Big Think Interview With Tim Maudlin
Tim Maudlin is a professor of philosophy at Rutgers University. He is the author of "Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity," "Truth and Paradox," and "The Metaphysics within Physics," as well as many articles on the foundations of physics, logic, and the philosophy of science. His main areas of study pertain to the ways that physics intersects with philosophy.
Question: Why do you think it's valuable to link the study of philosophy to the study of physics?
Tim Maudlin: Well, I think if you think about the history of philosophy, you would have a hard time making a distinction between the two. If you go back, Aristotle has book called "The Physics." In fact one of the reasons we call a big chunk of philosophy metaphysics is it was the sort of stuff Aristotle thought you should study after studying physics.
Plato has an account of the physical world, Descartes, obviously did a lot of physics, Liebnitz did a lot of physics. So it’s more the question, "How did they come apart?" than "Why you should put them together?"
And part of the reason they came apart is that the physicists got too good at what they were doing and too specialized. I mean, they became... mathematical physics became such a power independent tool that you had to devote yourself to it and probably had less time for doing what we would recognize as general metaphysics, general philosophy, talking about how you arrive at the conclusions that you arrive at, what the evidence is, what is really the nature of the physical world is, that lies behind the equations that you are using and things like that.
So I think of philosophers who are interested in physics as addressing the traditional philosophical question, if you will, what exists in the particular case of the physical world because you can ask about mathematics, what kind of existence mathematical objects have? For example, you can worry about the mind/body problem and you can worry about the kind of existence minds have, which tends not to come up so much in physics. But just the issue of the nature of space and time, the nature of matter, the nature of physical law. All of these are recognizably philosophical questions that obviously depend upon understanding physics.
Question: What do physics and philosophy contribute to each other?
Tim Maudlin: I guess the physics – the way things are set up now, physics provides you with a mathematical formalism that has been tested in various ways and seems to be extremely powerful at allowing you to make certain kinds of predictions. But the mathematical formalism is not self-interpreting. You can study the mathematics as mathematics in great detail and still not be at all sure what in the physical world is represented by this mathematics, even questions like, which parts of the mathematics represent anything in the physical world, and which parts are just artifacts of having set up the system in a certain way.
And those kinds of questions are more in the province, I think of philosophers or people trained in philosophy. They’re sort of conceptual questions, questions about evidence, questions about how you sort out, in any kind of representation of the world, which part corresponds to the world in a certain way and which part doesn’t.
So there’s kind of that division of labor, but it’s very artificial to suggest, quite honestly, that there is a strong division. As it turns out, there’s a general unified community doing foundations of physics, worried about the fundamental conceptual problems rather than worrying about running particular experiments or calculating constants to more degrees of accuracy or doing engineering and lots of interesting things you can do.
But if you ask the very basic conceptual questions, what we call foundations of physics, there’s a community. And that community is about equally divided between physicists, mathematicians, or mathematical physicists and philosophers and the people live in these different departments in universities, but any of the meetings will have all of them together, all of them talking about the same issues from slightly different angles, maybe, but able to communicate usually quite effectively.
Question: What other disciplines in science could benefit from a philosophical perspective?
Tim Maudlin: We are just beginning to tackle questions in cosmology; I’ll just give you one example because I happen to be thinking about it recently. And cosmology is, on the one hand, kind of the application of physics, but on the other hand involves particular problems about thinking of the universe as a whole and what it would mean to explain the universe as a whole. Those are obviously philosophical questions. You can go back to Cont worrying a lot about what it would mean, or what could it mean to have an explanation of the totality of the universe rather than an explanation of one piece of the universe given in terms of another piece. So, there are particular conceptual problems that come up in that context that are, I think, people are only beginning to look at.
More recent new sciences are probably too young yet to have clearing of content for a lot of philosophical input. I mean, you need to have a fairly stable discipline up and running with some very stable principles before, as a philosopher, you go in and have the subject matter you need to try and analyze.
Question: What can applying philosophy to the physical world reveal to us about the nature of reality?
