Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Beautiful day + Stuck Inside = Daily Deal during exam week

I'm quite certain the weather's taunting me. I woke up at 6am, because of the sunlight. When I was awoken again (by my alarm) it was beautiful outside, nice and warm with a sky that you'd see on a daily basis in Provence. Not a cloud in the sky. I wouldn't have been half surprised to see birds merrily flutter together and form the words "Ha ha you have an exam"...

The exam went okay-ish, but definitely could have gone a lot better (I know I say that a lot, but here it's really true... I think). Ironically I did quite well on the part I thought was really hard (atomic spectra) and found the part which I usually aced on past exam papers near impossible. Weird.

Oh well, wait and see. Now I have to start revising for the Solid State Physics exam, start researching my papers for Mind, and write my papers for Reference and truth. Ugh... not gonna be a fun week.

PS: I added a link to this blog's RSS feed, so if you're into that whole "keeping track" thing, you can just add this link to your feed aggregator and enjoy my whining as it comes (ie fairly frequently).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Late nights and clean iPods

I thought it'd be fun to go out to the library at midnight last night, and see how long I could work, and how productive I'd be. I stayed there a little over two hours, and managed to read through most of what I needed for my first philosophy exam (all the remains is a paper by S. Laurence and I should have enough to write up a draft plan). It felt like a very productive two hours, perhaps because I stumbled across R Keefe's book on Vagueness while looking for another one in the to-be-reshelved bookshelves, and it pretty much had everything I wanted in terms of objections to the theory of vagueness I'm... well, objecting to.

Sleep felt pretty nice after that.

Moving on though... You know how you always seem to leave cash in your pocket, and it comes out looking extremely clean? You know how they (namely your mother) warn you (hypothetically, if you don't own one of these) that iPod nanos are so small they'd probably be easy to use, and you protest by saying "don't worry, I'll make sure I always know where it is"? Connect the two stories, and you'll probably see where this is going. Yesterday, I was listening to my nano to and from the library. It's slim, so it conveniently fits in my shirt pocket, and is almost unnoticeable. This morning, while still groggy from a short night's sleep, I threw my shirt into my washbag, and the contents of the washbag into the washing machine. Result: one very, very clean iPod nano. It doesn't look damaged, but won't turn on. Then again the battery was very low last night, so I reckon there's just need for a little jumpstart with a power cable. Pretty stupid of me, though...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Keeping Balance

I talk about it a lot, but I'm not really one to believe in karma. However I do think there's a certain balance to things, namely opposing actions. For example, friction relates to air velocity, momentum relates to mass, and the chance of me getting fat(ter) relate to how much nutella I eat (I have non-too-subtle feeling I'm going to be put on a fruit-and-veg' diet and dragged out jogging every morning, this summer, to get rid of "exam gut").

There are more subtle balances observable too. How much I tidy my room is inversely proportional to my productivity, which is (no joke) inversely proportional to my workload and the immediacy of the deadline (which is why my room is generally spick-spack around exam time). Fortunately my academic glands kick in at some point and break the chain of despair. This sort of reflex is known in the medical world as "last-minute-panic-itis". (NB: If you're from an admissions board and God hates me enough to have let you read this, I am of course joking).

Other examples would also include the quantity of nutella consumed increasing exponentially as exam time approaches, or how the amount of practical jokes* played seems proportional to the amount of stress experienced by the house.

So yes, it seems like there is fairly clear evidence that there is some sort of balance in nature. If this is true, though, then why the hell can't our examination board act 'naturally' and balance out the exams across the exam period, instead of bunching them up for me across a few days like little temporal nuggets of hatred. Thanks guys.

It's over in 10 days. It's over in 10 days. It's over in 10 days. It's over in 10 d....

* Click here to for the full story...* Addendum: As an act of revenge for my aforementioned predicament, it was decided that a little joke would be played on our housemate Jez. Surprisingly enough, I had no involvement in this dastardly plot whatsoever. While he was out shopping for food, a bucket of water was brought up to his room (conveniently placed above the entrance to our house), filled with lukewarm water, and placed near the window. I'm sure you can guess what happened when Jez arrived at the doorway, fumbling to get his key in the lock. Needless to say, he didn't need a shower that day (but took one anyway). Good times.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

It could be worse...

It's one of those typical british summer days. Beautiful sunny blue sky, with high-up fluffy clouds, birds shrilly chirping, and general warmth and temperate weather. It's the sort of day that makes you wish you were outside in a park, drinking corona with lime, or Pimm's, and relaxing on the lawn. Unfortunately, with the damn exams around the corner, it's not exactly a luxury one can afford, unless he/she is abnormally nonchalant/confident about the whole thing. So, faute de grives, on mange du merle, I'll have to settle for the sight of sunlight against a dirty brick wall, which is the view I get from my window. Not the best, but there could be worse conditions in which to revise. It's quite relaxing and, dare I say, good enough for me...

After all, it's just a taste of what's to come in two weeks, when I'm done.
Peace out.

