We all laughed when the physicist Alan Sokal wrote a deliberately silly paper entitled Transgressing the boundaries: towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity, and managed to get it accepted by a journal of social and cultural studies, Social Text.
But in 2002, on the 22nd of October many of us began hearing rumors that two brothers managed to publish at least five meaningless papers in physics journals as a hoax - and even got Ph.D. degrees in physics from Bourgogne University on the basis of this work!
The rumor appears to have begun with an email from the physicist Max Niedermaier to the physicist Ted Newman, and it spread like wildfire. I received copies from many people, and soon there was a heated discussion of what this meant for the state of theoretical physics. Had the subject become so divorced from reality that not even the experts could recognize the difference between real work and a hoax?
Determinables and determinates are in the first instance type-level properties that stand in a distinctive specification relation: the ‘determinable-determinate’ relation (for short, ‘determination’). For example, color is a determinable having red, blue, and other specific shades of color as determinates; shape is a determinable having rectangular, oval, and other specific (including many irregular) shapes as determinates; mass is a determinable having specific mass values as determinates. Reflecting that determinables admit of different degrees or levels of specification, characterization of a property as determinable or determinate is typically relative; for example, red is a determinate of color and a determinable of scarlet.
The determination relation appears to differ from other specification relations. In contrast with the genus-species and conjunct-conjunction relations, where the more specific property can be understood as a conjunction of the less specific property and some independent property or properties, a determinate is not naturally treated in conjunctive terms (red is not a conjunctive property having color and some other property or properties as conjuncts); and in contrast with the disjunction-disjunct relation, where disjuncts may be dissimilar and compatible (as with red or round), determinates of a determinable (at a given level of specificity) are both similar and incompatible (red and blue are similar in both being colors; nothing can be simultaneously and uniformly both red and blue). Supporting this latter contrast is that our thoughts about determinables do not appear to be about (potentially infinite) disjunctions of determinates, and our perceptions of properties such as color and shape do not appear to be of maximal determinates, as would be the case if determinables were disjunctions of determinates (since every instance of a disjunction is an instance of a disjunct).
The developers of Holodexxx are at a loss. After spending months attempting to get their VR sex game onto Steam, they’ve hit a wall that no amount of self-censorship or mechanical refinement has been able to drill through: Valve’s nebulous definition of “pornography.”
Holodexxx is a game in which simulated versions of real adult performers interact with the player in virtual reality, with AI guiding elements of the performance. Its creators bill it as an ethical, sex-positive game being made in conjunction with and featuring real sex workers. Steam, at this point, carries a plethora of games that include adult content—some of which venture into much dicier thematic territory than Holodexxx. But that didn’t stop Valve from chasing Holodexxx off its holodeck.
In a recent lengthy blog, the game’s developers outlined everything they’ve tried over the course of multiple months. To begin, they submitted a “PG-13 experience” to Steam starring a clothed version of adult film actress Riley Reid, along with a censored video of live adult stars. Valve, say Holodexxx’s developers, blocked the submission “with a boiler-plate explanation that video pornography was not allowed on Steam.” So then the developers spent additional time creating a new demo without video of adult stars, in which the player could instead look at a model of adult film actress Marley Brinx in a virtual environment. Again, Valve blocked it on the basis that it was “pornography.”
In an online session of the Russian Geographical Society last month, Shoigu, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggested using the DNA of 3,000-year-old Scythian warriors to potentially bring them back to life. Yes, really.
First, some background: The Scythian people, who originally came from modern-day Iran, were nomads who traveled around Eurasia between the 9th and 2nd centuries B.C., building a powerful empire that endured for several centuries before finally being phased out by competitors. Two decades ago, archaeologists uncovered the well-preserved remains of the soldiers in a kurgan, or burial mound, in the Tuva region of Siberia.
Because of Tuva’s position in southern Siberia, much of it is permafrost, meaning a form of soil or turf that always remains frozen. It’s here where the Scythian warrior saga grows complex, because the frozen soil preserves biological matter better than other kinds of ground. Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu knows this better than anyone, because he’s from Tuva.
For the first time ever, neuroscientists have translated the cognitive signals associated with handwriting into text, and in real time. The new technique is more than twice as fast than the previous method, allowing a paralyzed man to text at a rate of 90 characters per minute.
