The Truman Syndrome

trumanWe hate that this has ended up being the name for it, but you can’t beat Hollywood. If life were fair, we’d be calling this The Gumm Syndrome. Should you ignore that neither Mr. Burbank nor Mr. Gumm were actually suffering from a delusion?

Was Star Fleet Just a Big Show for Picard?

The Federation has no need for Star Fleet. They’re fantastically wealthy and cannot meaningfully gain from trade in physical items. They’re not just singularity-esque wealthy relative to the present-day US, they’re equally more secure. Nobody kills mass numbers of Federation citizens. That occasionally happens on poor planets elsewhere. Sucks but hey poverty sucks.

So why have a Star Fleet? Because Jean Luc Picard is a Federation citizen, and he wouldn’t be happy as other than a starship captain.

Encounter With the Infinite

Join the resistanceIf the formula was a tool for measuring the physical world, that implied that the physical world was the deeper reality, of which the equation provided only an approximation. If that was the case—if mathematics was subservient to reality—the equation would have failed, not the machine. I would have been sitting on the floor searching for a better formula, not installing fresh diodes. What in fact had happened was that the moment the physical world contradicted the equation, the diodes burned up and the electrons stopped flowing. The physical world gave way and the equation persisted. The equation, not the machine, was the fundamental entity. The machine was only a shadow.


Simply stand on the treadmill, hold the dog’s lead, and go for a walk, watching the route on the TV in front of you. The dog has his own TV and obviously has his own perspective of the walk.

High Def Is Changing Your Brain

I still remember how disoriented I was by the first HDTV images I saw—close-ups of football players that took an alarmingly intimate inventory of every pore, hair, and bead of sweat on their massive faces and necks. IRL we don’t get that close and can’t focus that minutely. In that way, old-fashioned analog film, with its relatively soft-edged, slightly blurred images, mimics vision more realistically than the most technically accurate high-definition projections, corresponding intelligibly and comfortingly, if not quite “exactly,” to the way we see in ordinary life.

Precognitive Dreaming, Memory, and Ritual

Because of our natural ‘temporal bias,’ we seldom consider the possibility that our dreams (let alone our waking thoughts) refer to future events, and Dunne notes this is the main reason precognitive dreams are so seldom reported. We simply don’t notice them. His theory, based on the precognitive dreams his self-experimentation revealed, was that the apparent flow of time was an effect of consciousness moving like a searchlight through a past, present, and future that already exist, rather like Einstein’s teacher Minkowski’s solid four-dimensional spacetime block. Dunne thought that dreams sometimes picked up this ‘already existing’ future information.

Gödel and the Limits of Logic

Fetish listIn his 1931 paper Gödel showed that, no matter how you formulate the axioms for number theory, there will always be some statement that is true of the natural numbers, but that can’t be proved. (That is, objects that obey the axioms of number theory but fail to behave like the natural numbers in some other respects do exist.)

But why not just turn such a true but unprovable statement into an axiom? After all, axioms are precisely those statements which we accept to be true without proof. But here lies the true bite of the incompleteness theorem: Gödel showed that whenever the axioms can be characterized by a set of mechanical rules, it does not matter which statements are taken to be axioms: some other true statements about the natural numbers will remain unprovable. It’s like an ill-designed jigsaw puzzle. No matter how you arrange the pieces, you’ll always end up with some that won’t fit in the end.

The Myth Makers

Tolkien was a philologist with the soul of a myth creator. His day job included lecturing, sometimes to an audience of one, on his great but generally unshared academic passions: Middle English, Anglo Saxon, and Old Icelandic. (His favorite book as an undergraduate was A Finnish Grammar.) In stolen hours, Tolkien labored to produce what eventually became The Hobbit (1937) and the three-volume The Lord of the Rings (1954), arguably the greatest and certainly the most popular novels of fantasy of all time. Vocation and avocation were as one for Tolkien. He believed that myth was the fruit of a people’s history, geography, and, especially, language, all of which he felt he had to create from scratch before venturing into the writing of his Hobbit cycle. That’s why it took so long and rings so true.

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