Tim Maudlin: Let me give you a very concrete example. When you learn chemistry, or physics in high school or in college, you learn that there are electron shells that in a hydrogen atom, for example, there are various orbitals that an electron can be in, and you explain a lot about how the hydrogen works by talking about the electron jumping between different shells and giving off light or absorbing light, depending upon what these jumps are. And in the books, you’ll see a picture of the shape of these different shells, whether it be an “S” shell that looks like kind of a fuzzy sphere that surrounds the nucleus and these other “P” orbitals, and “D” orbitals that have funny-looking shapes.
Now, one very clear question to ask is, what is that a picture of? You open the book and you see this funny shaped object. Is that – does that mean that an electron at a particular moment in a hydrogen atom forms a kind of spherical shell around the nucleus, or does it mean the electron is somehow moving and what you have is a kind of long exposure picture where you’ve allowed – you’ve watched the orbital motion go on for awhile and you see, oh its tracing out a sphere. Or does it mean that, as often people would say, the electron is sort of popping in and out of existence somehow. It often doesn’t have any location, but sometimes it sort of shows up, and again, we have a long time exposure and the places it shows up it forms this kind of a shell.
Now that’s a physical question. It’s asking, what really is an electron, in this case, how does it inhabit space and time? And you’d think that should be a question that a physicist as a physicist would want to answer in order to understand what their theory is telling them about the world. It’s not a particularly philosophical question, but we’ve gotten to a situation where most physicists would not recognize it as a physical question and would not attempt to answer it and would some how think it was improper for them as physicists to attempt to answer it, or would say it is somehow a meaningless question or something like that. And we arrived at that situation through a sequence of philosophical positions, which no longer anyone thinks are tenable and a sort of crisis in physics where you had a mathematical formalism that worked very well and nobody knew quite what to make of it. And physicists made a fairly self-conscious decision to dissuade their students from thinking about it because they thought that was just going to confuse them and get in their way and prevent them from doing the important physics which involved doing more mathematical calculations and figuring out how to build explosive devices, and so on, which you can do perfectly well without having answers to these questions.
So, insofar as you’re interested in physics as a tool for engineering, you can pretty well ignore all of these questions, but I would think, would hope that most students of physics don’t go into physics in order to become engineers. They go in initially motivated by a simple curiosity about the world and what they’re hoping is that they’ll find out about the world the way if you’re interested in how biological creatures manage to reproduce and you finally understand how DNA works and how the strands separate and how they replicate. You say, “Oh there was a real puzzle about how all this works and now I understand it.” That physics should be like that. There is a real puzzle about how atoms work and find the four molecules and what’s going on. And you would turn to physics to answer those questions.
As I say, the peculiar thing, I think the historical peculiar and conceptually peculiar is that physics as a discipline has tended to turn away from those questions and to some extent now is turning back to them.
Question: What is experimental philosophy, and how is it different from conventional philosophy?
Tim Maudlin: Now, the stereotypical philosopher sitting in an armchair actually can be doing experiments, but only on one subject, mainly himself, or herself. Right? So you can say, “Ah, how does the human mind work? I’ll just reason about things and I’ll introspect and I’ll figure out what I’m doing and I’ll write that down and say, this is how the human mind works.” Now, anybody thinking about it for a few minutes would think, well wouldn’t it be better to actually go and check other people as well? Maybe you’re an odd case. Maybe you don’t have such great insight just by introspection to figure out what the process of the thinking you are going through. Wouldn’t you do better to examine a lot of people and to ask sort of more – in a more detailed and systematic way in an experimental setting to kind of tease out the way people think?
Well, certain people doing that sit in cognitive science departments and certain people doing the very same thing sit in philosophy departments. And what’s the difference? Maybe there’s a slight difference in focus as some people doing philosophy foundations of physics sit physics departments and some people doing foundations of physics sit in philosophy departments. And the difference is, the people in the physics departments will certainly, probably be doing more calculation, be more worried about solving particular problems, will have more technical things and the philosophers will have more leeway to spend time asking more general questions, more conceptual questions. But in a way, the project is one project.
