Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website], the long-delayed "sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of
Atheist bashing or tough love? A thought-provoking review by Michael Robbins of Nick Spencer's new book on the history of atheism in Slate magazine. It reads like an autopsy of the recently murdered religious/atheist dialogue, with the "intellectually lazy" new atheism atop the list of suspects. [more inside]
Ron Garret, formerly of JPL and Google and "the most referenced computer science researcher in all of NASA", has an interesting take on quantum mechanics he dubs "zero-worlds", which he presents in an hour-long Google Tech Talk (meat starts around 42 minutes) as well as slightly older paper. He also got into a bit of further debate here. [more inside]
With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else. December 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Invisible Cities -- the sublime metaphysical travelogue by author-journalist Italo Calvino. In a series of pensive dialogues with jaded emperor Kublai Khan, the explorer Marco Polo describes a meandering litany of visionary and impossible places, dozens of surreal, fantastical cities, each poetically reifying ideas vital to language, philosophy, and the human spirit. This gracefully written love letter to urban life has inspired countless tributes, but it's just the most accessible of Calvino's fascinating literary catalogue. Look inside for a closer look at his most remarkable works, links to English translations of his magical prose, and collections of artistic interpretations from around the web -- including this treasure trove of essays, excerpts, articles, and recommended reading. [more inside]
The Mystery of the Millionaire Metaphysician "In June 2000, the philosopher Dean Zimmerman moved from the University of Notre Dame to Syracuse University with his wife and three kids, only to see their new house catch fire the day they moved in." Months later, he received the second hopeful fortune cookie since the fire, which told him "A way out of a financial mess is discovered as if by magic!"; the next day, magic arrived in a letter offering Zimmerman a generous sum of money, which he later learned was $12,000, to review a sixty-page work of metaphysics titled "Coming to Understanding." [more inside]
In February, Supernatural supporting actor Misha Collins promised his 200,000+ Twitter followers pieces of a live rhino if they got the stars of Supernatural on the cover of TV Guide. They succeeded, and followers who sent in an SASE received a piece of a rhino jigsaw puzzle. Holders of the puzzle pieces were entered into a most unusual scavenger hunt. (Full story via Fandom Wank.)
"Ontologiam seu scientiam de Aliquo et Nihilo, Ente et Non ente, Re et modo rei, Substantia et Accidente." - Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). [more inside]
Is Your Soul Weighing You Down? Store It! Or, if you're tired of your own soul, try a new one on for size! Er... uh oh. [more inside]
On Truth and Reality. Despite several thousand years of failure to correctly understand physical reality (hence the current postmodern view that this is impossible) it is actually very simple to work out how matter exists and moves about in Space. The rules of Science (Occam's Razor / Simplicity) and Metaphysics (Dynamic Unity of Reality) require that reality be described from only one single source existing, as Leibniz wrote: "because of the interconnection of all things with one another." [more inside]
This is a 36 page website of metaphysical concepts & visionary art presented in a profound sequence.
“In the condition I was in, it assumed at the time the quality of a beacon, a light on the far shores of the murk; what's more, it was proof that there was something left to express artistically besides nihilism and destruction.” Lester Bangs on the topic of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks which began recording exactly 40 years ago today in Century Sound Studios NYC. [more inside]
Neurolaw - The Brain on the Stand
Is there any real possibility of an after-life? Some argue that belief in the after-life is an inherently unfalsifiable proposition. Others argue that science has already ruled out the possibility. Buddhism takes a radically different view, embracing a conception of the after-life far different from any found in the Judeo-Christian faiths. What about the possibility of Eternal Recurrence, as proposed by Nietzsche? Just what do we mean when we speak of the "after-life" anyway?
Did the discovery of evolution lead to Darwin's agnosticism, as claimed? Carl Zimmer wonders. More importantly, can evolution be reconciled with Christianity?
Smolin vs. Susskind on the anthropic principle. For those keeping score: Stephen Hawking is for it. Brian Greene is not.
What am I? Clearly the most pressing question facing the human race today. Every individual human brain contains around 10^12 (1 trillion) neurons and 10^15 (1 quadrillion) synapses, capable of changing in milliseconds, and there are 6x10^9 (6 billion) people on this planet, all potentially capable of interacting and influencing one another. Last year alone 1.6x10^11 (160 billion) minutes of international telephone calls were made between people talking at a rate of 120 to 150 words per minute. A collection of articles at newscientist.com.
Into the Garden of Good and Evil - Muhammad Iqbal's "THE DEVELOPMENT OF METAPHYSICS IN PERSIA" (first published in 1908 and free online courtesy the Bahai's): "The most remarkable feature of the character of the Persian people is their love of Metaphysical speculation." Strong, bipolar Good vs. Evil distinctions, and the notion of a cosmic struggle between the two, seem to have originated in ancient Persia as Persian Dualism. See Manicheanism here, here (warning-spurious windows), and here. Special bonus - Freepers fulminate over a German theologian's exegesis of Manichean american political rhetoric!