Skip to main content

Home/ All Things TOK/ Contents contributed and discussions participated by Michael Fox

Contents contributed and discussions participated by Michael Fox

Michael Fox

Plato's Pop Culture Problem, and Ours - NYTimes.com - 1 views

    • Michael Fox
       
      This is the key question.
  • To answer these questions, we can no longer investigate only the length of our exposure to the mass media; we must focus on its quality: are we passive consumers or active participants? Do we realize that our reaction to representations need not determine our behavior in life?  If so, the influence of the mass media will turn out to be considerably less harmful that many suppose.  If not, instead of limiting access to or reforming the content of the mass media, we should ensure that we, and especially our children, learn to interact intelligently and sensibly with them.  Here, again, philosophy, which questions the relation between representation and life, will have something to say.
  • And while philosophy doesn’t always provide clear answers to our questions, it often reveals what exactly it is that we are asking.
  • ...5 more annotations...
  • In their book “Grand Theft Childhood,” the authors Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson of Harvard Medical School argue that this causal claim is only the result of “bad or irrelevant research, muddleheaded thinking and unfounded, simplistic news reports,.”
  • This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on a case that may have the unusual result of establishing a philosophical link between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Plato.

    The case in question is the 2008 decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a California law signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2005, that imposed fines on stores that sell video games featuring “sexual and heinous violence” to minors.  The issue is an old one: one side argues that video games shouldn’t receive First Amendment protection since exposure to violence in the media is likely to cause increased aggression or violence in real life.  The other side counters that the evidence shows nothing more than a correlation between the games and actual violence.

  • To begin with, he accuses it of conflating the authentic and the fake.  Its heroes appear genuinely admirable, and so worth emulating, although they are at best flawed and at worst vicious.  In addition, characters of that sort are necessary because drama requires conflict — good characters are hardly as engaging as bad ones.  Poetry’s subjects are therefore inevitably vulgar and repulsive — sex and violence.  Finally, worst of all, by allowing us to enjoy depravity in our imagination, poetry condemns us to a depraved life.

    Both Plato and Arnheim ignored the medium of representation, which interposes itself between the viewer and what is represented.

    This very same reasoning is at  the heart of today’s denunciations of mass media.  Scratch the surface of any attack on the popular arts — the early Christians against the Roman circus, the Puritans against Shakespeare, Coleridge against the novel, the various assaults on photography, film, jazz, television, pop music, the Internet, or video games — and you will find Plato’s criticisms of poetry.  For the fact is that the works of  both Homer and Aeschylus, whatever else they were in classical Athens, were, first and  foremost, popular entertainment.

  • In 1935, Rudolf Arnheim called television “a mere instrument of transmission, which does not offer any new means for the artistic representation of reality.”  He was repeating, unawares, Plato’s ancient charge that, without a “craft” or an art of his own, Homer merely reproduces “imitations,” “images,” or “appearances” of virtue and, worse, images of vice masquerading as virtue.  Both Plato and Arnheim ignored the medium of representation, which interposes itself between the viewer and what is represented.
  • But what about us?  Do we, as Plato thought, move immediately from representation to reality?  If we do, we should be really worried about the effects of television or video games.  Or are we aware that many features of each medium belong to its conventions and do not represent real life?
Michael Fox

'The Shallows': This Is Your Brain Online : NPR - 1 views

  •  
    Try reading a book while doing a crossword puzzle, and that, says author Nicholas Carr, is what you're doing every time you use the Internet.

    Carr is the author of the Atlantic article Is Google Making Us Stupid? which he has expanded into a book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.

    Carr believes that the Internet is a medium based on interruption - and it's changing the way people read and process information. We've come to associate the acquisition of wisdom with deep reading and solitary concentration, and he says there's not much of that to be found online.
Michael Fox

Does Your Language Shape How You Think? - NYTimes.com - 6 views

  •  
    The idea that your mother tongue shapes your experience of the world may be true after all.
Michael Fox

BBC News - 'Survival of fittest' is disputed - 1 views

    • Michael Fox
       
      Scientific theories are always subject to future questioning.
  • The new study proposes that really big evolutionary changes happen when animals move into empty areas of living space, not occupied by other animals.
  • This concept challenges the idea that intense competition for resources in overcrowded habitats is the major driving force of evolution.