So there’s some part of experimental philosophy which is simply observing that traditional philosophical questions are about the way the world works and the best way to find out about the way the world works is to observe it in well defined experimental situations. And so you just raise the bar in terms of what you are doing.
From that point of view, it’s not anything terribly astonishing and not anything that changes the nature of philosophy. It just makes certain bits of philosophy a bit better. Now some people may complain, and it may be correct, I am not myself an expert in cognitive science, that the philosophers interested in doing this, is just not very good cognitive scientists or they’re not very sophisticated in how they set up their experiments, I don’t know. But in principle, there’s no reason why certain questions that arise you might want to do experiments to figure out.
What I’ve been arguing all along is philosophy, at least certain parts of it, are simply interested in finding out how the world is. Usually described at a very general, generic level, right? We’re not that interested in the exact population of Lithuania. That’s a fact about the way the world is, but you’d say not a philosophically interesting one. But what’s the difference between asking that and asking about the fundamental nature of space and time?
Well, space and time is a much more sort of general, pervasive thing, but you’re still asking a fact about the world. That is the kind of fact that a scientist would be interested in. If you’re asking about the nature of the human mind, which any philosopher over the history of time would do, you are asking about something about the world. There are minds in the world; they work some way or other.
So the questions... there’s never been in this area, a distinction between a scientific and a philosophical question. There is a distinction between more empirical method and more as it were, conceptual analysis. A method that’s a bit further away from experimentation. But that’s a matter of degree. And so if these questions that you ask at a more general level can be brought down to an empirical test, then you ought to go and do the empirical test. And then you’ve got to learn the techniques of good empirical tests, that is, the techniques of properly conducted science.
Question: How can philosophers help us to understand quantum mechanics?
Tim Maudlin: How should anybody think about quantum mechanics? Quantum mechanics is a perfect example. So you have Richard Fineman famously saying he can safely say nobody understands quantum mechanics. Right? One of the greatest physicists of the 20th century who’s main work was in quantum mechanics claiming he didn’t understand it. He says he himself does not really understand the picture of the world that quantum mechanics is presenting us with. I would think a physicist, as I say, as a physicist should find that frustrating and upsetting and a failure of physics that this fundamental mathematical theory they’re using they find they don’t really even have in themselves the sense they understand what it’s telling you about the world.
It’s just that if you’re a philosopher, you have the luxury of spending all of your time with that worry of beating your head against it. As a matter of fact, it’s a hard question and it requires people thinking very carefully and very deeply and furthermore, coming up with detailed physical theories, detailed physical accounts to try to understand quantum mechanics. And that foundational work tends not to have immediate payoff practically. It doesn’t mean that the predictions of the theory when you make sense of quantum mechanics will change or will change much. Sometimes they even change a little. Sometimes people trying to understand quantum mechanics will propose a way of understanding it that actually means the very predictions it makes will be altered a tiny bit, often such a tiny bit that you can’t even check it in the lab.
But there’s not that much practical payoff, and insofar as you are a physicist who care about practical payoff or you’re embedded in a larger enterprise that cares about practical payoff, then you’re going to regard these questions as not of immediate interest. Right? They’re not going to repay you thinking about them. And the luxury that philosophers have is that as we’re paid to think about things that don’t pay to think about. And so we can spend our time worried about these foundational issues and not feeling guilty about them.
Question: What is the payoff that you get from this kind of inquiry?
Tim Maudlin: Well there are two things you would like to do. Ultimately you would like to settle on a clear physical account of the world. Like, what’s going on, like I say, go back to my electron. What’s really going on with that electron? The aim you have is to answer that question. Now as it turns out, if you look at the precisely defined interpretations of quantum mechanics that exist today; and by precisely defined, I mean the ones where you have a clear mathematical account of what’s going on, in terms that are not vague and ambiguous. For example, if someone in the standard theory you say, “Oh, a system will develop in a certain way until you measure something on it. And when you measure something, then things go very differently.” And as John Bell pointed out, that’s just unacceptable vagueness because, what does it mean to measure something? You know, you’re saying in on circumstance it does one thing in another circumstance it does another very different thing, but the difference between those two circumstances it not well defined.
