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This page is a blog, but the headings have possibilities. Below is a list of the current headings featured. Since I sometimes update earlier entries, the list includes the date of the most recent post. The most recent heading is always first, both in the blog and the list below.
List of Headings
- A Brain in a Vat - Dec. 11, 2008
- Fitting In: Your Bicycle - Updated Dec. 22, 2008
- The Mortgage Crisis and - Oct. 14, 2008
- Missile Defense - Sep. 30, 2008
- Economics Still Missing in Copyright Law - Sep. 27, 2008
- Eisenhower and the Military Industrial Complex - Sep. 5, 2008
- Internet Broadcasting - Aug. 21, 2008
- Mars: The Quest for Life - Aug. 14, 2008
- The Oil Crisis - Jul. 19, 2008
- Obama Wins Over Fox News - Jul. 8, 2008
- Y2K2: Armageddon 2012 - Updated Jul. 4, 2008
- Hydrogen Fueled Cars - Updated May 6, 2011
- The Petroleum Industry - Updated Jun. 22, 2008
- On Monsters - Jun. 19, 2008
- ChoicePoint - Updated May 24, 2008
- Discovering Psychology with Philip Zimbardo - May 12, 2008
- Theories in Cognitive Science: Belief and Experience - May 8, 2008
- NewsKing Challenge: Rupert Murdoch - Updated Apr. 20, 2008
- Defense Spending - Apr. 13, 2008
- Zeno's Arrow - Mar. 10, 2008
- Jeremy Butterfield - Updated Feb. 26, 2008
- The "Real" Question - Feb. 8, 2008
- Why Man Creates - by Saul Bass - Jan. 18, 2008
- Universal Healthcare - Updated Jan. 29, 2008
- Evolution vs. Creation - Jan. 9, 2008
- Atheism - Updated Jan. 9, 2008
- God - Updated Jan. 3, 2008
- Einstein and Maxwell - Jan. 1, 2008
- Nietzsche and Descartes - Jan. 1, 2008
- Happy New Year - Jan. 1, 2008
- 2007

A Brain in a Vat - Dec. 11, 2008

The "brain in a vat" hypothesis has been used in philosophical discussions for a long time. It asks people to imagine, just for the purposes of philosophical discussion, that their brain is stored in a special jar, or "vat." Their brain is then hooked up to machinery that fools the senses, making them think their brain is still in their body.

One modern example of "the brain in a vat" is the movie The Matrix, which asks the audience to imagine that evil robots store humans in a type of "vat" and hook the humans' brains to a computer "matrix." Since the robots are "intelligent," the film also expresses ideas about "artificial intelligence." It is not uncommon for "the brain in a vat" hypothesis to be mentioned in discussions about artificial intelligence. I've also heard the "brain in a vat" come up in discussions about Darwin's theory of evolution and Mary Shelly's novel Frankenstein.

Most sources describing the "brain in a vat" include a discussion of Descartes and the "mind-body problem," and there is sometimes mention of "free will and determinism." Until the 20th century, it was frequently a topic for debate in discussions about psychology, and it is still usually mentioned in many texts about psychology. Nowadays, nearly all modern theories of social and cognitive psychology seek to describe human behavior as objectively as possible. So while a given theory in psychology may mention elements that remind some people of the "brain in a vat" debate, many of the assumptions of the "brain in a vat" hypothesis are simply not there.

However, debates that involve a "brain in a vat" still challenge many philosophers. In the popular culture, these debates are often about "science vs. religion" and the existence of a "soul." I think many of the people engaged in these debates don't do the greatest job with the "brain in a vat" hypothesis, and may be trying to talk about something else entirely. While such debates are fascinating, it is unfortunate that over 100 years of work in the discipline of psychology gets ignored. For example, most people have never even heard of Phineas Gage, let alone the debates that ensued in the centuries that followed Gage's tragedy.

Of course, all of these debates are hard to win because it is difficult to prove anything "once and for all." For example, the movie The Matrix does a good job showing just how difficult it would be to prove whether or not your brain is in a vat (though most people engaged in these debates aren't really trying to prove whether or not we actually live in a vat). As these debates move from topic to topic, helpful information is often discovered. Hopefully, the topics discussed will continue to move along as we discover more information in the years ahead.

