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IdentityCrisis

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  1. I'll third the recommendation for Minority report. There's definitely a free will stance in the movie, as well as a "knowledge is power" theme. But I don't recall anything that pointed to a pro-gun stance. What makes you think that? I can't comment on Incredibles or Hombre, having seen neither. But for anyone looking for a good children's movie, I recently caught most of "Matilda" on television and thought I'd mention it here. The title character is a little girl gifted with genius-level intelligence, who's life is an unfortunate hell thanks to her unloving, slime-ball parents and her school's militant, child-hating psycopath of a principal (who runs the place more like a prison than an educational facility). Her only real adult ally is one of her teachers. Eventually she discovers that she has powerful telekinetic abilities, which she masters and uses to make things right. The movie was surprisingly good. There was no moral equivocation that I could see; her parents were clearly shown as unscrupulous car-part thieves and rotten parents (ignoring Matilda except when punishing or demeaning her), and the principal was so over-the-top it's surreal. Matilda herself, on the other hand, comes across as confident in her own judgement and being quite courageous in following her sense of right and wrong, even before she discovers her powers. And once she does discover them, she doesn't hesitate to use them (quite creatively) to make things better for herself and the people she cares about; she doesn't waste any time hand-wringing or being afraid of her own abiities. The bad guys are ultimately undone by their own vices; the principal is superstitious, and Matilda eventually breaks her by playing on her irrationality. Her parents are forced to flee the country to avoid getting caught by the law. And Matilda is able to arrange it so that she can stay with her teacher. The movie ultimately comes across as very pro-intelligence, pro-happiness and pro-justice. The only complaint I can think to make is that the law is not favorably portayed; the two agents after Matilda's father turn out to be just as terrible as the man they're trying to bust. But I don't see that as a major theme; more like a continuation of the theme that Matilda is stuck with no good adults around (except her teacher). Other than that, stick this one in the same file as Harry Potter and rent it for your kids.
  2. So the same (non-animated) .GIF files will work for both the fonts and the forums? That's what I wanted to know. Thanks.
  3. BEAUTIFUL!!! Which teacher? P.S. At this point, John should just slowly let an evil grin cross his face and tell the truth: "nothing, I was just planning on being hungry later."
  4. Here's one for you gurus out there. I eventually plan to set up a webpage with a forum, and I want to know how to create graphic symbols that can be inserted into posts (like smilies). But here's the catch: I also want to be able to use those same symbols as a font in Microsoft Word (thus killing two birds with one stone). What software tools are out there that will let me create symbols that can be used both ways? The symbols won't have to be animated, but I'd prefer a tool that costs nothing.
  5. Not all aspects of it, no. I realize that I can't recreate volition that way. But then again, I'm not interested in things like volition. I'm not subscribed. I know that they have a free trial, but since it only lasts 30 days I want to wait until the semester is over and use the trial period over the break. We don't consciously validate - or even define - everything our subconscious gives us to infinite precision. For example, you walk into a room and see a patch of color that you identify as a man. Do you stop and consciously start taking measurements and comparing them to your concept of "man?" Could you even give a mathematical description of what a man looks like? Of course not. And even if you could, stopping to consciously confirm that every bit of sensory data that comes your way is exactly what you think it is would take so much time that you would starve to death if you tried to function that way. Past a certain point, we don't stop to analyze in that kind of detail unless we have reason to. Why would it have to? I don't need my calculator to account for human mathematical thinking, I just need it to come up with useful answers faster than I can myself. There are a finite number of concepts in my mind at any one time. Some are primary, or "atomic." They can't be broken down further. Concepts of sensation (like "blue") fall into this category, for example. Other concepts result from combining these atomic concepts according to certain rules. I'm trying to identify which concepts are atomic and the rules for their combination, and apply that. Think of it as "linguistic housecleaning," if you will. We'll see, eventually. I can only tackle one level at a time. Under whatever motivation I decide to program into it. You don't expect a calculator to be self-motivated, you expect it to do what you tell it to do. Unit-reduction, as described by Rand in ITOE, would be a good use. Doubtless. But while that may not be the only step, it is a step. One thing at a time. Of course not. I would have to write a paper, not a short post. And I only accomplished this in the last week. I'm still proving properties. I'm keeping notes in a text file (call it the bastard love child of an outline and a rough draft), but it's going to be a while before I can turn that into a full essay. And every new discovery or invention defies "traditional history." So that doesn't worry me. First off, I'm not so sure that it's going to prove to be all that "advanced." I realize that this claim won't mean anything to you since I haven't posted/published anything yet, but the definitions of the basic mathematical concepts I cited (one, plus, etc.) were far simpler than I expected them to be and I have reason to suspect that "infinity" will follow the same pattern. Simply put, the complexity lies in defining the unit, not the quantity. Second, the plan is to use the concepts and processes of my own mind as the model for AI. To do that, I first have to understand the model. Hence the linguistic housecleaning. If I can't define the concept precisely enough in my own mind, I can't replicate it in software.