So the first ting you want to do is have a clear theory. A theory that tells you clearly what exists, tells you clearly what it does, and that you see, well given that, I can understand the world around me. As it turns out, there are various ways to do this; quite different ways to do it. Ways that give you very, very different pictures of what’s going on in the world in a microscopic scale.
What you’d like to then do is choose among them. Now, you may not be able to do it. How do you choose among them? Ultimately you’d like to do it empirically. You’d like to say, well there’s some experiment I’d like to run to decide between these. But in certain cases, it’s sort of provable that no experiment can decide between them. Or you might hope that one of these pictures and not another, one of these models and not another can be extended to cover gravity or can be extended to cover some new phenomenon. And then that would give you a reason to prefer one.
It may turn out that at the end of the day, we will never know. It may turn out that the world has not been made and our brains have not been made and our access to the world through our senses has not been made to allow us to discover all of the facts about it. And then you’d be depressed a little bit. Those are the breaks, right.
Question: Where do cognitive science and philosophy interact?
Tim Maudlin: The question, "By what principles do we reason?" has been in philosophy forever. One of the thoughts about logic is that logic is the theory of how we think, how we infer, how we get from some set of predeces to some conclusion. Now actual human behavior turns out not to be very good valid, logical thinking. I mean, there are lots of choices where there are sort of cognitive illusions, or you can show that people don’t think demonstrably in a way that makes a lot of sense. For example, Kottman and Tversky famously gave these examples. You’re going into a store to buy to items. One costs $100 the other costs $15 and you find out that across town, the $100 item is on sale for $95. Do you bother to go across town to buy it? And people say, “Naw, probably not.” You go into a store, you’re going to buy an item for $100 and another one for $15, you find out the $15 item is on sale across town for $10, do you bother to go across town to buy it? And they’re much more likely to say, yes. Even though in each case they’re paying the same amount of money for the same two items, but in your mind you think, “Oh, it’s a big sale!” on the $15 item. I mean, that’s a third off. And the sale on the $100 item, $5 off, that’s really, you know, that’s just change. You know, round it up it doesn’t matter. So the actual process of coming to a decision there is demonstrably irrational.
There’s an interesting question that anybody would have is, well what’s the mind doing? I mean, I gave a little sketch, a kind of obvious looking sketch of the way it’s thinking and you can sort of see it’s thinking isn’t really coherent, or doesn’t work well. So again, insofar as philosophers have been – anybody’s been interested in how the mind works, and philosophers have been interested in that forever, they would be interested in cognitive science because it’s just a more systematized way of asking those questions and subjecting them, hopefully to experimental tests to check the answers properly.
It’s changed philosophy of mind in a simple way that as cognitive science discovers things about the way the mind works that anybody doing philosophy of mind has to take account of that. If they’re trying to give an account of the human mind, you have to take account of what’s been discovered about the human mind. And if you’ve been thinking about the structure of the human mind, you might come up with questions that you’d like the cognitive scientist to look into. That maybe they hadn’t thought of. You might, as a philosopher again, thinking in a more general way about how the mind is organized, say “How could I tell – How could I decide between this account of the organization of the mind and that account?” Well, here’s a situation where, if it’s organized this way you’d expect people to behave this way and if it’s organized the other way you’d expect them to behave the other way. And then you have to go to your colleagues on the experimental side and ask them, would you please run an experiment and see which way it goes.
Now the particular details, well, there’s obviously a sense in which, for example, nowadays; there’s a lot of interest in emotion. There was a focus on, as it were, pure cold, calculative reasoning because you can give a cleaner looking, formal account of that, but as soon as you start looking at how people actually reason, you find that they’re systematically affected by their emotional state. And I would say that the demonstration of that forces philosophers of mind to think much more clearly about to what extent emotion and affect play a role in our cognitive economy, and probably it’s easier to ignore that question if there aren’t a lot of cognitive scientists running experiments and pointing out that, in fact, emotions play a bit role in how we think.