- Gregory, Richard L. ed. (1998). The Oxford Companion to the mind. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Honderich, Ted. ed. (1995). The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Wikipedia. "Artificial intelligence." (viewed Dec. 11, 2008).
- Wikipedia. "Brain in a vat." (viewed Dec. 11, 2008).
- Wikipedia. "Evolution." (viewed Dec. 11, 2008).
- Wikipedia. "Frankenstein." (viewed Dec. 11, 2008).
- Wikipedia. "Phineas Gage." (viewed Dec. 11, 2008).
- Wikipedia. "The Matrix." (viewed Dec. 11, 2008).

Fitting In: Your Bicycle - Nov. 17, 2008

[UPDATE - Dec. 22, 2008: The text below has been edited for accuracy.]

With the "green economy" getting under way, clean and efficient forms of transportation are becoming increasingly important to most people. While hybrid and other green technologies have taken the lead in this area, there is one form of green transportation that has been around for over a hundred years and hardly gets noticed these days - the bicycle. Bicycles require zero fuel and produce zero emissions. They're also great exercise!

There are probably a lot of people reading this who own a bicycle, but don't ride it that often. One reason for this lack of interest may be that the bicycle doesn't "fit right." Getting your bicycle to fit you can be extremely difficult, even if you were fitted using the best equipment available. So here are some tips to help you get your bike fitting right whether you are fixing up an old bike or buying a new one.

Of course, you're going to have to experiment, and that can be expensive. Internet and other retailers specializing in the sale or trade of used merchandise can be a big help here. Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, and a number of bicycle shops, co-ops, bike swaps, and other retailers come to mind. You can buy used parts, try them out, and resell them if they don't fit. New parts are good, too, but always check the return policy. You don't want to end up with a collection of bicycle parts you can't return or resell.

Your local bike shop can also be a big help, particularly if they're willing to let you experiment. Bike shops can help you adjust some of the more difficult parts of your bicycle. Sometimes special tools are required, and online tutorials don't explain everything. If you get fitted for a new bicycle at your local bike shop, be sure to tell them you still plan on experimenting with the fit and see what they can offer you.

Okay... there are three main "areas" involved in getting your bicycle to fit you:
- The Seat Post and Seat
- The Stem and Handlebars
- The Pedals and Crank Arms

[Click HERE to continue...]

The Mortgage Crisis and - Oct. 14, 2008

So, I make over a half-million dollars a year, and I decide I need to stretch my legs more and move all the way out to the sub-suburbs. There is a new condominium community that looks pretty nice, so I decide to stop in. A beet-red old man greets me with a grunt and mutters "howdy" with a mean-sounding voice. Even though I'm dressed in expensive clothes, he looks at me like I'm a piece of shit. I very confidently say, "Excuse me, sir, I'm interested in the community here, is there anyone I can speak to?"

"You're speakin' to me," he says. He goes through his sales pitch, but he seems very annoyed, as if I am forcing him to get out of his chair. Then he hands me a credit-check-authorization form and refuses to "go any further" without it. "It's the law," he says. The form requires my signature on the first page, and it asks me to list all of my credit card numbers on the second page. "You have to have a credit card!" shouts the man.

I know what my credit report looks like, and I know all of my credit cards are on it. I decide to list only one credit card - whatever it takes to comply with the rules of the community. The man goes into his office and comes back a few minutes later. "You have bad credit," he says, "not enough credit cards." "Sir," I say, "I have perfect credit, let's go over the credit report!" "Against the law," the man says. "You can contact Experian - that's the company we get credit reports from. But there are only a few condos left, and they'll probably be gone by tomorrow," he says. "We do have a program for buyers like you, though. Sign here and we can bill your credit card a 'commitment fee' to show you're not poor." I know I'm not poor, so I sign.

...What I don't know is that I'm getting myself into a sub-prime mortgage.

