Impaired emotional processing affects moral judgements.

According to New Scientist. Which means people who have problems dealing with emotions (in this study it was due to brain dmamge) make moral judgements different from those made normally.

But didn’t we know this??

In every blockbuster movie, the villian makes unusual moral judgements. And he is also emotionally retarded.

The study uses some of the usual questions of men working on railway tracks. Which are interesting questions, so I’ll describe them for you.

Imagine you are standing at a railway switch. You see a speeding train headed toward a fork in the track. Just beyond the fork stand six workers, five straight ahead and one on the left. If you do nothing, the train will go straight on and kill the five workers. But if you pull the switch, the train will turn left and kill a single worker. Do you pull the switch?

Now imagine a second scenario. You are standing on a bridge above the track. You see a speeding train headed toward five workers on the track. They have no hope of avoiding the car and will surely die. But there’s a fat man next to you who’s big enough to stop the train if he were pushed off the bridge. Of course, he’d die, but the five workers would be saved. Do you push him off the bridge?

Most people will pull the switch, but not push the fatso. Unless they hate fatsos. This is because we often make irrational decisions based on emotions.


Named after William Spooner, who was an Oxford Don methinks, this is the swapping of the beginnings of two words in a sentence with comic result.

For example, instead of “My Lord is a loving shepherd” we can have “My Lord is a shoving leopard”

And “He struck a crushing blow” becomes “He struck a blushing crow”

Make your own!

The God Delusion

I’ve just finished reading Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The God delusion’. He believes in atheism and tries to logically prove it. He also blames religion for a lot of ills in the world, and recommends the following,

Children should never be called by any faith name, such as “Christian child” or “Buddhist boy”. They are too young to have made up their minds, and it’s just as ridiculous as saying “Secular girl” and “Neo-Marxist child”

Segregation of children in faith schools should be stopped.

Um..huhh, and something else I’ve forgotten.

He also gives a good expose of the religious right in America (or America’s Taliban as he calls them) and some things they say and believe are truly shocking. All in all a very good read, although the repetition of arguments does get tedious at times and makes the book too big.

Oh, and this is post number 400!

The Life of the Cosmos

Just trying to keep you numbskulls up-to-date on the latest in theoretical physics.

The book called “see title above” is written by a Lee Smolin who evidently would love to marry himself and must find it hard to get out of bed in the morning because it means he’ll have to stop making sweet love to himself. Until he gets into the shower, that is.

A current thought is that it is impossible to find a reference point from which to observe or describe the universe, since whatever point you chose must be inside that universe. Therefore a whole new way of describing things is required.

Also, instead of seeing the universe as a staid, unmoving thing we should remember that it is relatively new and therefore may be evolving. Therefore the laws that define our existence might have come about through a process of evolution through natural selection.

This of course implies that the universe is reproducing, and therefore the search is now on for evidence of the universe “doing the dirty”. Or as Fry said, “doing the nasty in the past-y”. Black holes are definitely on the suspect’s list because, like a Tory MP’s house party, nobody really knows what goes on there.

Shut up and learn!

I’ve decided, from an idea I got while commenting on Jessy’s blog, to teach my readers Russian. I think she might be doing the same with Mandarin. after all, us Isomers are a very social-minded and forward-thinking group.

(I’m trying to find the writing in Russian, but I’m having no joy. I wanted to say “Hello, my name is..” but couldn’t find the Russian, so this will do)

The line for today is:

привет, как ваше имя?

Privyet, kak vaashe eemya?

Hello, what is your name?

Blog censorship

On a more serious note, I am becoming more and more aware, during the course of my daily trawl through the Interweb place “looking for jobs”, that there are more bans on blogging than I thought. Of course, we all know of harsh, dictatorial regimes where, unlike our Free West, the very routine bodily functions of Joe Public are censored. But John Dale got me thinking about the scale of the censorship phenomenon.

And here’s a selection of opinions on blog censorship.

  • One teacher’s rant against the blogging ban
  • The International Olympic Comittee bans all blogging
  • A very interesting online debate covering the major arguments
  • Sarcastic/funny not-really-bothered-by-facts opinion
  • One Non-Western country for good measure
  • Admittedly, I have done the journalistic thing and gone for the sensationalist headlines, rather than attempt to balance the sources of opinion. But those other websites were politically correct and BORING!! And of course I haven’t read them all (I barely glanced through them to glean enough information to be able to write the introductory lines to them above. Sometimes all I had to do was rephrase the headings. You can tell I’ve spent a lot of time at university). I only post this topic so you guys can feel that your opinion on this matter is priceless, thereby flooding my blog with your inane remarks and upping my popularity. Muahahaha!!

    Somerset Maugham on friendship

    I’m reading Somerset Maugham (pronounced ‘mawm’, as my English teacher was always quick to point out) at the moment, ‘A writer’s notebook’ in whcih he has collected all his thoughts as they occur over the year so that he can include those thoughts into his book. It is, as it intends to be, a wonderful insight into a writer’s (his) process. Of course, you can see where this is leading. Yes, I want to give you an excerpt 🙂 . Written when he was 18, the following on friendship:

    There are two kinds of friendship. The first is a friendship of animal attraction; you like your friend not for any particular qualities or gifts, but simply because you are drawn to him. “C’est mon ami parce que je l’aime; je l’aime parce que c’est mon ami.” It is unreasoning and unreasonable; and by the irony of things it is propable that you will have this feeling for someone quite unworthy of it. This kind of friendship, though sex has no active part in it, is really akin to love: it arises in the same way, and it is not improbable that it declines in the same way.
    The second kind of friendship is intellectual. You are attracted by the gifts of your new acquaintance. His ideas are unfamiliar; he has seen sides of life of which you are ignorant; his experience is impressive. But every well has a bottom and finally your friend will come to the end of what he has to tell you.

    I really enjoy it when authors define emotions saying “Here, I give you the four basic human emotions”. Maugham himself later says of this that “extreme youth is apt to make general rules from single instances..”.
    Although I, being cynical, would call the second kind a material friendship based on the value of what a friend can give (not everybody is stimulated by another person’s mind, dear Mr. Maugham!).
    Now why did I chose this particular piece to quote?? 😛
    Tomorrow, I hope to bring you my insights on a passage I read in a Walter Mosley book, and how it relates to our blog use.


    Time for you guys to learn something. You might find it interesting to know that:-
    If you take a strip of paper, and glue one end of the strip to the other so it forms a band or belt, you can then cut along the middle of the strip down the length of it, or what is the circumference of the band, to divide the band into two separate bands. But if you give the strip of paper one twist before gluing the ends together, you have what is called a continuous loop or Mobius Band, and cutting along the middle will only give you a bigger loop. It is called a continuous loop because this object has only one surface, which can be verified simply by using a pen and drawing a line round the circumference.

    Today’s treat for you

    Today’s treat for you my little ones, is Sinosplice, a page of interesting links to blogs written by foreigners in China, Chinese people in China, and a few Chinese living abroad. As you might have guessed by now, the common theme is China 😛 I’ll be reviewing a few of the interesting ones soon, but I can already see quite a few really special ones. Some of the blogs have been blocked in China (they’re the ones with the beige background instead of white).

    Errorrr of Circulaarity

    So there’re these scientist folks, right. And they like, wanna prove that the earth is not heating up, like. (Like some Tobacco-funded ‘research groups’ saying smoking doesn’t kill, like). So they made mistakes, like we knew they would, like. That’s the error of circularity. Lesson ended.