound; listening, however, requires active attention. Hearing is fast while vision is slow:...

Read More

Open (Access) All Hours

Open (Access) All Hours

Photograph by Aunt Owwee by Cameron Neylon With major governments signalling a shift to Open Access it seems like a good time to be asking which organisations in the scholarly communications space will survive the transition. It is likely that the major current publishers will survive, although relative market share...

Read More

What future transitions we can expect?

What future transitions we can expect?

by Kevin Kelly What kinds of developmental thresholds would any planet of sentient beings pass through? The creation of writing would be a huge one. The unleashing of cheap non-biological energy is another. The invention of the scientific method is a giant leap. And the fine control of energy...

Read More

Alexander Hahn: 199 Visible Oranges

Alexander Hahn: 199 Visible Oranges

The merchant’s attractive display had been constructed very carefully. The pyramid has a triangular base of 12 oranges to a side. From each side of this triangle rises one of the sloping triangular faces of the pyramid. Each triangular face starts with its row of 12 and continues with...

Read More

Jay Slosar: Paranoia Matters

Jay Slosar: Paranoia Matters

Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire, Salvador Dalí, 1940 by Jay Slosar “Don’t look back something might be gaining on you,” said Satchel Paige, a legendary baseball pitcher in the 1930s and 40s who couldn’t pitch in the major leagues because he was black. After Jackie Robinson...

Read More

Hugh Everett III, Many-Worlds Man by Jeffrey Barrett

Hugh Everett III, Many-Worlds Man by Jeffrey Barrett

Jacek Yerka by Jeffrey A. Barrett In the Spring of 2007, the journalist Peter Byrne interviewed Mark Everett (E of the band Eels) about Mark’s father Hugh Everett III. Mark did not know much about what his father had done for a living, and he knew even less about...

Read More

Mathematicians are Giraffe Hunters by Barry Mazur

Mathematicians are Giraffe Hunters by Barry Mazur

I came late to the feeling that the purity of mathematical ideas had any need for story or for the temporal intrusion of personal accounts. But, I've changed, quite a bit. In fact, Apostolos Doxiadis and I have just published Circles Disturbed, a book of essays written by over...

Read More

Gazing

Gazing

From American Scientist: Does your dog know what you are thinking? Can a chimpanzee understand what another sees? In the three and a half decades since David Premack and Guy Woodruff first asked whether chimpanzees have a “theory of mind,” a considerable empirical and philosophical literature has sprung up...

Read More

A Tale of Strychnine and Murder

A Tale of Strychnine and Murder

From cover of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie, 1920 by Deborah Blum There is altogether too much strychnine about this case – The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie, 1920. In the midst of World War I – or so the story goes – a young Englishwoman...

Read More

Jennifer Rhee: Our Friends, the Killer Robots

Jennifer Rhee: Our Friends, the Killer Robots

Defending Yourself against the Coming Rebellion (2005) offers a survey of the “quickening” developments in contemporary robotics research, from humanoid robots, to smart houses, to robot swarms, to unmanned air and land vehicles.

Read More