Monday, 4 July 2011

Who needs facts when I've got a strawman?

When I left him, I reasoned thus with myself: I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.
Socrates, from Plato's Apology, 21d

Pet peeve of the week:  why can't people argue properly?

I tend to get a lot of my news from "The Guardian", a UK broadsheet which still maintains a free web service.  One thing they do, and what many of the leading news sites seem to do these days, is allow comments to be posted at the bottom of most articles, moderated only for profanity/racism etc.  Today I was reading an editorial on the merits of nuclear power as an energy source and decided to browse through the comments, and got so disappointed!  So many criticisms, but almost none are properly thought out or even address the issue at hand.  People seem unable to fight facts with facts - not arguing to seek the truth, but arguing from a fixed position, unwilling to move.  Granted, the internet isn't a great place to look for reasoned debate, but I think this problem permeates all over society.

Anyone who's read any Plato can immediately identify the dialectic method of Socrates - a debate, but a debate in which the participants bring forth facts and opinions in which to 'work together' to reach a conclusion.  Somewhat ironically, Socrates' form of debate generally sees him working with someone much less knowledgeable than himself and therefore always ends up fairly one-sided, but in any case, the idea of debating with facts is a great one, and seems a rational thing to do.  It doesn't mean that there's only one right answer, as that depends on the motivations of the arguees (for example, an atheist dying of a horribly painful disease might come to a different conclusion on assisted suicide than a bible-bashing Christian, just because they don't have a shared starting position of goals and beliefs).

I'll run with the nuclear power thing a bit longer, because it provides a perfect illustration of the dangers of the ignorance of proper debate (or I guess 'dialectic' to give it the proper term).  In the article, the writer sets out his initial position.  He provides facts, and uses those facts to come to conclusions about specific points.  He then summarises these conclusions and forms an opinion - do we invest in nuclear power, or no? 

Responses then vary: 
a) Great article, agree with everything!  
This suggests the writer and reader agree on the facts and the conclusion, and reached the same answer.  Not much of a debate, but nothing wrong with it!
b) Shame on you for selling out to the nuclear industry
Wait, what?  Response makes attack on the credibility of the writer, but fails to point out inaccuracy of argument.  This is great for winning people over to your side in the debate, much easier to slander than to defend yourself from slander.  However, it's not a reasoned debate - the responder fails to put forth any counter arguments or even anything else to discuss.  This attack clearly has no merit, but is very effective at creating seeds of doubt in bystanders of the debate. 
c) Handing over power to the nuclear industries is wrong, we can't trust them!
More insidious than b), this is a strawman - slightly modifying the opponents position in order to attack them.  Supporting using some nuclear power in our energy portfolio isn't the same as letting nuclear companies do as they please, but clearly the idea of a for-profit energy company without limitations or boundaries is something easier to fight against.  If it's done well, even the writer might get distracted about what he was trying to say in the first place, weakening his position.
d) I'm not sure about your figures for the amount of uranium left in the ground, which I think is higher, as seen in article X....
Finally, a reasonable argument, debating the facts from which the writer drew his conclusion.  If the facts are wrong, the conclusion might be wrong.  This is the way debate about important matters should be undertaken!

Just as an aside, my personal position in nuclear power is this - as a physicist partly trained in medical physics, I understand better than most the science behind nuclear reactors, reactor design, and especially the interaction of radiation with the human body and the potential consequences.  One thing I've never looked at in depth is the economics behind nuclear power, especially decommissioning the plants which is apparently very expensive.  Therefore I'm happy with the conclusion that nuclear shouldn't be completely disregarded on radiation safety grounds (amount of deaths associated really does compare well to gas/coal/oil, the fear of radiation is more dangerous than the thing in itself), but I can't really comment on the economics of it.  From the few articles I've read on it which aren't dealing with just the hysterical fear of radiation side of nuclear power, but on it's viability as an energy source, I'm leaning towards being favourable, but would be easily swayed by some compelling facts. Therefore, I can't say I support or am against nuclear power.  I could spend some more time researching it and coming to a reasonable conclusion, but I don't really have the time... therefore I'm sitting on the fence.  And there's really nothing wrong with being on the fence!  It's the place to be, the place where everyone keeps an open, but skeptical, mind.  

