Monday, 11 December 2017

Venturing out in the dark

Just got in from walk. Was fairly darkish walking in hubbard hills. Deserted and dark. A eerie malevolent blanket of silentness enveloped me, suffused through my being. It seemed I might be the only living creature left on the Earth.

But suddenly I saw movement on the ground matching my pace. What was this? Were dark evil creatures of the night venturing forth from the underworld to attack innocent souls, such as myself, who dare have the temerity to venture out into the dark?

Nope, it was a robin.

The world is strange

Why am I living on the surface of a huge ball floating in the midst of an infinite sea of nothingness?? We tend not to think reality is weird because we've lived in it throughout our lives. As children we thought our parents knew everything, and they didn't find such things surprising. So most of us just accept our situation, without thinking.

I sometimes think . .maybe we are all being systematically deceived. Something we're simply not getting.

Thursday, 30 November 2017


When I went to Wikipedia I saw a message at the top saying:
To all our readers in the UK, We will get straight to the point: This Thursday we ask you to protect Wikipedia's independence. Time is running out in 2017 to help us. We depend on donations averaging about £10. Only a tiny portion of our readers give. If everyone reading this gave £2, we could keep Wikipedia thriving for years to come. The price of your Thursday coffee is all we need. When I made Wikipedia a non-profit, people warned me I’d regret it. Over a decade later, it’s the only top ten site run by a non-profit and a community of volunteers. Has it crossed my mind how much we could have made if it had ads? Sure. But it wouldn’t be the same. Wikipedia continues the legacy the internet promised us, that of collaboration, connection and neutrality. Can the internet have moral values? We think it can, but we need your help. Please keep Wikipedia growing. Thank you. — Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia Founder

Independent from what I wonder? Is that just a polite way of saying that people can write any type of nonsense? It's continually re- edited by pseudo-intellectual young men providing information reflecting their biased views towards the world. I wouldn't even bother trying to put anything into it since it would just be deleted almost immediately. They won't be getting any money off me. The net would be better off without wikipedia.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Thoughts about psi

I've been asked why I think the burden of proof should lie with the skeptic to prove that psi doesn't exist. This is my response below (a little tidied up).

There's nothing else to add apart from saying people have experienced psi throughout all cultures and throughout history, and furthermore scientific investigation in the form of Psychical Research and parapsychology suggests the existence of psi.

I'm well aware of the standard dismissal of such anomalous experiences as being due to folly, delusion, cognitive illusion and pathology and so on, and yes, I think such a dismissal is justified in most claims. I'm also leery of scientific results in the soft sciences. We are all, including scientists, very easily fooled, especially when a certain result is desired (although it is my understanding that in parapsychology a double blind protocol is normally employed).

None of this makes any difference to my belief in psi. But I can’t say anything in addition to the foregoing to make you question your beliefs, or disbeliefs. I would just say that at this moment in time science cannot explain consciousness. Indeed, at least with the present concept of science as dealing with the quantifiable (measurable), it seems science cannot in principle explain consciousness. It’s why we have had the mind-body problem for millennia, a problem that has become especially acute with the birth of modern science in the 17th Century.

You might retort that materialism explains everything. But there are many varieties of materialism and materialists vehemently attack each other’s variety of materialism saying it’s nonsensical! Eg Searle and Dennett. But the bottom line is that since consciousness is left out in our scientific description of reality, then we simply are in no position to stipulate that consciousness can’t have certain abilities. That includes the denial of mental causation as well as psi. We can only go by experiences, whether they be anecdotal, or more formal scientific investigations. Yes, they might all be wrong, we might all be fooling ourselves. But why suppose we are?

I know why, it’s our modern culture's metaphysical beliefs regarding the nature of reality. For sure, people don’t know what variety of materialism is correct, but they feel that some variety must be correct, or at least something like property dualism or epiphenomenalism. But I think all these positions are absolute nonsense, so they don’t have any hold over me. Since both anecdotes and scientific research overwhelmingly suggest psi, that’s what I’ll believe until someone provides any reason to make me doubt my beliefs.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Changing from prepay energy meters to normal meters. Be leery of being overcharged!

I'm getting both my electricity and gas meters changed today from prepaid to the normal type of meter. Since moving into this new flat (apartment) 2 years ago, I have had to keep going to local shops to buy electricity and gas on keys/cards every month or so. It was a confounded nuisance! But this flat came with these prepaid meters, and it was going to cost me £60 to change each meter, so £120 altogether. However, recently I heard they will now do it for free. So decided to get them changed.

I'm not sure though that the company that supplies my power -- npower (I'm in the UK) -- won't try and pull a fast one and overcharge me, utilising the confusion over changing meters.

My old meter yesterday afternoon read 20579. I assume this refers to kilowatt hours. Just had my new meter installed 2 hours ago. Immediately after being installed the new meter read 21347. An increase of 21347-20579 = 768 kwhs.

Accessing my npower account, my consumption per day of electricity averaged over 2 years is 9.33kwh's. So essentially this new meter reading is around 760kwh's more than it should be, representing around 11.5 weeks of electricity usage. This represents roughly £100.

Best to see it in graphical form on excel. There's a sudden sharp rise at the end.

