Saturday, February 07, 2015

Norm enforcement

For rebellious behaviour, slaves are pinned to the ground, and burned by degrees from the feet and hands, burning them gradually up to the head, whereby their pains are extravagant...For crimes of a lesser nature Gelding [castration], or chopping off half of the foot with an Ax...For Negligence, they are whipt by the overseer with Lance-wood Switches, till they be bloody, and several of the Switches broken, being first tied up b the hands in the Mill-Houses...After they are whip'd till they are Raw, some put on their Skins Pepper and Salt to make them smart; at other times their Masters will drop Melted Wax on their skins and use several exquisite tortures.
from an 1698 account by Sir Hans Sloane about practices on sugar plantations in the West Indies, quoted by Andro Linklater in Owning the Earth (2013).

Slaves or sage slaves by Jerry Toner is insightful on the Roman institution of slavery, with only mild teases.

Friday, February 06, 2015

The Singular Universe

Here are a few additional notes and comments relating to a review of The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time published in The Guardian.

the distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion      Health warning: cosmologists are not saying it is OK for you to be late. See, e.g., Sean Carroll.  See also The Now.

[added 16 February]: Time Reborn there is a fascinating critique of Time Reborn by Joe Boswell here

physicists in the academy groan     Smolin is based at the Perimeter Institute outside the academic system.  The quality of its people can be gauged in the commitment of its director Neil Turok to, e.g., education in Africa.

deep freedom     openDemocracy published an edited extract from Roberto Unger's Religion of the Future here.   See also his site and talks.

prophet – or...crank     Jeremy David Bendik-Keymer writes "Unger may think of his work as preparation for prophesy, but it ends up as pontification."

some essential points can be readily grasped     Lee Smolin has written a handy summary of key ideas for New Scientist. Roberto Unger outlines some in audio with A universe in which everything changes sooner or later.

It appears there will be some errors in the print version of my review.  For example, cosmic inflation is thought to have begun 10-37 seconds after the big bang, not 10-37.  Also, I think it is correct to say that Unger and Smolin are only saying that parts of this model are preposterous, not necessarily all of it.

For A New Map of Wonders I have blogged in connection with Unger here and Smolin here.

Bryan Appleyard reviewed The Singular Universe here (paywall)

Finally, Rilke's ninth Duino elegy has this:
Once for each thing. Just once; no more. And we too
just once. And never again. But to have been
this once, completely, even if only once:
to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing

Image from The Landreader by Dominick Tyler