Weekend Reading

Here are a few thoughtful articles for your consideration this weekend, along with this lovely landscape from Watson’s Bay, in New South Wales. Click the photo to enlarge it.

Now, on to the smart stuff:

Making the Subarctic Bloom by Cody Punter at The Walrus.
Generation Putin by Natalia Zorkaya at Eurozine.com
The Search for Intelligent Life by Justin E. H. Smith at Berfrois
The Norwegian who knew his tortoises so well that he changed the course of history at nypesuppe.blogspot.com
The Time of Our Lives by Raymond Tallis at thenewatlantis.com


“… we dont know how it is that we manage to talk. If I am talking to you then I can hardly be crafting at the same time the sentences that are to follow what I am now saying. I am totally occupied in talking to you. Nor can some part of my mind be assembling these sentences and then saying them to me so that I can repeat them. Aside from the fact that I am busy this would be to evoke an endless regress. The truth is that there is a process here to which we have no access. It is a mystery opaque to total blackness.

Cormac McCarthy: The Kekulé Problem: Where did language come from? at Nautilus.com

Animals with Personality

I’ve been reading lately about the prevalence of traits we think of as human traits in animals. The idea of animal “personality” is problematic by anthropomorphic definition. But still. Here are a few creatures we’ve met down through the years. For me, it’s hard to imagine them not having personalities.

Click them for bigger versions at EarthPhotos.com.

Zeno’s Paradoxes


I enjoyed learning about Zeno’s Paradoxes this weekend. I’ll share one with you, as described by Carlo Rovelli:

The tortoise challenges Achilles to a race, starting out with a ten-meter advantage. Will Achilles manage to catch up with the tortoise? Zeno agrues that rigorous logic dictates that he will never be able to do so. Before catching up, in effect, Achilles needs to cover the ten meters, and in order to do this he will take a certain amount of time. During this time, the tortoise will have advanced a few centimeters. To cover these centimeters, Achilles will have to take a little more time, but meanwhile the tortoise will have advanced further, and so on, ad infinitum. Achilles therefore requires an infinite number of such times to reach the tortoise, and an infinite number of times, argues Zeno, is an infinite amount of time. Consequentially, according to strict logic, Achilles will take an infinite time to reach the tortoise; or rather, he will ever do so. Since, however, we do see the swift Achilles reaching and overtaking as many tortoises as he likes, it follows that what we see is irrational, and therefore illusory.