Sunday, July 22, 2007

Unborn children do not seem to respond to either threats or bribes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Last time I was visiting my mom, I picked up one of her Skeptical Inquirer magazines and flipped through the various articles. One was about the idea of free will and cited a study where the participants were given decisions to make and a button to push when they'd made the decision. However, their brains were also being monitored, and, supposedly, there was activity in their brains suggesting that the impulse to push the button happened significantly (this is where one of my concerns about the study lies -- what counts as "significant"?) before they would actually push the button.

Theoretically, the study showed that the decisions people make are made before the people making them intellectually realize it. Now, I don't know if the study really supports that. However, I think it's an interesting idea, and I've been trying to watch my own thinking since reading that -- trying to locate the moment when I make a decision. This is not very scientific. And, yet, I can kind of feel like sometimes I've made up my mind about something before I've managed to articulate the idea in thoughts to myself. And, then, the thinking and articulating I do is simply my mental way to explain my own decision to myself.

This may sound like I'm saying I make irrational decisions and then rationalize them to myself. (Which, actually, I think the article was arguing everyone does.) However, what I'm really trying to convey is more a sense that there's a moment when a flip switches somewhere in my brain, whenever a decision has to be made, and I can't necessarily pinpoint that moment, and it doesn't necessarily correspond with the moment when I say to myself, "I've decided that ---". Or even, necessarily, the moment right before saying that. So, perhaps, when the moment happens, it happens somewhere deep inside where I'm not even aware of it and can't feel it. And, then, the decision trickles forward and upward into parts of my brain where I can feel it and recognize it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I've been reading about a strange but interesting society lately. "Mystery Method" by Mystery and "The Game" by Neil Strauss both document the ideas behind and nature of the internet fostered pick-up artist society. They're surprisingly fascinating books. Anyway, one of the ideas that Mystery and Neil Strauss both propone (yes, I could use "advocate" -- which is a real word -- but, I feel that "propone" should be a word, so I choose to propone it instead) is that aspiring pick-up artists will best learn by approaching many, many women. That way, any individual rejection isn't a big deal, because the pick-up artist knows he'll just try again, approaching a different woman shortly.

This made me think of the folder of rejection letters from SF/F magazines that I keep in my top desk drawer. The first one was really hard, but they get easier over time. And each rejection is made easier by the fact that I know I'm just going to turn the story around and mail it to a different magazine. So, I'm more excited by the idea that the next magazine might take it than I am disappointed that the last magazine didn't.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

My butterfly is gone today. I didn't look for it very hard, but, then, I don't really want to find it.

Two days ago, I saw a yellow swallowtail in the front yard. I went up to it, and, to my extreme surprise, when I put out my hand it docilely landed there. I was shocked. Of course, I quickly realized that the butterfly was being docile because its wings were crumpling around the front edges. It couldn't fly well. I thought, as it was a very hot and sunny day, that maybe the poor thing was dehydrated. So, I brought it onto the front steps and put it in my geranium pot. (Sans geranium -- except for the remnants of the one from last year. I haven't been up to much gardening this year.) I poured copious amounts of water in the pot and hoped the shade and moisture would do the trick.

Later in the evening, I had to move the pot to get my butterfly out of the sun again, and I mixed up some sugar water. The butterfly's wings were only more crumpled, and it hadn't moved. I figured it was so clearly dying that any measures I took couldn't possibly do more harm, so I held the sugar water right up to its feet. The butterfly showed no interest in eating.

Yesterday, the poor swallowtail was back in the lawn. So, at least it felt up to flying. I helped it off of the sunny grass, leaving it in the shady lavender bushes. No point in bringing it back to the geranium pot. I'd already tried the full-scale intervention, and I don't think it helped. The crumpling in the wings had increased, spreading to the back ones. I figured it was time to let the butterfly find its own way to death. Poor thing.

And, as I say, this morning, it's gone. I know better than to hope there was a sudden and miraculous recovery in the night. I've learned before that when you find an injured animal in the wild, chances are you're too late to save it.

At least, it was nice to have a butterfly for a day. And, it was nice to try to do something for it. Poor butterfly.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I've run across the theory that human intelligence evolved as a response to the complexity of human social dynamics a number of times. For instance, the strangest professor I had in college (and one of my favorites) was a visiting professor who offered a special seminar course called Robots and Society -- the intrinsic intertwining of intelligence and social dynamics was a huge theme in that course. Essentially, the professor argued, that to create an intelligent robot we must instead endeavor to create a social robot. It was a new idea to me at the time.

Most recently, I ran across this idea in a Scientific American article about ravens. Terribly clever creatures. Anyway, it got me thinking -- if human intelligence developed as a coping mechanism for dealing with human social dynamics, isn't it ironic that the most "intelligent" people are quite often the most socially awkward?

Does this deny the truth of the theory? (Which I tend toward believing in.) Or does it simply mean that human intelligence has strayed from its original purpose? Or, a question with more practical application: why don't more smart people think to use their intelligence to become less socially awkward? Do they not care? Or do they not think of it?

Clearly there are multiple kinds of intelligence. Perhaps that fact plays into the answers to my questions. Unfortunately, it doesn't immediately answer them. I imagine these're questions I'll have to keep thinking about for quite a while. Maybe I'll write a book about my thoughts on them some day. First, however, more thinking.