Hardly unique. Lots of people (myself included) have walked through accelerator beams, and most suffered no ill effects. He must have held the position for some time. The guys tuning the heavy ion beam at RHIC used Cerenkov light in their eyeballs to check the beam position; that was dumb. But you're certainly doing your part to propagate paranoia about all forms of radiation. You might want to read up: https://jick.net/skept/RadHaz/

A new road was built in Texas. It was a very good road, so the State Legislature decided it didn’t need a speed limit — it could be like the Autobahn in Germany.

After a few months, it was clear that there were several speed-related deaths every day on this road, so the State decided to impose a speed limit after all.

As soon as the speed limit was posted, hundreds of Good Ol’ Boys in huge pickups with chrome bull balls screamed, “Stalinism!” and many stock brokers in their Tesla Roadsters complained that, “This is an unacceptable infringement of…

An electron spin along the +x direction is a superposition of spin “up” and spin “down” along the z direction.

We humans love our dichotomies. “You’re either with us or against us!” “You either love it or hate it.” “A statement is either true or false.” “It’s a war between Good and Evil.” “Either you trust science or you trust religion.”

In quantum physics, there is a similar notion: “The spin of an electron can only be up or down.” This is incorrect. Like any other quantity with both magnitude and direction, the spin of an electron can point in any direction whatsoever. If you know a little quantum physics, you may say, “Yes, but it can only stay pointing…

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted human civilization on Earth. Many have died. Many more have fallen sick. Even more have lost their livelihoods, their jobs, their businesses, their most treasured activities. Almost all have lost much of their savings. Some have lost their minds. It seems callous to the point of sadism to suggest that some good might still come of this, and yet our language is peppered with aphorisms that express the importance of looking for ways to turn every situation to advantage:

“Always look on the bright side.”

“It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good.”

“Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.”

There are, of course, cynical and selfish applications of such advice: some people have made a…

How to make a Disembodied Consciousness

There are lots of humorous treatments of this topic, such as https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/what-do-ghosts-feel, but I’d like to take it seriously for a moment. (Lots of people do!)

First let’s consider how you know if you are dreaming: the conventional remedy for any such confusion is to say, “Pinch me!” — expressing our near-universal conviction that the main difference between a dream and reality is that sensory input (pain in particular) is what makes reality real. Or at least our experience of it.

Next let’s ask, “What makes you you?” Well, arguably others’ experience of you has a lot to do with…

What should be beyond question?

There are many things that many people think should never be questioned. Perhaps the most intense convictions of this kind are associated with religion: one’s faith should never be questioned. But Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living,” and Jon Meacham (a modern Christian theologian) paraphrased, “An unexamined faith is not worth having.” Before chosing sides on this issue, let’s look at some slightly less passionately held positions.

Anyone with military training will have been told that it is not their place to question orders from a commander during battle. This seems reasonable, inasmuch as, “He who hesitates…

Shame is unfashionable these days, and not only with the formerly devout who are trying to heal. New Age gurus and pop psychologists will say, “Shame on you for indulging in shame!” Shame makes you feel bad about yourself, and we believe that low self-esteem blunts initiative, courage and performance, so never feel bad about yourself.

Well, I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. There are things I have done in my life that I call “wincers” — things that hurt other people… things I will never be able to forget, and never be able to remember without wincing

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Let me start with the assertion that we are all cyborgs now. Almost all of us have artificial enhancements for sight or hearing, many are getting mechanical components like hips and knees, and some are starting to consider direct brain interfaces to our computers, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the replacement of “meat memory” by Google, and the largely unforseen consequences thereof.

I used to remember pi to several more figures than I do now; it seems pointless to take up meat memory with something I need so rarely (and usually in conjunction with a…

Thomas Cole: The Course of Empire: Destruction (1836)
Thomas Cole: The Course of Empire: Destruction (1836)

For millennia, empires have been built on this basic principle. Initially, of course, the “you” in that principle referred to people in different tribes, countries or social classes — usually all three. The above behavioral rule has been used to justify conquest, enslavement, pillage and subjugation throughout the sordid history of Homo sapiens.

Then, in what we optimistically call The Enlightenment, what we optimistically call Western Civilization implemented a policy of pretending to care about other people’s lives. This was taken to ridiculous extremes such as the policy, “No price is too great to save one human life!” …

The following (condensed) assertion is attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Planning is essential; plans are useless.”

I believe he was referring to the necessity for military commanders to be able to react instantly to changes in a battle, regardless of their original strategy. While the plan is expendable, the planning that goes into it is never wasted; planning is what informs the commander’s judgement in split-second decisions.

Today we are all engaged in a struggle for our planet’s life. Not for the planet; it will be fine, as it has through numerous mass extinctions in the distant past. But for…

Jess H. Brewer

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