polymodus' profile


Joined: July 14, 2009


MeFi: 2 posts , 1909 comments
MetaTalk: 1 post , 200 comments
Ask MeFi: 19 questions , 116 answers
Music: 0 posts , 0 comments, 0 playlists
Music Talk: 0 posts, 0 comments
Projects: 0 posts, 1 comment, 0 votes
Jobs: 0 posts
IRL: 0 posts, 0 comments
FanFare: 0 posts, 8 comments
FanFare Talk: 0 posts, 0 comments

View all activity

Favorites: 1392
Favorited by others: 5225


Links to: 0 users
Linked by: 6 users
Ask MeFi tags: music (4) piano (3) shopping (3) fashion (2) nyc (2) science (2) computers (1) computermusic (1) clothing (1) classical (1)


What's the deal with your nickname? How did you get it? If your nickname is self-explanatory, then tell everyone when you first started using the internet, and what was the first thing that made you say "wow, this isn't just a place for freaks after all?" Was it a website? Was it an email from a long-lost friend? Go on, spill it.

This space is for quotes from online texts whose interesting impressions had made me want to copy them down somewhere in order to remember, though that does not mean a simple endorsement of their ideas. (As for my nickname, it refers to Alfredo Casella's claim that composers at the turn of the 19th century "worked toward trying to achieve either a 'new polymodal' or 'chromatic' music", as discussed in a book about Claude Debussy's late works. There's also "polymodal chromaticism", an idea by Béla Bartók; in neurobiology, polymodality refers to unspecialized nerves that can sense thermal plus mechanical plus pain stimuli, for example. The exact circumstances were rather arbitrary, but mostly I've chosen it as an homage to music.)

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season."
Letter from a Birmingham Jail. King, Jr.

A person who derives all his instruction from teachers or books, even if he escape the besetting temptation of contenting himself with cram, is under no compulsion to hear both sides; accordingly it is far from a frequent accomplishment, even among thinkers, to know both sides; and the weakest part of what everybody says in defence of his opinion, is what he intends as a reply to antagonists. It is the fashion of the present time to disparage negative logic—that which points out weaknesses in theory or errors in practice, without establishing positive truths. Such negative criticism would indeed be poor enough as an ultimate result; but as a means to attaining any positive knowledge or conviction worthy the name, it cannot be valued too highly; and until people are again systematically trained to it, there will be few great thinkers, and a low general average of intellect, in any but the mathematical and physical departments of speculation. On any other subject no one's opinions deserve the name of knowledge, except so far as he has either had forced upon him by others, or gone through of himself, the same mental process which would have been required of him in carrying on an active controversy with opponents. That, therefore, which when absent, it is so indispensable, but so difficult, to create, how worse than absurd is it to forego, when spontaneously offering itself! If there are any persons who contest a received opinion, or who will do so if law or opinion will let them, let us thank them for it, open our minds to listen to them, and rejoice that there is some one to do for us what we otherwise ought, if we have any regard for either the certainty or the vitality of our convictions, to do with much greater labor for ourselves. —
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty


Kuhn (1991) describes the development of epistemic beliefs as a sequence of three successive stages which are characterized by different, partly opposing conceptions of knowledge and knowing. Development begins in a stage called absolutism: Knowledge and knowing are conceptualized in dualistic, absolute contrasts, such as right-and-wrong or truth-and-untruth (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). By contrast, in the second, so-called multiplicism stage, different opinions are assumed to be freely chosen, equally valid, and exchangeable. Multiplicists thus are at risk to become fully arbitrary in their views on science (radical subjectivity; Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). In the final stage, individuals realize that ‘viewpoints can be compared and evaluated to assess relative merits’ (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997, p. 104). This stage is called evaluativism, as individuals see themselves to be part of the process of knowledge by evaluating and weighting different positions to issues.
"Assessing epistemic sophistication by considering domain-specific absolute and multiplicistic beliefs separately", Peter J et al., Br. J Educ Psychol. 2015

"White men in America, in North America, are the beneficiaries of the single greatest Affirmative Action program in the history of the world. It is called "The History of the World"."
Michael Kimmel

"The one thing that was not human was the way it managed its time. Fan Hui took longer over his moves than AlphaGo. And AlphaGo seemed to be not as aggressive as a human might have been. It would play very calmly rather than start a fight by invading territory or attacking a group of stones."
—Toby Manning, Treasurer, British Go Association, referee of Fan versus AlphaGo

