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July 10, 2020

Subway-Style Maps of Roads of the Roman Empire




Created by Sasha Trubetskoy.

July 10, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

"The Beginning of Infinity" — David Deutsch


A magnificent and inspiring book, which I cannot in good conscience recommend to you.


Because it's exceedingly difficult, so much so that only after two false starts was I able to buckle down and make my way through Deutsch's formidable verbal pyrotechnics.

Yet it was worth the effort.

Without further ado, excerpts.

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

And yet, gold can be created only by stars and by intelligent beings. If you find a nugget of gold anywhere in the universe, you can be sure that in its history was either a supernova or an intelligent being with an explanation. And if you find an explanation anywhere in the universe, you know that there must have been an intelligent being. A supernova alone would not suffice.

But — so what? Gold is important to us, but in the cosmic scheme of things it has little significance. Explanations are important to us: we need them to survive. But is there anything significant, in the cosmic scheme of things, about explanation, that apparently puny physical process that happens inside brains?

Some people become depressed at the scale of the universe, because it makes them feel insignificant. Other people are relieved to feel insignificant, which is even worse. But, in any case, those are mistakes. Feeling insignificant because the universe is large has exactly the same logic as feeling inadequate for not being a cow. Or a herd of cows. The universe is not there to overwhelm us; it is our home, and our resource. The bigger the better.

Good [genetic] adaptations, like good explanations, are distinguished by being hard to vary while still fulfilling their functions.

Without error-correction all information processing, and hence all knowledge-creation, is necessarily bounded. Error-correction is the beginning of infinity.

Because error-correction is essential in processes of potentially unlimited length, the jump to universality only ever happens in digital systems.

Information that cannot be reliably retrieved is not really being stored.

Unfortunately it is very rare for practical solutions to fundamental problems to be discovered without any explanation of why they work.

Becoming better at pretending to think is not the same as coming closer to be able to think.

The best explanation of ourselves in real science is that we are embedded in multiversal objects. Whenever we observe anything — a scientific instrument or a galaxy or a human being — what we are actually seeing is a single-universe perspective on a larger object that extends some way into other universes. In some of those universes, the object looks exactly as it does to us, in others it looks different, or is absent altogether.

We are channels of information flow. So are histories, and so are all relatively autonomous objects within histories; but we sentient beings are extremely unusual channels, along which (sometimes) knowledge grows. This can have dramatic effects, not only within a history (where it can, for instance, have effects that do not diminish with distance), but also across the multiverse. Since the growth of knowledge is a process of error-correction, and since there are many more ways of being wrong than right, knowledge-creating entities rapidly become more alike in different histories than other entities.

To be a meme, an idea has to contain quite sophisticated knowledge of how to cause humans to do at least two independent things: assimilate the meme faithfully, and enact it. That some memes can replicate themselves with great fidelity for many generations is a token of how much knowledge they contain.

A few exceptional [meme] variants, once they appear in one mind, tend to spread throughout the culture with very little change in meaning (as expressed in the behaviors that they cause). Such memes are familiar to us because long-lived cultures are composed of them; but, nevertheless, in another sense they are a very unusual type of idea, for most ideas are short-lived. A human mind considers many ideas for every one that it ever acts upon, and only a small proportion of those cause behavior that anyone else notices — and, of those, only a small proportion are ever replicated by anyone else. So the overwhelming majority of ideas disappear within a lifetime or less. The behavior of people in a long-lived culture is therefore determined partly by recent ideas that will soon become extinct, and partly by long-lived memes: exceptional ideas that have been accurately replicated many times in succession.

Hey, don't take my word for it.

Read the introduction and view the table of contents here.

Peruse the opening pages here.

Find a glossary — words and ideas discussed in the book — here.

See what other readers and reviewers thought of the book here.

Note a list of people who have influenced the author here.

Partake — see, I'd already used "read", "peruse", "find," "see," and "note," so I had to reach a bit for a sixth word that would serve — of an interview with the author here.

July 10, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Helpful Hints from joeeze: Bookmarking the online New York Times

Screen Shot 2020-07-09 at 3.14.45 PM

I probably bookmark and then read later the same day (sometimes the next) 20-30 articles/day that appear in the Gray Lady — more than all the other sources I read combined.

Because of some monkey wrench in the Times' software, prolly related to all the ads and tracking and whatnot, when I click the BACK arrow to return to where I was onscreen when I stopped to bookmark a story, I always end up at a different place, such that I have to scroll vertically to get back to where I left off.

None of the other papers I read online has this bug.

About a month ago, just for the heck of it, I started at the end of the Times' online edition (graphic up top) and then worked my way up, bookmarking as usual.


Now almost always, a BACK arrow click from a bookmarked story returns me to where I left off.

Try it, you'll like it.

July 10, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Best news of the week: "Far Side" creator Gary Larson's first new cartoons in 25 years

Screen Shot 2020-07-09 at 12.35.40 PM

[above, "New Cow tools," a riff on his 1982 "Cow tools" which drove his fans into a frenzy]

Three new "Far Side" strips here (click "ENTER").

[via the Guardian]

July 10, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cylindrical 4-Way Nail File


From the website:

Once in a while (actually, quite often), the Japanese come up with ideas that can change some of our concepts forever.

It may sound like a wild exaggeration but take a look at this Stainless Steel Cylindrical Four-Way Nail File and you should see why.


Into a small piece of SUS303 stainless steel — a grade often used in the aircraft industry — its designers have crammed four different abrasive surfaces that can help you take care of any broken nail emergency.

Small enough to fit any purse or pocket, the compact nail file cylinder's main innovative elements are the two circular files that allow you to work on broken nails in the same way you would work an old-school manual pencil sharpener.

Add two more regular files on its sides and you have a mini-toolbox capable of fixing everything from a hair-thin splinter to a full-on break. If you ever wished to have 24/7 access to your manicurist, now you can.


Features and Details:

• Includes storage pouch

• Made in Japan

• Weighs 0.8 oz

• 0.7" x 0.5"



July 10, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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