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More Than A 1000 Philosophers
LOVERS of the Big Think will rejoice at hearing about the world’s largest migration of brain:
BEIJING - Thousands of philosophers are expected to descend upon China’s capital in 2018 in order to fete the queen of all disciplines (the king is science). Here are some thoughts about the next 24th World Congress of Philosophy, to be hosted by Peking University.
With no other application to consider –this is not a joke, no other country or city wanted to host a mass think-tank like this (the logistics, the security, and the non-profit!)- the symbolism couldn't be any more… symbolic –the previous Congress was held in Greece -Athens, the cradle of occidental philosophy (in 2008, it was held in Korea):
Seeing things in this way we can appreciate the significance of a Parthian — Sassanian — Arabian — Turkman saying: “The Greeks have only one eye and only the Chinese have two eyes.” Josafa Barbaro had learned such a saying earlier in Persia, in 1471 and 1474. Around that time he also heard the same idea expressed in an abstruse manner: “The Greeks only understand theories, but the Chinese are the people who own the technologies.” –Ji Xianlin
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While modern Greece remains but a tinsel culture, China, the only ancient civilization still standing, in many ways has turned into the world’s greatest phenomenon. And while ‘philosophy’ –this idea and concept- may have originated in the Polis, it really prospered under Christianity in Northern Europe, and arrived in China (where it is called zhexue) proper in the late 18th century (via Japan, which was eager to catch up with the West first). China, to this day, has its own jia, jiao, and xue (schools, teachings, and disciplines) –many of whom are virtually unknown in the West.
The question is, can China -with its largely untapped resources, ideas, and innovations- revive the once exceedingly gorgeous but now sadly torpid and dour discipline? Especially academic philosophy has estranged itself from the public, and alienated many academics. Moreover, its tedious methodologies and terminologies are profoundly European, thus utterly biased. What can China do about it?
Indeed, at that time in the world, only China and Greece enjoyed a most prominent and magnificent culture. And it is high time that those handfuls of scholars or learners or whatever “-ers” in China who inevitably talk about nothing else but the Greek tradition come to an awakening. –Ji Xianlin
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The time for China is right…
True, the World Congress of Philosophy, to be held every 5 years under the auspices of FISP (International Federation of Philosophical Societies), doesn't pull the masses like the Olympic Games. It’s not even a competition –although it’s rewarding to think of THE fastest, THE strongest, and THE ONE with the biggest feet... One thing is for sure: there will be more disciplines and panels than ever before, largely because hundreds of Chinese, but also Indian, Persian, American… and other Asian thinkers, who will outnumber their European peers by far, need to be given adequate space.
There were times when the Chinese felt big about themselves, such as the Qing Empire at its heyday, an empire which, succumbing itself later to the prowess of the fleets and the cannons of the West, fell invariably prostrate at the feet of the West. But, today the Chinese nation, having been jolted awake, is striving to reassert itself among the nations of the world. –Ji Xianlin
The time for Beijing has come…
By fair estimates, given that EVERYONE wants to visit China these days, there may be up to 2,500 “philosophers” filing in their visa forms. Many universities (especially within China) will send entourages, complete with translators, secretaries, media, and their students.
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Where will they all sleep and dine? How do philosophers party? What should we print on the pillows and promotional cups? Do we really have to pay thousands of student volunteers –lest some Western philodox raises questions about exploitation and human rights? Can critics practice free speech? (Sure they can, PKU is surprisingly liberal).
The cost? A secret, but it is rumored that PKU guaranteed a basket of one million dollars. It may be not enough, however, the (preliminary) list of sponsors is arleady impressive, including the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Tsinghua University, Fudan University, and two dozen other top schools and associations.
The historical significance of this event aside, the organizers in China, in line with Beijing’s ‘host diplomacy’, are poised to blow this out of proportion –in a good way: “Our invitation will be extended to Axial-Age civilizations (Greek, Judaic, Hindu, and Chinese), historical traditions (notably Christian, Islamic, Jain, Sikh, Baha’i), forms of spirituality in Africa and indigenous religions, and other newly emerging modes of philosophical inquiries as well as well-established disciplines.” [Read the entire proposal HERE]
I am inclined to say that the one eye of the Greeks and their descendants later on gradually turned into two eyes; however, these two eyes, as extremity always results in antithesis, are now about to close. The Chinese eyes, after closing for a while, are now about to open up. –Ji Xianlin
You can’t get more Big Think than that, can you? Let's earmark Beijing in 2018; and hope to see some of you in China in the future!
Image credit: Nikolaich/Shutterstock.com
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Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
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In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
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