Of course, arguing at the pub about who's the better football player, Messi or Ronaldo doesn't require such structured argument, but when we are talking about things of importance, when it comes to voting, it's really important that voters can understand the arguments in the political debates and campaigns, and see the difference between strawmen and reason.  We need to understand that it's okay not to know the answer to everything - there's a reason we have experts!  Sometimes we need to judge our politicians on not who appears to know the answer, but on who will get the right advice and knowledge before they declare the answer.  After all, we can't expect our politicians to be an expert on everything under the sun - they need to know how to take advice and weigh the facts themselves. 

The danger related to poor debating isn't theoretical - the anti-nuclear 'green' lobby in Europe is guilty of massive distortion of facts (for example 100,000s of deaths from Chernobyl - complete bullshit!) and liberal applications of pseudo-science, and they've managed to bring about the shut down by 2022 of nuclear reactors in Germany on health and environmental reasons (ie. even shutting down ones that are still working perfectly, not just declining to commission new ones), then burning more coal to make up the shortfall in energy.  If there was a God out there (and their ain't), he'd be doing an epic face palm.

PS. Do you see any strawmen in my arguments above?  Maybe there are some - it's easy to be an accidental hypocrite!  As hard as we try, we're human, not perfectly rational beings...

Friday, 3 June 2011

The original 'superman'


Once the soul looked contemptuously on the body, and then that contempt was the supreme thing:- the soul wished the body meagure, ghastly, and famished.  Thus it thought to escape from the body and the earth.
Oh, that soul was itself meagre, ghastly, and famished; and cruelty was the delight of that soul!

But ye, also, my brethren, tell me:  What doth your body say about your soul?  Is your soul not poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency?
Verily, a polluted stream is man.  One must be a sea, to revive a polluted stream without becoming impure.
Lo, I teach you the Superman: He is that sea; in him can your great contempt be submerged.
Nietzsche, 'Thus Spake Zarathustra', chapter III

Few thinkers have created as much controversy or left as big an imprint on the world as Friedrich Nietzsche.  He is credited with the 'death of God', inspiring the Zionist state, as well as contributing to the intellectual climate allowing the far right Nazi party to flourish in Germany in the 1930s and 40s.  He is the starting point for many of the existentialist and other continental philosophers of the 20th century.

I first read 'Thus Spake Zarathustra' when I was about 22, and was absolutely amazed at the prose, the ideas, and the audacity of the book.  I'm not sure I really understood how powerful a book could be until I read this one - in some ways, it changed the way I looked at the world.  Here is a book begging humanity to free itself from the shackles of religion, subservience and servitude, and grasp control of our own fate, thus becoming a 'superman' (as my English translation says), or 'ubermensch' (a word you no doubt relate to your school-age history class on the second world war).  Now, some years after reading it the first time, and having read a few more of Nietzsche's works, I've become much more critical of some of his ideas, but still greatly respect and am inspired by a lot of what he said, especially within this particular book.

For those that haven't read it, a very very short, poorly explained summary: it is an attack on the Christian mindset and attitude to life, yet written in a biblical style.  It offers a way for humans to rise above the idea of serving their superiors, especially the 'ultimate' superior, God himself.  By mental strength and will, the abandonment of negative forces such as pity and humility, one can rise above servility to become the master of one's own life. 

I guess he is most famous for the way his ideas were manipulated into the ethos of the Nazi party - obviously the idea of the 'ubermensch' is one of the first things you learn about in school.  He was long dead by the 1930's and 40's, so it's impossible to say exactly what he'd feel about his ideas being used in this way.  No doubt he'd be delighted by the abandonment of religion and the assertion of humankind's natural will, but I can't help but feel that he'd see that even in such a state, man was no more a master of himself than in any other state, still just a manipulated puppet of a government, and in this case a government driven by something akin to Nieztsche's beloved will to power.

As a personal reader, however, without taking everything he says in a 100% literal way, I think I've certainly gotten some things out of it that are positive to my own life.  If one tries to be a master of oneself, one must take responsibility for all the decisions and choices one makes (am I making the right choice?  what is leading me to make the choice?).  One must be careful of being manipulated by outside sources (am I buying this brand of soap just because of an exploitative advertising campaign, or because it's a good soap?).  Finally, in the end, one must actively strive to a better place in life (what do I need to do to achieve inner peace and happiness?). 