    Start Quote

    What is the impetus to occupy new portions of ecological space if not to avoid competition?”

    End Quote Professor Stephen Stearns Yale University

    Professor Mike Benton, a co-author on the study, explained that "competition did not play a big role in the overall pattern of evolution".

  • ...3 more annotations...
  • However, Professor Stephen Stearns, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University, US, told BBC News he "found the patterns interesting, but the interpretation problematic".
  • It proposes that Charles Darwin may have been wrong when he argued that competition was the major driving force of evolution.
  • But new research identifies the availability of "living space", rather than competition, as being of key importance for evolution.
Michael Fox

BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | Three little words so hard to say - 5 views

  • "We had become a little too confident that we thought we could see the big picture, and now the big picture has come back and hit us rather hard where it hurts."
    • Michael Fox
       
      This reminds me of the Boorstin quote, "The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance - it is the illusion of knowledge."
  • We know in our heart that it's not black and white, it's not 100% one policy and no percent another policy
  • "That's where politicians make a huge error," she says. "Because life's not like that and people know that. We know in our heart that it's not black and white, that it's not 100% one policy and no percent another policy.
  • ...8 more annotations...
  • It's a strange world where even the complexity of words is frowned on, to the extent that a politician would rather use another even if it meant something quite different.
  • Is it the public that demands certainty, craving bedtime stories to help us sleep soundly rather than face up to the rather obvious fact that the future - and to some extent the present - is unknown?
  • There are three words you will hardly ever hear a person in power use - "I don't know." Why is doubt, which most of us experience every day, virtually unheard of in politics
  • "The answer is it depends."
    "No, no, no, no, no, does it or doesn't it?"
    "Well it really does depend because I mean..."
  • Doubt seems a dangerous thing in politics. If possible, you don't admit it. Not about your values, nor your analysis, nor the policies that will magically bring about the change that you are certain is needed.
  • we know far less than we think we know, and pretending otherwise is rash and damaging.
  • Paul Seabright, an economist at Toulouse University, says it's a feature of all modern societies that we know little about what's going on.
  • "If you read Tolstoy's War and Peace, he has some wonderful descriptions about how battles which look very clear to military historians never seem that way to the people involved in them, that when you're actually in the smoke and the roar of the cannons, you have no idea what's happening. Even the generals have no idea what's happening."

    Tolstoy intended these passages as a parable of society as a whole, to show there's no vantage point from which to get the big picture.

Michael Fox

Economic View - The Overconfidence Problem in Forecasting - NYTimes.com - 1 views

  • BUSINESSES in nearly every industry were caught off guard by the Great Recession. Few leaders in business — or government, for that matter — seem to have even considered the possibility that an economic downturn of this magnitude could happen.
  • What was wrong with their thinking? These decision-makers may have been betrayed by a flaw that has been documented in hundreds of studies: overconfidence.
    • Michael Fox
       
      Overconfidence! Emotion blinding one to reality. Hubris is what the Greeks called it. No matter how mathematical the Wall Street Quants (MIT, CalTech graduates who have been hired in huge numbers to write algorithms to figure out the stock market) try to make things, human emotions and personalities will always play a factor in any prediction in economics or any science for that matter.
  • ...4 more annotations...
  • Most of us think that we are “better than average” in most things. We are also “miscalibrated,” meaning that our sense of the probability of events doesn’t line up with reality. When we say we are sure about a certain fact, for example, we may well be right only half the time.
    • Michael Fox
       
      Hopefully, by now, you see this as a totally TOK paragraph!!!
  • Some economists have questioned whether such experimental findings are relevant in competitive markets. They suggest that students, who often serve as guinea pigs in such tests, are overconfident, but that the top managers in large companies are well calibrated. A recent paper, however, reveals that this hopeful view is itself overconfident.
    • Michael Fox
       
