Vacation Fun

Spent a week gloriously off-line at my mom’s glorious summer house in the archipelago. Oh the joy of reading 300 pages for fun in one day without feeling the need to check e-mail! Here are the books I read:

  • Invented Knowledge. False history, fake science and pseudo-religions. Ronald H. Fritze 2009. One amazing essay covers the scifi con-man religion Nation of Islam. Did you know that Louis Farrakhan started out as a calypso singer, and that George Clinton’s Mothership was a concept borrowed from NoI mythology?
  • Falling Free. Lois McMaster Bujold 1988. Charming fast-paced scifi. Four-armed gene-mod people optimised for zero-gee! Thanks for the book, Birger!
  • Plain Tales from the Raj. Ed. Charles Allen 1975. Colonial India was almost as alien as that scifi novel’s world.
  • Medieval Lives. Terry Jones & Alan Ereira 2004. Countless factual gems from Medieval England, like when a besieged nobleman hands his 5-year-old son over as a ransom to the besiegers, and they threaten to toss the child into the fortress with a catapult, and the father yells that he doesn’t care since he still has the hammer and anvils to make a better son. (The kid was never thrown and grew up to become a succesful and violent knight.) Thanks for this one too, Birger!

And the boardgames I played with my buddy Micke and our wives:

  • Lord of the Rings: Confrontation
  • Lost Cities
  • Innovation
  • Wok Star
  • Bohnanza

What have you done for fun lately, Dear Reader?

Comments

  1. #1 claudia
    Atlanta, GA
    August 6, 2012

    You know I have been thinking. Trying to find a place to discuss new science ideas.

    For isntance, I believe there is intelligence outside of the brain. It seems that parasites and cells have it. They have the capacity to manipulate based on the environment. Also instinct seems to be hard wired into insects and other animals. Complex programs, such as how to build spider web, are handed down from generation to the next.

    Where is this knowledge stored? How does it work? Why is no one wondering about this? This would be an amazing feat of computational exhibits in nature. Might help with our understanding of disease as well.

  2. #2 Martin R
    August 6, 2012

    I think the instinctive behaviour your describe is rather different from human intelligence.

  3. #3 Birger Johansson
    August 6, 2012

    Claudia
    Complex emerging behaviours of social insects is well described and has inspired projects of mini-robot designs.
    In regard to complex behaviour of aggregations of single-cell organisms, see the example of slime mould.

  4. #4 Birger Johansson
    August 6, 2012

    Addendum:
    I just read “Breathers; a Zombie’s Lament”
    Quote from reviewer: A zombie comedy with brains!”
    Also, read Stephen King’s “22.11.63”. That guy can write.
    It sems to me his later novels are more SF than horror (a change I like).

  5. #5 Martin R
    August 6, 2012

    In the future, when I don’t have a good answer to what people say, I’ll just tell them “See the example of slime mould”.

  6. #6 claudia
    August 6, 2012

    Well for instance, the parasite T. Gondii I think it’s called. Where it makes a mouse become attracted to a cat so that a cat is more likley to eat the mouse.

    How does a tiny parasite without a brain, have the abilty to plant itself in the right space in a mouse’s brain and make the mouse THINK a certain thing?

    This must be a very complex computer program within the parasite. Where is it located within the parasite? Same thing with building a spider’s web. This is a complex set of information. Where are these instructions located within the spider brain? Can scientists read this somehow?

    And what specific programs do humans have handed down?

    And I will look up slime mold later , thanks.

  7. #7 Martin R
    August 6, 2012

    Toxoplasma gondii is a single-cell organism, so the program to control vertebrate behaviour must reside in its DNA and be expressed by RNA and proteins that have evolved to fit the molecular keyholes in question.

    Science doesn’t know how a spider brain works, so nobody can currently answer your question there.

    As for innate programming in large vertebrates, there seems to be lots of it. The strongest one in humans seems to guide reproduction and care for our offspring — or any small furry creatures.

  8. #8 Birger Johansson
    August 6, 2012

    I tried to find a wikipedia entry for slime mold, but the web page was borked.
    -So, Louis Farrakhan is a Ron Hubbard clone? WTF!
    PS If you lack a good answer about some geology question, just say “I dunno, it happened during the precambrian”!

  9. #9 Thomas Ivarsson
    Malmö
    August 6, 2012

    Having two weeks at home waking up without the alarm clock and having time to read the newspaper and part of a book in the morning is very relaxing.

    And I had the time to go up to Uppåkra taking these pictures from the ancient iron age town:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/64543279@N07/sets/72157630885094250/with/7704893434/

  10. #10 claudia
    August 7, 2012

    Well I know that cells have little components in them. I know this because I read the book Intelligent Design. (the real book on that was kind of educational on cells). Do the cells have a little brain like component in them? They must.

    That would be cool if we could find it.

  11. #11 Birger Johansson
    August 7, 2012

    The tiny organelles inside eukaryotic cells are small molecular machines that enable the cells to function, but they are not “brainy”. Cells only follow chemical gradients in the surrounding environment to orient themselves. Sometimes that can result in fascinating self-organising behaviour, like clumps of cells assembling themselves like the fruiting body of slime mould, even though the species consist of single cell organisms.
    There are several books titled “Intelligent Design” (one by Dembski, one by Meyer) all of them are unfortunately pseudoscience garbage: They cherry-pick data and arguments to favor their beliefs.
    If life was designed our organs would be more sophisticated. Out throats sometimes allow us to choke on food. Our retinas are designed “backwards”. Such “design” sloppiness can only be explained by the unthinking self-organisation of evolution.

  12. #12 Birger Johansson
    August 7, 2012

    There must be a seawater variant of Toxoplasma Gondii in the Caribbean/Mexican Gulf that compels its victims to start bogus religions.
    Farrakhan: Calypso singer. Hubbard: Failed Navy captain who mis-navigated into the Mexican territorial waters during his very brief career as a captain.

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