Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Okubo

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

I had heard from Connie Jones (Secretary of the High Energy Physics group) that Prof. Okubo had written a paper with a Japanese colleague. I helped her put it on the arxiv. She wanted me to help him with publishing it.

Okubo left a copy of it in my mailbox. I read it and left a message with Connie that I would like to talk to him. He came by. We discussed the paper, on certain non-associative algebras. Then he said somewhat uncharacteristically that he was very sick. And in pain.
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Pauli Meets God

Monday, August 18th, 2014

God is kind to physicists. They get an interview after death where questions which stumped them in life are answered. Most ask about Quantum Gravity.

Wolfgang Pauli too, got his chance.

God: “You have any questions for me? ”
Pauli: “Of course not. May be your staff didn’t tell you who I am ?”
God. “Oh yes, they told me some Pauli stories. And I see what you did there with the matrices.”
Pauli: ” So.. do you have any questions for me?”
God:”Yes. Explain turbulence.”

Truth Is A Pinprick

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Nazir had a friend who loved to blow big bubbles. The bubbles get bigger each day,defying gravity. He seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of hot air. Nazir encouraged him in this dubious talent.

Except one day Nazir pricked his latest bubble with a sharp pin. It burst, creating a big mess.

“What did you do that for?”

“Truth can be as sharp as a pin.”

Singing To The River

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Akbar loved his singing and wanted to appoint him the court singer. He refused.

” I am not the best singer in the country.”

“So, who is?” asked the King.

“Come with me, you will hear”

They went to an isolated rock next to the river, a day’s travel away. The most divine music was pouring forth out of a man sitting on the rock, alone.

“Wow. He indeed is the greatest singer. Why is he so much better than you?”

” Because I sing for the King and he sings to the river.”

The Trolley Problem

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Pinkerdude

Whenever a nation has done something deeply embarrassing, which shames its decent citizens, moral philosophy thrives. As though the obvious atrocity can somehow be hidden behind sophisticated reasonings about abstract thought experiments. Psychologists must have some fancy name for this phenomenon.

We live in such a time now. You cannot open the New Yorker or the New York Times Magazine without running into a conundrum designed by the best and the brightest to teach us lessons on moral values. The difference between us and the ancients is that we look to science, not religion, as the source of our values. Thus, neuro-scientists emerge as the Deep Thinkers of our time. Supposedly their knowledge of how our brain is wired allows them to deduce ab initio what is right and wrong.

One the most fundamental of these puzzles is the Trolley problem. It goes something like this.

On your morning walk, you see a trolley car carrying five passengers. It is hurtling down the track, the conductor slumped over the controls. The passengers are oblivious to the danger. You are standing at a fork in the track and can pull a lever that will divert the trolley onto a spur, saving the five people. Unfortunately, the trolley would then run over a single worker who is laboring on the spur. Is it permissible to throw the switch, killing one man to save five? Almost everyone says “yes.”

But wait a minute. Here is the twist. The single worker is Mr. Average Joe, who is working an extra shift so he can pay off his mother’s hospital bill. You just received a text message identifying the five conscious occupants of the Trolley car as Steven Pinker, Niall Ferguson, Philippa Foot, Judith Jarvis Thomson and Joshua Greene. (You are carrying an iPhone. Duh.) And you have just enough time to Google these names before making the decision.

Now, which way would you throw the switch?

Who is more valuable? Five moral philosophers or an honest working man?

Those with the correct answer will be entered into a raffle for the complete works of Ayn Rand.