      Great relevance to this year's TOK Essay Topic #2 "How important are the opinions of experts in the search for knowledge?"
  •  
    "BUSINESSES in nearly every industry were caught off guard by the Great Recession. Few leaders in business - or government, for that matter - seem to have even considered the possibility that an economic downturn of this magnitude could happen. "
Michael Fox

Google Image Result for http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_femhrxbNtS0/SjOqFsUDxWI/AAAAAAAAARs/0... - 1 views

  •  
    This is a famous Stanley Harris cartoon from the New Yorker. The missing text to go with the picture says:

    "I think you should be more explicit here in step two."
Michael Fox

Wanted - Baby Sitters With Foreign Language Skills - NYTimes.com - 1 views

  • “Once you are trilingual,” she said, “your brain can break down new languages that make it so much easier to learn your fourth, fifth and sixth languages.”
  • In fact, research shows that learning a second language makes it easier to learn additional languages.

    In recent years, a number of neuroscientists and psychologists have tried to untangle the impact of bilingualism on brain development. “It doesn’t make kids smarter,” said Ellen Bialystok, a professor of psychology at York University in Toronto and the author of “Bilingualism in Development: Language, Literacy and Cognition.”

    “There are documented cognitive developments,” she said, “but whatever smarter means, it isn’t true.”

  • Ms. Bialystok’s research shows that bilingual children tend to have smaller vocabularies in English than their monolingual counterparts, and that the limited vocabulary tends to be words used at home (spatula and squash) rather than words used at school (astronaut, rectangle). The measurement of vocabulary is always in one language: a bilingual child’s collective vocabulary from both languages will probably be larger.
  • ...3 more annotations...
  • “Bilingualism carries a cost, and the cost is rapid access to words,” Ms. Bialystok said. In other words, children have to work harder to access the right word in the right language, which can slow them down — by milliseconds, but slower nonetheless.
  • At the same time, bilingual children do better at complex tasks like isolating information presented in confusing ways. In one test researchers frequently use, words like “red” and “green” flash across a screen, but the words actually appear in purple and yellow. Bilingual children are faster at identifying what color the word is written in, a fact researchers attribute to a more developed prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for executive decision-making, like which language to use with certain people).

    Ms. D’Souza said that both of her sons lagged their peers by almost a year in verbal development. Her pediatrician recommended speech therapy, and one son’s preschool teacher expressed concern that he did not know the alphabet. But when both started speaking, at around 3 years old, they were able to move fluidly among three languages. She said that her older son tested in the 99th percentile for the city’s gifted and talented program.

    “The flexibility of their thinking helps them in nonlinguistic abilities like science and math,” she said, speaking of her children. “But at the same time the normal things — the alphabet — they have trouble with that.”

  • George P. Davison, head of school at Grace Church School, a competitive downtown school, said that bilingualism tended to suppress verbal and reading comprehension test scores by 20 to 30 percent for children younger than 12. “If anything, it can have a negative effect on admissions,” he said.
  •  
    Parenting sites indicate many New York City parents want caregivers to teach their children a language.
  •  
    Some interesting questions as to whether parents can "know" it's a good thing or a bad thing to have their children learn a second language. There are clearly cognitive and social costs and benefits that must be weighed.
Michael Fox

New York Study of Pedestrian Victims Leads to Unexpected Conclusions - NYTimes.com - 0 views

    • Michael Fox
       
      A human/social science study of the streets of NYC.
  • Taxis, it turns out, are not a careering menace: cabs, along with buses and trucks, accounted for far fewer pedestrian accidents in Manhattan than did private automobiles. Jaywalkers were involved in fewer collisions than their law-abiding counterparts who waited for the “walk” sign, though they were likelier to be killed or seriously hurt by the collision.
    • Michael Fox
       
      Overturns some common mistaken beliefs about the source of danger on NYC streets.
  • ...8 more annotations...
  • And in 80 percent of city accidents that resulted in a pedestrian’s death or serious injury, a male driver was behind the wheel. (Fifty-seven percent of New York City vehicles are registered to men.)
    • Michael Fox
       
