Went to see The Avengers this afternoon.
For real :)
Q: If a baseball and bat cost $110, and the bat costs $100 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?
If you answered $10 then you are a religious person. If you answer $5, then you probably are an agnostic, or an atheist.
That is, according to a new research published in tomorrow's edition of Science, which seeks to prove that religious persons are usually more intuitive --hence, they would have rushed to answer $10-- whereas people who are more analytical in their thinking --and would have answered $5-- tend to steer away from religion.
The problem with this argument, aside from being heavily biased, is that it's ultimately stupid. Just look at all the comments posted on Boing Boing, a very popular website among the geek blogosphere, who usually are pretty critical --even aversive-- to any concept pertaining to religion or speculation regarding fringe subjects outside the predominant materialistic paradigm. Many of the comments from people who claim to be anti-religious admit they didn't get the correct answer, whereas some religious folks did get it right.
The bat would cost $105, BTW.
Back in High School I used to be very good at Math. I mean exceedingly good, to the point that many of my friends would always want to sit next to me during tests, not because they wanted me to give them the answers --ours was the kind of teacher that cared more about HOW you solved the problem, and cheaters were easy to spot-- but because we used to corraborate our answers with each other.
I still remember fondly how my best friend Pepe was having trouble with one of the problems, so he raised his hand and asked "Professor, can I go to your desk? I have a doubt regarding one of the questions."
—"Mister Pérez, you know very weel that I don't clarify things during tests."
—"Ok so, can I ask Miguel then?"
(Don't worry, the teacher was more amused than angry; he knew we were both good students.)
But the point is that I've always had what some would call a religious mindset —for lack of a better term— when dealing with the 'bigger questions'; at the same time, I've considered myself to be a right-brained kind of individual, and I'm aware that my intuition is a great tool when it comes to face many problems in my life and professional career.
...But not ALL of them! Just the same as trying to apply an analytical methodology would probably get you nowhere during some critical situations, specially if you don't have enough data --that's where intuition excels: to fill in the gaps and leap from A to D while skipping C & D entirely.
So, if you got the answer to the baseball bat wrong, don't sweat about it: you don't have to go burn your copy of The God Delusion and join a convent. It just means that, like many religious or non-religious folks at there, despite your über-skeptic nature and rationality you're still a fallible human being —and you suck at Math ;)
Move over, Chapo! Starting this week, yours truly is going to distribute a regular dosis of red pills at Mysterious Universe, one of the greatest podcasts on the web, and host to many talented writers like Nick Redfern, Micah Hanks, Rob Murphy & Jason Offutt --and then there's me.
The Radiolab podcast brought to light a very interesting story, which at first glance seemed like a weird but trivial legal dispute between a multinational company & the US government, yet looking deeper it actually tackled the issue of what it means to be human:
Reporter Ike Sriskandarajah tells Jad and Robert a story about two international trade lawyers, Sherry Singer and Indie Singh, who noticed something interesting while looking at a book of tariff classifications. "Dolls," which represent human beings, are taxed at almost twice the rate of "toys," which represent something not human - such as robots, monsters, or demons. As soon as they read that, Sherry and Indie saw dollar signs. it just so happened that one of their clients, Marvel Comics, was importing its action figures as dolls. And one set of action figures really piqued Sherry and Indie's interest: The XMEN, normal humans who, at around puberty, start to change in ways that give them strange powers.
So Sherry and Indie went down to the customs office with a bag of XMEN action figures to convince the US government that these mutants are NOT human. That argument eventually became a court case that went on for years. Joe Liebman, former international trade attorney for the US Department of Justice, helps us understand the government's side. And Ike, with help from director and producer Bryan Singer, reflects on the story of the XMEN, and tells us why this case is so poignant for anyone who’s fought to be different without being cast as an outsider.
Sure, we can all make fun of these tedious legal battles produced by ambiguous legislation over matters as inconsequential as toys. And you might also think that only a fanboy (or a lawyer) would find this particular story of any interest.
But I on the other hand, think that this case is a perfect allegory that exhibits the complete inadequacy of laws to define what being 'human' really means.
Legislation is only comfortable when trying to define things as immutable and static: Unmovable border lines, unbreakable contracts, unavoidable obligations. When a law is passed and integrated in a nation's Constitution, it is expected to be regarded and upheld the same way we're forced to obey the other which govern our world --such as gravity, for instance.
And yet this is a rather deficient way to understand the world. Everything is in a permanent state of flux, and the same goes for humans —'interacting processes' as Robert Anton Wilson liked to say.
A human never IS; we are in a permanent state of BECOMING.
Our laws are meant to assess events as single snapshots, which is as efficient as trying to evaluate the quality of a motion picture by just one single frame. And yet that's what lawyers and judges are paid to do all the time: put a man or a woman's entire life on a scale on account of one particular snapshot.
Which is why lawyers and politicians are always hitting a brick-wall when it comes to tackling terms which are the provenance of Science. When they discuss the theory of evolution for example, they want to be shown a picture of the 'missing link', when a scientist very well knows that there is no such a thing, just as there can't be pinpointed the exact moment when you stopped being a child and became an adolescent, or an adult.
