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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Monday, 20 February 2006

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

ANOTHER IMMORTAL IN MOUNT OLYMPUS



The community of Logicians and Philosophers and Linguists will remember Strawson for many years. A man makes himself eternal when his works pervade History.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 22:08 GMT
Wednesday, 8 February 2006

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

PETER LADEFOGED LIVES


A very small Tribute to the Greatest Phonetician of the World, who just left us. We shall hereafter and for ever be his disciples.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 05:18 GMT
Saturday, 21 January 2006

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

New Old Animals from South America



Several species of birds, reptiles and mammals, which were recently discovered, widen the diversity of the pre-historic South American fauna. About 30 new fossil species of South American animals were presented at the Second Latin-American Congress on Vertebrate Paleontology (Rio de Janeiro 2005), such as the 230 million year old and 1.8 meter tall Staurikosaurus pricei, or the first Brazilian Pyrotheria, with a trunk longer than that of an elephant, although smaller in size. Fapesp mag tell us more.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 22:22 GMT
Updated: Saturday, 21 January 2006 22:25 GMT
Sunday, 21 August 2005

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

Analysis has moved


Those must be old news, but any, here it goes:
The Journal Analysis can no longer be accessed via ingenta, as it used to. Now, you can go directly to its site, or browse it via Blackwell.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:10 BST
Thursday, 11 August 2005

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

Modalità e Multimodalità in English


Walter Carnielli and Claudio Pizzi are planning to re-write, i.e., to make a translation and an expanded adaptation of their book Modality and Multi-modality (original title Modalità e Multimodalità) into English. The new edition will probably be published next year.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 18:45 BST
Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2005 18:47 BST
Sunday, 31 July 2005

Mood:  happy
Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

LOGIC NEWS



Greg Restall is talking about his participation in the Logic Colloquium 2005. Here is a report about the second day.

Saul Kripke recently visited Argentine and Brazil, and delivered some talks at the Centre for Logic, Epistemology and the History of Science, during a Workshop on Semantics and Meaning. During the same workshop, Jean-Yves Béziau advanced his views on Many-Valued and Kripke Semantics. Itala D'Ottaviano, Zeljko Loparic, Marcelo Coniglio and Walter Carnielli[1], together with their (current and former) advisees, have also made very important contributions. Those contributions will be online sooner or later. The expected debate between Da Costa and Kripke did not take place though, the overall series of debates was very interesting and insightfull. João Marcos' talk on Non-truth functional Logics included things that were new to me and which I shall try to summarise in the near future.



[1] Soon Carnielli will publish his views on Fitch' paradox, which became the hottest event on Wednesday. (It almost worked as if someone used a gallon of petrol to extinguish a bonfire! :P ) Some of his proposals were not only bold but fresh new and, after the responses of top senior Philosophers and Logicians and a great happy ending, everyone was eager to see what his paper will look like.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 20:24 BST
Updated: Sunday, 31 July 2005 21:08 BST
Thursday, 17 March 2005

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

FINDINGS FROM PRE-COLUMBIAN BRAZIL


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Thursday, 17 March 2005 16:19 GMT
Friday, 11 March 2005

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

OBITUARY


Professor Cesar Lattes, one of the most important Physicists of the world, died on the 8th day of March this year, in the University Hospital of Campinas. He was 80 years old. His most famous contribution to Physics was his important participation in the discovery of the pi meson, in 1947.

Later he became the founder of the Department of Cosmic Rays and Chronology of the "Gleb Wataghin" Physics Institute, at the State University of Campinas, and helped to erect many laboratories throughout Brazil.

He died of a myocardial infarction, and left four daughters and nine grandchildren.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:43 GMT
Thursday, 30 December 2004

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

On certain Arguments to Bring Scientists to Court


A Short Note


Freedom of Religion versus freedom of Science has again become a hot issue. I have seen in the web-site of the Earth Science Associates that a certain man and a certain organisation have filed a suit against a number of individual scientists and academic institutions. I shall not quote the names of either party here, although the reader can access the web-site mentioned above and see them. The Plaintiffs demand trial by jury for a number of the issues pled, arguing that the Defendants have violated their civil rights, i.e., have infringed the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

As I do not know what really happened, I cannot comment on the case. But the web-site mentioned above contains a text with some of the main intellectual arguments of the Plaintiffs against the Defendants. I would like to consider two of such arguments from a more general point of view, not attached to the specific legal case. The two excerpts are from this link.

First, let me quote the part of their arguments that seems valid as an intellectual position:

Over the past several decades, the vast majority of both the academic and governmental science community has come to regard the "big bang" theory of the universe's creation as irrefutable fact. The scientific community has been extremely effective in disseminating this particular theory throughout the world. Until recently, this dissemination has occurred with virtually no dissent. Without such dissent, the major medias of the United States have reported this theory as scientific truth, influencing not only the taxpaying public, but also legislators in Congress who use this information as the basis for funding an increasing number of astrophysical projects. The federal and state governments have invested mammoth sums of money in such programs in the hope that the mysteries of the "big bang" theory will ultimately be revealed.


