THUNK – 107. Graham’s Number & Number Sense


Graham’s number is…really really big. But our brains start throwing errors at much smaller quantities.

-Links for the Curious-

Numberphile’s fantastic video of Ron Graham explaining Graham’s number – www.youtube.com/watch?v=HX8bihEe3nA

“Two Systems of Non-Symbolic Numerical Cognition” by D. Hyde, a review of research on the two psychological systems for cognitive representation of number – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3228256/

A summary of some landmark studies regarding the cognitive representation of number – software.rc.fas.harvard.edu/lds/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/feigenson2004.pdf

A great Wikipedia summary of some of the creatures which have demonstrated some capacity for number sense – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_sense_in_animals

A study showing the gradual “linearization” of the approximate number system’s logarithmic error allowance during childhood – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12741747

An analysis of possible evolutionary reasons the approximate number system is mapped logarithmically – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26755188

The 2014 paper which improved on Graham’s upper limit to his Ramsey theorem question – www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195669814000936

THUNK – 106. The Toulmin Method of Argumentation


Think you may get into some arguments during the holidays? Steven Toulmin & Reddit can help.

-Links for the Curious-

“The Uses of Argument” by Steven Toulmin – johnnywalters.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/3/5/13358288/toulmin-the-uses-of-argument_1.pdf

A summary of the Toulmin method as rendered by Colorado State University – writing.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=58

Winning Arguments: Interaction Dynamics and Persuasion
Strategies in Good-faith Online Discussions
arxiv.org/pdf/1602.01103v1.pdf

THUNK – 105. Why Elections Suck


There are a lot of people unhappy with the most recent presidential election in the US, & they have good reason – it needs fixing.

-Links for the Curious-

FairVote, an organization advocating for more representative & fair electoral systems – fairvote.org/

A simple online tool to determine who your elected representatives are. (Protip: phonecalls are harder to ignore.) – www.whoismyrepresentative.com/

A paper by the EAC detailing the historical basis of the electoral college & some of its flaws – www.eac.gov/assets/1/Documents/The%20Electoral%20College%20(Jan.%202011).pdf

C.G.P. Grey’s fantastic series “Politics in the Animal Kingdom” – www.cgpgrey.com/politics-in-the-animal-kingdom/

THUNK Episode 95 – Duverger’s Law & Ingroup Bias – www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1v8zK39MIY

THUNK Episode 104 – Ethics Overview & Moral Voting – www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcFyef0eUXM

Podcast 1 – Simone Chavoor on the Argumentative Theory of Human Reason

In this podcast, I discuss THUNK episode 64 with Simone Chavoor, a writer, marketing guru, and trivia master from Oakland, California. We talk about cognitive biases, the recent election, serial killers, vacuum metastability events, & birthing.

Some links for flavor:

The THUNK episode in question – www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cduyyif7BVY

An article about Charles Manson’s “How to Win Friends & Influence People” turning point – www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-07-22/charles-mansons-turning-point-dale-carnegie-classes

Bloody Code (from Simone’s Wiki-Walk) – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Code

The Ultimate Fate of the Universe (from Josh’s Wiki-Walk) – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimate_fate_of_the_universe

Elephant birthing video – www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKDFm9EC5C8

Giraffe birthing video – www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlWv6RhsVmc

THUNK – 104. Ethics Overview & Moral Voting

Some believe that voting a certain way this election is right/wrong. Let’s look at some ethics & see why.

-Links for the Curious-

First thing’s first, a shout-out to my friend Kevin Greenlee (who’s got legit degrees in philosophy & doctrinal theology). His fascinating article on Christian morality in this election is what kicked this whole thing off – ethawyn.blogspot.com/2016/11/hold-your-nose-and-vote-on-wickedness.html

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s brilliant summary of deontology – plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-deontological/

On consequentialism – plato.stanford.edu/entries/consequentialism/

On virtue ethics – plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/

A summary of Bentham’s utilitarianism – www.reed.edu/humanities/hum220/syllabus/2010-11/Bentham-Principles.pdf

A summary of Kant’s CI from MIT – www.mit.edu/~rdoody/Morality%20Ethics%20Handouts/KantEthicsPHIL13.pdf

GEM Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy,” which kicked off the modern revival of virtue ethics – www.pitt.edu/~mthompso/readings/mmp.pdf

THUNK – 103. On Rand-Bashing


Ayn Rand & her “selfish” ideology of objectivism produce both fervor & ridicule…but why?

-Links for the Curious-

A searchable online repository of Rand’s writings (including all quotes cited here) – www.aynrand.org

Branden’s retrospective personal statement regarding the character of Rand, her philosophy, & her “collective” – www.starways.net/lisa/essays/benefits1.html

The Partially Examined Life does a *very* charitable reading & conservative rebuttal of many of Rand’s philosophical works – www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/2013/07/01/ep78-ayn-rand/

The evolutionary origin of human hyper-cooperation (an observation of the role of altruism in evolutionary biology that prima facie refutes many of Rand’s claims) – www.nature.com/articles/ncomms5747

THUNK – 102. Dimensional Analysis

Dimensional analysis is awesome, but human brains are depressingly easy to distract with number-crunching.

-Links for the Curious-

Randall Monroe’s “what if?” blog – what-if.xkcd.com/

A simplified version of Maxwell’s dimensional analysis of the speed of light – www.math.ucdavis.edu/~temple/MAT22C/LecturesMat22CW15/10-MaxwellAndStokes-22C-W15.pdf

A history of units & dimensional analysis – people.eecs.berkeley.edu/~joschu/docs/history-of-units.pdf

Sources of Mathematical Thinking, Dehaene et. al. 1999 – www.cecm.sfu.ca/~jborwein/mathbrain.pdf

Summary of the paper from MIT news – news.mit.edu/1999/math-0512

THUNK – 99. Braitenberg’s “Vehicles” & the Chinese Room

Braitenberg’s “Vehicles,” Searle’s Chinese room, & Cole’s “Virtual Minds” – some thoughts on thinking machines.

-Links for the Curious-

Some selections from Valentino Braitenberg’s “Vehicles” – www1.appstate.edu/~kms/classes/psy5150/Documents/Braitenberg1984.pdf

Alan Turing’s fantastic 1950 paper “Computing Machinery & Intelligence” – www.csee.umbc.edu/courses/471/papers/turing.pdf

John Searle’s paper, cited over 5000 times, about the Chinese Room argument – www.class.uh.edu/phil/garson/mindsbrainsandprograms.pdf

David Cole’s “Artificial Intelligence & Personal Identity,” where he posits the mechanism of virtual minds – citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.383.778&rep=rep1&type=pdf

A quick note: the response that I end up advocating in the end here is spiritually similar to a sort of philosophical “Pragmatism.” If you’d like to read some more about it, check out its entry in the SEP here: plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatism/

The SEP article on “functionalism,” one of the philosophies of mind characterized here – plato.stanford.edu/entries/functionalism/