Friday, July 30, 2010


Things that caught my eye in the last week or so:
  • I had not known that in some societies, paternity is thought to be "partible", because they believe that "a fetus is made of accumulated semen" and hence can have multiple biological fathers (the quote is from this book, which sounds interesting, p. 60, via the Less Wrong post linked above, which is also interesting).
  • The art of sleeping in seminars. Must remember all the rules next time I sleep in one.
  • I found that I had mixed feelings about the possibility of a world without mosquitoes: though apparently their extermination would not be especially damaging (other species would apparently do many of the things they currently do, with the usual caveats that our understanding of their ecological role is limited), I have a quasi-aesthetic negative reflex reaction to the possibility of intentionally exterminating completely another life-form, even one that causes a lot of misery (and even as I know species go extinct from natural causes all the time). I wonder if there is anything out there about the morality of species-cide? I know there was some discussion at some time about the possibility of completely eradicating the smallpox virus, for example, but I don't know if there is serious literature about the morality of the practice (not that we are about to exterminate mosquitoes, mind you - the possibility is purely theoretical). 
  • Theatre for audiences of one. I suppose this is closer to conceptual art than to traditional theatre.
  • The intelligence of Octopuses. The thing about octopuses is that their "intelligence" is not a by-product of their sociality: they are solitary creatures. Presumably this means that octopi could not develop intelligence that depends on the manipulation of meaningful symbols or language?
  • Why the one-eyed do not rule among the blind. An interesting point on the social mediation of insight. 

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