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Nature

This category contains 98 posts

Living with virions [and Ro]

Smartphones can’t yet take your temperature and diagnose if you are carrying an infection. But developers are designing smartphone apps to trace if you’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. The most promising contact tracing apps enable smartphones to exchange short encrypted messages when they are within range of one another. That happens … Continue reading

The third great confinement

As I’m considering this for part of a future publication, I thought I should write the following in the past tense. I wonder if it will stand the test of time. I wrote most of this during the third great confinement, the global shutdown during the pandemic of 2020. Cities had to marshal their resources … Continue reading

Wood-wide web

To state the obvious, a tree starts from the ground with a trunk that extends into branches and twigs. You could be excused for thinking that nature is shaped like trees. The primary biological morphology is a root and branch structure. Embryonic cells form into tubes that branch, fold, specialise and merge. The form (morphology) … Continue reading

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

The lion and the jackal

Jackals are omnivores. They eat plants and hunt small prey. Jackals normally forage and hunt singly or in pairs, but will form larger alliances to scavenge a carcass. By stealth, they will steal from a lion. A lion, three jackals and a dead warthog A female lion catches a warthog in the early morning. Warthogs … Continue reading

Wild signs (Africa edition)

As anyone who walks, treks, or rambles in the countryside knows, nature is replete with messages. Animals deposit and pick up trails and traces. They communicate within and across groups, populations, species and families. They broadcast, narrowcast, and live stream messages to friends, rivals, predators and prey, deliberately, inadvertently, or even falsely. Not all channels … Continue reading

On being a detective

As evidence of crimes and misdemeanours mount and circulate around the US president and his entourage, attention turns to matters of fact. Fact-checking is a major media sub-industry. See factcheck.org, politifact.com, and fullfact.org. It’s also an exercise in semiotic indexicality. I’m investigating how C.S. Peirce’s theories about signs relate to his theory of abduction, i.e. … Continue reading

Whatever happened to reality?

I’m reading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux, with a view to bringing the thinking of the pragmatic philosopher C.S. Peirce (1839-1914) up to date — or at least, this is an opportunity to compare and contrast Peirce’s pragmatic realism with some thinking now about reality (100 years later). Meillassoux’s contention is that the so-called linguistic … Continue reading

What post humanists want

I’m glad there are philosophers who wrestle with what there actually is in the world — for real. So the rest of us can deal with practical matters. That’s a glib summation of how I contrast C.S. Peirce’s pragmatism with adventures in contemporary ontology. The task for one such ontologist, Graham Harman, is to give … Continue reading

Index fever

In writing about the post-digital condition, media commentator Florian Cramer identified a “semiotic shift to the indexical”(22) and away from symbols. The indexical relationship is a direct connection between an object and its sign, as if the sign is caused by its object (as smoke or soot are caused by fire). According to C.S. Peirce, … Continue reading

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