I don't really have any conclusion, or point to this post - it's just a subject that really interests me.  I guess one idea is that what might be a great individual personal philosophy for someone to become successful in life, doesn't mean it's something that is going to be good for humanity if it becomes widespread.  I suspect it'll never be possible for all of humankind to be equal 'masters of destiny'.  But on the other hand, I've always found it a bit difficult to attack a way of thinking due to its implications (or lack thereof).  Many criticise one of my favourite authors Albert Camus - a man who at times gave in to the complete absurdity of our lives - for not providing a way of thinking that is a positive force in people's lives.  But, there's not an obvious link between being 'a positive force' and being a well reasoned, sound idea - indeed, in Camus's case, he might very well argue that what others would see as a positive force has no real meaning, and therefore is a meaningless statement.  A way of thinking that is useful for the peaceful procreation of humanity is not necessarily something that is well reasoned or logically sound, just something that works effectively.  If you were a polar bear sitting on a melting icecap, maybe you wouldn't be seeing the peaceful procreation of humanity as such a positive thing in any case!

Friday, 20 May 2011

A happy life?


The new day was cool, filled with the sound of birds.  The sun rose quickly, and in a single leap was above the horizon.  The earth was covered with gold, with warmth.  In the morning, sky and sea were spattered with dancing patches of blue and yellow light.  A light breeze had risen, and through the window a breath of salt air cooled Mersault's arms.  At noon the wind dropped, the day split open like ripe fruit and trickled down the face of the world, a warm and choking juice in a sudden concert of cicadas.  The sea was covered with this golden juice, a sheet of oil upon the water, and gave back to the sun-crushed earth a warm, softening breath which released odours of wormwood, rosemary, and hot stone.  From his bed, Mersault received that impact, that offering, and he opened his eyes on the huge, curved, glistening sea irradiated with the smiles of his gods.  Suddenly he realized he was sitting on his bed, and that Lucienne's face was very close to his.  Slowly, as though it came from his stomach, there rose inside him a stone which approached his throat.  He breathed faster and faster, taking advantage of the respites granted each time it moved.  It rose steadily, higher and higher.  He looked at Lucienne.  He smiled without wincing, and this smile too came from inside himself.  He threw himself back on the bed, and felt the slow ascent within him.  He looked at Lucienne's swollen lips and, behind her, the smile of the earth.  He looked at them with the same eyes, the same desire.
      'In a minute, in a second,' he thought.  The ascent stopped.  And stone among the stones, he returned to the joy of his heart, to the truth of the motionless worlds.


The above quote comes at the end of Albert Camus's "A Happy Death", as the main character Mersault (the same name as his hero/antihero from his later work "the stranger" for which he won his Nobel prize- I guess this is an early version of the character) experiences the moments before his own death, from his bed with his wife at his side.   Up until a couple years ago, I was extremely fond of the idea of a happy death.  We always live in a 'now'.  I can remember the past, and even remember happy times in the past.  However, if I'm not happy now, what value does my prior happiness have?  It is from a prior time, a prior state, which will never exist again.  We often look back on loved one's lives after they've passed on, and proclaim "s/he had a good life", remembering the shared happy times we shared, as if these past happy times are what gives a life value.  For a person that dies in pain, that dies in fear, the last moment they have of conscious - does it negate everything that goes before?   The above passage, then, was the thing we should strive for - true bliss at the ultimate end of our lives.

Well, now I'm in my cynical old age (that is, just over a quarter of a century), I guess I've grown out of this particular idea - not because I've found value in things that happen in the past, I guess just become more pessimistic about the value of things in the present too.  Perhaps the ultimate endpoint for an atheist is that nothing has inherent value - that is, absolute value, decided upon by something outside of our selves (ie God, society, biological pressures).  Indeed, as a human we can tell ourselves that something is valuable - dedication to our spouse and children perhaps, or always staying on the moral highground.  Perhaps if we tell ourselves how valuable these things are enough, we start to believe it, almost brainwash ourselves into believing it.  A life without values seems impossible to live, so we must cling onto them, even if reason may be telling us otherwise.

The reason I'm writing this is due to a death of a colleague and friend a couple weeks ago, a random case of a young man falling asleep and never waking up again. "A tragedy", agreed by everyone.  Times like these are related to extreme social pressure - in the face of death, everyone is expected to 'stick together' and express grief.  Of course, I mourn - I will miss his presence from my life, and certainly mourn the loss of the connection we had.  I find these days, though, that I seem not be able to grieve in quite the same way as others - stopped the mourning of death itself, but instead despair over the tendrils of family and community that are broken when someone passes away.  If I don't see the value in life, how can I see the sadness when it ends?  As far as I can tell, my friend has gone back to the state he was in before he was born - absolute nothingness.  There is no more joy and no more suffering, no more love and no more despair.  But somehow, I know that those feelings are all products of evolution, things that have kept human beings reproducing and dominating our world.  They are the equivalent of an opposable thumb - something that is useful for us to stay alive. 