So, presumably these readings can't be related. I regard it highly unlikely that npower are trying to nick a £100 off me! But, I thought I'd better contact them, just in case. I was informed via webchat that these figures are not related and that their database needs to be updated, and this will take around 45 days. 

OK, that's great! But, I've just been thinking over the past 30 mins or so. I'm going from paying in advance, to paying in arrears. Let's say on the prepay meter I pay upfront for one month, say November's, but at the end of November I switch meters to a normal meter. If I still pay every month I won't pay December's electricity until the beginning of January. Then it'll be just as before, paying every month. I'll be better off of course since I skipped one month's payment. That's the advantage of going from paying in advance to paying in arrears!

Of course, in reality, one won't actually skip a month (I wouldn't imagine?). Rather over a specified number of months, let's say the next 12 months, one's monthly bill will be 11/12ths of what it was previously (assuming comparable tariffs). So I should either skip paying for a month, or more likely, be paying less over some specified number of months in the future (if 12 months, then I'll only be paying 11/12th each month for these 12 months of what I paid previously. Then it'll go back to its normal price).

However! Conceivably the opportunity is there for them to pull a fast one. They could simply screw me out of this 768kwhs, and the amount I'll pay in future months might be comparable to what I've always paid, so that I'll never notice.

That's a very cunning way to screw people out of their money! Who the heck would notice??

UPDATE Same day around 4 hours later.

A guy has just been round and changed my gas meter. I was thinking "it looks like the same guy who changed my electricity meter earlier, surely?".

After he finished he said:

"I don't know why I couldn't have done that this morning".

Yep, the same guy! When I rang up 3 weeks ago to book appointments to get these meters changed, the lady said the same guy wouldn't be able to do both, so 2 different people would need to come. Sigh...

The reading on this new gas meter is vastly higher than on my old one, so I strongly suspect what I was told in the webchat was correct.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Defining Consciousness

When I say science completely leaves out consciousness in its description of reality, people frequently ask what my definition of consciousness is.

But what do they mean by "definition of consciousness"? They must mean either:

a) What do I mean by the word "consciousness".


b) What is the scientific definition of consciousness? i.e how does consciousness fit into our scientific description of reality.

But regarding "a", obviously we all know what consciousness means. It's all our thoughts, feelings, perceptions etc. So, given that the person is conscious, he knows what consciousness refers to. So presumably he is not requesting this (and it's always a he).

So he must be asking for a scientific definition of consciousness. But science completely leaves out consciousness in its description of reality, as I said in the beginning!
This is the type of futile "conversation" I have with people on the net.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Are our lives for the purpose of soul-making?

People tend to either think that their lives are purposeless in the sense of absurd, or that our existence is a process of "soul-making" -- that we're here to learn lessons and for our souls to thereby develop to become better and more enlightened beings. I used to think the latter, but now I reject this dichotomy.

Much of what we do in our lives we do purely for the experience. That might be something as trivial as having a good night out and getting pissed (i.e affected by alcohol). Have any lessons been learnt? Has our soul developed during that one night? Probably not, so why should it be any different for a whole life?

However, that's not to say our lives are purposeless. It is perfectly possible for there to be some ultimate purpose to our existence, some ultimate reason, without thinking that life is like school where we are required to progress to some specific end. What this ultimate purpose might be I don't know though. I'll leave it to those who have had mystical experiences to answer that one.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Wealth Inequality in the UK.


Originally found here.  Two caveats about the video, first of all I haven't independently verified these figures, secondly the video is four years old, and I don't know how wealth distribution in the UK has changed since then.

So, according to this video, the top 20% of people in the UK have 60% of all wealth. That's 1.5 times as much as all the rest put together (not nearly twice as much as the video claims). The bottom 20% have 0.6% of the total wealth and the top 20% have 60% of all wealth. That's 100 times more! The top 1% have the same wealth as the bottom 60%.

Bear all this in mind next time the Tories talk about "magic money trees". No need for magic, the money exists and there is plenty of it, it's just that it's predominantly concentrated in the hands of the very rich. This is why we need policies that focus on a radical redistribution of wealth so that inequality is not so pronounced.

Note that I say not so pronounced.  Inevitably, when I say to people a radical redistribution of wealth is desirable, people assume -- or should I say, pretend to assume -- that I mean that everyone should have absolute equal wealth.  I do not think this since clearly those who have invested time and effort gaining skills and qualifications, or who do arduous or dangerous work, should be paid much more than others.  Indeed, my ideal wealth distribution would be somewhat less equal than the average person thinks would be ideal (as depicted in the video), and more like how the average person thinks wealth is distributed in the UK (again, as depicted in the video).

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Hobbes and Rousseau on human nature

An article regarding the contrasting views of Hobbes and Rousseau on whether human beings are innately wicked.

Science shows Thomas Hobbes was right – which is why the Right-wing rule the Earth

In the Right-wing corner we have Thomas Hobbes, founding father of political philosophy, who argued that man is born wicked and must be civilised"
And on the Left we have Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the original romantic, whose gist was that humans start out innocent and get corrupted by society.
The author says that science shows Hobbes was right.  From my own personal experience and thoughts, it seems to me Rousseau was certainly wrong. Society doesn't make us nasty -- peoples' nastiness is innate. But it teaches the innately nasty people to put on an act so they are accepted by others. 

