Friday, April 24, 2009

Beware of billiards-playing robots


Jewish date:  30 Nisan 5769.

Today’s holidays:  Ro’sh Ḥodhesh, day 15 of the ‘Omer.

Today’s quasi-holidays:  Astronomy Day, Plumber’s Day, 24 Hour Comics Day.

Worthy causes of the day:  “Tell Chevron: Fire the lawyer behind Bush torture”, “Support the Global Food Security Act”, “Ensure New Global Warming Act Remains Strong”, and “Join Jeff Corwin to Help Save Wildlife Threatened by Global Warming”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Abraham Lincoln was Born a Muslim, Says Film Maker”:  I am not making this up.  This is also despite historical records showing Lincoln having been more or less Christian.  This article seems to indicate that the filmmaker in question is not basing his claim on evidence that Lincoln had a Muslim father, but rather trying to shoehorn Lincoln into an Islamic mould (or rather the mould of the filmmaker’s version of Islam).  People, please do not try this sort of stunt at home; it comes off as really, really pathetic.
  2. “Cargo Cults of Melanesia”:  Religious phenomena which seem irrational to outsiders may actually be very rational to those who understand the reasons for them.  Cargo cults got started based on ingenious abductive reasoning.  Pacific Islanders whose territories were colonized by (mostly) Europeans noticed that the colonists did all manner of strange things and that ships and airplanes came and brought all manner of goods (“cargo”) for them.  It was thus a natural guess that the strange actions were what caused the cargo to be brought, and thus many Pacific Islanders began imitating the colonists in order to get cargo themselves.  The imitations were conceptualized in terms which the Pacific Islanders were familiar with, such as magical and religious rituals, and so new religious movements with the intention of obtaining cargo were born.  Even today, a few cargo cults, such as the John Frum and Prince Philip Movements, are still alive.  Though cargo cults may seem silly and naïve in 20-20 hindsight, this commentator wonders if we would act any less “silly” if Earth were visited by aliens whose behavior and technology was incomprehensible to us.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Billiard 'bots turn classic game on its head”. Enjoy, share the weirdness, Shabbath shalom, and happy new month.

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