The result, for me, is that our rationality is a useful evolutionary tool, and has lead me to secular, scientific view of the world - yet somehow, a totally rational view seems to reduce the worth of our emotions, lowers the volume of our natural biological urges, and leaves us in a state of confusion in a world without absolutes.  I wonder if this is the reason for human's natural state of treading the line between rationality - finding how things work, exploiting our environment - and irrationality - to believe in fairies, and to 'trust our gut'.  If we became completely logical beings, would we just deduce the pointlessness of our existence and cease to function?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - the life isn't an easy place for an atheist!  It becomes a world of doubts and half-formed thoughts, feeling you're always on the edge of breaking new ground, and yet in the knowledge that there will never be a "final answer".    

Ah well.  My friend, I hope you've embraced the return to "the truth of the motionless worlds".  All of us will be following you soon - to the ultimate freedom from doubt.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

"I want the truth!" "You can't handle the truth!"

If I could just speak up, I think I would say
that there is no truth. There is only you
and what you make the truth.
From Bright Eyes' "don't know when but a day is gonna come" (

I am sitting with a philosopher in the garden; he says again and again "I know that's a tree", pointing to a tree that is near us.  Someone else arrives and hears this, and I tell him. "This fellow isn't insane.  We are only doing philosophy."
Wittgenstein, from "On Certainty"  (

Two quotes today!  The topic of today is on truth, and what it means.

Recently I have been reading about Wittgenstein (I say "reading about" as either a) I'm not smart enough to read and understand his work itself, or b) he wasn't as gifted at communicating as he was at philosophy), and his stance on certainty.  Among many things, he questions how we can say things are 'true' or 'untrue', and how this feeds back into language itself. 

Then, a couple of days ago I watched an excellent animated version of Tim Minchin's "Storm ( a comic autobiographical piece about a dinner party featuring Tim, an atheist, sceptic and comic, and "Storm", a new age girl in favour of 'natural remedies' and the like.  Being the person I am, I will always side the scientific sceptic.  However, at one point in the skit, "Storm" comes out with the following - "You can't know anything, knowledge is only opinion".  Of course, Tim smacks it down by wondering why, if she doesn't know anything, she leaves her house from the ground floor instead of the second floor window - implying, apparently, that we must have knowledge for us to interact with the world around us.  However, for once, I didn't completely disagree with what she says - what can we know? 

Indeed, as in the quote from Wittgenstein above - what does "That is a tree" really mean?  To call something a tree, we need knowledge of what a 'tree' is, and to get knowledge of what a tree is, we need a tree (or a description of a tree)! Indeed, what happens when we look at a tree?  We point our eyes at the tree - light from the sun bounces off the tree and into our eyes, are focused by our eye lens onto the back of our eye, creating electrical signals that travel into our brain.  These electric signals, apparently, are somehow analysed by our brain which uses some sort of pattern finding to identify the object as a "tree", from our experiences of other objects in the past that have been observed and to which we have given the linguistic label "tree".  Then I can report my brain's analysis, and say "oh, that's a tree!".  One thing that should be very clear here is that this analysis is internal to my brain, as is everything we interact with in the world.  Does the tree have a 'true' existence outside of my human brain?  Well, as the whole idea for a 'tree' comes from my brain, I can't be so sure about that.  Language helps mankind unite it's linguistic truth concepts, so we can all agree it's a tree, but somehow it doesn't lend the tree any more credibility than one mind on it's own.  Does the tree object have an existence outside of our label?

In mathematics, truth is often qualified with the axioms from which the truth is derived.  Famously, the geometry we learn at school is based on the axioms laid out in Euclid's "Elements" (  Indeed, we can say that if 1+1 = 2, and 2 + 1 = 3, then 1 + 1 + 1 = 3.   That is, if we make an initial assumption, we can therefore derive truth, but truth which is conditional upon the axioms.

