Archive for January, 2011

Should I read ‘The Moral Landscape’?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

The subtitle of Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values can be read in two ways. One would point to a book I might be interested in reading, the other to one I could dismiss in advance as nonsense. My problem is that the review by Russell Blackford  recommends the book in spite of criticizing it on the grounds that it fits the second interpretation, and Blackford’s criticism is so cogent that his recommendation despite that problem might convince me to be less dismissive. On the other hand Harris’ responses to the review and to others who have expressed the same concern have been so facile as to reinforce my doubt that he has anything useful to tell me.

More MOOCs

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Massively Open On-Line Courses allow large numbers of people to participate at varying levels of commitment in a process of shared learning. Part of the openness aspect is that there are many avenues of participation and rather than relying on a centralized Course Management System people are encouraged to control their own involvement by contributing comments etc through their own social media and blogs. But rather than let contributions to these courses dominate the flow of my personal thoughts here, I will set up separate blogs for each such course that I join.

Rodney Dangerfield Award

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

The Rodney Dangerfield ‘No Respect’ award for 2010-11 has to go to John S Wilkins for two of his recent posts.

First he complains on behalf of his discipline that it gets no respect from the scientists whose work it purports to analyze, and then Posted in uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Stop The Meter?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

I’d like to hear more of what someone like Stephen Downes or Michael Geist thinks about this. (Both have reported the campaign but not really made a clear statement of their own reasons for doing so favourably.)

To me, the logic of true usage-based billing seems very reasonable, and it’s only the implementation that is problematic. (more…)

Muslim Reactions to Violence

Monday, January 10th, 2011

What a contrast between this and this!

Sunrise and Sunset at Solstices

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

It is curious that the days of shortest and longest periods of sunlight (which just about everyone knows are due to the tilt of the earth’s spin axis relative to the plane of its orbit)  are not everywhere the same as those of latest and earliest sunrise. This is because the length of the full solar day is not actually constant and so the time of solar noon oscillates around the time that would correspond to noon on a steadily progressing clock.

This is often attributed to the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit, and that does play a minor role. But actually, the effect is mainly due to another effect of the earth’s tilt – a secondary effect on the difference between the length of a full solar day (taken by an apparent revolution of the sun from noon to noon) and a constant sidereal day (taken for a full revolution relative to the distant stars).

Denis Dutton

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

For several years now, Arts&Letters Daily has been my favourite source of on-line stimulation. Sadly, its founding editor, Denis Dutton, died on December 28.