Category: Tech / Science

3 Ways to Manipulate Ideas – John Locke

The acts of the mind, wherein it exerts its power over simple ideas, are chiefly these three:

1. Combining several simple ideas into one compound one, and thus all complex ideas are made.

2. The second is bringing two ideas, whether simple or complex, together, and setting them by one another so as to take a view of them at once, without uniting them into one, by which it gets all its ideas of relations.

3. The third is separating them from all other ideas that accompany them in their real existence: this is called abstraction, and thus all its general ideas are made.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
John Locke (1690)
(Found in epigraph to the book Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs )

In Book II of the Essay, Locke gives his positive account of how we acquire the materials of knowledge. Locke distinguishes a variety of different kinds of ideas in Book II. Locke holds that the mind is a tabula rasa or blank sheet until experience in the form of sensation and reflection provide the basic materials—simple ideas—out of which most of our more complex knowledge is constructed. While the mind may be a blank slate in regard to content, it is plain that Locke thinks we are born with a variety of faculties to receive and abilities to manipulate or process the content once we acquire it. Thus, for example, the mind can engage in three different types of action in putting simple ideas together. The first of these kinds of action is to combine them into complex ideas. Complex ideas are of two kinds, ideas of substances and ideas of modes. Substances are independent existences. Beings that count as substances include God, angels, humans, animals, plants and a variety of constructed things. Modes are dependent existences. These include mathematical and moral ideas, and all the conventional language of religion, politics and culture. The second action which the mind performs is the bringing of two ideas, whether simple or complex, by one another so as to take a view of them at once, without uniting them. This gives us our ideas of relations (II.12.1, N: 163). The third act of the mind is the production of our general ideas by abstraction from particulars, leaving out the particular circumstances of time and place, which would limit the application of an idea to a particular individual. In addition to these abilities, there are such faculties as memory which allow for the storing of ideas.

New Jersey Shutting Down Last Coal Plants

The era of power plants using coal to generate electricity is ending in New Jersey.

The last two remaining coal-fired plants in the Garden State — both in South Jersey — are preparing to cease operation within months, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration announced last week.

Murphy called the move a “very good step in the right direction” as the state continues to shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable, or greener, energy sources. The Democratic governor has set a goal of using only carbon-free — or “clean” — energy sources by 2050.

N.J.’s last two coal plants set to close. ‘A world without coal’ is cleaner, safer, Murphy says.
Brent Johnson

Covid and Alcohol Related Deaths

Almost a million people in the United States have died of Covid-19 in the past two years, but the full impact of the pandemic’s collateral damage is still being tallied. Now a new study reports that the number of Americans who died of alcohol-related causes increased precipitously during the first year of the pandemic, as routines were disrupted, support networks frayed and treatment was delayed.

The startling report comes amid a growing realization that Covid’s toll extends beyond the number of lives claimed directly by the disease to the excess deaths caused by illnesses left untreated and a surge in drug overdoses, as well as to social costs like educational setbacks and the loss of parents and caregivers.

Alcohol-Related Deaths Spiked During the Pandemic, a Study Shows
The deaths were up 25 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, amid heightened stress factors and delayed treatment, according to a new report.
Roni Caryn Rabin

Chess Game Trying to Win Gracefully

Took a look into the source code of Apple’s home-made chess program and wasn’t disappointed from ProgrammerHumor

What are they doing? Did they make the ai unable to en pessant?

It’s slowing down response. So basically after you make your move, the computer already has it’s next move figured out in a few miliseonds, but if it actually moves instantly, the user unconsciously thinks it was too fast to be good. So the program delays it for a second, making it look like the computer has to think hard to beat you.

Same principle applies to all kinds of ui design. If your credit card for example gets accepted in a blink you get suspicious even when it’s fine.