“When I finally met Agafia, what surprised me was that rather than feeling like a primitive situation, it felt like arriving in the future – to a world with no technology, the vast forest littered with discarded space junk,” Marshall told Russia Beyond the Headlines, referring to the fact that Lykova’s home is under the flight path of rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. “It is an incredible and beautiful place.”--Rebecca Marshall, The Forest in Me; the guardian

“Don’t underestimate the evil of gold. Gold over which a serpent had long brooded. Dragon-sickness seeps into the hearts of all who came to this Mountain. Almost all.”—Tolkien, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

If they can get you asking the wrong questions,
they don't have to worry about answers.
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

“The logical thing would be for me to be in the Maldives, living the good life. But I leave here every night thinking I know nothing about cooking. That is powerful.”
—Ferran Adrià

Logic sometimes makes monsters. For half a century we have seen a mass of bizarre functions which appear to be forced to resemble as little as possible honest functions which serve some purpose. More of continuity, or less of continuity, more derivatives, and so forth. Indeed, from the point of view of logic, these strange functions are the most general; on the other hand those which one meets without searching for them, and which follow simple laws appear as a particular case which does not amount to more than a small corner.

In former times when one invented a new function it was for a practical purpose; today one invents them purposely to show up defects in the reasoning of our fathers and one will deduce from them only that.

If logic were the sole guide of the teacher, it would be necessary to begin with the most general functions, that is to say with the most bizarre. It is the beginner that would have to be set grappling with this teratologic museum.
—Henri Poincaré, 1899

The phrase "emperor's new clothes" has become an idiom about logical fallacies.[29] The story may be explained by pluralistic ignorance.[30] The story is about a situation where "no one believes, but everyone believes that everyone else believes. Or alternatively, everyone is ignorant to whether the Emperor has clothes on or not, but believes that everyone else is not ignorant."[31]

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and
spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me,
can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I
don't know where I am."

The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering
approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees
north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."

"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist. "I am," replied the woman,
"How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is, technically
correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information, and the fact
is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything,
you've delayed my trip."

The woman below responded, "You must be in Management." "I am," replied
the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're
going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air.
You made a promise which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people
beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same
position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault."

“Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.”
—Helen Keller, letter, 1911 (http://www.maxam-outdoors.com/k/keller_helen.html)

“But I think the main thing that struck me about the quiz is how many of the items concern tendencies or habits of mind that seem to be enhanced by the study of analytic philosophy. Categorization? Check. Obsessing over small details while setting aside big-picture considerations for later? Yup. Recognizing the inscrutability of others to whose minds we have no privileged access (which means their beliefs and intentions can’t be predicted with certainty from their words, actions, or facial expressions)? You better believe it.”
Janet Stemwedel @scienceblogs.com

“We argue that the following three statements cannot all be true: (i) Hawking radiation is in a pure state, (ii) the information carried by the radiation is emitted from the region near the horizon, with low energy effective field theory valid beyond some microscopic distance from the horizon, and (iii) the infalling observer encounters nothing unusual at the horizon. Perhaps the most conservative resolution is that the infalling observer burns up at the horizon. Alternatives would seem to require novel dynamics that nevertheless cause notable violations of semiclassical physics at macroscopic distances from the horizon.”
Ahmed Almheiri, Donald Marolf, Joseph Polchinski, James Sully

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”
― Buckminster Fuller

For instance, he claims that “the difference [between scientists and philosophers] is that scientists are really happy when they get it wrong, because it means that there’s more to learn.” Seriously? I’ve practiced science for more than two decades, and I’ve never seen anyone happy to be shown wrong, or who didn’t react as defensively (or even offensively) as possible to any claim that he might be wrong. Indeed, as physicist Max Plank famously put it, “Science progresses funeral by funeral,” because often the old generation has to retire and die before new ideas really take hold.
Massimo Pigliucci

I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today — and even professional scientists — seem to me like someone who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historical and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is — in my opinion — the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.
—Albert Einstein

If they give you lined paper, write the other way.
Juan Ramón Jiménez

“I regard belief as a form of brain damage.”
Robert Anton Wilson

An idea that I first heard at work, but which I have found useful in many circumstances since, is that when two people have a disagreement, this almost always means that one of them has information that the other does not (this could of course be true in both directions). The mutual goal of a conversation around a disagreement should therefore be to learn what each other knows, not to “win”.
kindall @10:19 am