      Can we safely generalize then that NYC men are more dangerous drivers?
  • The study, which the city’s Transportation Department described as the most ambitious of its kind by an American city, examined more than 7,000 crashes that occurred in New York City from 2002 to 2006 and that resulted in the death or serious injury of at least one pedestrian.
    • Michael Fox
       
      The parameters/credentials of the study. Are they legitimate? Does this sound far reaching enough to make the assessments that follow?
  • “This is the Rosetta Stone for safety on the streets of New York,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, the transportation commissioner.
    • Michael Fox
       
      Hyperbolic claim or legitimate statement?
  • The findings could also become a tool for the Bloomberg administration to extend its re-engineering of the city’s street grid, which it says saves lives. Those changes, which have angered many drivers, include barring vehicles from major avenues and replacing hundreds of parking spaces with bicycle lanes and walkways.

    The city says it is already planning a series of street changes based on data in the report.

    • Michael Fox
       
      Mayor Bloomberg clearly "knows" that the data is good as he is making changes based on it.
Michael Fox

Debate Over P vs. NP Proof Highlights Web Collaboration - NYTimes.com - 1 views

    • Michael Fox
       
      Here is the "So what?" component of this issue. Your next online purchase might not be as secure as the website says it is if P does equal NP.
  • The proof required the piecing together of principles from multiple areas within mathematics. The major effort in constructing this proof was uncovering a chain of conceptual links between various fields and viewing them through a common lens.”
    • Michael Fox
       
      Further evidence that expertise in various fields are necessary to solve future problems.
  • ...9 more annotations...
  • alleged proofs
    • Michael Fox
       
      Careful choice of language.
  • “At this point the consensus is that there are large holes in the alleged proof — in fact, large enough that people do not consider the alleged proof to be a proof,” Dr. Vardi said. “I think Deolalikar got his 15 minutes of fame, but at this point the excitement has subsided and the skepticism is turning into negative conviction.”
    • Michael Fox
       
      More on the language of proof and what is required to achieve that term "proof."
  • This kind of collaboration has emerged only in recent years in the math and computer science communities. In the past, intense discussions like the one that surrounded the proof of the Poincaré conjecture were carried about via private e-mail and distribution lists as well as in the pages of traditional paper-based science journals.
    • Michael Fox
       
      How the scientific and mathematical communities communicate and vet theories is changing.
  • Clay Shirky, a professor of interactive telecommunications at New York University, argues that the emergence of these new collaborative tools is paving the way for a second scientific revolution in the same way the printing press created a demarcation between the age of alchemy and the age of chemistry.
  • Passions have run high. A computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Scott Aaronson, literally bet his house last week — $200,000 — that the Deolalikar paper would be proved incorrect: “If Vinay Deolalikar is awarded the $1,000,000 Clay Millennium Prize for his proof of P-NP, then I, Scott Aaronson, will personally supplement his prize by the amount of $200,000.”
    • Michael Fox
       
      Even MIT mathematicians are passionate!!! Don't assume there is no emotion in mathematics.
Michael Fox

Questions Grow About Ansel Adams Discovery - NYTimes.com - 0 views

    • Michael Fox
       
      How valuable are these "expert" opinions?
  • Ms. Allen of Bryant Galleries said she did not know when she hired him that he had a criminal record, including a charge for pocketing a $600 deposit that a woman had made toward a couch at a furniture store where he had worked.
    • Michael Fox
       
      How, if at all, do these claims of Mr. Streets' past actions affect the legitimacy of the negatives?
Michael Fox

Questions Grow About Ansel Adams Discovery - NYTimes.com - 0 views

    • Michael Fox
       
      So history plays a methodological role in this debate...linking aspects of the negatives to events in Ansel Adams's life.
  • He took his discovery to members of the Adams family, who disputed his claims. Adams had been notoriously protective of his negatives, locking them in a bank vault when he lived in San Francisco. Would he misplace a box of negatives?

    “Ansel would never have done something like that,” said William Turnage, managing trustee of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, which owns the rights to Adams’s name and work.