  6. Hmm... This topic hasn't really helped me. Let me try asking something more specific and see if that shakes anything loose. I mentioned in my opening post the need for both a subject and a verb (even if one is only implied) to express a complete thought in English. To put it in broader, philosophical terms, my understanding is that any complete thought must both refer to an existant (even if it's only a mental existant with no physical counterpart, like "gremlin") and say something about the nature of that existant (like "gremlins are green" or "I am thinking"). In other words, the pattern here is "some existant A," along with "some attribute B which is possessed by A." My impression is that any meaningful statement in any language must either already be in this form ( A is B ) or must be grammatically or implicitly equivalent to that form. So, here's my question: can anyone think of any exceptions in any language? Or am I correct in believing this to be an inescapable law of rational thought?
  7. Perhaps my opening comment was misleading. I should clarify. I am not using objectivism as a context. But I do realize that my audience consists largely of objectivists and I anticipated that the first response of many of them would probably be to mention that infinity is valid as an epistemological concept only. I simply wanted to forstall that and avoid wasting everybody's time (including my own). As for my purpose in asking... That's a little complicated. My long-term goal is the creation of true artificial intelligence; computer programs that can take sense data and organize and theorize about it in the same way that a human can. The premise I am working on is that humans get away with not consciously knowing the precise meaning of every word they use or the exact steps involved in coming to a conclusion because we have a piece of "black box" technology that does that for us: the subconscious. The subconscious handles the details and then presents my conscious mind with the results, but not necessarily with the steps leading to those results. Unfortunately, if I'm going to program a computer to think it's not enough that I have such a "black box" myself. I need to know exactly how it works so that I can design a software equivalent. Thus, I need to know exactly what the irreducible concepts are that my mind uses, exactly what each one means and exactly what rules govern their combination into more complex concepts. Kind of like Aristotle's categories, but taken to the next (and final) level. To this end, I'm having to go even deeper than Rand did in identifying basic concepts. To give you an idea of the sort of thing I'm doing, I've been going through lists of words we use all the time but never really think about the meaning of - "I," "the," "and," "one," etc. - and trying to explicitly identify what I mean by each one and if I can completely define any of them in terms of others on the list (establishing that they're reducible concepts after all). Right now I'm working on basic logic, and in addition to a couple of other rather interesting discoveries I finally managed to bridge the gap between logic and basic mathematics just recently. I've derived the concepts "one," "plus," "equality," "inequality," "greater than" and "lesser than" from basic logical operators. I'm still a long way from differential equations - I haven't even defined "zero" or "minus" yet - but I've definitely got a solid foundation laid down. However, I'm going to need to know how to define "infinity" for various areas of my work. Without that, I'll be stuck before long. That's why I'm asking about it; I don't expect that any one definition out there will be what I want, but I'm hoping that by considering various definitions it might help me to abstract out the element that I'm looking for. Is it clearer now?
  8. I wouldn't bet on that. I passed through Chicago this past summer, and to get from the airport to the train station I rode the "Blue Line," one of a series of train lines that ran through the city providing mass transportation. It went through several tunnels, and looking out the window it often seemed that the walls were barely a handspan (if even that) from the side of the train. It was oddly exhilirating. On the one hand, it felt dangerous because contact with the wall could have been very bad (we were going fast). Yet at the same time there was also the realization that the train was staying perfectly on course and under control. I think that must have been a taste of how Dagny and Rearden felt during the first run of the John Galt line. I'd lay money on two inches being enough, as long as it were done right.
  9. Entities, yes. They correspond to nouns. Also, actions (as they correspond to verbs). But I'm not so sure on relations. If a complete thought can be formed with only concepts of entity and action (noun and verb), are concepts of relation impossible to do without? Granted, you'd have an incredibly crude and limited language, but you could still form a few valid thoughts ("I am hungry."). How do you figure concepts of relation to be inescapable in forming a thought?
  10. A fundamental rule for the English language is that you can't have a complete thought without both a noun and a verb (even if one or the other is only implicit). My understanding is that this is a universal principle, that it's not possible to construct a complete thought in any language without these concepts. Since that principle has played a key role in my own philosophic contemplations, I thought it would be a good idea to get confirmation and to explore the basics of language further. So for any objectivist linguists out there, I want to ask: what are the minimum rules and concepts that no language can be without and still deal with reality? For the record, the only language I speak is English.
  11. That helps a little, thanks. I suppose I should spell out what I'm thinking. The image I have in my mind is a particle which moves back and forth (oscillates) along an axis perpindicular to its forward motion (tracing out a wave-like path). I'm sure you can poke some holes in that.
