Category Archives: random idiocy

What is the Single Worst Understood Philosophical Concept?

I’d like to get anyone’s opinion about what he or she believes to be the single worst understood philosophical concept.    Feel free to mention why you think so if you want.  Also feel free to interpret the meaning of ‘worst’: across the general public, academia, grad students, old codgers, whatever (but do identify your target, please).

Posted in philosophy, random idiocy. Tagged with , .

Aether Propeller?

I was trying to figure out how planes stay in the sky.

So this is what I came up with.


As the plane moves forward, a small vacuum is created above the wing. The vacuum is a low pressure zone which pulls the wing up and the air down to fill itself in (because Nature HATES a vacuum).  This upward pull that the low pressure zone creates we call lift.

I thought, “Hooray.  This isn’t so complicated!  Planes stay up because they create small vacuums above their wings as they move forward, creating an upward force.”

Then I thought, “And this is why planes can’t fly in outer space, because there is no air to displace and create a vacuum.”

Then I thought, “But if there is an aether theory, why not?”


So as a wing moves through a vacuum, generally we don’t think there is anything to cause lift or drag.  But if we have an aether theory of a vacuum, i.e. there is some substance below what we can observe that our matter exists within, then why can’t we create a vacuum in that substance?

My line of thought was: Air is to Vacuum as Vacuum is to Black Hole.

Can’t we just spin a propeller fast enough in outer space to create lift?  As the prop turns small vacuums in the aether will be created, and, insofar as Nature hates vacuums, a force will be created to fill in this vacuum, pulling the propeller in that direction.

(Someone please tell me how this is nonsense so I won’t go around thinking I’ve come up with a new model of space flight.)

Posted in fun, physics, random idiocy, science, technology. Tagged with , , , .

Oot and Aboot

For the last few days or so I was in Amsterdam (briefly), Israel and Istanbul.  I had some thoughts along the way and I hope you’ll find them interesting.


Heineken tastes MUCH better in Amsterdam.  Now I won’t be able to drink it States-side, which kind of sucks. Hopefully the memory will fade soon and I will be able to go back to my ignorant bliss.

[On the flip side I had some Sam Adams while in Israel and near spit it out.]


1) In the 3 days I was in Jerusalem I wanted to figure out why everyone finds it to be the place for religion.  Here’s what I came up with:

Ben Yehuda Str. 1:34am

Ben Yehuda Str. 1:34am

These images were taken within the same minute at on Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem .  However, my camera was set to New York time, so it is really 1:34 am (NY +7).  I’ve put up two images because I want to give the best view of the street that I can to make my point: the top image was with flash, which only reaches so far, but does not make blurry images; the second image was long exposure and gives a more accurate view, but, try as I might, I can only hold myself so still.  Hopefully you will be able to imagine how it looks between the two. (see this image from Wikipedia too)

The second picture – this is the more accurate to life shot – shows the street to be very bright and, in fact, unusually bright.  Times Square-bright even but, as you can see, this street has normal stores and streetlights; no neon, no giant billboards.  So how is this feat of lighting achieved?

Nearly everything in Jerusalem is made of the off-white Jerusalem stone.  Ben Yehuda street is an old, pedestrian only street with no asphalt and hence is white on 3 sides.  This makes it reflect light incredibly well, as I hope you can divine from my shoddy photography.

Imagine the extra hours of usable time that people would have because they needed less fuel for their lamps, and multiply this by thousands of years.   I figure that a place with nice weather and well above average lighting conditions, such as Jerusalem, would be conducive to people sitting around reading and arguing about stuff, and hence religious studies.

2) Gaza:

Israel on the whole seemed rather safe and so completely normal while I was there that it was hard to reconcile it with the place the media covers.  Granted I didn’t go anywhere near where the fighting was, but I was in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and observed how people were living, and I thought it could have been San Diego.  I’ve never been to San Diego, but I think it must be pretty with a friendly population that mostly speaks English and has nice weather, which was my experience in Israel.  So what is going on?

Again, 2 pictures:



The first map is of Israel alone and it is what we see when we are looking at the fighting going on.  The second is of the Middle East.  When an Israeli thinks about Israel, it is the second map and the distance scale of the first map that come to mind.  From this perspective, it looks as if Israel is a teeny bastion of non-Muslims trying to eek out an existence in a world of Islam.  If you look at the top map, Gaza doesn’t appear all that big, but since Israel is so small, that little bit of usable land is important.

Of course that bit of land isn’t so important to start killing people over.

However, what I was told, was that Gaza was part of long term strategy to take down Israel from within: Since there are many more Muslims in the region and world, if more can gain residency in Israel through Gaza, then in only a few years they will be able to out vote the Jews.  So every settlement matters because each represents an increased voting bloc and tips the balance of power away from the current establishment.

