Category Archives: 3QD essays

Back to 3QuarksDaily

After a bit of a break, I’m going to resume contributing monthly essays at 3QuarksDaily. The first essay is now up, alongside the fascinating essays, poems, and insights from the other contributors. How To Be Kind “There’s only one rule … Continue reading

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The 3QD experience

I’ve contributed essays to the aggregator site 3quarksdaily.com for two years, and have just decided to bring that relationship to a close. Nothing went wrong – no falling out, no throwing of lamps, no screaming fits of “I just don’t love you … Continue reading

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Experiencing the moment

David Hume, that most sly student of human experience, declared he couldn’t find himself anywhere. As he gazed inward, he came across sensations, feelings, passions, and moods, but he had never come across aself in the way one might come … Continue reading

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The Cyborg of Practical Wisdom

The biggest struggle my fellow modern-day cyborgs and I face is to create a virtual reality that connects more wholesomely with the human part of our nature. The artificial reality we currently plug into is a Terry Gilliam nightmare. Too … Continue reading

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Hypatia of Alexandria: or, a primer on platonic love

Plato, as we know, told tales of an abstract realm beyond the senses, a realm beyond the dim and dark cave we call “the world.” It was a realm of forms, first glimpsed through the discipline of mathematics, and more … Continue reading

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Everything is meaningless – but that’s okay

What would it be for life to have a “meaning”? What does it mean when people say life is meaningful? I’m not sure, so let’s start with smaller, more obviously meaningful things. Better yet, let’s start with some meaningless things. When … Continue reading

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“A Stranger to One’s Own Country”

Descartes was not a bookish man. There’s a well-known anecdote that reveals what he thought of libraries: One of his friends went to visit Descartes at Egmond. This gentleman asked him about physics books: which ones did he most value, … Continue reading

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The Magical Dimensions of the Globe

There’s a particularly good episode of Doctor Who (“The Shakespeare Code”) wherein the Doctor and Martha visit Shakespeare and save the world from a conspiracy of witches. The witches’ plan is to take possession of Shakespeare and force him to write … Continue reading

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Learning from Hume; or, Hume and Particle Physics

Philosophy students are typically taught the wrong lesson from the great Scottish skeptic David Hume. The standard story goes something like this. British empiricists like Locke and Berkeley wanted to connect everything we know to what we experience through the … Continue reading

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On appreciating systems

How wonderful it would be to be a systematic thinker! One marvels at the Aristotles, the Aquinases, the Descarteses, the Kants, and the Hegels and the Marxes (well, the Karl Marxes anyway), the Freuds – those who know how to … Continue reading

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How not to be afraid of death

Set aside any belief in an afterlife, even the vaguely hopeful “I’ll return to the energy of the universe” sort of view. The realization that your run of life is finite is troubling. At first, when we begin to think … Continue reading

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London, 1641

“Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” – Daniel 12:4 London was an exciting place to be in 1641. The political uncertainty was both thrilling and terrifying: many Puritans, convinced that their suspected crypto-catholic king, Charles … Continue reading

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The Fermi Paradox, Mass Effect, and Transhumanism

The Fermi Paradox The story is that sometime in the early 1950s, four physicists were walking to lunch and discussing flying saucers. The place was Los Alamos, and the lunch group included Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller, Emil Konopinski, and Herbert … Continue reading

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On Birthdays

“A genius is a god under whose protection each person lives from the moment of his birth.” This is the opinion of Censorinus, a Roman rhetorician of the third century CE. Censorinus tells us that our birthday celebrations are not … Continue reading

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Overcoming Babel

We all seek to capture the world with a net of language. Yet it is in the nature of nets to capture some things and let others slip away, and that goes for languages too. Our words turn experiences into … Continue reading

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