However, I do not believe Hobbes is entirely correct either. In my opinion, not everyone is born nasty. Others are not quite so nasty, and a minority actually nice. However, the nasty people -- the callous, the unfeeling, those indifferent to others -- set the agenda. They bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator. The innately nasty individuals will take advantage of others if given the chance and if it doesn't reflect badly on them. As a consequence, many people tend and should distrust others -- at least until we get to know them and can judge whether they are trustworthy or not

More generally I find the idea that we are born "blank slates" and all differences can be explained by “nurture” and “class” to be preposterous.  However, this emphatically does not justify the gross inequality we find in modern western societies, especially in the USA (I live in the UK).

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Voyager Spacecraft

From the following article:

NASA marks 40th anniversary of Voyager launches

[O]n board each is a golden record with sounds and pictures from Earth, as well as spoken greetings in dozens of languages.
It’s almost certainly the case these records will never ever be listened to or viewed. The spacecraft will be drifting through space long after the extinction of humankind. It will drift for countless trillions of years. All other signs of the human race will have long since been obliterated. In fact, the whole Earth will have been swallowed up by the death throes of the Sun as it expands into a red giant. Just those discs that no-one and nothing will ever view or listen to as a lasting memento of human culture and life on Earth.


Saturday, 26 August 2017

Fully autonomous cars

I'm reading a lot in the past couple of days essentially saying that people are being irrational for being afraid to use fully autonomous cars.

I don't agree it's irrational at all. We have to bear in mind that computers can't actually see. It's difficult for them to make sense of their environment; certainly if they merely go by light as we do. Of course, hopefully, they'll use lidar. But there's cheap lidar systems, and expensive one's. You can be sure that they'll use the cheapest ones they can get away with. Their number one priority, after all, is to make a profit.

Pot holes, debris on the road, crisp packets, rabbits running across the road. The number of unknowns the environment can throw at the car is unlimited. How do you program the car to distinguish between an empty carrier bag which it can drive through, and a rock? If they brake too suddenly, cars behind driven by people might well crash into the back.

What happens when ambulances, fire engines etc with the sirens blasting are in the nearby vicinity? What happens with road works? What about the possibility of remote hacking? How are they going to negotiate inclement weather conditions like heavy snow?

And these cars will be complex. Mechanically complex like other cars, but also complex in terms of all the programming. Suppose a few lines of code cause problems? Happens all the time with computer games and they have to issue patches (which might resolve the original problem, but cause a whole new load of problems). But your life is at stake, you cannot afford to have them programmed incorrectly!

It just seems sensible to me to wait until many people have travelled safely in them, and their track safety records exceed that of people driven cars, before getting into one.

Also see my blog post:

Self-Driving Cars

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Meeting a stranger to have an argument

Back when I was in my mid or late 20's, I was around this guy's house. He was this guy that I had known years ago, but had just met again. Anyway, I was talking about intellectual topics and he was listening in astonishment and said that he had never ever known anyone talk like me before, not ever. He tried to persuade me to come downstairs and have an argument with his girlfriend. Apparently she was always outarguing him and his friends so he wanted me to come down to outargue her.

I declined. But I can imagine if I'd agreed. I'd come downstairs, and say "hi, I've come downstairs for an argument". She'd reply "no you haven't". I'd say "Yes I have"!

That would have been such a laugh. Dunno why I declined!

Bill Nye, life after death, evidence

Bill Nye says there is no evidence for a life after death.
[Bill Nye] is bound by truth and science, and admits that there has been no evidence for [an afterlife].
All materialists/skeptics tend to say this. Obviously there's a great deal of evidence (NDEs, memories of previous lives, mediumship, apparitions, phenomena near death etc). Perhaps he means as in the sense that an afterlife doesn't play any role in our scientific theories? There again, unless we presuppose materialism, neither does embodied consciousness. But, even if materialism were intelligible, that would of course beg the question.

Let's imagine that every one of us could remember an apparent past life with the emotional identification to that past person and the memories mainly checking out. Let's also imagine that every single person that dies gives evidence of experiencing a deathbed vision, and that every one that nearly dies experiences a near-death experience.

If what we currently have constitutes zero evidence, so too must there be zero evidence in the scenario painted above since that just represents the same type of evidence -- albeit more extensive -- that we currently have ( 1,000 times 0, is still 0).

But, then it seems to me saying that there is zero evidence fails to convey anything. The problem here is that Bill Nye and other skeptics are defining the word "evidence" in an unreasonable manner. See my previous post what is evidence?


What is Evidence?

Questions that need to be asked and that people never answer:

a) In what sense is something an extraordinary claim? Presumably that some physical laws are being contravened? Is it being assumed that such physical laws can describe the whole of reality to arbitrary accuracy, or might such physical laws only be applicable to a certain domain e.g. like the physical laws making up classical physics only being able to accurately describe the macroscopic realm?

b) Anecdotes are not scientific evidence, but they are certainly evidence. So it depends on whether someone is saying that some phenomenon should be scientifically accepted, or whether it should make someone more inclined to believe something or even perhaps compel personal belief. So are those who claim that anecdotes are not evidence in agreement that anecdotes can be compelling evidence to believe something?

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Going to Mars?

Going to Mars is a bit expensive? Time consuming? Nothing to do when you get there? Can't get back and therefore doomed to live on a bleak desolate barren lifeless rock for the rest of your life?