    • Michael Fox
       
      But does the estate "know" that he never lost any negatives? Why might it be in their best interest to say that he never lost anything?
  • ...6 more annotations...
  • But in 2007 Mr. Norsigian and Mr. Peter, his lawyer, set about organizing an authentication team that included a former F.B.I. agent, a former United States attorney, two handwriting experts, a meteorologist (to track cloud patterns in the images), a landscape photographer and a former curator of European decorative arts and sculpture for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
    • Michael Fox
       
      How convincing is this crew of experts?
  • They concluded, without question, that the prints were of the sort made by Adams as a young photographer in the 1920s.
    • Michael Fox
       
      How certain is this conclusion? Read it carefully.
  • Among clients listed on his Web site are three former presidents, including Bill Clinton, and numerous celebrities. It features photos of him with Hollywood stars and with Maria Shriver, the wife of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. A spokesman for Mr. Clinton said he did not recognize the dealer’s name.
    • Michael Fox
       
      Do these "clients" add legitimacy to the claims?
Michael Fox

Observatory - A New Lizard? Well, New to Science - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • How did a species of lizard the size of a human remain undetected all these centuries? The answer is it didn’t. “It’s only new to science,”
    • Michael Fox
       
      Our zoological map is not the territory...although it just got a little closer to it.
  • The number of lizard species in the world — by most counts, around 4,000 — has just increased by one, with the announcement of a new species found on Luzon island in the Philippines.
Michael Fox

Basics - Primal, Acute and Easily Duped - Our Sense of Touch - NYTimes.com - 0 views

    • Michael Fox
       
      The tactile map is not the territory...we always change what we come into contact with by our very presence; the observer effect.
  • The signals from the various touch receptors converge on the brain and sketch out a so-called somatosensory homunculus, a highly plastic internal representation of the body. Like any map, the homunculus exaggerates some features and downplays others.
    • Michael Fox
       
      Even our internat tactile maps of ourselves are not the true territory of our bodies.
  • ...9 more annotations...
  • But on some tactile tasks, touch is all thumbs. When people are given a raised line drawing of a common object, a bas-relief outline of, say, a screwdriver, they’re stumped. “If all we’ve got is contour information,” Dr. Lederman said, “no weight, no texture, no thermal information, well, we’re very, very bad with that.”
    • Michael Fox
       
      Touch, like all senses, is best used in concert with the others.
  • Touch also turns out to be easy to fool. Among the sensory tricks now being investigated is something called the Pinocchio illusion. Researchers have found that if they vibrate the tendon of the biceps, many people report feeling that their forearm is getting longer, their hand drifting ever further from their elbow. And if they are told to touch the forefinger of the vibrated arm to the tip of their nose, they feel as though their nose was lengthening, too.
    • Michael Fox
       
      We'll discuss illusions in class, I've never been able to get the Pinocchio illusion to work but we can try it.
  • People who watch a rubber hand being stroked while the same treatment is applied to one of their own hands kept out of view quickly come to believe that the rubber prosthesis is the real thing, and will wince with pain at the sight of a hammer slamming into it.
    • Michael Fox
       
      This one we can try in class, but I lost my prosthetic hand last year.
  • Biologically, chronologically, allegorically and delusionally, touch is the mother of all sensory systems. It is an ancient sense in evolution: even the simplest single-celled organisms can feel when something brushes up against them and will respond by nudging closer or pulling away. It is the first sense aroused during a baby’s gestation and the last sense to fade at life’s culmination. Patients in a deep vegetative coma who seem otherwise lost to the world will show skin responsiveness when touched by a nurse.
  • “Touch is so central to what we are, to the feeling of being ourselves, that we almost cannot imagine ourselves without it,” said Chris Dijkerman, a neuropsychologist at the Helmholtz Institute of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “It’s not like vision, where you close your eyes and you don’t see anything. You can’t do that with touch. It’s always there.”
  • For all its antiquity and constancy, touch is not passive or primitive or stuck in its ways. It is our most active sense, our means of seizing the world and experiencing it, quite literally, first hand. Susan J. Lederman, a professor of psychology at Queen’s University in Canada, pointed out that while we can perceive something visually or acoustically from a distance and without really trying, if we want to learn about something tactilely, we must make a move. We must rub the fabric, pet the cat, squeeze the Charmin. And with every touchy foray, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle looms large. “Contact is a two-way street, and that’s not true for vision or audition,” Dr. Lederman said. “If you have a soft object and you squeeze it, you change its shape. The physical world reacts back.”
Michael Fox

