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Escapology 101

Biologists and animal behaviourists refer to their study of escape responses as escapology. Fish, cockroaches and higher animals move at speed in a direction away from an immediate threat from a predator, but not always, and not directly. The direction of the escape travel depends on the lay of the land, the position of likely … Continue reading

A life of crime

Crime is immensely popular — in fiction if not in everyday life. No victim enjoys the consequences of crime. But many of us enjoy a good mystery, and the narrative aspects of crime meet some human need, as when solving a puzzle, or watching others solve it. Burglary materialises metaphor, putting a thing in the … Continue reading

Enter title here

Titles matter. I stumbled across an interesting web site with advice about titling your talks. The advice also applies to headings for essays, articles, books, blogs, podcasts, etc. Olivier Mitchell writes that in order to create a title “that gets people flocking to your session,” it ought to do at least one of the following (1) … Continue reading

How smart are smart contracts?

Blockchain technologies such as bitcoin, support peer-to-peer monetary transactions, where lines in a shared ledger indicate payer, payee, date, amount and the goods or services to be exchanged: as is the case in a line in a bank statement. But, instead of a text line indicating  the product being exchanged, what if that line included … Continue reading

Fake followers

Singer Katy Perry has nearly 100 million followers on Twitter according to Friend or Follow. Close behind are Justin Bieber and Barack Obama, with Donald Trump ranked 34th in line with about 31 million followers. You don’t need to be a follower to find out what people are tweeting. You can just search on their … Continue reading

Are humans just machines for propagating tweets?

Some tweets are a bit like genes in that they get reproduced many times over, they mutate, they thrive and persist if the environment is right, and there’s a lot of wastage — most don’t get retweeted, liked or remarked. So there’s something like natural selection going on. One of the nice propositions about genes is that humans … Continue reading

Your post-human descendants are simulating you

If the universe can be represented in its entirety as data and programs then who is to say we are not living in a simulation, as in The Matrix? In the movie, human bodies are stored in silos as a power supply for intelligent machines, while the human minds attached to those bodies are preoccupied with a massive, shared simulated existence in something … Continue reading

The magic circle

When I was a kid, the Magic Circle was well known as an association of stage magicians. Those within it knew the rules of the illusions and had to keep them secret. The other meaning of magic circle is obvious: a circle that is magic. Perhaps it’s the former that the philosopher Johan Huizinga had in mind when … Continue reading

Flipped classroom 102: What a performance!

What’s it like to deliver lectures online? This year we pre-record 11 one hour lectures. Eight of these were recorded via HD video on a smartphone — roughly one hour in length divided into 10-20 minute segments. These were recorded in a range of locations, some out doors, and with some relevant film excerpts from YouTube and … Continue reading

Unnatural acts

Wanting to punch someone is a “perfectly natural urge” for a male under certain circumstances said broadcaster Jeremy Paxman (Telegraph). As it happens, I’ve just caught up with Despicable Me 2 (2013), with it’s camped-up super villain El Macho who boasts, woos and wants to take over the world — repeating yet again through exaggeration and humour a common male … Continue reading

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