‘I tend... to the view that Williams, like Hume, was a minimalist. He saw the impossibility of systems and grand narratives, and yet at the same time wanted to uphold our ordinary ways of thinking,’ writes the philosopher Roger Scruton in a Telegraph review of essays by the philosopher Bernard Williams. To which someone in the editorial chain has added a hyperlink, elucidating the term ‘minimalist’ by associating it with an article on interior décor.
I’ve just had to e-mail a science education website (which shall remain nameless) to explain that the interior of the Sun is probably not, as it claims, around 107 Kelvin. By way of comparison, water freezes at about 273 Kelvin.
The problem seems to be a typical copy-and-paste problem in software: the power notation in 107 has been lost at some point. (A scan through a few online sources suggests estimated temperatures for the core of the Sun cluster around 1.5 x 107 K.) I wonder how many such errors are propagating, seldom noticed, through the Internet: the dords of our day.
Update: I received the following response:
I understand that the [page] is speaking about absolute temperature and the Planck temperature, and it is in this context that the Sun's interior temperature is mentioned as only 107 K. It seems to me to be something different to what you are expecting to read, which would be the Sun’s interior temperature of 1.5 X 10**7 Kelvin. This is only my opinion, however I will ask for a second opinion to our scientists. Given that the page in question also refers to what things were like 10-43 seconds after the Big Bang, I think I’ll stick to my interpretation...
Here’s a hypothesis about the moral psychology involved in deciding priorities in the politics of child safety: it must create a huge sense of responsibility, mustn’t it? The kind where you’d lie awake at night, wondering whether children had been left endangered because you chose a wasteful use of resources? The kind where you’d want to consult with great care before recommending a new and untested course of action, lest it prove only a useless, intrusive distraction?
What actually happens is that policy in this area is announced by a man who doesn’t know a hash from a hashtag.
I have a small collection of quotations, sporadically extended, for use with fortune (which ensures that Internet Explorer, for one, will probably throw away the *nix-style line breaks). The taxonomy has proved unfortunate: worldliness and world-weariness have turned out to suggest rather more items for inclusion than unworldly or otherworldly dreaminess. Still, since some of these dicta are quite obscure or worth a second look, I decided to make some files public. (More may be added at some point: I have one with video game quotations, for example, but it really needs an edit.)
‘Who owns the past?’ (or some variation) is a common question in debates and disputes involving heritage. Here’s a similar question from the world of intellectual property law: ‘Who owns a family’s history?’
The Borghese family is a prestigious Italian family whose lineage can be traced back hundreds of years. [...] In the 1950s, Princess Marcella Borghese partnered with Revlon to launch a cosmetics company bearing her name. By 1976, Revlon owned the company outright, having purchased Princess Marcella’s remaining interest from her. [...] Among the IP included in the acquisition by Revlon were“the words and phrases BORGHESE, MARCELLA BORGHESE, PRINCESS MARCELLA BORGHESE, and all … variations thereof, whether used as a personal name, trade name or trademark,”as well as an exclusive licence to the Borghese family history and crest.
As commentary in the linked article suggests, one might have thought that ‘a family history, to the extent there are even any underlying IP rights, would belong jointly to all members of the family’. Though I’m fascinated by the notion that I could buy (okay, exclusively license) someone else’s family history if, I suppose, I were dissatisfied with my own. (What would you do with such a thing? Well, collect them, of course. Have a different family history for each day of the week...)
Some of the debates about ‘cultural appropriation’ have been about who gets to tell the story or stories of a (usually indigenous) group of people. One of the matters at stake is that the ‘issue of privacy can be particularly sensitive when we are dealing with the representation of small cultures. Some Indigenous cultures are often very like extended families.’1 Perhaps the logical corollary is that some families are like small cultures.
- James O. Young and Susan Haley, ‘“Nothing Comes from Nowhere”: Reflections on Cultural Appropriation as the Representation of Other Cultures’, in James O. Young and Conrad G. Brunk (eds.), The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation (2009, Oxford: Blackwell), p. 281. ↩