I wonder, then, if for each of us, our respective truths may lie upon some basic axioms which we create ourselves, possibly as we are growing children.  To survive in the world, we must interact with it - to interact with it, we must manipulate the information sent to us from our senses and react.  I see an animal - it has big teeth - I must run away!  I see a tree, I know that trees can be climbed - I use it to escape from the animal with big teeth!  If I was unable to use pattern recognition to understand a tree and have the knowledge that the tree could be climbed, I might be eaten by the animal with big teeth.  Good for him, bad for me!  So, to explain our environment, we must naturally try to understand it logically, in order to be able to react to it in a beneficial way.  As I'm climbing the tree, I see a thick branch and a thin, weak branch - if I can't make the judgement to stand on the thick one, I fall off the tree and get eaten.

To be effective, our brains *must* use logic, and this logic *must* be able to make predictions about the world.  And if it's logic, it must have axioms, or some core ideas, on which it's based, even if we are unaware of them, or if they are hidden deep down in our subconcious!  Most are probably an innate part of being human - when we see one apple being added to a basked with another apple in, we know there's two apples!  What happens when we see something and we don't have a clue what is happening?  Well, know we try to explain it with science!  But think of what a shooting star seemed like to a prehistoric man - it is completely beyond his ability to comprehend with the logical system of his brain!  He doesn't know enough, he can't know enough to understand it.  But our brain thirsts for an answer - if it didn't it wouldn't be doing it's job of understanding circumstances to keep us alive.  Presumably, this is where spiritual belief may come into play - by attributing things to a 'higher power', our brains can accept things that appear to lie outside the logical systems of our brains.  And if there's a 'higher power' which you've already been told about by a nearby adult then all the better!

Anyway, maybe next time you have an argument with the man on the street who is insistent that Jesus died for your sins, maybe it is true, to him.  By disagreeing, you're saying that your logic processing unit has come to a different conclusion than his - the way your mind works makes something else appear as the truth, that there is no such thing as sin.  Changing his mind requires you to change the core beliefs, the axioms upon which his logical system is based -  just think of the amount of suicidal mathematicians there'd be if someone proved a basic axiom that their entire life's work was based on to be false!

In conclusion, I suspect that I've written too little about too much, and that I'll look back at this tomorrow and think the opposite.  I wish life wasn't so damned difficult to understand! I mean - why am I even sitting here thinking about this?  What the fuck!?

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Scientific meaning, or, how I learned to stop worrying and embrace the emptiness

"...nothing is clear, all is chaos, all man has is his lucidity and his definite knowledge of the walls surrounding him" - Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus


The man from which the above book get its title from, Sisyphus, was a deceitful man, who tricked and schemed his way into power and fame.  For his final trick, he managed to wrangle his way out of the Underworld, returning to the world above to try to cheat death.  As punishment, he was forced for eternity to push a boulder up a hill.  However, before he reaches the top, the boulder slips and rolls back to the bottom.  The only thing for him to do is to return to the bottom, and start again, pushing for the top, pushing with all his being, pushing for nothing.

Indeed, I guess most people, when hearing this story feel at least a bit of resonance with their own lives.  What the hell are we doing?  Why do I wake up every morning at 8.30AM, go into a device that sprays hot water onto my body, wipe my body with 'cleansing' chemicals, then use a sharp blade to cut bits of hair off my face?  Then, why do I go to work (or, whatever passes for work as a PhD student) and spend hours working on some fairly abstract problem in plasma physics that has no obvious value to anyone?  How do we even define value anyway?  Well, maybe this is something to discuss another time.   As a human, as in science, it seems all we can do is start with the complex, and work our way down the ladder of simplicity, a race to understand things as fundamentally as possible before we die.  So, what is the value of science?

When I started getting interested in physics, if someone asked me why, I might have replied something like "I want to understand the universe in a more comprehensive way", or maybe, more simply, "I want the truth".  If you asked me why I'm still interested in it, the best I'd be able to do is "I find it intellectually stimulating", or maybe "It allows me to be around lots of smart people who help develop my mind". 

Why the change of heart?  The main issue facing me is the link between physics, that is a physical model of our world, and the world itself.  Up until the start of the 20th century, humankind had a pretty nice model of how the world worked.  Newton's laws were the cornerstone.  It all 'made sense' - if you push something, it moves, if you jump, you come back down.  That is, it blended in perfectly with our every day observations.  It was, you might say, logically sound.  However, 100 years later, and we know have a completely different view of the way the world works.  The concepts of quantum phenomena and relativity now seem to explain more accurately the way the world works - things that are, on the face of it, much less sensible, but continually come up with the right experimental results, over and over again. There was a sudden paradigm shift in our perspective of the way the world works.