Addendum: Click here to view the result of the above approach to beautiful weather...Edit: So I took a folding chair and stepped outside to read a few chapters of Williamson's Vagueness (which some likeminded student has requested, so I have to bring it back tomorrow -_-). I was sitting there relaxing in the sun, when the classic prank came along: my friend Liam walked home. As soon as he entered the house, he put the security bolt on. I briefly protested, then realised that being temporarily locked out on a sunny day wasn't such a bad predicament. Unfortunately, my friend Jez was also aware of this predicament, and down from his window came a stinkbomb.

You think you're used to the damn things after all the ones you threw around when you were 10. Let me tell you, there is no way any human being can become 'used' to that horrible smell. After a few minutes of olfactive agony, the door was unlocked, and the plotting of my revenge began...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

They should have flippin' won

Unfortunately, by having a great time at the ball, I missed out on the best comedy night of the year: Eurovision.

So I played catch-up thanks to youtube, and picked out some of the best bits and pieces. The israeli version of R Kelly was pretty bad, as we were the french and british entries (I don't know what annoyed me the most with the latter: the lyrics, the singing, or the choreography). The finnish band weren't too bad, despite ripping some lyrics straight out of a KISS song. But I think the best performance by far was the one the Lithuanians gave:

I normally wouldn't repost a popular video, but given the impact this has had in terms of "good mood-ness", it would be a crime not to share.

Click here to expand movie player.

Those guys are completely insane, but by Jove that band shoulda won.

Having a Ball

Yesterday, I went to the Philosophy, Psychology, Politics & Sociology ball. I was a bit reluctant to go at first as I didn't know that many people who were going, and those who I knew, I didn't know that well. Plus, as much as I enjoy semi-formal attire for my daily dress-up, I'm not that fond of wearing a (fairly tight) tux, and I'm certainly not that keen on dancing disco-style (mainly because I suck at it).

Turns out, it was a lovely evening and I would have been quite foolish to miss it (retrospectively, I would have missed out on some pretty important things as well). The food was above average (and probably constituted the most complex and balanced meal I've had in months, barring my father's 50th and the Buddha Bar the night after), the company was entertaining and sophisticated (we had some lovely ladies at our table, sporting very elegant gowns, and some nice lads with interesting degrees and plans for the future), and the dancing wasn't half bad. All in all, I had a fantastic time, and met some really great people (including a really great girl who, I hope, wasn't just talking to me because she was a bit drunk). So by all means, a most successful evening.

Now back to the harsh realities of revision (goddamn... so much to do!).

In other news, I've just joined the Skeptic Society and their Forum, and am thus far impressed with the quality of discussion (I have yet to read the magazine, but I'm told it would most likely suit my tastes). So check it out, if you have a minute. Michael Shermer's a pretty admirable guy.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

One little sign error

It's funny how one little sign error can make the difference between a satellite fall into orbit or back onto the earth, between a finely balanced solution and an explosive mess, or in this case, between a brilliant formal answer to a troublesome paradox, and a stupidly evident and useless answer.

The liar paradox is simply "This sentence is false" so that if it is true, it is false and thus not true, and if it is false, then it is not the case that it is false so it is true and not false. Either way, it's a paradox.

I came across this earlier today, and wondered if it was solvable in predicate logic. Using a rather idiosyncratic (but efficient) method which is (I think) used by the PROLOG interpreter, internally, I got the following proof:

Click here to expand formula.

Tx: x is true
Fx: x is false
{x} is a class comprising one individual proposition a: This sentence is false.
Logic states P1 ≡ ∀x [ Fx → ~Tx ]
So x entails P2 ≡ ∀x [ Tx → Fx ]
C is the conclusion of the sentence "This sentence is false" in conjunction with the entailed complex propositions P1 and P2. I'm going to cut short and use the resolution method I learnt with Prof Denis Vernant because I'm more comfortable with it, so the following may seem a little idiosyncratic, but hopefully not too unclear.

∀x [ (Fx & (Fx → ~Tx) & (Tx → Fx)) → C ]
x is a one member class, so because of the ∀ quantifier I can substitute x for a (see above).

(Fa & (Fa → ~Ta) & (Ta → Fa)) → C (1)

Let's make the following assumption. The conclusion C is that the truth status of the proposition a is defined. In other words, Ta v Fa.

Now I apply resolution method to this statement. Basically I negate the whole statement, reduce it to conjunctions and disjunctions, and resolve along the following lines: p & (q v ~p) gives us p & q.
So ~{ (Fa & (Fa → ~Ta) & (Ta → Fa)) → (Ta v Fa) }
Fa & (Fa → ~Ta) & (Ta → Fa) & ~(Ta v Fa)
Fa & (~Fa v ~Ta) & (~Ta v Fa) & ~Ta & ~Fa

We cancel the disjunctions out and obtain Fa & ~Ta & ~Fa which is a contradiction, which means with C ≡ (Ta v Fa) we obtain a logically non-valid expression.

