Simfish/InquilineKea's Thoughts

Favorite Quotes

“As a filmmaker, I’m not interested in 9/11 […] it’s too small, history overwhelms it. The history of the world is like: He kills me, I kill him, only with different cosmetics and different castings. So in 2001, some fanatics killed some Americans, and now some Americans are killing some Iraqis. And in my childhood, some Nazis killed Jews. And now, some Jewish people and some Palestinians are killing each other. Political questions, if you go back thousands of years, are ephemeral, not important. History is the same thing over and over again.”
Woody Allen

“I will leave his other actions alone, as they were all alike, and they all succeeded, for the shortness of his life did not let him experience the contrary; but if circumstances had arisen which required him to go cautiously, his ruin would have followed, because he would never have deviated from those ways to which nature inclined him.”

“Nihilism killed my superego”

“Similarly, no one has been able to confirm any certain limits to the speed with which man can learn. Schools and universities have usually been organized as if to suggest that all students learn at about the same rather plodding and regular speed. But, whenever the actual rates at which different people learn have been tested, nothing has been found to justify such an organization. Not only do individuals learn at vastly different speeds and in different ways, but man seems capable of astonishing feats of rapid learning when the attendant circumstances are favorable. It seems that, in customary educational settings, one habitually uses only a tiny fraction of one’s learning capacities.”
Encyclopedia Britannica, Philosophy of Education

“You can know the name of the bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. You’ll only know about humans in different places, and what they call the bird. So let’s look at the birds and see what it’s doing – that’s what counts!”

“Feeble minds think alike far more often than great minds. But when great minds think alike, the conclusions are more likely to have converged independently [Newton vs. Leibniz].”

“We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”
“”Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.”
Marie Curie

“No matter how unsuccessful you are in life, no matter how much you leech off society, no matter how little intelligence you have, you still are an object of sociological/psychological curiosity.”

“Animals are repetitious to the point of inanity” E.O Wilson

“Science is what we know; philosophy is what we don’t know.” Bertrand Russell

“Once set in motion, the process of questioning could come to but one end, the erosion of conviction and certitude and collapse into despair”

“Scholarly brinkmanship encourages the reader to draw the strongest conclusions, while allowing the authors to disavow this intention”

“How can we bridge the gap between being and becoming – two concepts in conflict, yet both necessary to reach a coherent description of this strange world in which we live?”

“To be humble is to take specific actions in anticipation of your own errors.”

“if i have seen further, it is because i have stood on the shoulders of giants”

“1) To give a precise, general mathematical definition of intelligence which is “objective” in that
it does not refer to any particular culture, species, etc.,
2) To outline a set of principles by which a machine (a quantum computer, not necessarily a
Turing machine) fulfilling this definition could be constructed, given appropriate technology,
3) To put forth the hypothesis that these same principles are a crucial part of the structure of any
intelligent system,
4) To elucidate the nature of and relationships between the concepts involved in these principles:
induction, deduction, analogy, memory, perception, motor control, optimization, consciousness,


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Simpler organisms can achieve higher energy efficiencies than more complex ones, but the complex organisms can occupy ecological niches that are not available to their simpler brethren.

Comment by inquilinekea

On a different note, executive function seems like something that is highly important to survival and success in life. My guess is that many people who are diagnosed as bipolar, ADHD, schizoaffective, and others have executive function problems. Unfortunately there is no psychiatric diagnosis for “poor executive function” per se. Many of the traits connected to executive function seem to be connected to “character” which is an essentially useless (or worse) term in chemistry, biology, psychology, and sociology. In fact one goal of the natural and social sciences should be to abolish the idea of character, replace it with science and ultimately, practical solutions. The homeless and mentally ill (for example) will ultimately benefit more from advancements in biotechnology than attacks on either their character or the character of “the rich,” “the overprivileged” etc.

