This blog is no more than a collection of rants about my life. Rants about one’s life is unpopular and dangerous, so I dropped it for almost a year. Now I have started a new blog: https://scientificrants.wordpress.com/ . In this blog, I will rant about anything but my life. (The targeted audience is broader than this site.) Everyone is welcome!
Anyone who possesses even mildly the geek’s temperament will remember what happened in Egypt just after midnight on January 28, 2011, The Night Mubarak Turned It All Off. The following graph captures it:
In a matter of minutes, Web access across a country of 80 million shrank to almost nothing, as every major Internet service provider (ISP) shut down like a po-mo version of the end of Atlas Shrugged. But that steep cliff has to be understood against this graph, too:
That’s the growth in Internet usage from its first introduction in Egypt in 1993. From 2004 on — the same time political dissent was multiplying — it took off almost exponentially. By 2010 it had reached a quarter of the population. This year, Internet penetration is estimated to hit 30%.
The regime was very slow to waken to the potential threat that blogs, social networks, email and…
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For example, the General Social Survey requests respondents to name up to six individuals with whom they discuss “important matters.” The assumption is that people discuss matters that are important to them with people who are important to them … However, a recent study by Bearman and Parigi (2004) shows that when people are asked about the so-called “important matters” they are discussing, they respond with just about every topic imaginable, including many that most of us wouldn’t consider important at all. Even worse, some topics are discussed with family members, some with close friends, some with coworkers, and others with complete strangers. … Bearman and Parigi also find that some 20% of respondents name no one at all. One might assume that these individuals are “social isolates” — people with no one to talk to — yet nearly 40% of these isolates are married! It is possible that these findings reveal significant patterns of behavior in contemporary social life — perhaps many people, even married people, really do not have anyone to talk to, or anything important to talk about.
— from Structure and Dynamics of Networks
Nietzsche liked to write in fragments, Cioran followed suit. Some people like the style, but others hate it because fragmentary thoughts resist systematic understanding. Examples:
“What do you do from morning to night?”
“I endure myself.”
Having always lived in fear of being surprised by the worst, I have tried in every circumstance to get a head start, flinging myself into misfortune long before it occurs.
— “The Trouble with Being Born”, E.M.Cioran
The following paragraph is a rather self-explanatory account for the merit of fragmentary writing:
In any book governed by the Fragment, truths and whims keep company throughout. How to sift them, to decide which is conviction, which caprice? One proposition, a momentary impulse, precedes or follows another, a life’s companion raised to the dignity of obsession …. It is the reader who must assign the roles, since in more than one instance, the author himself hesitates to take sides. The epigrams constitute a sequence of perplexities — in them we shall find interrogations but no answers. Moreover, what answer could there be? Had there been one, we should know it, to the great detriment of the enthusiast of stupor.
— “Anathema and Admiration”, E.M.Cioran
The purpose of fragmentary writing is interrogating without providing an answer. Among questions that have no answer, the meaning of life is king. I don’t trust any answer to the meaning of life, neither do I accept the notion that this question has even an answer. Can you find any religion which acknowledges that life is pointless, and that suffering is meaningless? That’s why I am not committed to any religion.
The youngest children in the study, the three- and four-year-olds in both conditions, only shrugged their shoulders or gave physical explanations for the events, such as the picture not being sticky enough to stay on the wall or the light being broken. Ironically, these youngest children were actually the most scientific of the bunch, perhaps because they interpreted “invisible” to mean simply “not present in the room” rather than “transparent.” Contrary to the common assumption that superstitious beliefs represent a childish mode of sloppy and undeveloped thinking, therefore, the ability to be superstitious actually demands some mental sophistication. At the very least, it’s an acquired cognitive skill.
This sign-reading tendency has a distinct and clear relationship with morality. When it comes to unexpected heartache and tragedy, our appetite for unraveling the meaning of these ambiguous “messages” can become ravenous. Misfortunes appear cryptic, symbolic; they seem clearly to be about our behaviors. Our minds restlessly gather up bits of the past as if they were important clues to what just happened. And no stone goes unturned. Nothing is too mundane or trivial; anything to settle our peripatetic thoughts from arriving at the unthinkable truth that there is no answer because there is no riddle, that life is life and that is that.
Magical thinking is causal reasoning that looks for correlation between acts or utterances and certain events. In religion, folk religion, and superstition, the correlation posited is between religious ritual, such as prayer, sacrifice, or the observance of a taboo, and an expected benefit or recompense. In clinical psychology, magical thinking is a condition that causes the patient to experience irrational fear of performing certain acts or having certain thoughts because they assume a correlation with their acts and threatening calamities.
“Quasi-magical thinking” describes “cases in which people act as if they erroneously believe that their action influences the outcome, even though they do not really hold that belief”.