Researchers with the BrainGate collaboration have developed a system that could eventually “allow people with severe speech and motor impairments to communicate by text, email, or other forms of writing,” according to Jaimie Henderson, co-director of the Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory at Stanford University and a co-author of the new Nature study.
“Following the science” to minimise certain risks while ignoring others absolves us of exercising our own judgment, anchored in some sense of what makes life worthwhile. It also relieves us of the existential challenge of throwing ourselves into an uncertain world with hope and confidence. A society incapable of affirming life and accepting death will be populated by the walking dead, adherents of a cult of the demi-life who clamour for ever more guidance from experts.
It has been said, a people gets the government it deserves.
For Subaru diehards holding out for an electric vehicle, the wait is almost over. The Japanese automaker just announced new details about its first-ever EV, which is set to hit the streets in 2022.
Subaru will call its first EV the Solterra, a fitting name for a brand synonymous with outdoor adventures and you know, the sun and the Earth. Also fittingly, Subaru’s first full-fledged EV will be an SUV that ships with the manufacturer’s well-regarded all-wheel-drive capabilities.
The Solterra is built on a new platform the company is developing in partnership with Toyota, which the latter company will use for its impossibly named bZ4X crossover (bZ stands for “beyond zero,” apparently).
Most research nerds either start writing Unix hagiographies or start stapling a 99-point thesis at the doors of Murray Hill. This is the latter kind of post; I’ll try to cover ideas for systems that could be meaningfully different from current systems. I’ve done a lot of research on existing concepts and existing systems, particularly those that could have been the future. Existing systems can be extrapolated into something new.
A lot of the ideas have been percolating in my head for a while now and are rough ideas for what could be. Perhaps I’ll iterate on them further, or realize there’s a reason no one was doing these before. The main idea is a place to start off, and it iterates from there. Treat it like a buffet of ideas; caveat emptor for people who don’t like musing.
The disgust that we feel at the sight of blood or the taste of spoiled milk is familiar. And while this disgust is unpleasant to experience, it’s generally thought to be beneficial—an emotional response that helps protect us against the pathogens that may lurk in what we’re repulsed by.
But assessing the value of the disgust that we feel about moral matters is a more complicated affair. While disgust of this sort seems valuable when we feel it toward things like racism or those who take advantage of the elderly, it’s problematic when experienced toward minorities or the MAGA crowd. So, what are we to make of this?
On this question, philosophers and public intellectuals are divided: some heap praise, others scorn, on the idea that disgust is morally valuable. For the advocates, disgust is a powerful and malleable emotion, one that we can shape in order to guard ourselves against morally polluting behavior: hypocrisy, betrayal, cruelty and the like. Skeptics, by contrast, maintain that disgust is a misleading and troublingly rigid response. As they see it, we’re too easily disgusted by the morally innocuous and too powerless to keep ourselves from demonizing those we’re disgusted by.
A Malian woman has given birth to nine babies in what could become a world record. Halima Cissé had been expecting to have seven newborns: Ultrasound sessions had failed to spot two of her babies.
“The newborns (five girls and four boys) and the mother are all doing well,” Mali’s health minister, Dr. Fanta Siby, said in an announcement about the births.
The babies were born in Morocco, where Cissé was taken for specialist care in late March. Her multiple-fetal pregnancy has been closely watched in Mali, where the government helped pay for her medical evacuation to Morocco. Camera crews recorded her arrival.
Cissé, 25, gave birth by cesarean section – and doctors were surprised to find two more babies than expected, the health ministry said. The agency’s announcement of the successful births was welcomed on social media in Mali, but some also urged the government to improve the standard of medical care in the poor West African country, noting the expense of such evacuations.
Professor Youssef Alaoui, medical director of the private Ain Borja clinic in Casablanca, Morocco, where Cissé gave birth, said the babies were born at 30 weeks. The newborns weighed between 500 grams and 1 kilogram (about 1.1 to 2.2 pounds), he told journalists in Morocco.
Cissé is in intensive care, but her condition is stable, Alaoui said, explaining that she suffered a severe hemorrhage related to the expansion of her uterus. During her stay at the clinic, doctors sought to delay the birth for weeks, to give the fetuses additional time to develop. The clinic has deployed a team of around 30 staff members to aid in the mother’s delivery and care for her nine children, Alaoui said.