The X-Men saga is an excellent mental experiment that allows us to explore the problems faced by people who, for one reason or another, are considered undesirable or dangerous for causes escaping their control. Mutants are not mutant by choice.
Imagine for a moment that in the years to come it is discovered that some members of the human population have a genetic ascendancy of non-terrestrial origin. In other words, suppose we learn there are human-alien hybrids living among us. What then?
Or maybe a growing number of the population will start showing abilities outside the norm —no pun intended— like clairvoyance, psychokinesis, or even telepathy. Would they be forced to be registered, like the mutants in the Marvel universe?
And suppose mutation does become a matter of choice. What will happen when technologies that are being developed today will allow our children or grandchildren to transcend the physical and mental limitations that are common to us?
I have the suspicion that the quandaries we face today in issues like gay marriage or abortion will be regarded as childish by the legislators of the coming centuries.
In which case I hope they get to include a course in "X-Men 101" in future law curricula.
[H/T Boing Boing]
Writer Alain de Botton has announced plans to build a series of temples for atheists in the UK. The first will be a 46 metre-tall black tower designed by Tom Greenall Architects and constructed in London to represent the idea of perspective:
‘Why should religious people have the most beautiful buildings in the land?’ he asks. ‘It’s time atheists had their own versions of the great churches and cathedrals’.
Alain de Botton has laid out his plans in a new book, Religion for Atheists, which argues that atheists should copy the major religions and put up a network of new architectural masterpieces in the form of temples.
‘As religions have always known, a beautiful building is an indispensable part of getting your message across. Books alone won’t do it.’
De Botton argues that you definitely don’t need a god or gods to justify a temple. ‘You can build a temple to anything that’s positive and good. That could mean: a temple to love, friendship, calm or perspective.’
De Botton has begun working on the first Temple for Atheists. Designed by Tom Greenall Architects, this will be a huge black tower nestled among the office buildings in the City of London. Measuring 46 meters in all, the tower represents the age of the earth, with each centimetre equating to 1 million years and with, at the tower’s base, a tiny band of gold a mere millimetre thick standing for mankind’s time on earth. The Temple is dedicated to the idea of perspective, which is something we’re prone to lose in the midst of our busy modern lives.
De Botton suggests that atheists like Richard Dawkins won’t ever convince people that atheism is an attractive way of looking at life until they provide them with the sort of rituals, buildings, communities and works of art and architecture that religions have always used.
‘Even the most convinced atheists tend to speak nicely about religious buildings. They may even feel sad that nothing like them gets built nowadays. But there’s no need to feel nostalgic. Why not just learn from religions and build similarly beautiful and interesting things right now?’
A black tower, eh? Now what does that remind me of...
Well, I'm sure Dawkins would look stunning in white robes ;)
UPDATE: Tom Greenall, one of the architects who designed the temple(?) explains the project:
Temple to Perspective
Standing 46-metres tall and in the heart of the City of London, the temple represents the entire history of life on earth: each centimetre of its height equates to one million years of life. One metre from the ground, a single line of gold – no more than a millimetre thick – represents the entire existence of humankind. A visit to the temple is intended to leave one with a renewed sense of perspective.
OK, so it would seem the obelisk is one big middle finger raised against Creationism, huh? Funny, since I thought that quarrel was mostly contested on the other side of the Atlantic.
As a designer, I feel it kind of odd to put the golden band that represents mankind at the bottom, although obviously by placing it at the top would make it impossible to see. So how about a thin glowing strip illuminated by LEDs at the top?
Frankly it would have been better if they had designed a wall that mimicked Sagan's Cosmic Calendar, but I guess there were space limitations in the project.
Who is the Master that makes the grass green?
~ Zen koan
If you're interested into the (so-called) alien abduction phenomenon, then I *guarantee* you know who Whitley Strieber is. Although there had been previous books that started to publicize claims of other-worldly encounters that surpassed Hynek's original classification, it was Strieber's Communion the one that broke through and brought the subject to the mainstream —alas, unwittingly spurring a deluge of 'anal probe' jokes.
I remember when I finally had the chance to buy a Mexican edition of Communion. I had to sleep with my table lamp on for 6. Whole. Months! I also used to bury it under a pile of magazines, because I could not endure the sight of those hypnotic black eyes while trying to sleep, much to the hilarity of my 2 big sisters. No, I seriously doubt I've been the recipient of the splindy interlopers' visits, but my imagination has always run on overdrive during the wee hours of the night.
My friend Mike Clelland recently had the chance to have a little chat with Whitley, and they discussed his latest book Solving the Communion Enigma. What Strieber seems to suggest is that we stop looking for an easy answer for UFO enigma, which inevitably collapse to a rigid belief system (BS, as Roger Anton Wilson used to call them) and that we dare ourselves to live with the question open.