I have a brilliant idea. Take a virtual trip there instead!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Science has next to nothing to say about moral intuitions

I read the following article.  I quote the most relevant parts:
Recent research, [scientists] say, suggests that many of our moral intuitions come from neural processes responsive to morally irrelevant factors – and hence are unlikely to track the moral truth.

The psychologist Joshua Greene at Harvard led studies that asked subjects hooked up to fMRI machines to decide whether a particular action in a hypothetical case was appropriate or not. He and his collaborators recorded their subjects’ responses to many cases. They found that typically, when responding to cases in which the agent harms someone personally (say, trolley cases in which the agent pushes an innocent bystander over a bridge to stop the trolley from killing five other people), the subjects showed more brain activity in regions associated with emotions than when responding to cases in which the agent harmed someone relatively impersonally (like trolley cases in which the agent diverts the trolley to a track on which it will kill one innocent bystander to stop the trolley from killing five other people).


According to Greene, this indicates that our moral intuitions in favour of deontological verdicts about cases – that you should not harm one to save five – are generated by more emotional brain processes responding to morally irrelevant factors, such as whether you cause the harm directly, up close and personal, or indirectly. And our moral intuitions in favour of consequentialist verdicts – that you should harm one to save five – are generated by more rational processes responsive to morally relevant factors, such as how much harm is done for how much good.

As a result, we should apparently be suspicious of deontological intuitions and deferential to our consequentialist intuitions.This research thereby also provides evidence for a particular moral theory: consequentialism.


Greene’s results, however, don’t offer any scientific support for consequentialism. Nor do they say anything philosophically significant about moral intuitions. The philosopher Selim Berker at Harvard has offered a decisive argument why. Greene’s argument just assumes that the factors that make a case personal – the factors that engage relatively emotional brain processes and typically lead to deontological intuitions – are morally irrelevant. He also assumes that the factors the brain responds to in the relatively impersonal cases – the factors that engage reasoning capacities and yield consequentialist intuitions – are morally relevant. But these assumptions are themselves moral intuitions of precisely the kind that the argument is supposed to challenge.

Yes, I agree with this. When we purely use reason and shun our emotional reactions in our assessment of that which is moral, we presumably will conclude it is those actions that bring about the best consequences. But the question remains why should brain activity in regions associated with emotions yield false conclusions in morality, and in contrast, the brain activity in those areas of the brain associated with reason give correct conclusions? It presupposes that emotions will lead us astray in our judgment as to those actions that are moral. But perhaps our emotional reactions, or at least when certain characteristic emotions are engaged, point to some objective morality?

Essentially this research is presupposing
 consequentialism. But sometimes that conflicts with our intuition. Consequentialism can be kinda cold-blooded sometimes. Consequences are important, but perhaps they are by no means the sole criterion?

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Buddhism and a persisting self

I recently read the following article:

What the Buddha Didn't Teach About Reincarnation

It says:

"This is not to say that “we” do not exist–but that there is no permanent, unchanging “me,” but rather that we are redefined in every moment by shifting impermanent conditions".
This appears to me to be just the same as what materialists are obliged to believe.
"Suffering and dissatisfaction occur when we cling to desire for an unchanging and permanent self that is impossible and illusory".
How do they know this? I agree it is liberating to believe this. For example, our fear of death is misplaced since we are effectively "dying" every infinitesimal fraction of a second anyway. And our everyday concerns are also misplaced. Such a philosophy, if wholeheartedly subscribed to, will lead to tranquillity, acceptance, loss of fear about all things.

However, this philosophy denies an *I* or you, or self. No reason to fear anything, but also it robs one's life and the existence of all things of any purpose. There is no point in planning ahead. It makes everything we ever do, pointless. It is, in a sense, a life denying philosophy.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The end of the age of the dinosaurs

If the asteroid that hit our planet ~ 66 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs, had hit the planet perhaps as little as 2 seconds later, it might have fallen into the ocean instead of shallow water and hence the consequences would have been very different. There would have been vastly less vaporised rock and sunlight could have still reached the Earth's surface in the following weeks and months. Hence the temperature all over the planet wouldn't have catastrophically fallen. Hence the dinosaurs might not have been wiped out. Hence human beings might never have evolved.

The fact that human beings ever came into being is an extraordinarily unlikely series of events. But then, what do we make of the notion that there is an ultimate purpose to our lives? That we were born for some ultimate purpose? On the surface, it might seem incompatible with any such purpose since we're here by sheer colossally unlikely blind happenstance.

There's stuff here I think that we're simply not understanding. Perhaps if dinosaurs had survived, they would have evolved into intelligent creatures comparable to our intelligence? Perhaps our souls might have inhabited these dinosaur descendants? Lots of questions, lots of speculations. But all very interesting -- well . . at least I find it interesting!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

What should we strive for in our lives?

OK, I put this in a facebook post last night after drinking 8 * 275ml bottles of becks.

What is meant to make a success of one's life? Earning loads of money perhaps? Or becoming some famous figure? If the latter, surely not someone like David Beckham? But what about a influential scientist like Newton or Darwin?