Comment by inquilinekea

As knowledge and population grew, the apprentice model expanded into the university with an increasing number of students for each expert, in order to pass along information more efficiently. The lecture format predominant today began long ago, before the invention of the printing press, as an efficient way to pass along information and basic skills such as writing and arithmetic in the absence of written texts. The economies of scale led to this expanding to the current situation of a remote lecturer often addressing hundreds of largely passive students.

It’s unclear that this model was ever truly effective for science education and vast societal and technological changes over the past several decades make it clearly unsuitable for science education today. The most significant of these changes are discussed below:

Comment by inquilinekea

On a serious note, actually, indeed, a very bad opinion is generally much, much better than no opinion at all.

EDIT: In case someone hasn’t noticed, I’m a fully aware shithead from start, so talking about improving me is somewhat ridiculous. The only “improvement” I can imagine would be permament ban, which I’m smart enough to avoid unless I want it.

(I guess same goes for kasimoto)

Oh, and I’m not that bad really. You actually love me, even if you won’t admit it to yourself.

Comment by inquilinekea

quadrupole writes:

I dropped out of high school, and it was among the best decisions I ever made.

I dropped out because I was completely and utterly bored to tears, and it was consuming time I could have been putting to a productive use (please note, ‘a productive use’ not ‘a more productive use’, the useful product of high school was *zero*). So I dropped out, and spent the time more wisely. I home schooled myself, worked a bit, started a computer consulting firm, home schooled my younger brother, etc, etc, etc… lots of cool stuff, learned a *hell* of a lot (certainly more than I’d learned in the previous 4-5 years of compulsory incarceration^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H education).

Of course wandering off to college a year later (at 17) and getting degrees in mathematics and physics probably helped… 🙂
Posted August 19, 2008 10:19 PM

Comment by inquilinekea

Guide for the Amateur Physicist

Amateurs need to understand that all physicists amateur or professional, have ideas all the time. Ideas are excuses to make yourself learn the mathematics necessary to flesh them out. The math is the hard part, not the idea. In my case it was Clifford algebra.

Comment by inquilinekea

It could be argued that the two most widely used approaches to teaching mathe- matics, at school level and beyond, have themselves contributed to this level of mathematical illiteracy. The first approach was the ‘boot-camp’ method of drill and exercise that prepared students well for examinations but often did not enable themto develop a real understanding of mathematics. It mostly failed to encourage students to see the beauty and enjoyment to be gained from the subject. I remember this style well from my school years, where we used the successful and influential textbooks written by our own head of mathematics, Clement Durell. The second approach, very much in fashion when my own children were at school, was called ‘New Math’ and was a reaction to the dullness and shal- lowness of the old way of teaching. The New Math teaching was based on the idea that children should learn to understand modem mathematical concepts before they learned to solve practical problems, hence students would learn about sets and relations before they had mastered mUltiplication and division. Students learned the vocabulary ofmodem mathematics without understanding the substance. After a few years of New Math, mathematical literacy declined precipitously.

Comment by inquilinekea

What is rational at any given time depends on four things:
– the performance measure that defines the criterion of success
– the agent’s prior knowledge of the environment
– the actions that the agent can perform
– the agent’s percept sequence to date

pg. 63 in AI pdf

Comment by inquilinekea

Just as genetic diversity in a population decreases the chance of a single disease wiping out a population, the diversity of software systems on a network similarly limits the destructive potential of viruses.

Comment by keakea

An Internet based research revealed that there were cases when people willingly pressed a particular button to download a virus. A security firm F-Secure ran a half year advertising campaign on Google AdWords which said “Is your PC virus-free? Get it infected here!”. The result was 409 clicks.[8]