This presents a dilemma because either the Jewish state must change its democratic principles if it wants continued existence, or else die slowly to the ever increasing Muslim population.  So the crude, stop-gap  solution was to just eradicate the Palestinian settlements.  This at least explains some of the reasoning; whether the actions taken were justified is a different question.


Everyone is interested in Obama.  These ads were ubiquitous (notice the second ad right behind the first on the left hand side.):


Garanti is a bank.

This is what Google Translate tells me the text says:

support loan interest rates

using the most comprehensive credit insurance for Turkey is out of 3 women in markets bonus

warranty package to revive the economy of the world will envy

Much of the world still operates with the dollar.  I bought some ridiculously nice leather shoes from a dingy shop for US $30 – they didn’t even accept Turkish Lira.  I handed the guy 2 20s and the man immediately became concerned: this confused me until he pulled a stack of Benjamins (US 100s) out of his pocket an inch thick and started going through it looking for a 10.  He had to go across the street to get me change.

My thought was that the  current US president is, for all intensive purposes, on the $100 bill.  Money has value because people believe that it guarantees something of worth, goods and services.  This guarantee of worth is made by large, trusted institutions likes banks and governments, and as the head of the biggest institution, Obama is where the buck stops.

So the unsurprising conclusion is that the entire world is counting on Obama to fix the financial crisis.  I don’t know anything about Garanti Bank, but 1.19% loans do sound good.

Posted in fun, politics, random idiocy, religion. Tagged with , , .

Game Over

Yesterday was very strange.

Last Friday I finished up my metaphysics and promptly went on a short vacation to see some friends. I got home Tuesday night.

Then came yesterday. It was the first whole day in which I had to really spend time worrying about what to do now that I have written everything I ever wanted to.

The proper term for what happened was I flipped out.

Posted in philosophy, random idiocy. Tagged with , .

K*nt F*cker

I was at a bar on Friday.  One of my friends says, “Hey Noah, there’s another philosopher here, come talk.”  So I go and chat.

She wrote a MA thesis on Levinas.  But somehow we got to ethics.  I started making fun of virtue ethics, which she believed in.  Something about me saying she had tomatoes being cultivated in her head got her riled up.  Since I had said I was unimpressed with Singer earlier, she figured me for a deontologist.

“You love rules.  You love following rules.. You looove Kant.  You want to fuck Kant.  You want to fuck Kant!”

This was said in a progressively louder voice, with the last sentence being heard by everyone.  For some reason it turned heads and made her friend think it was time to leave.

But not before I got her number.

Posted in ethics, philosophy, random idiocy. Tagged with , , , .

Blog Action Day 08: Poverty

Poverty anywhere is a threat to life everywhere.

This is a contribution to Blog Action Day 2008:

When someone is living in poverty he or she is struggling to sustain the basic requirements for life.  This means that this person has no opportunity to change his or her life because all of his or her effort is dedicated to satisfying those basic needs.

Hence a person living in poverty is cornered; death is the only retreat.  This at once makes a person in poverty dangerous because a person in poverty has nothing to lose.

Having nothing to lose but your life changes a person in ways hard to imagine.  Stories of people stranded come to mind.  Take a look at the product description for the book Alive:

On October 12, 1972, a plane carrying a team of young rugby players crashed into the remote, snow-peaked Andes. Out of the forty-five original passengers and crew, only sixteen made it off the mountain alive. For ten excruciating weeks they suffered deprivations beyond imagining, confronting nature head-on at its most furious and inhospitable. And to survive, they were forced to do what would have once been unthinkable …

This is their story — one of the most astonishing true adventures of the twentieth century.

Yes, the people had to eat each other.  My morbid sense of humor made me smirk that this is described as an adventure. Having nothing to eat in harsh weather conditions might seem like adventure while sitting in a comfortable chair, but when it is daily reality, it is just ordinary poverty.

Like adventure poverty is dangerous.  Unlike an adventure, poverty can be just as dangerous to those who are not the ones in direct danger of losing their lives.  When Cortez landed in Mexico he burned his ships so that his soldiers would know that there was no retreat – they were in essence shipwrecked – and hence would fight their hardest.  Not only was he trying to encourage his men to fight, he was trying to scare the Aztecs, who, he knew, would see the burning ships and know that they would be fighting people with nothing to lose.  The Aztecs retreated.

When there is nothing to lose desperation sets in, and there is no reasoning with the desperate.  What is there to say to someone whose child is starving to death?  So given the opportunity to escape such a situation, a person is willing to do and support things that the rest of us find unimaginable.


  1. Physical poverty of some implies a poverty of imagination of the rest.
  2. Poverty anywhere is a threat to life everywhere, always.

Posted in internet, random idiocy. Tagged with , , .

100 pounds of food donated to the hungry for every comment left


Much thanks and goodwill towards Tyson foods.  Via Cooking With Amy

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