Friday, August 30, 2013

Privacy Dies, Some Austrians Grow a Brain, and the Entire History of Philosophy Fits on a Graph

Links for August 30, 2013

It took me hours of taking apart my cell phone, scouring my apartment, looking over my shoulder constantly, checking every lamp and light fixture, and coming up empty to realize that the NSA probably won’t plant bugs on a boring graduate student in Canada. Turns out, though, the NSA seems to be pretty good at forgetting the rules when it comes to respecting privacy. Their latest case of the nosies was uncovered this week when a German newspaper reported that the NSA was playing Peeping Tom on the United Nation’s New York headquarters. Needless to say, the UN wasn’t thrilled.

This, along with the recent documentary on internet privacy policies (or should I say non-privacy policies?), Terms and Conditions May Apply, makes me wonder if it’s too early to start mourning the passing of my privacy even in the safety of my own home.

But there is good news. There may be water on the moon. Also, the existence of the super-heavy element with the atomic number 115 was confirmed this week, though it has yet to be named. On a stranger and slightly disturbing note, some scientists in Austria have grown a model brain, or as they’re calling it, a “cerebral organoid,” in a lab. It can’t really do that much because it’s nothing near a full-grown brain, but it makes for a great band name (The Cerebral Organoids...). Speaking of the brain, here’s a fascinating article on the neurobiology of empathy that might have some important implications on how we think about ethics and how we’re connected to each other.

Most importantly and the best news of all, reading that last paragraph may have made you a better person, since just thinking about science might trigger moral behaviour.

If you’re bad at keeping up with current events like I am, here’s an informative article on what’s going on in Syria right now. It’s basically a “what’s happening in Syria for dummies” that is helpful for getting a handle on the big picture and the complexity of what’s going on.

If you missed the recent debate that took the online Christian world by storm on why millenials might be leaving the church, here’s a follow up article by the author of the CNN piece that started it all, which includes some links to some of the louder voices on all sides of the conversation.

I recently came across this article that shows the awesome power of big data and how it might be able to help us even in philosophy, if we can devise the right approach. In this article, the author crunches data from Wikipedia to build an incredibly detailed map that graphs the history of philosophy and the connections between pretty much every philosopher you can imagine. Cool.



    1. Ah yes, but they had to hold the extra mayonnaise, due to government funding cuts...