Question: How is philosophy valuable in our daily lives?
Tim Maudlin: Well if you ask me about what philosophy is, to be engrained, like what – there are detailed philosophical theses of various sorts. And in day-to-day life, it’s probably not all that – it’s not going to be all that affected by choice among some of these. If you think of philosophy, and I think this is a bit better and more important. If you think of the job of the philosopher methodologically is to very carefully figure out by what reasoning you arrived at some conclusion, or why is it you hold some belief. What are the grounds for it? How did you get to it and are those grounds good grounds for holding it? To carefully review arguments and unearth their presuppositions and then hold those presuppositions up to the light of day and ask whether you want to believe them. That’s what I would say is the foundation of philosophical method.
And this sort of thing that even say in philosophy of physics, physicists are not likely to do. They’re not likely to take the foundational principles that they’re using and hold them up to the light of day and ask them whether they should believe in them. They’re more likely to say, well this is just the principles we work with, accept them, use them, and don’t ask about them. That’s ore or less the story any undergraduate would get about quantum mechanics as they say, “Shut up and calculate. Don’t ask me why these are the rules. Just follow them.”
I think in everybody’s every day life, that habit of mind would make a tremendous difference. I think the amount of belief that people hold for no good reason is distressing. And that the level of argumentation in our political life is abysmal. And the room for improvement, of clarity of thought of clarity of expression is almost unlimited. And if philosophy could help the world, it would be much more – instead of by having people adopt some philosophical doctrine about this or that, it would be to bring them a bit closer to the care and precision of thought that is characteristic, I think particularly characteristic of philosophical work.
Recorded September 17, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman
A conversation with the Rutgers University philosopher.
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The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
How to deal with "epistemic exhaustion."
A strange object found in Utah desert has prompted worldwide speculation about its origins.
- A monolithic object found in a remote part of Utah caused worldwide speculation about its origins.
- The object is very similar to the famous monolith from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: Space Odyssey".
- The object could be work of an artist or even have extraterrestrial origins.
1. ART OBJECT<p>Chances are, this is an art object. The shiny "monolith" appears to be bolted to the ground and made of metal. It also seems to be fastened with rivets, rather being a uniform block of more unexplainable production origin. Deserts are great places for unusual art installations as has been evidenced by art projects you can discover wondering through the desert ghost towns and faraway canyons of Nevada, California, Utah and New Mexico. Certainly, an artist with a sense of humor and an appreciation of Kubrick's genius could have installed such "sculpture" in hopes of exactly what is happening right now – viral fame.</p><p>On the other hand, there is evidence, courtesy of eagle-eyed <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/jzkpad/helicopter_pilot_finds_strange_monolith_in_remote/gdg9qfi?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3" target="_blank">Google Earth sleuths</a>, that the object appeared in that location (somewhere near <a href="https://www.nps.gov/cany/index.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Canyonlands National Park</a>) in 2015-2016. So it's possibly been there for a few years. Would an artist have placed it there so long ago with the aim of having this type of success eventually?</p><p>A gallery owner <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/world/utah-monolith-desert-mystery-solved-john-mccracken-sculptor-artist-2001-a-space-odyssey/0bae1a27-5bd2-451e-90a6-393928d9ed02" target="_blank">claimed</a> the work may be a tribute to the art of the late artist John McCracken, who created similar-looking objects before he died in 2011. McCracken was part of the Light and Space movement with such artists as James Turrell, and was known to make his sculptures from plywood forms that were coated with fiberglass and polyester resin.</p><p>While the theory that the monolith was the work of a McCracken aficionado (or the artist himself) may hold some water due to the object's similarity, the fact that the artist died so long ago and the lack of clear incentive for anyone to have planted this years ago only to reveal it now work against this theory.</p>
John McCracken sculptures.
