SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
The sheer scale of support to the banking sector is breathtaking. In the UK, in the form of direct or guaranteed loans and equity investment, it is not far short of a trillion (that is, one thousand billion) pounds, close to two-thirds of the annual output of the entire economy. To paraphrase a great wartime leader, never in the field of financial endeavour has so much money been owed by so few to so many. And, one might add, so far with little real reform. –“Watch: King says banks should be split up,” Mervyn King (quoted by Chris Barnyard), Liberal Conspiracy
American empire sticking to Chinese hegemony’s schedule;
13718891144, 13719573859, 13731497492, 13751456763… (but the blood test checks out);
two videos: “Synesthesia” and extreme accordionism;
Sherman Alexie’s doing pretty good for himself;
obituary for a mass murderer
In theory, the purpose of building “sunset” provisions into these new powers was to allow–indeed, to force–Congress to consider what changes might be needed in the event of such misuse. Given the incredible secrecy of intelligence investigations, this would be a dubious check even under ideal circumstances. But what’s truly astonishing is that even known abuses don’t seem to have given legislators second thoughts about resisting administration demands. –“‘War on Terror’ II,” Julian Sanchez, The Nation
You know the problem of consciousness is a hot topic right now. There have been half a dozen books published just in the last year or two. All of them are trying to figure out what it is in the brain that makes you self-aware. Of course, materialists like Moravec, and Churchland and his wife, are of the opinion that is it only going to be a short time until we figure out how the brain makes itself aware. But there is another school of philosophy that is coming into prominence now, with which I am sympathetic. They’re called the Mysterians. The Mysterians, and this includes a number of very top notch philosophers like David Chalmers, Colin McGinn, John Searle, Thomas Nagel, Jerry Fodor, Noam Chomsky, and a bunch of others, are of the opinion, and I share this view, that consciousness is something so mysterious that no one has the slightest idea how the brain makes itself aware, and we may never find out. That’s the extreme Mysterian position, that we don’t have the intellectual capacity ever to solve the problem of consciousness. It may be something beyond our power to understand; the way calculus is beyond the mind of a chimpanzee. It’s an interesting point of view because it may be that there are some questions beyond the reach of science because of the limitations of our present brain. Perhaps in a million years from now, if we evolve with bigger brains, we’ll solve it. Roger Penrose is a Mysterian. This was one of the themes of his famous book The Emperor’s New Mind, for which I wrote the introduction. We Mysterians think consciousness won’t be understood for at least a long, long time. Also, the Mysterians believe that self-awareness and free will are two names for the same thing. If you try to imagine yourself without self-awareness, then you can’t imagine yourself having free will to make decisions. You’d be like an automaton. –“This Side of the Pond: The Martin Gardner interview,” Don Albers (interviewer), Cambridge University Press
An appreciation of Gardner
(related: beautifully-arranged PDF of Mathematical Recreations and Essays by W. W. Rouse Ball
via Project Gutenberg’s math collection);
some kindergarten math;
Math Overflow lets mathematicians consult each other
Blog: Daily Drop Cap
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”