Comment by keakea

Scholarly research by Farrand, Hussain, and Hennessy (2002) found that the mind map technique had a limited but significant impact on memory recall in undergraduate students (a 10% increase over baseline for a 600-word text only) as compared to preferred study methods (a −6% increase over baseline). This improvement was only robust after a week for those in the mind map group, and there was a significant decrease in motivation compared to the subjects’ preferred methods of note taking. Farrand et al. suggested that learners preferred to use other methods because using a mind map was an unfamiliar technique, and its status as a “memory enhancing” technique engendered reluctance to apply it.[3] Pressley, VanEtten, Yokoi, Freebern, and VanMeter (1998) found that learners tended to learn far better by focusing on the content of learning material rather than worrying over any one particular form of note taking.[4]

Comment by keakea

Anarchism is defined by The American Heritage College Dictionary as “The theory or doctrine that all forms of government are unnecessary, oppressive, and undesirable and should be abolished.” Anarchism is a negative; it holds that one thing, namely government, is bad and should be abolished. Aside from this defining tenet, it would be difficult to list any belief that all anarchists hold. Just as atheists might support or oppose any viewpoint consistent with the non-existence of God, anarchists might and indeed do hold the entire range of viewpoints consistent with the non-existence of the state.

Comment by inquilinekea

Our textbook boils effective writing down to a series of steps. It devotes pages and pages to the composition of a compare-and-contrast essay, with lots of examples and tips and checklists. “Develop a plan of organization and stick to it,” the text chirrups not so helpfully. Of course any student who can, does, and does so automatically, without the textbook’s directive. For others, this seems an impossible task. Over the course of 15 weeks, some of my best writers improve a little. Sometimes my worst writers improve too, though they rarely, if ever, approach base-level competence.

Comment by inquilinekea

First, the accusations of being an “adaptationist.” This is Stephen Jay Gould’s name for a scientist who regards every feature of an organism as an adaptation, and spins a Just So story to account for it. This creature, fortunately, belongs more to cryptozoology than zoology, as no adaptationist in this sense has ever been seen in the wild or exhibited in captivity — not Richard Dawkins, not John Maynard Smith, not Bill Hamilton, not even E. O. Wilson himself. (Why someone as smart, learned and well-intentioned as Gould persists in his polemic against adaptationism, I am at a loss to understand.) Pinker certainly is not the Abominable Adaptationist, brought to ground at last in Building 20 at MIT.

– Cosma

Comment by keakea


“You literally eliminated any and all validity in your (actually pretty spot-on in some areas) points by this self-righteous, melodramatic last paragraph of yours.”

His character is self-righteous and melodramatic, Stormy, not his points. His points are still valid. “

Comment by inquilinekea

Issues of Trust

I really hate to admit this one, but… I have serious trust issues, when it comes to structure.

I don’t trust established organizational systems to allow for the odd combination of structure and flexibility my life demands, or for my quirky personal issues. I don’t trust other people to be consistent in their support for my attempts to establish structure; I don’t trust them to follow through and help out when their ideas turn out less-than-perfect for me, I don’t trust them to even follow their own structure and system, most of the time (meaning I can’t rely on them as dependable, either)

And I don’t trust my own self-discipline – I don’t trust myself to stick with the program when I get bored, frustrated, disoriented or hit difficulties. I don’t trust the systems themselves to carry me through those periods of poor self-discipline, confusion, and frustration, either.

My distrust is so deeply seated in experiences and failed experiments with family, school, partners in business, creative projects, and romantic relationships that I doubt it’s worth trying to correct. It’s better to work around it, to recognize that my distrust is part of the rubble I need to build a bridge across in order to get back to the systems that I know work for me.”

Comment by inquilinekea

“Perhaps in a perfect intellectual world, where students would have the time to devour everything of even the slightest cultural or historical relevance, it would be beneficial to study Freud and Marx. We do not live in that world. Professors of economics have a difficult enough job prodding their students to understand supply and demand. They shouldn’t have to waste their time lecturing about a mediocre theoretician whose only virtue was — and is — popularity.”

Comment by inquilinekea

“These explanations are ludicrously charitable, of course, but they’re possibilities.”

