I love flags. The power of a piece of cloth to motivate people to fight, revere, or weep is inherently interesting. Flag design is also a constrained optimisation problem: how do you trade off symbolism and simplicity in a rectangle (or weird double triangle thing) that needs to be viewed at a distance? Northern Ireland … Continue reading “Why Northern Ireland Has No Flag”
My blog is entering its next stage of evolution. I have launched a Substack, called The Fitzwilliam, about “Policy, ethics and applied rationality with an Irish slant.” You can retweet my announcement here and subscribe to the blog here. Marginal Revolution announcement here. Unlike this blog, The Fitzwilliam will have guest posts. The name comes … Continue reading “I’m Moving to Substack”
I send lots of emails to my friends about what I’ve been reading and reflections I’ve had. Some of these grow into blog posts, but usually, they are not developed or well-researched enough for that. Here is a sample of emails I’ve sent recently, edited for clarity. The Parable of the Rocketship Hi all, Let … Continue reading “The Parable of the Rocketship and other tidbits”
There are three related logical fallacies, which I call the Three Little Piggies of rationality. A strawman is when you argue against a simplified view that your opponent doesn’t have. A steelman is when you argue against a more sophisticated view than the one your opponent has. And a weakman is when you argue against … Continue reading “The Three Little Piggies of Rationality”
My new favourite book about vegetarianism is Dialogues on Ethical Vegetarianism by the philosopher Michael Huemer, published in 2019. I think it should be the new standard text in effective altruism fellowships and discussion groups to introduce issues surrounding eating meat. Ending factory farming is only one part of animal advocacy, but I am dissatisfied … Continue reading “A New Book to Introduce People to Ethical Vegetarianism”
Socrates and Glaucon are walking down from the Acropolis, when they encounter a stranger from a distant land. Caplan: Greetings, Socrates. Socrates: Greetings, stranger. From whence do you come? Caplan: I am from a faraway land. Socrates: Sparta? Thrace? Caplan: Much further out than that. Socrates: Where, then? Caplan: It is not important right now. … Continue reading “Bryan Caplan meets Socrates”
On an episode of Julia Galef’s podcast, the philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel said the following: “For [dreams], there was actually a literature that’s very interesting where people in the ’50 in the United States and the ’40s thought that dreams just generally were black and white. I don’t think that they thought it was just dreams … Continue reading “People Used to Dream in Black and White”
What I’ve been reading Which country has the world’s best healthcare system? An argument that you should buy things, not experiences. Chris Blattman has restarted blogging. See for example his best non-fiction of the year, parts one and two. The story of scurvy; or, why reality is very weird. Things you are doing but … Continue reading “Links for January”
I’ve seen a lot of confusion over what precisely the term ‘observable universe’ refers to. This post is an attempt to remedy that. In 1929, Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding. He observed that light emitted from distant celestial objects was redder than expected, due to the downward shift in frequency as their … Continue reading “Disambiguating the ‘Observable Universe’”
Links are late this month, due to my Christmas-induced slowdown in media consumption. What I’ve been reading Zvi Mowshowitz’s current model of omicron. It’s hard to believe this came out only a week ago. Why does yoga feel good? Some hypotheses. Cheating as a last resort. And more from the same blog: experiments in choosing … Continue reading “Links for December”
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