2. ALIEN EVOLUTIONARY DEVICE<p>Certainly, explaining the monolith as an art installation may make the most sense at this point but its resemblance to the famous object from Kubrick's epic "2001: A Space Odyssey" can't help but bring some science-fiction scenarios to our minds.</p><p>In the film, the perfect black slab was discovered by a group of prehistoric apes. After finding the slab, the apes seemed to have developed the ability to utilize found objects like bones as tools and weapons. The film suggests that finding the monolith had an evolutionary impact on the apes, perhaps serving as "the missing link" that propelled humans from being lower-end primates to the intellectual powerhouses they are today.</p><p><span></span>Later in the film, after fast-forwarding thousands of years into the future, such an object is discovered on the moon by human astronauts. Using the writer Arthur C. Clarke's short story <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sentinel_(short_story)" target="_blank">"The Sentinel"</a> as its inspiration, the film's narrative suggests that alien civilizations are responsible for these objects which potentially serve as beacons that may still be transmitting signals back to whoever created them while possibly being responsible for fostering evolution throughout the Universe.</p><p>Could the Utah object be serving just such a function? While 2020 has offered very inconsistent evidence of human intelligence, a device from a benevolent alien race that can make us all smarter might be just what we need. </p><p>Or it could portend the exact opposite and be the one thing that will hasten our demise.</p>
2001: A Space Odyssey, black monolith<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2178845abc1a10c7b869e2f6201d5db7"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cHWs3c3YNs4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
3. ALIEN PROBE<p>Besides having some specific impact on the inhabitants of planet Earth, the monolith could "just" be an extraterrestrial probe, sent here to learn about our ways. Would placing it in the middle of Utah desert be the best place to probe humanity? If the object was part of many such probes being sent all over the cosmos, it's possible the advanced alien overlord wannabes may not know specifically we are here and are just sending these everywhere they can. It's similar to when humans send probes to places like Mars and assume there's no life there just because the rover landed in the middle of a desert.</p>
A closer look: the Utah monolith<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CH_212pAKpr/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="13" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:540px; min-width:326px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:16px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CH_212pAKpr/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" style=" background:#FFFFFF; line-height:0; padding:0 0; text-align:center; text-decoration:none; width:100%;" target="_blank"> <div style=" display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div></div></div><div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display:block; height:50px; margin:0 auto 12px; width:50px;"></div><div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style=" color:#3897f0; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:550; line-height:18px;"> View this post on Instagram</div></div><div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"><div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"></div></div><div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)"></div></div><div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style=" width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"></div> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"></div></div></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"></div> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"></div></div></a><a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CH_212pAKpr/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none;" target="_blank">A post shared by Dave Sparks (@heavydsparks)</a><br></div></blockquote> <script async="" src="//www.instagram.com/embed.js"></script>
4. KUBRICK FAN INSTALLATION<p><span style="background-color: initial;">Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) was one of the greatest film directors of all time, leaving behind a slate of films that are each considered a masterpiece </span><span style="background-color: initial;">– "Dr. Strangelove," "The Shining," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "A Clockwork Orange," "Spartacus," "Full Metal Jacket" and more.</span></p><p>The visionary American director left a profound legacy, garnering millions of fans around the world. As the monolith he devised for "2001: A Space Odyssey" is one of the most famous objects in movie history, it's not out of the question that one of the director's followers decided to recreate it.</p>
2001: A Space Odyssey - The Monolith On The Moon<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="79d90172390295c27e533be4cbbd24e7"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/oU4Rk0NATNs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
5. GOVERNMENT CONTROL DEVICE<p>The American Southwest is rife with government military installations and mysterious bases like Area 51. Having the monolith be a part of some government (vast psychological?) experiment is a connection that's easy to make for any conspiracy-minded Internet dweller.</p><p>Of course, given the government's penchant for both secrecy and ineptitude, this last one may be the hardest to ever prove definitively. In any case, the Department of Public Safety is not releasing the exact location of the object and warns people against trying to find it:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It is in a very remote area and if individuals were to attempt to visit the area, there is a significant possibility they may become stranded and require rescue," DPS <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/24/monolith-utah-theories-what-is-it-mystery" target="_blank">said</a>.</p>
Melting ice is turning up bodies on Mt. Everest. This isn't as shocking as you'd think.
