How the Modern Mind Came into Being - Merlin Donald
Is it possible to apply a rational, scientific methodology to the study, development and articulation of personal character and the self? Can we approach morality and ethics in an objective, experimental, and systematic fashion?
A filmed interview with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about Sherlock Holmes and his belief in Spiritualism and the afterlife. Amazing stuff. I had no idea there was footage of the father of the most memorable detective of all time.
Gorgeous unearthly music accompanies the dance of the spheres. I really like how after a while the swinging pendulums seems to form a 3D spinning spiral that seems to emulate the entwining double helix of DNA.
Persi Diaconis’s unlikely scholarly career in mathematics began with a disappearing act.
He was 14 years old and obsessed with magic, spending much of his free time in or around Tannen’s Magic Store, on Times Square, where sleight-of-hand masters regularly gathered to show off tricks and to gossip. There, one of the most influential magicians of the past century, a card maestro named Dai Vernon, saw Diaconis’s prodigious trick dealing and invited the young man to leave New York and join him on the road.
Diaconis vanished from his regular life, dropping out of school and cutting ties with his family. “I packed a little bag—I took some decks of cards and some socks,” remembers Diaconis, now 66 with unruly tufts of white hair, in his office at Stanford University, where he is a professor of mathematics and statistics. “I was sort of his assistant.” And his student. Vernon, then in his 60s, promised that if his apprentice advanced far enough in his studies, he would reveal secrets of magic he had never shared with anyone else.
It was this search for the hidden workings of magic that led Diaconis to math. During a few years on the road doing his own magic act, he came to think of the hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs in a deck of cards as variables that followed predictable formulas as he shuffled them. He could code the cards as binary numbers in his head and perform mental calculations as audience members cut the deck, so that when they picked a card, any card, Diaconis could name it.
This month the magician-turned-mathematician reveals some secrets in a new book, Magical Mathematics: The Mathematical Ideas That Animate Great Magic Tricks (Princeton University Press). The unusual work is part math textbook, part magic primer, and part history book, tracing how magic and math have long traveled under the same cape. Diaconis wrote the book with a colleague, Ron Graham, a professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of California at San Diego, who once worked as a professional juggler and trampoline acrobat.
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All parents tend to be more conservative for their kids than they would for themselves, simply because, as parents, they share risks more than rewards. If your eight year old son decides to climb a tall tree, or your teenage daughter decides to date the local bad boy, you won’t get a share in the excitement, but if your son falls, or your daughter gets pregnant, you’ll have to deal with the consequences.
Yes, there is a conspiracy, indeed there are a great number of conspiracies, all tripping each other up… the main thing that I learned about conspiracy theories is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in the conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy, or the grey aliens, or the twelve-foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control, the truth is far more frightening; no-one is in control, the world is rudderless.