Can we thus conclude C ≡ ~(Ta v Fa)? We can put this to the test:
The negation of (1) with this new C gives
~{ (Fa & (Fa → ~Ta) & (Ta → Fa)) → ~(Ta v Fa) }
which is
Fa & (Fa → ~Ta) & (Ta → Fa) & (Ta v Fa)
which is
Fa & (~Fa v ~Ta) & (~Ta v Fa) & (Ta v Fa)
Which simplifies to
Fa & ~Ta which is not a contradiction (and is not a conclusion either, just to dispel possible confusion) so that (1) with C ≡ ~(Ta v Fa) is a logically valid statement.

Thus, if I haven't made a mistake, and am not making any unreasonable assumption, the sentence "This sentence is false" is compatible with the conclusion "It is not the case that this sentence is true or false", or basically "It is nor true, nor false".

Now as you can imagine, I was fairly excited. If you don't understand the above, I basically proved it logically (or did I...). So thus, very pleased with my discovery, I sent a copy of this proof to my lecturer.

Twenty minutes later, I re-read it, and the reality check came in the mail (after all, a bit silly to assume that such a straightforward proof had been missed by generations and generations of talented logicians). I had in fact gotten the signs wrong -not in the application- but in the derivation of the conclusion, so that in fact the first case being a contradiction actually confirms the logical validity of the statement (since its negation is a contradiction), while the second is inconsistent. Thus rather than solving the problem, I've just made a pretty evident confirmation of its existence. Do note however that the second case raises an interesting point: does this logical state of non-validity support the definiteness of a truth value for the proposition being studied? I doubt it, but it's something to think about, if that tickles your fancy.

Moral of the story: live cocky, breathe confident, but by all means... check your signs.

Empty Concrete Hive

If you have a minute, I encourage you to take a look at Yuji Saiga's photographic work on Gunkanjima, a mining island in the japanese archipelago, which was heavily built upon between 1890 and 1974 to serve as a oceanic coal mine under the direction of the Mistubishi corporation. Harbouring a concrete hive with a population density of nearly 3500 people per square kilometer, this island-city was the perfect example of the urban jungle at its prime. And eventually, in 1974, the mine was closed and the whole island was evacuated and deserted over the course of a few weeks.

Decades later, Saiga returns to the island, to provide us with what I think anyone would call a chilling photographic reminder of the devastating effect of soulless urban sprawl.

Check out Saiga's pictures here.
Well worth three clicks of a mouse.

Speaking of photography, if you're into the whole flash-click-bzzt shazzam (aka photography), take a minute to check out Lens Culture. You might find something you really, really like.

NB: Pictures in this post are © Saiga Yuji.

Calm before the storm

Currently doing a little research on the topics I have to cover for my philosophy finals. I've spent the better part of the morning tidying up my notes and going through a few papers on our database to scout out some interesting stuff. So far, only a few potential hits.

I always think the research segment of writing a paper is always both the most enjoyable part, and the most frustrating one. It's a pleasant activity because you know you're getting valuable exposure to the (maybe) cutting-edge of the debate on whatever you're working on, and it's intellectually stimulating. On the other hand, it also requires focus, concentration, and having to put up with a load of bullsh*t (sometimes).

Oh well... Last lecture for philosophy of language today, and very last lecture of the term for any module. All I have between me and exams is a seminar on Haack, whose paper I am looking forward to re-reading (having mistakenly done so for last week's seminar). Then it's a long week till exams start.

I really detest this quiet lull between lectures and exams, where the panic of not having done enough work (or thinking you haven't) progressively sinks in, and nights grow longer and days seem too short to fit your reading schedule in. This, said after I've spend so little time sleeping over the past month because of deadline over deadline over deadline. I can't wait till it's all over and I can get onto my summer reading.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

It's that special time of year again

The place: a typical suburban house in Sheffield.
Time: 10:42 AM.
Weather: Rainy.

Woke up late for the last lecture of term. No biggie, as they just viewed the Milgram experiments and discussed them a bit (and I had had the displeasure of viewing them).
Spent the morning reading about flippin' Atomic Spectra and electron spin (physicists will catch the freakishly bad pun in this sentence).
Had to run and wait in line at module registration, because of the risk of having my philosophy modules already capped by the time I register (fortunately there was room left, most likely because Philosophy of Mathematics, Language, and Advanced Logic don't attract hoards of students anyway).
Came back home and read about Special Relativity, prepared a class for my french group, then got a call indicating that there wouldn't be a meeting tonight, and then spent the evening reading more physics.

Crap weather, crap obligations; there's no doubt about it, everything seems to indicate it's that wonderful time of year again: Exam time! Yay!

More whining about this in the next few days.

Gotta start somewhere...

Hey all. I've decided to open a blog here for a change, since this is a bit more neutral (or should I say varied), in terms of userbase, than livejournals (and owned by google).

Don't expect that many regular updates, as I'm fairly lazy about this sort of thing, and especially don't expect anything else than whining about deadlines, bragging about good marks, complaints about some academic or other's cryptic papers, and general mish-mash no one would really care about.

Point is, this thing is cheaper than any psychoanalyst, and most probably just as effective.

Rock on...