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Showing posts from February 25, 2007

Yet Another Debate on IQ...

Or: "The Same Vinegarized Wine Injected into New Bottles, Part n"

I. Frank Sulloway in NYRB
II. The Inevitable Letter War
III. Two Centsfrom Yours Truly

I. Frank Sulloway in NYRB
Volume 53, Number 19 · November 30, 2006ReviewParallel LivesBy Frank J. SullowayIndivisible by Two: Lives of Extraordinary Twinsby Nancy L. SegalHarvard University Press, 280 pp., $24.95Which of us has not wondered how our life might have turned out had certain circumstances been different? Like characters inhabiting parallel universes in science fiction plots, we all live only a tiny fraction of the lives that might have been.As a teenager I won an acting award, spent two years learning the Russian language (which I have hardly spoken since), and avidly pursued astrophotography (my first publication, at the age of fourteen, was a photograph of an aurora borealis that appeared in Sky and Telescope). Each of these early interests somehow faded and was overtaken by others that ended up having a more lastin…

The Idea of Universality in Linguistics and Human Rights

If humans have a common, in-born capacity for language, and for such complex behaviors as morality, might the faculties be somehow linked? Noam Chomsky perceives a mere thread of a connection. At breakneck speed, Chomsky leads us through a history of language theory, concluding with the revolutionary model he championed: a universal grammar underpinning all languages that corresponds to an innate capacity of the human brain. While scientists may now have a “clearer grasp of the universals of language,” says Chomsky, notions of universality grow murky as we move “into domains of will, choice and judgment.” Chomsky cites the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as one example of “broad cross-cultural consensus.” But he brandishes examples of how “our moral and intellectual culture….forcefully rejects universal moral judgments” -- such as continued U.S. refusal to approve anti-torture conventions.

In contrast, Elizabeth Spelke forcefully links “universals in human …

Vietnam Remembered

In this bitter commemoration of the end of the Vietnam War, the speakers dispel any comforting notion that Americans have absorbed lessons from that bloody time, much less sought the truth. Ngo Ving Long describes how the United States policy of pacification, starting in the early ‘50s, involved “incredible assassinations of people at the local level.” The U.S. blocked free elections, and helped the Saigon regime annihilate not just Communists, but eventually hundreds of thousands of peasants in the south who took up arms to defend themselves. Long has intimate knowledge. As a teenager, he met some U.S. generals at a club in Saigon. Seeking to travel around his country, Long agreed to make maps of villages for the U.S. military’s anti-malarial disease program, which he quickly learned was a cover for rooting out suspected subversives. “When I protested to higher ups, ‘You’re making people suffer and producing more enemies, more Communists’, I was told, ‘This is how w…

The Mechanical Universe...and Beyond

1. Introduction
This preview introduces revolutionary ideas and heroes from Copernicus to Newton, and links the physics of the heavens and the earth. 2. The Law of Falling Bodies
Galileo's imaginative experiments proved that all bodies fall with the same constant acceleration. 3. Derivatives
The function of mathematics in physical science and the derivative as a practical tool. 4. Inertia
Galileo risks his favored status to answer the questions of the universe with his law of inertia. 5. Vectors
Physics must explain not only why and how much, but also where and which way. 6. Newton's Laws
Newton lays down the laws of force, mass, and acceleration. 7. Integration
Newton and Leibniz arrive at the conclusion that differentiation and integration are inverse processes. 8. The Apple and the Moon
The first real steps toward space travel are made as Newton discovers that gravity describes the force between any two particles in the universe. 9. Moving in Circles
A look at the P…