  12. Mr. Speicher has temporarily overloaded my mental capacity in our conversation on physics, meaning: I've got some learning and thinking to do before I really get back into that conversation. But there are other issues that have been concerning me. So I'd like to turn to some of them now. First off, the concept of infinity. I know that objectivism considers infinity to be a mathematical concept only (and not existing in physical reality), but what is the mathematical definition of infinity (or what are the definitions, if more than one)? Second - and this question is directed primarily at you, Mr. Speicher, though others are welcome to chime in - what breaches exist between mathematics and physical reality? You said that you don't consider set theory to be the correct basis for mathematics... I'd like some more detail. Is it just because Russell's Paradox and other contradictions can be derived from it (not that that isn't enough), or is there something more?
  13. OPAR, page 119. "Aristotle's law of contradiction states the above as a formal principle of thought: nothing can be A and non-A at the same time and in the same respect" (emphasis mine). Or, as I describe it, a contradiction is "a claim that something is both A and non-A within a given context." In either case, the answer to your problem is built right into the definition. The answer to the question "A or non-A" is only good within a certain context (whether specified or implied). You're not allowed to switch contexts in the middle of analysing a claim anymore than you're allowed to change the meaning of "A" partway through. This is simply a form of context-dropping (the context of the claim being checked for contradictions). Does that help?
  14. You know, that might be a good idea for a new sub-forum or two... You could have one for "personal ads" (where people actually try to hook up) and a second for discussing dating technique, etc.
  15. ...Now turn the knife counter-clockwise and apply salt liberally.
  16. Unless I'm getting more of those "little white lies" you mentioned, I'm thinking that the two are incompatible. The formula I'm getting from my chemistry textbook is (wavelength * frequency = c), and since wavelength is a straight-line measurement that means that oscillation is not taken into account. And it sounds like the same can be said of relativity's "light rays." So unless the claim that observers will measure the same velocity for c refers only to a photon's motion along a single axis (which is not what I've been hearing), these two theories don't add up. If I measure a photon's motion along the x axis to be 1 lightsecond per second, but I also measure oscilation along a different axis, then I'm measuring the total path travelled per second to be greater than a lightsecond (and thus, a velocity greater than c). Have I mentioned how much I appreciate your help and patience with all of this? Because I really do. I checked out both books yesterday. I've been through the first two parts of the first chapter of Stoll's book, and so far it seems good. There were a couple of parts where I had to go over the same paragraph or two several times to "get it," but I can already tell that it could have been much worse.
  17. Within driving distance, I believe, although I've never been there (yet). BZZZZT! Sorry, no. I'm Dr. McHugh's wage-slave. But tell him what the consolation prize is, Bob! Out of curiosity, what made you guess that it was Dr. Whelan? Do you know them? I like it so far, although for some reason the computer I work on seems to have it in for me (I #$%ing HATE LINUX!). I would probably be able to appreciate what a "great project to be associated with" it is if I understood more of it, but I suppose that will come with time.
  18. Hmm. I was trying to integrate some things from my modern physics textbook (the invarience of c and the claim that all of a photon's energy comes from momentum) with some things from my chemistry textbook (color being based on a photon's wavelength), but I'm starting to wonder which theories I'm supposed to integrate and which I'm supposed to treat as mutually exclusive. Hmm... Off the top of my head I still need to take Thermodynamics, Electromag Theory, Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics and Intro to Electronics. On another note... Some questions about book recommendations. 1) In another thread you recommended a book called Spacetime Physics, and it turns out that I can get my hands on a copy from the library from one of my universities' libraries. The problem: they only have the 60's version, which you say doesn't define the concepts involved quite as precisely as the 90's version. Is this a problem? Are there any errors I should be aware of before using the 60's version, or should I order and wait for the 90's version? Or can I just use the 60's version as is without worrying about it? 2) Elsewhere you've mentioned having issues with set theory, which I hear is currently used as the basis of all mathematics. Set theory is something I've been wanting to look into for a while. Can you recommend any book(s)? Something with a gentle learning curve is prefered, though not strictly necessary. What are your problems with it? 3) This one is for anyone who cares to answer... I see that Peikoff has put out a taped lecture on his DIM Hypothesis and is working on the book. Does anyone know about when the book will be out? If it will be a while I may want to see if I can get one of the university libraries here to pick up the tape series, but I'm not sure how eagar they'll be to take requests that cost hundreds of dollars a pop...