Not an easy feat, obviously. We humans are often uncomfortable with ambiguity, and demand quick and simple answers to our problems —did I get the job? is he lying to me? does she love me? am I going to die?
But ambiguity does have its benefits sometimes, if we are smart enough to use it. Throughout history many mystic traditions have resorted to several different methods that seek to 'shut down' the analytical part of the human mind in order to expand or shift the normal cognitive perceptions. Practices like meditation have been shown to produce actual physical changes in the brain, and even short exercises in which test subjects are exposed to short novels by Kafka seem to conduce to an improvement in cognitive mechanisms.
So in the end, it might just be that the UFO phenomenon is nothing but an enormous, incredibly complex multi-generational Zen koan, and that It —whatever *It* is— wants us to stop being passive observers and turn instead into active participants of this uncanny contact. Then, and only then, will it become a true Communion.
Click here to find the audio conversation, and enjoy.
Contrary to what many people may think, Borges is not the most popular Argentinian author. That title belongs to Joaquín Salvador Lavado, a.k.a. Quino; a cartoonist whose work has been published in dozens of countries, and translated to many languages —including Esperanto.
Quino's most famous character is Mafalda, a little girl whose nagging questions about everything from philosophy, the Moon race, Fidel Castro, to the war in Vietnam, became the first instruction into politics for many of us in Latin America. No wonder Umberto Eco named her "Mafalda the contestational."
During the years when he published the strip, Quino portrayed the many quirks and traits that added depth to his character, some of which were understandably shared by the author himself. Like Quino for example, Mafalda loved the Beatles, and this was exploited by Quino to reflect the never-ending generational struggle between parents and their children. However unlike Quino, Mafalda abhorred soup —'SOPA' in Spanish.
Her reactions when she was presented with the nefarious bowl at the kitchen table were arguably the funniest gags of them all.
Soup is to Childhood as Communism is to Democracy.
The soup in Mafalda's world is a metaphor. A revolt against everything that is imposed without one's consent, whether that is something as trivial as a chicken broth, or as serious as a military junta —or an antipiracy law...
30 years later, and only now do I realize that Mafalda was not only opinionated, but also prophetic.
The price of Apathy is to be ruled by evil men.
Back in early December, we informed you about Richard Dolan & Bryce Zabel's We the People petition intended to segue on the previous attempt to demand a disclosure on what the US government may or may not know about the UFO phenomenon.
As you might remember, the first petition obtained a rather tepid & disappointing response by a low staffer from the White House, and some people attributed its failure to a poor choice of wording in its structure; hence, Dolan & Zabel intended to overcome this by using less concrete words like UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) instead of the usual —and more heavily charged— term "extraterrestrial presence".
For six decades worldwide, credible witnesses (including Presidents Carter and Reagan) have consistently described objects with flight capabilities beyond our technology. UAP are often verified by radar and even seen at nuclear sites by military officers.
25,000 signatures were needed by the end of December in order to prompt an official response —this given that since the first petition, the number of signatures required at the We the People page was increased 5-fold.
At the After Disclosure website, I found the following update by Dolan & Zabel:
The Need-to-Know Petition has been closed and will not receive an official response from the White House because it did not receive the required 25,000 signatures in 30 days.
1,911 signatures were all that were gathered.
The White House "We the People" site was plagued with technical problems and issues from the very first day. They were never resolved. It clearly affected many, many thousands of potential signers.
To those who still managed to sign in, despite this West Wing technocalypse, we salute your skill and tenacity and thank you for your support.
1,911 out of 25,000?? when the first petition gathered some 11,000 signatures?
Richard & Bryce seem to attribute the poor response in part to a technical glitch within the page itself. One might like to assume that perhaps there was also a problem with the timing; after all, by the end of the year most folks are more worried with their holiday travel arrangements or last-minute Xmas shopping than flying saucers or little gray aliens with a penchant for pro-bono proctology.
But I, who went on and signed all the petitions —including the second one launched by Michael Salla— interpret the failure rather as a telling feature of the UFOlogy community: that there is no UFOlogy 'community' to speak of. What there is instead is a very disorganized & heterogeneous band of iconoclasts, loosely united (barely) by an interest of varying degrees in UFOs.
Some of us read the books. Some attend the conferences. Most of us would choose Close Encounters over American Idol if we stumble upon it while channel-surfing. But devoting more than your spare time into trying to change the atmosphere of cynical ridicule that has predominated over Western society when it comes to arguably the most important subject in the history of Mankind is not in most people's new year resolutions —not even among the ones who might actually believe there's more to UFOs than swamp gas and misidentifications of the planet Venus.
I can even say that I sympathize with the apathy. When I was in grade-school I tried to talk with my fellow students about flying saucers, and as you all probably know from personal experience, talking ET does *not* get you entrance into the 'popular' club. Even among members of your own family, bringing the subject up over the dinner table would almost always result in giggles and rolling eyes.
It's probably no coincidence that UFOs & porn are one of the 2 highest ranking search subjects in the web —after all, both are topics that demand a certain... privacy.