Virtual Reality, Big Numbers, Ukraine, Matt Taibbi, Francis Fukuyama, Lenin


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The Mind Bleeds Into the World

David Chalmers et al | Edge | 24th January 2017

Idea-packed conversation with “hard problem” philosopher David Chalmers about virtual reality. “You might think that a virtual reality would be too insubstantial to be a genuine reality. If we’re in a virtual reality, objects are not solid the way things seem to be. But we know from physics that objects are mostly empty space. What makes some of them count as solid is the way they interact with each other. And that pattern of interaction can be present in a virtual reality” (6,500 words)

Really Big Numbers

Roy Cook | OUP | 22nd January 2017

What happened when two philosophy professors, Adam Elga from Princeton and Agustin Rayo from MIT, staged a contest to express the largest possible number in the fewest words and symbols. “Elga began with 1, Rayo countered with a string of 1s, and they raced off into land of large whole numbers”. Rayo eventually won with this description: “The least number that cannot be uniquely described by an expression of first-order set theory that contains no more than a googol (10100) symbols” (880 words)

Bruno Schulz’s Suicide

Ziemowit Szczerek | Asymptote | 23rd January 2017

Gonzo travelogue. Adventures in western Ukraine. “The minibus driver looked like a maniac. I knew this was going to be intense. And it was, because the maniac sped down the middle of the highway, right where the center stripe should have been painted, and he had no fear of anything. The scene on the road was a fiesta of living corpses. Ladas at their last gasp, half-dead Zaporozhets only kept alive by some sort of magic, Volgas howling for a merciful death and an end to their suffering” (4,800 words)

Insane Clown President

Matt Taibbi | Penguin | 24th January 2017

Reflections on the 2016 presidential campaign, and on the media’s unhappy part in it. “Nothing about Trump’s initial success came as a surprise to me, because I saw he was giving people a means to express their disgust at a campaign process that had long ago stopped working for voters. Where I screwed up was in dismissing Trump’s chances in the general election. I thought Trump’s legacy would be the destruction of the Republican Party. I couldn’t have been more wrong” (6,400 words)

Is American Democracy Strong Enough for Trump?

Francis Fukuyama | Politico | 23rd January 2017

“Americans believe deeply in their constitutional system, in large measure because its checks and balances were designed to provide safeguards against tyranny and the excessive concentration of executive power. But that system in many ways has never been challenged by a leader who sets out to undermine its existing norms and rules. So we are embarked on a great natural experiment that will show whether the United States is a nation of laws or a nation of men” (1,800 words)

An Interview With Lenin

W.T. Goode | Guardian | 21st May 2011

From the Manchester Guardian of 21st October 1919. “He is a man of middle height, about fifty years old, active, and well proportioned. His features at first sight seem to have a slight Chinese cast. The head is well domed, and his brow broad and well raised. He has a pleasant expression in talking, and indeed his manner can be described as distinctly prepossessing. Here was a master of himself and of his subject, expressing himself with a lucidity that was as startling as it was refreshing” (1,600 words)

Video of the day: Anamorphic Illusions

What to expect:

Expect the unexpected. Your jaw will drop for the first time after exactly 33 seconds (1’53”)

Thought for the day

If you know what you are going to write, it’s going to be average
Derek Walcott

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