- Mt. Everest is the final resting place of about 200 climbers who never made it down.
- Recent glacial melting, caused by climate change, has made many of the bodies previously hidden by ice and snow visible again.
- While many bodies are quite visible and well known, others are renowned for being lost for decades.
Why leave the bodies there at all? Why not bring people down as soon as they die?<p>It costs a lot of money to go get a body on the highest mountain in the world, up to $80,000 to be <a href="https://people.com/human-interest/dead-bodies-mount-everest-glaciers-melt/" target="_blank">precise</a>. Then there is the problem of actually doing it, since some attempts to retrieve bodies are forced by difficult conditions to abandon their efforts.</p><p>Some people, such as mountaineer <a href="http://www.alanarnette.com/" target="_blank">Alan Arnette</a>, argue that the bodies should be left there. He told the BBC, "Most climbers like to be left on the mountains if they died. So it would be deemed disrespectful to just remove them unless they need to be moved from the climbing route or their families want them."</p> This doesn't stop people from wanting the bodies taken down or dealt with in other ways. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Sharp_(mountaineer)" target="_blank">David Sharp</a>'s body was moved out of sight in 2007. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Mallory" target="_blank">George Mallory'</a>s body took 75 years to find and was given an Anglican burial in 1999. Over time, the elements often move bodies away from the main routes up the mountain to more isolated areas where they remain undisturbed.
Everest’s chilling landmarks<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="V4Kz3Zfc" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9959d7e5b2866ad9f61ab823a5b60cbf"> <div id="botr_V4Kz3Zfc_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/V4Kz3Zfc-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/V4Kz3Zfc-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/V4Kz3Zfc-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The bodies that remain in view are often used as waypoints for the living. Some of them are well-known markers that have earned <a href="https://www.ranker.com/list/creepy-stories-about-deaths-and-dead-bodies-on-mount-everest/sabrina-ithal" target="_blank">nicknames</a>. </p><p> For instance, the image above is of "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Boots" target="_blank">Green Boots</a>," the unidentified corpse named for its neon footwear. Widely believed to be the body of Tsewang Paljor, the remains are well known as a guide point for passing mountaineers. Perhaps it is too well known, as the climber David Sharp died next to Green Boots while dozens of people walked past him — many presuming he was the famous corpse. </p><p>A large area below the summit has earned the discordant nickname "Rainbow Valley" for being filled with the bright and colorfully dressed corpses of maintainers who never made it back down. The sight of a frozen hand or foot sticking out of the snow is so common that Tshering Pandey Bhote, vice president of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association claimed: "Most climbers are mentally prepared to come across such a sight."</p><p>Other bodies are famous for not having been found yet. Andrew "Sandy" Irvine, the climbing partner of George Mallory, may have been one of the first two people to reach the summit of Everest a full 30 years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did it. Since they never made it back down, nobody knows just how close to the top they made it. </p><p>Mallory's frozen body was found by chance in the '90s without the Kodak cameras he brought up to record the climb with. It has been speculated that Irvine might have them and <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20130303001517/http://www.velocitypress.com/Mallory__Irvine.html#A127_Film" target="_blank">Kodak </a>says they could still develop the film if the cameras turn up. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they died on the way back down from the summit, Mallory had his goggles off and a photo of his wife he said he'd put at the peak wasn't in his coat. If Irvine is found with that camera, history books might need rewriting. </p><p>As Everest's glaciers melt its morbid history comes into clearer view. Will the melting cause old bodies to become new landmarks? Will Sandy Irvine be found? Only time will tell. </p>
MRI scans show that hunger and loneliness cause cravings in the same area, which suggests socialization is a need.
- A new study demonstrates that our brains crave social interaction with the same areas used to crave food.
- Hungry test subjects also reported a lack of desire to socialize, proving the existence of "hanger."
- Other studies have suggested that failure to socialize can lead to stress eating in rodents.