  19. Heh. Better late than never, I suppose. Thanks. Indirectly. Two of the physics professors here at Loyola are involved with LIGO, and I'm a student research assistant for one of them. I don't yet have the physics expertise to even understand the science involved, but I am quite good at programming. Hence my job is basically to take some of the raw numbers that some of LIGO's instruments spit out, sort them, crunch them and turn them into useful graphs. I think that technically I just work for my professor, not for LIGO itself (even though I'm payed out of his LIGO grant money). I'm not 100% sure on that, though. I'd have to ask. The really sweet part of the deal is that the time I spend studying science and mathematics related to the job counts as work hours. Now if I can just get a similar deal for computer science and engineering course to go along with that, I'll be in great shape.
  20. What is this project? I haven't heard of it. Here's a question. The formula for gravitational pull between two objects says it's the product of their masses and the gravitational constant divided by the square of the distance between them. But in the case of a photon, one of the masses (and therefor the final value) is zero. So according to my understanding of classical physics, photons should completely ignore gravity. So why do planets, black holes, etc. have an effect? Gee, thanks. That's my job you're talking about, there.
  21. deleting and reposting... Something's very wrong with the way this thing's formatting, and it won't seem to fix.
  22. Okay, I missed that point. Thanks. Question - does that include the oscillations due to wave-like motion? In other words, if a photon's overall motion is along the x axis but it's oscillating up and down in the direction of the y axis, is it only the motion in the x direction that equals c, or is it (x^2 + y^2)^1/2 that equals c? Probably a little of both, though neither intentionally. You mean this *isn't* such a course? If I stay on this path, there's Quantum Mechanics in my future. Does that count?
  23. So what exactly is it that GR does that SR can't? So fields and energy conservation are both ill-defined... You're making it sound as though not just me but physics as a whole is in need of a linguistic overhaul. I'm not sure whether to be relieved or even more worried. Okay, forget about frame transformations for a moment and let me try this another way. I'm going to describe a thought experiment, and maybe you can explain what happens and why. Take two observers (A and B ), both using the same coordinate system (no transformations). A is standing at the point of origin (0, 0) and B is standing 10 meters away along the negative direction of the x axis (-10, 0). The experiment begins when (t = 0 seconds), with synchronicity ensured by means of a flashbulb halfway between them being set off (they each start when the light reaches them). At t = 0, A generates a flash of light (which we'll designate as L) from his position in the positive direction of the x axis. A remains still. B begins moving backwards at a rate of 1 m/s. Now, I have two conceptual problems here. First, according to Einstein L must be moving at velocity c with respect to both A and B, even though B is moving away from L in addition to L's own speed. Second, if A and B both try to compute L's position based on the amount of time that has elapsed using the same velocity of c, they should get differant positions for L (indicating that L is in two differant places at once). Both of these strike me as contradictions. What gives? Hang on. I'm somewhat familiar with that experiment, and my understanding was that the +/- v was supposed to come from the relative motion of Earth and the theoretical ether. If the measuring devices were not moving relative to the light source and mirrors, then once you discard the ether idea it makes perfect sense - even from a Galilean perspective - that you would measure the same speed for light in each direction. I see how that experiment discredits the ether theory, but not how it supports relativity. I'm older than you think, I just got a late start (for various unpleasant reasons I won't go into). I'm actually 27. I've been studying physics and computer science, and am just beginning to get into engineering-related courses.
  24. Heh. This is where I'm supposed to say "energy," right? Maybe that's where my problem is coming from. Too many uses for the same word. That said, though, I don't see the point of the question. I don't need to say that the Earth is composed of "matter" to classify it as an entity, I just need to know that it is something that acts and is acted upon, as opposed to being a process of action (or a relation). The same goes for the gravitational field the Earth generates. We can give it a name if you'd like, but where are you going with this? Oh yes, *definitely* too many meanings for the same word. Special relativity (SR) deals with frames moving at uniform velocity at not rotating with respect to one anthor, while general relativity (GR) deals with frames that can be accelerating and rotating relative to one another, correct? Question. If the energy conservation law breaks down in GR, why is it still held to be a law? If GR and the conservation law contradict one another, why are both still around? My textbook jumped through some hoops to keep conservation of linear momentum and energy intact in SR... Well, I'm not there yet. I still find the question very meaningful. Right now it makes more sense to me to say that something must be wrong with Maxwell's equations if they break down like that. Interesting. I haven't studied electrodynamics yet, so I can't really comment on Maxwell's equations. But what does he mean by "on the basis of experience?" There's no way Einstein was running around at relativistic speeds at 16, so what experimental data is he talking about? That part is easy enough. (L' = L/y), where L is the proper length (rocket's frame), L' is Earth's frame and y is gamma, correct? Here's where I start having trouble. I don't know how precise the best of modern instrumentation can get, and I'd need that information before I could select values of L and v that would do the job. I don't know how to calculate for fuel requirements and stress. Ask me again in two or three years when I have some engineering courses under my belt. That said, keep in mind that to deal with stress you can always start from further out or just not bother using the sun (to give yourself more time to accelerate gradually).
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