Zakaria: China strategy is to wait out Dalai Lama - CNN.com - 0 views

  • Why is Tibet such a hot-button issue for China?
    • Michael Fox
       
      Here is the guiding question. Why is this issue not resolved one way or another?
  • So who's right?
    • Michael Fox
       
      Really, so how do we know who is right?
  • And Tibetans see
    • Michael Fox
       
      And the Tibetans have a different perspective. Notice how the basic assumptions of their approaches don't match. China is in a power and control paradigm and Tibet is in a cultural preservation paradigm.
  • ...11 more annotations...
  • China sees the issue
    • Michael Fox
       
      China has one perspective...
  • It's not so simple
    • Michael Fox
       
      If the issue is ongoing, it's always because it's never "so simple."
  • he Chinese have claimed
    • Michael Fox
       
      A knowledge claim.
  • The Tibetans, however, reject that claim
    • Michael Fox
       
      A counterclaim...
  • Well, that depends on who you ask.
    • Michael Fox
       
      Great TOK answer.
  • However
    • Michael Fox
       
      Telltale "counter-claim" transitional word. Whenever you see "however" someone is raising a point that contradicts the one previously mentioned.
  • Why hasn't there been any resolution?
    • Michael Fox
       
      Again, restating the original driving question.
  • Will it work?
    • Michael Fox
       
      Prediction based on hypothetical futures.

      If the Chinese do _________ then ________.

      HOWEVER...

      If the Tibetans do ________ then _________.
  • Do you think
    • Michael Fox
       
      Now comes personal opinion. Now that the issues, past and present have been aired, what does Zakaria think of it all.
  • What's the stumbling block that keeps them from finding resolution?
    • Michael Fox
       
      Again, returning over and over again to the guiding question. What is the stumbling block? Why isn't this solved already?
  • the difference in perception between the two sides
    • Michael Fox
       
      Here is the root issue...a problem of perception between the two groups.

      The one warning here, is that "perception" here is not used in exactly the way it is used in TOK as a Way of Knowing, as in sense perception.
  •  
    A great little interview on the current situation between China and Tibet and why it remains unresolved. Outlines knowledge issues and current problems well for TOK oral presentations.
Michael Fox

On The Media: Transcript of "The Witnesses That Didn't " (July 3, 2009) - 0 views

  •  
    An entire concept of psychology, Bystander Intervention, developed based on a single news story of a single murder, that of Kitty Genovese in 1964. Some are now suggesting the original story doesn't fit the model to which it gave birth.
  •  
    Anyone in IB Psych should check this one out!
Michael Fox

Texas Braces for Debate on U.S. History Standards - 0 views

  • What the state incorporates into its standards can have nationwide significance because publishers often look to Texas, as well as California—the two biggest adoption states—when writing textbooks.

  • Some people questioned whether all the experts had the credentials to judge social studies standards.
    • Michael Fox
       
      Some people questioned the methodology and credentials of the "experts."
  • Mr. Marshall wrote, “To have Cesar Chavez listed next to Ben Franklin is ludicrous. Chavez is hardly the kind of role model that ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation.”
  • ...4 more annotations...
  • “who have influenced the community, state, and nation.”
  • Weighing Gravitas

  • They used the word “include” in the standards to mark a historical person students would be required to learn about and the phrase “such as” to mark someone teachers could choose to mention in their lessons, without requiring it.
  • “you want to have some order out of the chaos,”
  •  
    Texas is reissuing US History textbooks this year with a lot of controversial additions and deletions.
  •  
    Texas textbooks influence the entire US History curriculum around the country. What do you think the effect of Texas' changes will be to history as American students understand it?
« First ‹ Previous 301 - 320 of 321 Next ›
Showing 20 items per page