Comment by inquilinekea

“Western Sahara, of course, is an impoverished desert region with no clear government, currently split under a ceasefire between Morocco and a rebel group. It also has fewer than 500,000 residents, and it’s easy to see why Firefox 3 isn’t a pressing concern for most of them.”

Comment by inquilinekea

“”The reasonable assumption is that one can regard the normal population as being equivalent with respect to all these cognitive elements except for the one being measured. More precisely, the assumption is that the limit on performance can be attributed to the cognitive element being measured. The unreasonable assumption is that performance limitations in other populations (e..g autistics) can be attributed to the same congitive element””

Comment by keakea

In the Michigan State/MonsterTrak study, about two-thirds of the millennials said they would
likely “surf” from one job to the next. In addition, about 44% showed their lack of loyalty by
stating that they would renege on a job-acceptance commitment if a better offer came along.

These workplace nomads don’t see any stigma in listing three jobs in a single year on their
resumes. They are quite confident about landing yet another job, even if it will take longer in this
dismal economy. In the meantime, they needn’t worry about their next paycheck because they
have their parents to cushion them. They’re comfortable in the knowledge that they can move
back home while they seek another job. The weak job market may make millennials think twice
about moving on, but once jobs are more plentiful, they will likely resume their job-hopping

Clearly, companies that want to compete for top talent must bend a bit and adapt to the
millennial generation. Employers need to show new hires how their work makes a difference and
why it’s of value to the company. Smart managers will listen to their young employees’ opinions,
and give them some say in decisions. Employers also can detail the career opportunities
available to millennials if they’ll just stick around awhile. Indeed, it’s the wealth of opportunities
that will prove to be the most effective retention tool.

In the final analysis, the generational tension is a bit ironic. After all, the grumbling baby-boomer
managers are the same indulgent parents who produced the millennial generation. Ms. Barry of
Merrill Lynch sees the irony. She is teaching her teenage daughter to value her own opinions
and to challenge things. Now she sees many of those challenging millennials at her company
and wonders how she and other managers can expect the kids they raised to suddenly behave
differently at work. “It doesn’t mean we can be as indulgent as managers as we are as parents,”
she says. “But as parents of young people just like them, we can treat them with respect.”

For their part, millennials believe they can afford to be picky, with talent shortages looming as baby boomers retire. “They
are finding that they have to adjust work around our lives instead of us adjusting our lives around work,” a teenage blogger
named Olivia writes on the Web site “What other option do they have? We are hard working and utilize tools to
get the job done. But we don’t want to work more than 40 hours a week, and we want to wear clothes that are
comfortable. We want to be able to spice up the dull workday by listening to our iPods. If corporate America doesn’t like
that, too bad.”

Where do such feelings come from? Blame it on doting parents, teachers and coaches. Millennials are truly “trophy kids,”
the pride and joy of their parents. The millennials were lavishly praised and often received trophies when they excelled, and
sometimes when they didn’t, to avoid damaging their self-esteem. They and their parents have placed a high premium on
success, filling résumés with not only academic accolades but also sports and other extracurricular activities.

Now what happens when these trophy kids arrive in the workplace with greater expectations than any generation before
them? “Their attitude is always ‘What are you going to give me,’ ” says Natalie Griffith, manager of human-resource
programs at Eaton Corp. “It’s not necessarily arrogance; it’s simply their mindset.”

Comment by inquilinekea

“What made me who I am now is the sum of all the humiliations suffered during childhood.” – Nicolas Sarkozy

Comment by inquilinekea

“”The words “fair” and “fairness” are two of the most dangerous words in the English language, for the following reasons:

1. People using those words (e.g. “fair trade,” “fair wages”) almost always follow with some proposal for government intervention, government regulation, or government force of some kind to correct some perceived “unfairness” and impose their notion of “fairness.”

And to paraphrase Thomas Sowell:

2. In most cases, it is hopeless to try to have a rational discussion with those who use the words “fair” and “fairness.”

3. “Fair” and “fairness” are two words that can mean virtually anything to anybody.