Now let me quote the part that for me sounds nonsensical:
Recently a small, but growing number of scientists, have advanced theories and offered evidence suggesting that the universe was indeed created in conformity with the literal text of the Bible. This "creationist" theory postulates that science and the Bible are not in conflict, and that indeed science supports the theory of a Biblical creation by God. These creationist theories have met with considerable skepticism, derision and open scorn by the mainstream scientific community. Many in this community see the creationist theory as not merely a philosophical threat to the "big bang" theory, but also a scientific threat, which if successfully validated would undermine the evolutionary science foundation, which has been considered the starting point for all astro-physical and cosmologist studies. Decades of "established" evolutionary theory would be subject to scientific refutation, potentially creating a scientific reawakening among the public and media. Consequently, there has been a concerted effort by academic and governmental theorists and researchers, as well as certain government officials, to suppress the creationist idea.


The first argument points to a real issue, specially in regard with the manner mass media tend to present scientific theories as absolute truths and unproblematic solutions. Perhaps, the big-bang theory is not better than any model of Universe that presupposed the existence of a giant turtle carrying our world on its backs, except for the crucial fact that the big-bang has been based on objective evidence and more complex theoretical reasoning. But the point is how the Plaintiffs establish a cause and consequence relation between the two arguments. They fail to do so on intellectual grounds.

Assume that a scientific theory T has problems p(1)...p(n). It does not follow from p(1)...p(n) that the best substitute for T is a religious taught. The fact that T has p(1)...p(n) problems only means that T has a number of problems to be considered. A solution to any of such problems must come from a precise formulation of the alternatives to T and not from the choice of the references.

Furthermore, for anthropological reasons, a holly book and its teachings cannot be reduced to a set of mere competitive scientific theories. Firstly because religious teachings and scientific hypotheses are not comparable things. Secondly and most importantly, religious teachings are and must be sacrosanct for the society wherein they are embraced, while scientific theories are not and cannot be. A scientific theory like the big-bang does not challenge any Religion and is not intended to do it. In the same manner, a sacred book like the Genesis does not offer an explanation to the formation of the Universe, nor is it intended to do so. It is not a book about Biology or Cosmology, as the Exodus is not a History book.

The general purposes of any holly writing are spiritual and ethical. The story of how Moses liberated the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt matters because of its meaning and not because it actually happened. Its message is clearly against slavery and unlimited power. In the same manner, the Genesis is about the spiritual questions that have been part of men's lives since ever. The story the expulsion of Adam and Eve, for instance, contains a very deep reflexion about human existence: man kind cannot live a paradisiacal existence, like the irrational animals, because humans know the difference between good and evil. None of these stories and their teachings can be compared or confronted with current scientific theories.

This is not a question of believers against atheist. An atheist can perfectly understand what a holly book says, whilst a believer may misunderstand it completely. In the case of those believers that want to reduce their sacred writings into scientific manuals, it can be said that they may have an abundance of faith, but, from my humble point of view, they seem to lack understanding in crucial aspects.

In any case, although the intellectual debate may be interesting, I would suggest that scientists tried to discuss their different points of view with humanity, dignity and mutual respect and comprehension among themselves and preferably out of Courts. And, perhaps, for the benefit of general audiences and the freedom of thought, it would be interesting if some independent organisation built an internet archive with papers by authors from several denominations (not only Christians), who want to propose their own creationist theories in accordance with their construal of their respective holly books.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 02:17 GMT
Updated: Thursday, 30 December 2004 02:32 GMT
Sunday, 7 November 2004

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

A NEW THEORY OF THE ORIGINS OF THE ROMAN ALPHABET?


Professor Tallit of the University of Algiers in her article in the French language Moroccan newspaper Le Matin argues that the Roman Alphabet might have had a Berber origin. Here is an excerpt:

(...)Les signes g?om?triques formant l'alphabet latin et entrant dans l'alphabet ph?nicien n'appara?tront en Orient - domin? alors par l'?criture cun?iforme akkadienne - qu'? la suite d'invasions massives d?ferlant de l'Ouest m?diterran?en. Et c'est ? la suite de cette submersion que se cr?eront les alphabets phon?tiques en Ph?nicie, l'un cun?iforme et l'autre lin?aire.

