Aristotle, Relativity, William Seabrook, Tears, Jimmy Breslin

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How Aristotle Created The Computer

Chris Dixon | Atlantic | 20th March 2017

If Western philosophy consists of footnotes to Plato, then computer science consists of footnotes to Aristotle, who delivered our system of logic “finished and complete” — the words are Kant’s — in the fourth century BCE. George Boole devised a precise algebraic notation for Aristotelian logic in 1854, thereby inventing mathematical logic. Claude Shannon showed that Boole’s system could be mapped directly on to electrical circuits in 1937, thereby conceiving the computer (4,070 words)

The Mind In The Whirlwind

Riccardo Manzotti & Tim Parks | New York Review Of Books | 16th March 2017

Conversation between writer and philosopher about consciousness and perception. “You can’t say, or at least not in scientific terms, that an object has this or that absolute speed; you need to say it has this speed relative to that object. So let me put it to you: What if all physical properties were like velocity? Not absolute, but relative to other objects. What I’m asking you to contemplate is the notion of relative existence. A key is a key only relative to its lock” (3,008 words)

The Abominable Mr. Seabrook

Jacob Brogan | Los Angeles Review Of Books | 19th March 2017

The journalist William Buehler Seabrook made his name a century ago by jumping from a hot air balloon without a parachute. He joined camel raids in Arabia, attended voodoo rites in Haiti, and supped with cannibal kings in Africa. Discovering that the cannibals had served him gorilla, he bribed a mortuary attendant to bring him human flesh. His friends included Aleister Crowley, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein. A sado-masochist and an alcoholic, he committed suicide in 1945 (1,560 words)


Kevin Simler | Melting Asphalt | 5th December 2014

Why we weep. “Tears are a piece of social technology, a device for coordinating the tradeoff between dominance and social support. And this invention turns out to be useful in a variety of scenarios. Whenever people are rewarded for humbling themselves and/or opening themselves up for connection, we shouldn’t be surprised to find tears. This is why we cry at reunions with long-lost loved ones. Our tears here are a gift. We’re unilaterally disarming and offering ourselves up for connection” (5,900 words)

A Death in Emergency Room One

Jimmy Breslin | Daily Beast | 22nd November 2013

Two classic columns on the death and burial of President John F. Kennedy. “A little bit after one o’clock Friday afternoon the phone rang in the Oneal Funeral Home. The voice on the other end spoke quickly: ‘This is the Secret Service calling from Parkland Hospital. Please select the best casket in your house and put it in a general coach and arrange for a police escort and bring it here to the hospital as quickly as you humanly can. It is for the president of the United States. Thank you’” (3,600 words)

Video of the day: Proof That Computers Cannot Do Everything

What to expect:

Informal presentation of Alan Turing’s Halting Theorem, which identifies a logical limit to the power of computing (7’51”)

Thought for the day

You discover your audience in the same way that you discover your subject, but it is an added blow
Flannery O'Connor

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