What really is the difference between something that is natural and something that is artificial?
As you hopefully saw in our recent weekly writing update, I finally finished the first draft of Verdon's Tragedy, a side story set in the Fo'Fonas world. Even if revisions go smoothly, I don't expect a release date sooner than December 2022, but I want to share some thoughts about the story and the writing now.
This might sound like a philosophical question, but I intend it more like a scientific question. We’ve discussed this somewhat before, like in our post about the universe’s habitable zone, but I want to focus in a little closer on what life really is, on what makes one thing alive and one thing not alive, how we might go about defining the difference, and whether what we call life deserves the distinction we have hitherto applied.
While this is being hailed as the first potentially significant failure of the Standard Model, the Standard Model has really been struggling for years with a variety of problems
This is as much a history book as it is a science book, so it strongly appealed to my polymath tendencies (I should really write a post about the polymath/Renaissance Man concept). In fact, if I were going to teach an introductory course on thermodynamics, or wanted to introduce someone to the topic, I would highly recommend this book, rather than using a more traditional textbook.
There are certain principles that I have found underpin an astonishing number of our modern systems, and gaining a thorough understanding of a principle like that can enable you to understand or surmise how so many different things work. One of those, which is what we will be discussing today, is the photoelectric effect. It seems like at least once a week I come across some new piece of technology that leverages the photoelectric effect in a completely new or different way, and increasingly I marvel at how such a relatively simple principle underpins so much of our modern world. So let's talk about the photoelectric effect.
In philosophy, there is a concept called moral relativism. It was particularly popular in the mid-twentieth century, but has fallen out of favor in many circles today. Aristotle's famous question - "is conduct right because the gods demand it, or do the gods demand it because it is right" - is answered in moral relativism with a resounding no, to both alternatives. Instead, moral relativism asserts that conduct is right so long as it is in keeping with the conventions of the culture within that conduct takes place, and conduct should only be judged within that context.
This post is primarily intended as an educational one, to discuss some of the terminology and thought-processes involved in materials science, but it was inspired by world-building considerations. As you may recall, if you've been following along with what I've been reading (and my regular book reviews), I recently read a book called The Substance of Civilization, which detailed how the materials to which our species has had access have shaped the course of cultural evolution over the past ten thousand years. It prompted me to think in more detail about choice of materials and construction techniques in world-building.
With a title like that, you’re probably expecting a how to write type of post, walking through the disparate functions, actions, and reactions of the narrative structure. That’s not what it’s going to be about, but I wasn’t able to come up with a better title. I think that you’ll understand once you’ve read it. This is one of my occasional writing philosophy posts, although in this case it’s actually drifting more into the realm of just straight philosophy. The premise: the narrative is the quantum mechanics of human beings.