Peut-on consid?rer alors les signes comme U V C X N W I E Z L M S T des poteries berb?res les plus anciennes, des gravures et peintures rupestres de l'Atlas, du Tassili, des m?galithes africains et europ?ens comme de simples graffiti sans importance ou formaient-ils d?j? des lignes d'?criture d?daign?es car ignor?es? Les th?ories sur l'?volution de l'?criture ?vacuent un peu trop rapidement le Libyque - ?criture nord-africaine antique, disparue de nos jours -, et le font d?river du ph?nicien. (...)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Tuesday, 2 November 2004

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

Language program faces possible cuts


By Charles Nguyen

Source: The UCSD Guardian online

The UCSD Heritage Language Program is in financial danger because of university budgetary issues and could be cut midway through the year, according to Robert Kluender, chair of the linguistics department.

"At this point, we don't have enough money to get through the year," he said. "Every year we have a bit of trouble, but this one is especially hard."
Continue

Posted by Tony Marmo at 09:51 GMT
Friday, 10 September 2004

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

Veritas
The Correspondence Theory and Its Critics


By Gerald Vision


In Veritas, Gerald Vision defends the correspondence theory of truth -- the theory that truth has a direct relationship to reality -- against recent attacks, and critically examines its most influential alternatives. The correspondence theory, if successful, explains one way in which we are cognitively connected to the world; thus, it is claimed, truth -- while relevant to semantics, epistemology, and other studies -- also has significant metaphysical consequences. Although the correspondence theory is widely held today, Vision points to an emerging orthodoxy in philosophy that claims that truth as such carries no significant weight in philosophical explanations.

He devotes much of the book to a criticism of that outlook and to a less vulnerable formulation of the correspondence theory. Vision defends the correspondence theory by both presenting evidence for correspondence and examining the claims made by such alternative theories as deflationism, minimalism, and pluralism. The techniques of the argument are thoroughly analytic, but the problem confronted is broadly humanistic. The question examined -- how we, as thinking beings, are connected to and manage to cope in a world that was not designed for our comfort or convenience -- is more likely to be raised by continentalists, but is approached here with the tools of clarity and precision more highly prized in analytic philosophy. The book seeks to avoid both the obscurantism that infects much continental thought and the overly technical concerns and methodology that limit the interest of much work in analytic philosophy. It thus provides a rigorous but largely nontechnical treatment of the topic that will be of interest not only to readers familiar with philosophy but also to those with a background in literary theory and linguistics.


Link


Posted by Tony Marmo at 02:09 BST
Updated: Friday, 10 September 2004 02:11 BST
Friday, 20 August 2004

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

Pragmatics



Kai von Fintel will teach a Course in Pragmatics this fall (spring in the Southern Hemesphere):

The summer is nearing its end. I just finished the first draft syllabus for my pragmatics course this fall. I hope to condense some of the introduction to basic concepts, primarily by reigning in my tendency to get caught up in digressions. This will give me time to cover some interesting topics under current investigation, which I am quite excited about. We'll see how it goes.

This is a dress rehearsal of sorts for the 6 week pragmatics course that I will be teaching during the LSA Summer Linguistics Institute 2005 next summer. I will only have twelve 90 minute sessions, so that version will have to be even more concentrated.


Source: Semantics-etc

Posted by Tony Marmo at 05:45 BST
Updated: Friday, 20 August 2004 05:53 BST
Wednesday, 28 July 2004

Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

John Passmore


*1914
+2004
Source: Philosophy Program of the
Research School of Social Sciences
of the Australian National University


John Passmore was Reader in Philosophy at the Research School of Social Sciences, ANU, from 1955 through until 1957, and Professor of Philosophy from 1958 until his retirement in 1979. He was Head of the Philosophy Program from 1962 until 1976. Passmore's book A Hundred Years of Philosophy was recognised as a major feat of philosophical scholarship throughout the international philosophical community.

It was followed by influential books on a whole range of issues, including Man's Responsibility for Nature, one of the first books on the philosophical issues raised by the environmental movement. Passmore was one of the very first to give shape to what is now, under his influence, called 'applied philosophy.' His many books have been translated into a wide variety of languages. He remains a major figure in the history of ideas. In recognition of his service to education, Passmore was made a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia in 1992. The first volume of his autobiography, Memoirs of a Semi-detached Australian, was published by Melbourne University Press in 1997.

He was Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and Visiting Fellow in the History Program at RSSS, and died in Canberra on Sunday.


Obituary


Posted by Tony Marmo at 05:48 BST
Updated: Monday, 9 August 2004 07:46 BST
Tuesday, 27 July 2004
A NEW VERSION OF RADICAL MENTALISM?
Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS

Be warned, this could be the matrix


Source: The Sidney Morning Herald, July 22, 2004

The multiverse theory has spawned another - that our universe is a simulation, writes Paul Davies.


If you've ever thought life was actually a dream, take comfort. Some pretty distinguished scientists may agree with you. Philosophers have long questioned whether there is in fact a real world out there, or whether "reality" is just a figment of our imagination.

