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Wednesday, 27 February 2019


As the comments to Malcolm Gladwell's TED talk indicate, he made a number of mistakes in recounting the David and Goliath story. (He refers to the impact of David's stone to the impact of a "45mm" handgun, when he meant .45 caliber handgun. A 45mm handgun would have a bore of ~1.7 inches, about 2 1/2 times as large as a 12-gauge shotgun. He assumed that Goliath was led into the Valley of Elah because he couldn't see; in fact, the guy accompanying him was a shield bearer, not a seeing-eye guide. And there were other mistakes) But, interestingly, when I was doing archaeology in Israel, I read a book on a flight to Phoenix from Albuquerque, about early weapons, in which the authors claimed that slingers were essentially useless because their missiles didn't have enough impact to be damaging. That seemed wrong to me, because I'd seen all kinds of documentary stuff created at the times slingers were in use, showing them in large formations as essential units of large armies. During the layover in in Phoenix, I bought a cheap calculator and did some calculations, and, interestingly, I came up with about the same conclusion that Gladwell did -- a common slinger's missile (often made of lead, and much larger than a .45 slug) would hit with roughly the same force as a .45 caliber bullet. (I own a .45 and was aware of it's general weight and speed profiles.) I never tried to work out the exact force involved, not only because I satisfied myself that the book I was reading was grossly incorrect, but because the precise numbers were beyond me. But I was well satisfied that using a projectile smaller and much denser than a baseball, that could be hurled at much higher speeds than a baseball, would be deadly -- after all, look what happens when a fastball hits a batter in the face. Gladwell should have been much more careful, though.

I always love listening to an album named «New Chautauqua», by a Pat Metheny. Seems to correspond to the mood today ... :)

"Chautauqua" - now that's a word, which brings back memories of my undergraduate days, studying philosophy - I'd better go pull the late Robert Pirsig's, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance of the shelf - the book is written as a chautauqua occurring within the main character's mind (presumably, based on the author) - it has more ideas (some "heavy", some not) stuffed into it than all of Gladwell's books together (reconsideration of Aristotelian philosophy (Yay!) wrapped in 1960s pop personal philosophy (Yay!) with a touch of sociology / psychiatry (mental health) (Meh) thrown in) - and is as easy to read as true philosophy gets; which will be fine for you, if you have not already read it, and I expect you will quite enjoy reading it, if you managed to finish this sentence. Gladwell is easy to read, but I do wish that he did not present his rather ideas as if they were established scientific theories (within the technical meaning of that term) rather than the hypotheses that they are, even if they are excellent and thought-through hypotheses; the Western world presently has enough trouble distinguishing between informed and uninformed opinion as it is. TOP readers excluded by definition, of course.

Well, now I know why the nearby Big Top Chautauqua is called Chautauqua, though it's pretty much a performing arts center in a big tent.

I have Pollan's latest book on hallucinogens and psychological health, but I've put off reading it, perhaps because I'm not going to start taking hallucinogens any time soon, at least not until my pharmacy is dispensing them. He's a good writer though, and I'm sure it's interesting.

Mike, I was lead to believe that you didn’t like watching videos 8-)

My favorite Carliinism: Think how stupid the average person is, and realise that half of them are stupider than that.

As others have mentioned, TED Talks are filled with misinformation. I’ve had to laugh at many of them where I was more of an expert than they were.

Like it or not, extinction happens. No more Dodo, no more Passenger Pidgeon and the world keeps on turning. Would the loss of a famous work of art make any real difference? The demise of humans won’t slow the rotation of the earth.

We have a series of Chautauqua shows locally. They are one-person shows where the performer takes on the roll of a historic person who discusses their life from that person's point of view. The second half of the show is then that performer dropping the character, and then speaking about the subject from a modern point of view. There is usually a question and answer session at the end as well.

We been to a few of them over the years. Samuel Clemmons, Elenore Roosevelt, Benedict Arnold that the ones that I remember the most. My son would usually get extra credit for one of his classes if he attended one of these events.

Here is a link to this year's series: http://www.greenvillechautauqua.org/performances/spartanburg/

I haven't seen the word chautauqua since ZAMM/Pirsig/1970s

Recenty finished re-reading ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenamce’ - a worthwhile activity. I came away with a much less worthwhile view of it in my late-50s as I did in my early 20s, when I first encountered it. The reading, and study of philosophy is a worthy endeavor.

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