Is it the transient happiness of loads of money, or the feeling of satisfaction of fame, that should be the goal of life? But what happens if we achieve either of these? What happens if one becomes incredibly rich? Or incredibly famous? Will that bring some sort of ultimate satisfaction? I doubt it. We need to bear in mind that, at the end of our lives we are all equal; we either just cease to exist, or enter some strange new reality (or perhaps not so strange, I don't know).

I'm unconvinced that striving to make as much money as possible, or striving to obtain as much admiration from others as possible, is what we ought to aim towards.

I think we should try to be as honest, open, and authentic as possible. Express our feelings to others, especially anyone special in our lives. Forget putting on a mask to get on with others. If they think you're weird, so what?? Be yourself, don't pretend to be what you're not.

Walking in the Sun when topless

Unbelievably warm outside, but nevertheless I'm still the only person in existence who is out topless -- or at least in Louth, Lincolnshire, England. It appears to have the interesting consequence that people don't say hello to me when passing me. Nor do they when I'm unshaved etc.

On the other hand, if I've just been in the shower, shaved, nicely dressed etc, people keep asking me directions to places every 5 mins when I'm out walking!

Ian's tip of the day. If you're doing a timed walk, ensure you're unshaved or topless or whatever, so you don't kept being stopped by people asking directions to places.

Ian Wardell

Friday, 12 May 2017

A Sobering Thought

Sobering thought to think that by around 2150 I will have been completely forgotten -- as if I had never existed. Unless my blogs survive, or my Facebook posts etc, which I doubt.

Northfield School

Northfield School in Teesside

This is the school I attended for 5 years.

Article says:
"Northfield School has been providing high quality education for the young people of Billingham for over forty years".
What complete nonsense I learnt next to nothing. My one regret was not playing truant. A misspent youth wasting my life in classrooms, not listening to the teacher, and daydreaming my life away. I could have been reading Enid Blyton, or playing on the swings, or whatever.

Humans and Dolphins

"[M]an [has] always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons".
Douglas Adams on intelligence from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1979

Banning the advertising of Junk Food

I read the following article:
Labour vows to ban junk food adverts during X Factor and Hollyoaks

I hear people arguing that this is a ridiculous policy. They tend to say that:

a) Banning these advertisements would have no effect on the consumption of these foods.

b) It's the parents responsibility and the state shouldn't intervene.

If "a" then the manufacturers are wasting their money producing and buying the time for TV commercials. They should simply keep this money so they'll have higher profits. Or pass the savings on to the consumer. The latter would be good, cheaper prices and we don't have to suffer their adverts!

Frankly though I regard it as being preposterous to suggest these adverts have no effect at all. Especially advertising tasty food.

As for "b" it'll simply never work. Kids see junk food advertised, they'll go and buy it if they have the money, especially as their friends are all buying it.

Human beings are human beings. Many of them are influenced by adverts -- especially for nice tasting food. You can't change what human beings are. You can't change their nature -- you have to change society to accommodate their nature.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

An all pervasive spiritual force

From here:

Completely independently, many indigenous groups developed concepts of a fundamental ‘spiritual force’ which they perceived as pervading the whole of reality.
As these peoples perceived it, this force is not a personal being such as a deity, who watches over the world and requires human beings to worship it. It is usually seen as an all-pervading force or power, with no gender or personality

Yes, I think this is pointing along the right path. Reality as a whole is somehow infused with awareness, and indeed a manifestation of awareness? And all things, all events, everything that has been, everything that will be, is infused with ultimate meaning. A meaning that eludes us in our daily day to day existence, but whose existence might be very briefly glimpsed with peak experiences and mystical experiences. Jus' thinking aloud.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

If I am Reincarnated.

The evidence from young children who seem to remember a previous life and even the period between lives suggests that at least some people appear to have some degree of control as to where, and to which parents, they will be born to in the next life.

I think I'll decide to be born to parents who are both rich and loving. I think I'd probably prefer to be born male, in the west, in idyllic countryside. And would be great to be good looking, and intelligent, and enigmatic, and mysterious, outgoing, and strangely alluring.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

What is love?

What is love? I kind of regard it as being something like a total and complete appreciation of another person's essence, a total empathetic identification with their being. Often people say love is all in the mind, or it is merely chemicals. But what would it mean to say that such feelings are in one's mind? How would this differ if they were not in one's mind? Is mere liking of a person also in one's mind? Hating a person? Admiring a person?

I would guess they mean that love is caused by processes occurring in the brain. But how do we know the causal relationship always runs from the brain to the mind? Perhaps feelings of love precipitate processes in the brain?

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Are the trappist planets really similar to Earth?

A 5 minute video explaining why so-called "earth-like planets" discovered around Trappist-1 and elsewhere might not be anything like Earth.

Because these planets are orbiting very small stars, and hence have to be close in to be in the inhabitable zone, they will be tidally locked. So one side of the planet will be impossibly hot for any life, the other side impossibly cold.

We need to detect planets around bigger stars that are similar to our Sun. They won't be tidally locked, and any planet in the habitable zone, and which is the right size, has a faint possibility of being genuinely Earth-like. But we don't have the technology to detect such planets due to the glare of the star. We need more powerful telescopes and better technology.

Another link regarding these planets:

Could TRAPPIST-1 Be Home to a Galactic Alien Empire?