Then along came the quantum physicists, who unveiled an Alice-in-Wonderland realm of atomic uncertainty, where particles can be waves and solid objects dissolve away into ghostly patterns of quantum energy.

Now cosmologists have got in on the act, suggesting that what we perceive as the universe might in fact be nothing more than a gigantic simulation.

The story behind this bizarre suggestion began with a vexatious question: why is the universe so bio-friendly? Cosmologists have long been perplexed by the fact that the laws of nature seem to be cunningly concocted to enable life to emerge. Take the element carbon, the vital stuff that is the basis of all life. It wasn't made in the big bang that gave birth to the universe. Instead, carbon has been cooked in the innards of giant stars, which then exploded and spewed soot around the universe.
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The process that generates carbon is a delicate nuclear reaction. It turns out that the whole chain of events is a damned close run thing, to paraphrase Lord Wellington. If the force that holds atomic nuclei together were just a tiny bit stronger or a tiny bit weaker, the reaction wouldn't work properly and life may never have happened.

The late British astronomer Fred Hoyle was so struck by the coincidence that the nuclear force possessed just the right strength to make beings like Fred Hoyle, he proclaimed the universe to be "a put-up job". Since this sounds a bit too much like divine providence, cosmologists have been scrambling to find a scientific answer to the conundrum of cosmic bio-friendliness.

The one they have come up with is multiple universes, or "the multiverse". This theory says that what we have been calling "the universe" is nothing of the sort. Rather, it is an infinitesimal fragment of a much grander and more elaborate system in which our cosmic region, vast though it is, represents but a single bubble of space amid a countless number of other bubbles, or pocket universes.

Things get interesting when the multiverse theory is combined with ideas from sub-atomic particle physics. Evidence is mounting that what physicists took to be God-given unshakeable laws may be more like local by-laws, valid in our particular cosmic patch, but different in other pocket universes. Travel a trillion light years beyond the Andromeda galaxy, and you might find yourself in a universe where gravity is a bit stronger or electrons a bit heavier.

The vast majority of these other universes will not have the necessary fine-tuned coincidences needed for life to emerge; they are sterile and so go unseen. Only in Goldilocks universes like ours where things have fallen out just right, purely by accident, will sentient beings arise to be amazed at how ingeniously bio-friendly their universe is.

It's a pretty neat idea, and very popular with scientists. But it carries a bizarre implication. Because the total number of pocket universes is unlimited, there are bound to be at least some that are not only inhabited, but populated by advanced civilisations - technological communities with enough computer power to create artificial consciousness. Indeed, some computer scientists think our technology may be on the verge of achieving thinking machines.

It is but a small step from creating artificial minds in a machine, to simulating entire virtual worlds for the simulated beings to inhabit. This scenario has become familiar since it was popularised in The Matrix movies.

Now some scientists are suggesting it should be taken seriously. "We may be a simulation ... creations of some supreme, or super-being," muses Britain's astronomer royal, Sir Martin Rees, a staunch advocate of the multiverse theory. He wonders whether the entire physical universe might be an exercise in virtual reality, so that "we're in the matrix rather than the physics itself".

Is there any justification for believing this wacky idea? You bet, says Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, who even has a website devoted to the topic ( http://www.simulation-argument.com ). "Because their computers are so powerful, they could run a great many simulations," he writes in The Philosophical Quarterly .

So if there exist civilisations with cosmic simulating ability, then the fake universes they create would rapidly proliferate to outnumber the real ones. After all, virtual reality is a lot cheaper than the real thing. So by simple statistics, a random observer like you or me is most probably a simulated being in a fake world. And viewed from inside the matrix, we could never tell the difference.

Or could we? John Barrow, a colleague of Martin Rees at Cambridge University, wonders whether the simulators would go to the trouble and expense of making the virtual reality foolproof. Perhaps if we look closely enough we might catch the scenery wobbling.

He even suggests that a glitch in our simulated cosmic history may have already been discovered, by John Webb at the University of NSW. Webb has analysed the light from distant quasars, and found that something funny happened about 6 billion years ago - a minute shift in the speed of light. Could this be the simulators taking their eye off the ball?

I have to confess to being partly responsible for this mischief. Last year I wrote an item for The New York Times , saying that once the multiverse genie was let out of the bottle, Matrix -like scenarios inexorably follow. My conclusion was that perhaps we should retain a healthy scepticism for the multiverse concept until this was sorted out. But far from being a dampener on the theory, it only served to boost enthusiasm for it.

Where will it all end? Badly, perhaps. Now the simulators know we are on to them, and the game is up, they may lose interest and decide to hit the delete button. For your own sake, don't believe a word that I have written.


Paul Davies is professor of natural philosophy at Macquarie University's Australian Centre for Astrobiology. His latest book is How to Build a Time Machine.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 17:25 BST
Updated: Monday, 9 August 2004 07:55 BST

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