So, why am I not happy with this?  As I alluded to before, physics started at a complexity level matched to what we see in our world around us.  That is, the first thing that physics set out to do was to try to create a model of the way our macroscopic world works.  We are not proving anything - we don't have any basic axioms on which our model is set on, just that it agrees with what we see in the world.  When I write in a scientific paper that the electric field of the laser acts on an electron, what I am really saying is that "it appears as though I can model what happens in the external world, if we say that a piece of energy called an 'electron' interacts with a field of energy called an electric field".  Does the 'electron' actually exist?  Is it a 'true' thing?  Almost certainly not - if there's anything history of science tells us, it's that all we ever have is the approximation of the truth, and however far down the rabbit hole we go, the deeper it gets.  Furthermore, as our predicting model (ie. science) now appears to be at its base, something that doesn't necessary 'make sense' or appeal to our logic as humans, which makes me wonder how much we can trust logic.  If we start doubting that, then we doubt everything.

Perhaps that's another story for another day, though.  It seems a natural thing for a human to look for facts, gain knowledge of a system, and exploit that knowledge.  That's why we're so damn successful.  But what makes a fact?  What can we really believe?  Indeed, what value does believing in something have?  Something tells me I'll be asking these questions till the day I die.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Post 0

it went like this:
the buildings tumbled in on themselves
mothers clutching babies picked through the rubble
and pulled out their hair

the skyline was beautiful on fire
all twisted metal stretching upwards
everything washed in a thin orange haze

i said: "kiss me, you're beautiful -
these are truly the last days"

you grabbed my hand and we fell into it
like a daydream or a fever 


Evening all.

Yesterday evening I started reading Mitchell Waldrop's 'Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos'  ( Indeed, it looks like it will be a very interesting book, probably worthy of another post some point soon.  Without wanting to go into it to much, it tells the tale of a new discipline in science to do with complex systems, which include all kinds of disparate systems such as stock markets, anthropology, cellular biology, and cosmology.  Indeed, the part I read last night was setting the scene for the rest of the book, mainly by giving an introduction to the main protaganists - that is, the brilliant scientists who came up with such novel ideas and went about aggressively pursuing their passions to attain funding, interest and scientific credibility.  

Now, as a bit of background, I'm currently doing a PhD in Plasma Physics - that is, training to become a scientist.  I've come to the realisation that no matter how hard I try, I will never be as brilliant and able to achieve as much as those at the top of my field - my brain just isn't built the right way.  This is not something to be ashamed of, just a fact of life.  We are certainly not 'all created equal', at least, not in a biological way.  However, even though I know my limitations, I don't believe this should dissuade me from trying to achieve as much as I can mentally - that is, to continue to push back the boundaries of my own mind.

Anyway, to get back to the subject at hand, reading about someone who basically thought up a new brand of science just via observation and his own brilliance made me think more about the way I go through life.  Indeed, I've spend the last 26 years of my life essentially acting as a sponge for information - continually learning things from where ever I could.  However, these steps forward in understanding are not something that are taught - they are created.  If everyone only ever learnt what everyone else already knows, no one's understanding would ever develop.  Now, there are still a near infinite number of things I think I can learn from others, but I thought it was time to start trying to create something for myself.  What do I mean by create?  Well, in some ways I guess my job as a scientist is to 'create', or at least 'illuminate' new science.  However, as well as science I hold a great interest in a number of areas, such as philosophy, anthropology and technology.  I'd really like to start trying to develop my thoughts.  Currently I do a lot of thinking, but fail to commit any of it to paper (or e-paper) - if nothing else, it will prove interesting in future times to look back and see how my thoughts developed.  I guess a blog seems like a pretty sad place to start 'creation', but things must start somewhere!

In any case, to summarise, I hope to ramble on about a number of subjects here, most of which I have no particular deep knowledge or formal background in.  The goal is to develop and track ideas and thoughts that I have, and gain some skill in trying to write down the thoughts that float around in my head.  I will also be posting quotes, poems, lyrics and any other bits of text that interest me, mainly so I can keep track of them.   The bit above, by the way, is a section of the opening monologue from Godspeed You! Black Emperor's 'Dead Flag Blues'.

Well, that's all for now!