Sunday 3 May 2015


Cue Freddie Delius in the background for this announcement: I just heard the first cuckoo Cuculus canorus of Spring, at 0640hrs as I was rousting the sheep out of bed for another hard day eating grass.  That's a full two weeks later than last year.  No, I don't think this slippage is driven by climate change. That's all I have to say on the matter or for the record.

But I'll add a tuthree links, which I enjoyed recently and you might too. They have been cluttering up the launch-pad here at Blob Central because I couldn't think of anything clever to say about them.
  • Robert Trivers is someone who has had a lot more than three good ideas in science.  In the early 1970s, when he was just turning 30, he turned out a series of extraordinary theoretical papers applying genetics to behaviour.  When I was in graduate school ten years later the ground was still reverberating for us eco- evo- etho-biologists in the basement of 2 Cummington St, Boston University.  He's just issued a mighty slag-fest, giving his candid if catty opinion on the giant shoulders [Gould, Lewontin, Hamilton, Williams] of the field who were a little older than him.  I dunno if these big cheeses still feature in the curriculum nowadays, so I don't know how relevant this will be to anyone under the age of 50 and/or who isn't an evolutionary biologist.
  • Paul Bloom is an articulaterudite psychology professor from Yale. His research focuses of how the infant develops into the thinking child. It's amazing what you can do if you ask the right questions: those that can be answered with science.  You can find his complete Psychology 101 course on the web if you look.  It was an early example of putting the performances of the best university professors out there for we the masses.  That course is very interesting and I got through about one third before I started generating web[lob]-content myself - far too busy now.  Here's a short hour on some universally interesting topics: compassion, racism and sex.  Don't have an hour?  Try 4 minutes of the Socratic method on your stroppy teenage children.
  • That led me, probably via the youtube side bar, to an hour of Steven Pinker, whom we met before as recognising The Curse of Knowledge. Pinker is a professor at Harvard who has published several profound but accessible books about language and other aspects of human behavior.  Here he is using language as window on the human mind. Brilliant: you'll feel cleverer for watching.
  • Last June, I touched briefly on trolleyology: a key set of gedankenexperimenten, thought experiments, which get to the heart of utilitarian philosophy. Satire has a way of exposing things that we know to be true to the light of an alternative view-point.  The best satire adds meat to the debate. Trolleysatire by Kyle York.
Enough of this, it's not raining today and I'm off to find that cuckoo.

No comments:

Post a Comment