Things 85: Talking Cats, Shark Facts, 285 trends

Bowing to the inevitability of Moore’s law, cats with captions are no longer as popular, instead being replaced by dubbed videos of cats. Lip-syncing and attitude-matching are key:

I recently discovered that Sharks can sense electricity! And are also viviparous, despite not being mammals! These things should really be taught from an early age. If you didn’t know those things, do follow those links and fill in this shocking gap in our educational system.

On Luke’s Facebook profile under ‘quotes’, he writes:

I am not big on quotes, as I think proper arguments take more than a few lines to construct. Quotes are therefore like mantras – declarations of universal truths which I am naturally rather suspicious of.

To further undermine this entire section of Things, I was recently reminded of David Malki’s thoughts on the matter; he also monetised the idea by producing a suitable bumper sticker. A banner on the same basis was the kind of thing likely to be seen at the Rally to Restore Sanity.

After recently trying to convince people that the number 285 occurs more often than it should (a perennial hobby of mine), I re-ran the numbers on search volumes and found something rather strange. What is going on around August here?

Last week’s Puzzle
Last week I asked how one might devise an experiment to test for the existence of Free Will, using “any definition of Free Will you think might be useful” (since an experiment reported in the Telegraph seemed obviously lacking).

John cited far more interesting MRI experiments which strongly suggest ‘decisions’ are made up to 10 seconds before we are consciously aware of them. But I felt that the nebulous concept of Free Will could also dodge this attack; perhaps Free Will ‘happens’ before that decision process becomes visible to MRI and before we become aware of it. There are plenty of other experiments that demonstrate that a lot of strange processes conspire to construct the illusion that we are experiencing the world in ‘real time’, but that’s another story.

Tarim said he couldn’t think of any definition for Free Will, which is a pretty reasonable response. I admitted I had personally found considering the ‘devise a test’ question a useful line of thought for clarifying the matter in my own mind, but just trying to come up with a definition is actually a more direct route.

This being the internet, we don’t have to look too far to find people trying to give definitions of Free Will. It actually seems fairly straightforward: it can either be used in a ‘Compatibilist‘ sense, or in a sense that doesn’t make any sense.

Angela (who also noted the definition problem) said she would ask her solicitor, who apparently offers a free will service.

Finally, I note that Things 66 (sent just before I started blogging each edition) included this link on the subject.

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