“Your flesh is a relic, a mere vessel” – the chess game

Chemistry vs Alchemy – Essential Difference

Yet it was taking place alongside the altogether more ancient practice of alchemy, the quest to find a way to turn base metals into gold and to produce an elixir of eternal life. These goals are, as far as we know, as near to impossible as makes no difference* – but if alchemy had been conducted using scientific methods, one might still have expected all the alchemical research to produce a rich seam of informative failures, and a gradual evolution into modern chemistry.

That’s not what happened. Alchemy did not evolve into chemistry. It stagnated, and in due course science elbowed it to one side. For a while the two disciplines existed in parallel. So what distinguished them?

Of course, modern science uses the experimental method, so clearly demonstrated by Pascal’s hardworking brother-in-law, by Torricelli, Boyle, and others. But so did alchemy. The alchemists were unrelenting experimenters. It’s just that their experiments yielded no information that advanced the field as a whole. The use of experiments does not explain why chemistry flourished and alchemy died.

Perhaps, then, it was down to the characters involved? Perhaps the great early scientists such as Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton were sharper, wiser, more creative men than the alchemists they replaced? This is a spectacularly unpersuasive explanation. Two of the leading alchemists of the 1600s were Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton. They were energetic, even fervent, practitioners of alchemy, which thankfully did not prevent their enormous contributions to modern science.

No, the alchemists were often the very same people using the same experimental methods to try to understand the world around them. What accounts for the difference, says David Wootton, a historian of science, is that alchemy was pursued in secret, while science depended on open debate. In the late 1640s, a small network of experimenters across France, including Pascal, worked simultaneously on vacuum experiments. At least a hundred people are known to have performed these experiments between Torricelli’s in 1643 and the formulation of Boyle’s Law in 1662. “These hundred people are the first dispersed community of experimental scientists,” says Wootton.

The Data Detective
Tim Harford

“The thoughts of pure mathematics are true, not approximate or doubtful; they may not be the most interesting or important of God’s thoughts, but they are the only ones that we know exactly.” – Hilda Hudson

Her 1925 essay, “Mathematics and Eternity,” is a remarkable document of an intellectual world in which faith and science each felt some need to justify themselves to the other. “We can practice the presence of God in an algebra class,” she writes, “better than in Brother Lawrence’s Kitchen; and in the utter loneliness of an unfashionable corner of research work, better than on a mountain top.” Every mathematician, religious or not, will understand what she means in this should-be-famous epigram:

[T]he thoughts of pure mathematics are true, not approximate or doubtful; they may not be the most interesting or important of God’s thoughts, but they are the only ones that we know exactly.

Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else
Jordan Ellberg

Portable Record Players and Rock and Roll

Individual portable record players soon followed. Up until then, the record player was in the living room, in the same piece of furniture that held the TV and radio. If it wasn’t for that portable machine, Rock and Roll might never have happened. A record player in the living room meant kids needed their parents’ permission, or at least tolerance, to listen to what they wanted. Without the portable player, the first generation of Rock kids would have never gotten Little Richard, Bo Diddley, and Jerry Lee Lewis past their parents.

The older generation viewed those 1950s pioneers as an odd combination of novelty and threat. Humorous because of their onstage antics, flamboyant looks, and complete lack of talent (as parents defined it), but scary because there was an uncomfortable element of black culture connecting it all. What effect would that have on kids who already had too much time on their hands for their own good?

Unrequited Infatuations: A Memoir
Stevie Van Zandt

Spinal fluid washing over the brain during sleep to remove waste

See also:
Scientists Now Know How Sleep Cleans Toxins From the Brain
The synchronized brain waves of non-REM sleep may play a key role in preventing toxins from accumulating in a person’s brain.

One big contribution of the paper is it helps show that the systems Nedergaard has been studying in mice are present and hugely important for humans too. “It’s telling you sleep is not just to relax,” says Nedergaard. “Sleep is actually a very distinct function.” Neurons don’t all turn off at the same time when we’re awake. So brain blood levels don’t drop enough to allow substantial waves of cerebrospinal fluid to circulate around the brain and clear out all the metabolic byproducts that accumulate, like beta amyloid.

Sara Harrison