"Shostak says we should look for radio signals that can tell us if there’s possibly intelligent life on these planets".
Even if there is intelligent life, it's highly unlikely they'll have radio. Dolphins don't have radio. Humans only have had radio about 1/1000th of the time we've existed.

I reckon that planets that are genuinely similar to Earth will not be common, perhaps one in a million or perhaps even one in ten million? And perhaps only one in a thousand of them will have evolved a species that uses radio and has an advanced technological civilisation similar to ours. Most would be like Earth without humans.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The advantages and disadvantages of online grocery shopping

I live in England and I buy virtually all my groceries online now from either Tesco or Asda, and on the odd occasion, Sainsbury's. I thought I'd list the advantages and disadvantages of online grocery shopping as I perceive them.

The Advantages

1. There could be a greater range of groceries to choose from online. This though will vary depending on where one lives. I live in Louth in Lincolnshire in England. There's a moderately sized Co-op, a moderately sized Morrison's, and a large Aldi here. I can do online shopping at Waitrose, Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's (but not Ocado or Morrison's or Iceland unfortunately). None of these four supermarkets are located in Louth and are at least 11 miles away from me. So if I specifically like any of their groceries, it is much more convenient to simply order online. But, in addition, the range of groceries I can purchase in these supermarkets online is somewhat greater than the 3 local supermarkets. So I think this is a significant advantage.

2. It is very easy to compare the costs. Let's suppose I want to buy milk chocolate. I can put milk chocolate in the search box, perhaps filter appropriately if the website of the supermarket allows it, and it will display all the milk chocolate bars I can buy. But, in addition, it will show the price per 100 grams. So it's easy to compare prices. Interestingly, at Tesco, I have found that the multipack of small bars of Cadbury's or Galaxy chocolate are often cheaper per 100g than the single large bars.

3. It's quick and convenient. Walking or even driving somewhere, and walking around the supermarket, and possibly waiting in queues, will take vastly more time than simply ordering from home. In addition, the delivery person is always happy to take your groceries into your home should you wish (although I just carry the groceries in myself).

4. It's easy to find things. You just put the name of the food item into the search box, and voila! The page fills up with the appropriate food items. In the actual store I sometimes have to search quite a bit before finding what I'm looking for. It doesn't help that they periodically move the groceries around (this is so you'll see food items that you don't normally see. You might then buy that food item. However, it's inconvenient for the customer!).

5. The delivery charge is ridiculously cheap. I just pay a £1 every time. It's true you can pay up to £6 for weekend mornings. But why not just choose an evening on a weekday for delivery when it's often just £1?

The Disadvantages

1. The freshness of the food. First of all here is an interesting quote from another website:

The last thing that a grocery store wants is dissatisfied customers complaining about having received poor quality goods. This makes a lot of extra and unnecessary work for their customer complaints department. It is therefore good practice for them to only send the freshest produce out on the home delivery orders. A reputable store will give a guarantee that if you are not happy with your delivery then they will give you a refund.

The first sentence is nonsense. In my experience -- and indeed of other people I have read on the net -- the 'best before' dates and, more crucially, the 'use by' dates, leave a lot to be desired. If I'm actually visiting a supermarket I avoid the perishable food items at the front of the shelf and get one from the back as these normally have better 'use by' dates. But, when you buy online, it would seem the pickers of your groceries don't do this. On odd occasions I even end up getting delivered groceries that include perishable foods which have a 'use by' date that is the same date they are delivered! Since the supermarkets will have difficulty in selling these items to the customers who actually come into their store, I suspect that they deliberately deliver these perishable groceries that are close to their 'use by' dates to their online customers so they can make more money. Otherwise, they would need to sell them off cheaply to get rid of them quickly.

It's true you can refuse any of the items that are delivered. But, in practice, in order not to detain the delivery person, I tend to be in too much of a hurry putting all the groceries into bags to have time to examine the dates on the fresh food. If the 'use by' date is particular bad, like the very date they are delivered, you can telephone or contact the supermarket via a webform, and they will agree to refund you for the relevant item and you get to keep the item. This is a bit of a chew though. And I imagine the majority of people will not complain, and the supermarkets will be aware of this. So, contrary to the quoted website, it is still profitable for them to deliver fresh food with the poorest 'use by' dates to their online customers.

It can be particularly irksome if I'm buying some essential fresh product like milk. I can buy 4 pints for £1, or alternatively 2 pints for 75p from Tesco. Visiting a supermarket I can easily buy fresh milk whose use by date is 12 days ahead. I live by myself, but in 12 days, or not much longer, I can get through 4 pints. But when buying milk online, sometimes the use 'by date' is as little as 5 days ahead, which is not sufficient time for me to drink 4 pints. So should I order the 4 pints, or pay over the odds and buy 2 pints of milk? It's a bit of a gamble! The bottom line though is that I often end up throwing out food which I wouldn't do if I went into the supermarket itself to buy my groceries. Even if I am refunded, it's a waste of food.

I should state that in the past, unlike Tesco and Asda, Sainsbury's 'use by' and 'best before' dates were fine. However, since their delivery charges were reduced and are now more or less in line with the delivery charges of Tesco and Asda (as little as £1), I think Sainsbury's 'use by' and best before dates have gotten poorer. Also Sainsbury's range is not as extensive as Tesco's or Asda's.

