On the ordinary problems of human life, science tells us very little, and scientists as people are surely no guide. In fact they are often the worst guide, because they often tend to focus, laser-like, on their professional interests and know very little about the world.
—  Noam Chomsky | BEYOND BELIEF:Science, Religion, Reason and Survival Salk Institute, La Jolla November 5-7, 2006
MBTI as Les Mis Characters
  • INTJ:Enjolras
  • INFP:Cosette, Marius
  • ENTJ:Musichetta
  • ENTP:Thenardier, Bahorel
  • INFJ:Fantine
  • INTP:Combeferre
  • ENFJ:Feuilly
  • ENFP:Jehan, Gavroche
  • ISTJ:Javert
  • ISFJ:Joly
  • ESTJ:Mme Thenardier
  • ESFJ:Jean Valjean
  • ISTP:Eponine
  • ISFP:Grantaire
  • ESTP:Bossuet
  • ESFP:Courfeyrac
  • some may have more than one, i apologize to those who don't
These findings and facts and theories, and good science has always admitted this, should really be seen as models. Here I differ (and I believe cautious and skeptical scientists should differ) with Pinker on the idea that the world is intelligible. Our understanding and knowledge of the world can be intelligible, but what that says about the world per se (or as Kant would put it, the world as “thing in itself”) we can only guess. Of course, the standard response to this among positivists and those who ascribe to a certain brand of scientism is that the world as we understand it is the world. And yet as scientific inquiry has shown us again and again, there could always be more than meets the eye, or lens, or instrument or mode of quantitative analysis.

Sebastian Normandin at Berfrois. Scientism and Skepticism: A Reply to Steven Pinker

Pinker’s The New Republic article: Science Is Not Your Enemy: An impassioned plea to neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians

Wow! Such color! Much illusion! Very surprise!

Today the Department of Astonishing Optical Illusions invited you to stare at this colorful image and watch as it vanishes before your very eyes. The longer you look at it, the less of it you’ll see as the blobs of color shrink, the entire image turns bright yellow and then fades into a blank white field. If it doesn’t seem to be working for you, focus your attention on the very center of the image. It took us a little while the first time, but eventually it was gone and we swear our eyes were still open.

We don’t know what the specific scientic explanation is for this entertaining phenomenon, but a commenter from Sploid has a good theory as well as a tip for making the illusion work for you:

“It’s not that the color-detecting cells are being overloaded, it’s actually quite the opposite. The cells in our eyes send impulses to the brain when they detect a change in the intensity of the light they absorb. If you stare at anything that isn’t changing and manage to hold your eyes still long enough, your vision will grey out. This happens because the cells aren’t noticing any change in light and are basically going to sleep. The grey that you see is actually your visual cortex turning off!

The reason it’s so easy to make this effect work with the image above is because of the soft blending between colour fields. Lack of contrast between adjacent areas means less noticed change by our rods and cones, even if we slip up and move our eyes a little bit. It’s very difficult to do with a high contrast image, but if you focus hard enough, maybe you’ll be enlightened.

*pro-tip for the images above: Choose the most visually pronounced part of the image and stare at that. It will be the last to fade, so it will make it easier for you to keep your eyes focused on the same spot. Though we all perceive the same colours (except for those few who suffer colour-blindness) we may perceive them slightly differently, so if the blue spots disappear first, try using the orange spots, or the yellow spots to see if you can make the whole image go grey.”

[via Design Taxi and mental_floss]

What all this technical jargon reduces to is this: When US farm lobbyists push for “sound science” as the basis for food supply trade rules, what they mean by this term is that they want Europe to eliminate all restrictions on imports of food from the US, and to adopt a US-style food supply regulatory regime, stripped of the precautionary principle.

DW via Navdanya’s Diary. US says ‘science’ should settle trans-Atlantic food trade rules

The rules governing food imports are up for grabs in US-EU free trade negotiations. The US wants Europe to base its assessment of genetically-modified crops and hormone-treated meats on 'sound science’.


Thomas Pennant - Scientist of the Day

Thomas Pennant, a Welsh naturalist, was born June 25, 1726. Pennant wrote a number of books on birds and mammals in the last half of the eighteenth century, most of which we have in our collection. None of them are exactly milestones of science, but his British Zoology (1766) is certainly large (we keep it on the folio shelves in the vault), and it has the second best image in our collection of the Library mascot, the hedgehog (see above). Other images from this work displayed here show a heron, an auk, and a polecat. Pennant is probably most famous as the correspondent to whom Gilbert White wrote a series of letters in the 1760s and 1770s on the birds of Hampshire; these letters were then collected into The Natural History of Selborne (1789), a pioneering work of ecology and nature writing. Pennant also published in 1774 an account of a trip to Scotland and the Hebrides, and he included in his book the very first pictures of the basalt formations of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave (from drawings made for Sir Joseph Banks). We displayed this work in our 2004 exhibition, Vulcan’s Forge.

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City