4. “Fair” and “fairness” are two of the most emotionally powerful words, but at the same time are words that are undefined (see #3). “”

Comment by inquilinekea

Students for whom performance is paramount want to look smart even if it means not learning a thing in the process.

Comment by k

“But aren’t there plenty of people who believe in innate ability and in the notion that nothing comes without effort? Logically, the two ideas are compatible. But psychologically, explains Dweck, many people who believe in fixed intelligence also think you shouldn’t need hard work to do well. This belief isn’t entirely irrational, she says. A student who finishes a problem set in 10 minutes is indeed better at math than someone who takes four hours to solve the problems. And a soccer player who scores effortlessly probably is more talented than someone who’s always practicing. “The fallacy comes when people generalize it to the belief that effort on any task, even very hard ones, implies low ability,” Dweck says.”

Comment by k

“You might think that the high road would be to develop better mental abilities so
103 that you wouldn’t need these programming crutches. You might think that a
104 programmer who uses mental crutches is taking the low road. Empirically,
105 however, it’s been shown that humble programmers who compensate for their
106 fallibilities write code that’s easier for themselves and others to understand and
107 that has fewer errors. The real low road is the road of errors and delayed
108 schedules.”

Comment by inquilinekea

“But perhaps the most persuasive argument against resorting to politics is one of opportunity costs. All the time that has been spent in vain to political campaigning and producing handbooks to persuade politicians to refrain from being politicians could have been spent on the creation of private alternatives for government, education of the general public, and legal assistance to people who are faced with government interference instead. One does not have to subscribe to the view that voting is an immoral act to agree that “if one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself.”[

Comment by k

The Milky Way looks brightest in the direction of the constellation of Sagittarius, toward the galactic center. Relative to the celestial equator, it passes as far north as the constellation of Cassiopeia and as far south as the constellation of Crux, indicating the high inclination of Earth’s equatorial plane and the plane of the ecliptic relative to the galactic plane. The fact that the Milky Way divides the night sky into two roughly equal hemispheres indicates that our Solar System lies close to the galactic plane.

Comment by j


” Then again, as plenty of studies show, people are also absurdly
optimistic about the course of their own lives – except for the severely
depressed, who are sometimes properly calibrated with respect to outcomes,
a phenomenon known as “depressive realism”. (I am not making this up.)
Part of the reason why people are absurdly optimistic is that they think:
I’ll just do X, and then everything will be all right! Not: I’ll try to
do X, it will take four times as long as I expect, I’ll probably fail, and
even if I succeed, only one in ten successes of this kind have as great an
impact as the one I pleasantly imagined. ”

Comment by inquilinekea

“Our model of learning is pre-Gutenberg! We’ve got a bunch of professors reading from handwritten notes, writing on blackboards, and the students are writing down what they say. This is a pre-Gutenberg model — the printing press is not even an important part of the learning paradigm.” He added, “Wait till these students who are 14 and have grown up learning on the Net hit the [college] classrooms — sparks are going to fly.” “

Comment by inquilinekea

[…] Favorite Quotes […]

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“Neuroscience, evolution, and astrophysics speak to normative concerns of our species. That is, they grapple with values. The brain is the seat of our self in a material sense, and neuroscience emerges out of a deep tradition of philosophy of mind which goes back 2,500 years. Evolution has had a fraught relationship with teleology, and some philosophers of biology have quipped that their field to a first approximation can be reduced to philosophy of evolution. Molecular biology is more fundamental in a concrete proximate sense, but evolutionary biology is more fundamental in the ultimate abstract sense. And finally, astrophysics when it bleeds into cosmology rather obviously treads on the ground which was once the domain of mythology, of cosmogony. In a very broad sense these disciplines push against our conceptions of ontology. Astrophysics in the most general sense, neuroscience in a very anthropocentric sense, and evolutionary biology spanning the two extremes.”

Razib Khan


Comment by inquilinekea

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