About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Julia's Picks

* This brilliant clip has been making the rounds for a while, but I only discovered it recently: Animator vs. Animation. A fourth-wall-smashing classic with a poignant resolution.

* If a building could dream, this is exactly what it would look like.

* This physicist's underappreciated webcomic, Abstruse Goose, is like XKCD's kid brother. It's clever, absurdist, and frequently educational.

* Online personals websites are one of the best sources of hard data on what guides people's dating choices, and OKCupid -- founded by a couple of math geeks from Harvard -- makes excellent use of that data. Last week they published an analysis of what makes a good profile picture. Also, check out their earlier analyses about people's racial preferences, and about which words are strong predictors of whether someone will respond to your message.

* Wired has an interesting article about a researcher who studies research: how it works, why it fails.

* Two of my best friends recently launched a blog called Ask a Mathematician, Ask a Physicist which I highly recommend. They're very clever guys who'll tackle any question from "What happens if you fall into a black hole?" to "Would it be possible to kill all of Earth's life with nuclear bombs?" to "What is the meaning of life?"

1 comment:

  1. The meaning of life

    "I would like to address this question by looking at one of the books in the Old Testament,
    the book of Ecclesiastes.

    Ravi Zacharias was once speaking to a large crowd of college students and one student
    interrupted his presentation, stood up and yelled out, “Everything is meaningless!”
    The speaker responded very quickly, “You don’t believe that.”
    The student yelled, “Yes, I do!”
    The speaker said, “No, you don’t.”
    The student yelled, “I most certainly do. Who are you to tell me I don’t?”
    “Then repeat your statement for me,” the speaker requested.
    “Everything is meaningless!”
    Dr. Zacharias then said to him, “I assume that you assume that your statement is
    The student said, “Pardon?”
    The speaker said, “If your statement is meaningful, then everything is not meaningless.
    On the other hand, if everything is meaningless, then what you have just said is
    meaningless too. So, in effect, you have said nothing.

    The interesting thing is that this student’s statement is identical with the first verse of the
    book of Ecclesiastes.
    “The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:
    ‘Meaningless, meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is
    meaningless.’” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2)
    That’s a real “pick me up” verse, isn’t it?
    At times, this book sounds incredibly pessimistic and depressing. However, if you read
    this book carefully you will see that the author has the answer to the question, “What is
    the meaning of life?” He has the answer, but first he will discuss all the things that we
    think will bring meaning and joy to our lives." cont.



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