2. Just because an item is apparently available on the website, most emphatically doesn't mean that you will actually get it delivered. Sometimes . . nay . .
 often they run out of stock. This is normally those groceries which I assume they tend to sell less of e.g. organic and free range food, tandoori flavoured chicken etc. And also for those groceries that are on a genuine special offer. But, often I have only shopped at the supermarket in question since it apparently selling specific groceries, or there is a special offer on a particular food item I'm interested in -- precisely those groceries which they are quite likely not to have in stock. It would be vastly more convenient if I knew upfront which groceries they actually have in stock. Because if they don't have the relevant item in, then frequently I wouldn't have bothered ordering and would have shopped at a different supermarket, or not bothered ordering on that occasion at all.

Now, it might be thought that I could easily ring up the number on the website and find out if they have a particular item in stock. I have tried that. At Asda for 3 boxes of becks, each containing 15*275ml bottles of becks for the special price of £20 (they cost £8 to buy for a single box). I imagined the conversation would be something like me asking if they have these boxes of 15 bottles in stock for the Supermarket that delivers to me in Louth, the customer service person saying "hold on sir for 1 minute, I'll just check", that person looking on some database, then responding literally around a minute later with the response of yes or no, and if no when they would expect them in stock.

But no, it was nothing like that . . nothing like that at all. First of all I got put through to someone with a strong Indian accent whom I could scarcely understand at all. I didn't think that would be too bad since they normally seem to understand me OK, if not me them. I think I can distinguish them saying yes or no. But, things didn't pan out as I anticipated. He asked an apparent endless stream of questions, such as the code on the product, which supermarket delivers to me and other questions that I continually had to ask him to repeat since I had such difficulty understanding him. I kept saying, look it's just the standard sized bottles of becks, I just want to know if they have any boxes of 15 in. Can you not ring the appropriate store up and ask them?? Eventually, after he asked yet another question which I couldn't hear, no matter how often he repeated it, I simply put the phone down!

So it's impossible to find out what they have in stock, at least at Asda (and I suspect other supermarkets too), you just have to order and hope for the best. And, since the order normally has to be at least £40, I'm disinclined to order another £40 of groceries in the following few days on the off chance they'll have restocked the relevant item. Moreover, even if I did, it's quite likely they still
 won't have it in. And some items are rarely available. Over the past 6 months I've ordered fresh tandoori chicken thighs from Asda perhaps around 8 times, but they have only been delivered twice, despite always being advertised as available on their website.

The supermarkets do deliver substitutes, but rarely do I find them satisfactory. For example, I've ordered cod loin before that was on special offer. They didn't have any left. I would have expected to be substituted standard fresh cod, or failing that fresh haddock, or maybe even frozen cod. No, I got substituted farmed
salmon! (I never eat farmed salmon because of the health issues, I only eat wild salmon). Another time I had ordered haddock fillet fish fingers, but they substituted frozen sausages! I've ordered John West tins of red salmon when they have been on special offer. What was their substitute? Not Princess tins of red salmon which you might expect, but tins of John West pink salmon! Why? Well, I suspect because the tins of pink salmon were roughly the same price as the discounted John West red salmon, where as the Princes red salmon, not being on special offer, was around double the price. They ain't gonna lose out by giving me the Princes! I've ordered 760g porridge oats for £4, and they've substituted 648g for £4.88 i.e they've charged more and given me less! And the number of times they don't have fresh haddock and gave me cod in its place you wouldn't believe. Are the oceans heaving with cod or something?
3. I tend to search out those groceries that at a particular time cost less than the they do on the other supermarket sites. Sometimes they're on special offer and have a date when the price will go up. But often they don't. Now, when you buy groceries online from a supermarket, you don't pay the price they are on the day you order, but rather the day they are delivered (normally the next day in my case). For example, on one occasion I ordered 16 cans of fanta zero for £5 at Asda (December 2012). These were not claimed to be on special offer, and no date was given that specified they would go up in price at a certain date. When they were delivered the following day I got charged £8.96 for them; they had increased in price by 79.2% in the space of 24 hours. No warning was given to me that they had increased in price. The same thing happens at Tesco. For example in June 2015 I'd ordered 15 bottles of becks (in a box) for £7.50. That was good value and wasn't on "special offer". But the next day when delivered it had gone up to £10! (As a matter of interest, on the relevant Tesco page the Becks had not only increased in price by 33%, but had a message saying “Now Cheaper”. Surely, since it had increased in price by a whopping 33% in 24 hours, the message should have said “Now Vastly more Expensive” instead??).

4. You miss out on the social aspect of shopping. You might bump into friends or neighbours or people you recognise from the pub.

So these are the advantages and disadvantages of shopping for groceries online. I still think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, especially with where I live since there's a much greater range of groceries to choose from if I order online compared to the local supermarkets.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Dry January

I've just about completed "dry January", that is to not consume any alcohol in the month of January. 

I've been reading peoples' comments today regarding dry January. People saying they regret having drunk so much the next day and looking back in embarrassment what they said and did while under the influence. And they really didn't have a good time anyway.

Loads of comments saying that people should stick to the one drink. That it's a sad reflection on their life if people need to drink more than one or two etc.

Got to say my experience is entirely different. First of all I'm *never* embarrassed about what I did the previous night whilst drinking. Well . .the singing on facebook a little bit, but I can sing better than most other people so...