I go home and try to get an updated copy of my credit report from that website I saw on TV - It is at moments like these that makes the mortgage crisis a little worse, and profits from disadvantaged consumers by committing fraud. ( is actually owned by Experian, which is the same company that produces credit reports. And their credit reports aren't really free - you have to sign up for a monthly fee!)

As it turns out, is Experian's corrupt response to a new law that provides free credit reports to consumers from a government-listed site called Before the new law, Experian charged consumers for credit reports using a complicated and time-consuming process, helping out the condominium guy. This new law was supposed to put a stop to it. Unfortunately, Experian (disguised as is now taking advantage of a loophole in the new law, and continuing to profit from consumers who get screwed-over by the condominium guy. Experian is pretty much in collusion with the condominium guy and his sub-prime mortgage friends.

Most people don't even know that is the government-listed source for truly free credit reports.

...Anyway, I hope can contribute to a solution by helping to get the law changed and putting a stop to Experian and their sub-prime mortgage friends!

Missile Defense - Sep. 30, 2008

I used to think missile defense was "cool." But as a taxpayer, I was disappointed to learn how my tax dollars were really being spent.

Most people think missile defense means keeping missiles from hitting the U.S. (that's what I thought). But nowadays, "missile defense" has become a buzzword for a number of different anti-ballistic missile programs, along with a few other wild ideas. It is a giant mess that encompasses weapons programs that have been in development for nearly 50 years. Just asking about a single weapon can entail a budget proposal that seems ridiculous.

There are all kinds of global talks and negotiations in the works for a number of different weapons of this sort, some of which the U.S. can simply sell to other countries. It is very difficult to tell what is what.

And I was surprised to learn that the U.S. already has a Missile Defense System. Many parts of the system are new and have never been tried, but even newer, billion-dollar ideas are already on the drawing board. Much of it appears very wasteful, and seems intended to provoke other countries.

I hope the U.S. and its partners come to their senses in terms of what is really needed for missile defense.

Economics Still Missing in Copyright Law - Sep. 27, 2008

I just read that there was a new copyright bill introduced in Congress. It's called the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008 (S. 3325). And sure enough, it is based on false assumptions about the distribution of copyrighted material.

(4) the growing number of willful violations of existing Federal criminal laws involving counterfeiting and infringement by actors in the United States and, increasingly, by foreign-based individuals and entities is a serious threat to the long-term vitality of the United States economy and the future competitiveness of United States industry; (EIPRA Sec. 602).

This simply isn't true. And there are a lot of other provisions in the legislation that are troubling. Be sure to check out the article, and oppose this bill!

See Also: Copyright Law and Social Change


So I get 10 free "Rhapsodies" a month with my Internet, but I have to "stream" them. Although they offer downloads, it costs more. What kind of market decision is that (1)? You just offer 10 free downloads with my Internet and - poof - there's the market. Sue for that (2)!

But maybe they're
worried about a hatred for the music and film industry (probably due to their lawsuits). Some sort of whacked-out economy where iPod-wearing marijuana punks conspire to bring down Hollywood by laboring over their free downloads. Maybe I should create that "world" for you - flex my media muscle (3).

Actually, this is out-of-date. There are way better ideas out there. But no one is paying me to make market decisions (4).

- 1) I wish I had enough money to attend those lunches!
- 2) Yes, they would be "competing" against free downloads without acknowledging anything. But they still owe reparations!
- 3) Maybe we should just bring down Hollywood.
- 4) I am probably just putting my foot in my mouth. They are more interested in "might over market" at this lunch meeting. They'll probably just get high and start a new round of lawsuits against consumers.

Eisenhower and the Military Industrial Complex - Sep. 5, 2008

Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, recently endorsed Barack Obama for President at the Democratic National Convention.

In the video excerpt below, President Eisenhower warned America about the Military Industrial Complex just before he left office in 1961. Eisenhower spoke about the "economic, political, and even spiritual" influence of the Military Industrial Complex...

Click HERE to watch this video on YouTube.

...In other words, as we increase the presence of war-fighting in our culture, it will have an increasingly adverse impact on who we are.

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