But also drinking makes me feel great. Drinking and listening to music, drinking and playing computer games. More philosophical and reflective. More talkative. 

Of course one can drink too much in one session. I wouldn't drink more than around 7 pints in a night. And to only drink once every 5-7 days since I'm leery of any detrimental effect on my health. I just wish other recreational drugs were legal.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Video from 1890-1920 in colour!

Germany (mainly Berlin) from 1890-1920 in colour! (according to the uploader).

I wonder if any of these people thought when they saw they were being filmed, that people from more than a 100 years hence are watching them? I doubt it! All these people -- every single one -- are now dead and forgotten. As all of us too will very soon be dead and forgotten. As indeed eventually the very last human being will die and the human race will be forgotten. As if it never existed. That is our fate. I wonder who will be the very last human to ever live, what his/her life will be like, what his/her thoughts will be, and when this will occur?

Anyway, I believe in reincarnation, so I'm deprived of the glorious melancholy such thoughts instil in other people.

Paternal Grandparents

When I was a child back in the early 70's and used to visit my paternal grandparents with my parents, my Granddad used to continually say "aye" all the time at random intervals. I thought he was saying "I". Anyway, I once asked my Mam why he says "I" all the time. My Mam said because he can't think what else to say.

They had a motorbike and sidecar. Never see motorbikes and sidecars now.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Intellectual Fashion

If our ideas are dictated by prevailing intellectual fashion, and what's acceptable in the academic community, then our ideas will not be revolutionary.

For our ideas to be truly great we have to be independent thinkers and forsake common "wisdom".

The problem though is that if one advances ideas against the prevailing consensus, then one's "absurd" idea will be vehemently attacked, mercilessly ridiculed and, should one be a scientist or philosopher etc, ones career will consequently be severely negatively impacted.

Of course sometimes "absurd" ideas will really be absurd. And indeed most of the time they will be. However, the blanket ridiculing of new "absurd" ideas cannot be desirable since it will serve to stifle human progress in understanding the world.

Monday, 9 January 2017

A book from my childhood

I thought this book had gone missing decades ago! Found it round my brothers house. I can remember reading it when I was a child. Reading that first page I can remember it! Can't remember what happens though. I loved it. The sort of stuff I read before I got into Enid Blyton.

I must go to bed!

Ha Ha! This is me! 

Sport in ancient Rome compared to now

I wonder what the ancient Romans would have thought if they had realised that 2000 years hence sport would consist of things like grown men kicking a bag of wind around a field, and that many people would get all worked up and excited about it! 

Five allegedly hard to swallow facts about Paranormal Research

From here:
1. "If it’s a phenomena (and not just an event), it will or can be repeated".
Depends what the author means by "can be repeated". In principle, for sure. But the precise circumstances which elicit a "paranormal" phenomenon might be extraordinary difficult to specify.
2. "[P]eople are exceedingly hard to convince when it comes to doubting their own perceptions".
That will generally speaking be so. However, I suspect this will not generally pertain if some anomalous phenomenon is observed. One is more likely to suppose that one cannot possibly be seeing what they seemed to see. Indeed, it might well be that anomalous phenomena is far more prevalent than we generally think, but we implicitly assume we're just "seeing things".
3. "Everyone – you, me, your spouse, children, siblings, co-workers, best friends, teachers, employers and even your sweet old grandmother have told lies".
A catch-all dismissal which can be advanced no matter how prevalent an anomalous phenomenon might be. Certain types of anomalous phenomena are universal e.g. crisis apparitions, telepathy etc. It is extraordinary implausible to suggest that they are all lying. Or indeed, given the similarity of the accounts, that they are all due to folly, delusion, cognitive illusion or pathology.

5. "There has never been any credible, demonstrable research to even suggest the plausibility of life beyond death".
The plausibility of the survival hypothesis, or perhaps rather implausibility of the survival hypothesis, has more to do with our implicit metaphysical convictions than what the scientific research suggests. People in our modern western society are generally educated to believe that we are purely physical beings and any notion of an afterlife is foolish. Having said that, and having argued for this on my other blog here, "life after death" has a certain plausibility since consciousness (or/and the self) cannot in principle be accommodated by science, at least as science is currently conceived. The brain producing consciousness goes against everything we understand about the way reality operates. It is somewhat more implausible than suggesting a TV set produces the programmes being screened. 

We cannot perceive anyone else's consciousness, we can only infer it from their bodily behaviour. This underlines the fact that consciousness is not physical i.e it is not empirically detectable. Once the body fails how can we infer consciousness has ceased to exist?

And of course there is "credible, demonstrable research" which not only suggests its plausibility, but its reality. I'm especially thinking here of the research conducted to ascertain whether children's ostensible memories of a previous life match up to events that really happened.

Update:  I originally said all of the above in the comments under the article.  The author deleted my comment describing it as "harassment".

Leave Facebook and get a life?

I don't know why people are always saying they need to spend less time on facebook. There's people like me on there who make witty comments, profound observations and provide interesting links. Not many of us, admittedly!

A caveman suddenly appearing in a modern city

Imagine a caveman from 100,000 BC suddenly being transported in time to today and placed for a brief time into the middle of a modern city. ...