Ibn al-Haytham on Scientific Methodology

alhazen-portrait

Egyptian scientist, Ibn al-Haytham (AD 950-1040), is hailed as the father of modern optics and experimental physics. Also, he’s apparently one of the first to make a statement on scientific methodology:

The seeker after truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration and not the sayings of human beings whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of of its content, attack it from every side. he should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency.

Read the original article here.

Daodejing & bright vs. dark

This semester, CC102 has delved into the Daodejing and all the wonderful concepts it illuminates.

Andrew Klufas, a student in Professor Nelson’s class, sent in an video of interest: What’s The Brightest Thing in the Universe? It’s creator, Vsauce, makes popular and informative videos on Youtube.

Here, we see how Core Science meets Core Humanities:

There is Yin and Yang again… the brightest things in the universe, quasars, are caused by the darkest things in the universe, black holes. The process that unshackles the most light is caused by the thing that best imprisons it.

The full video is certainly worth a watch:

Thoughts? Comment below!

Dante saving lives

Illustration by Michael Hogue. source: bit.ly/1nloo9P

Illustration by Michael Hogue. source: bit.ly/1nloo9P

Students of CC102 will remember the Divine Comedy as an exciting read, but also as the story of a man much older than most students. Dante deals, in a way, with his midlife crisis.

In The American Conservative, Rob Dreher writes an article about how, at the age of 46, depressed and aimless, he read the Divine Comedy. In Dante’s tale of of psychological crisis, Dreher found a way out of his own depression:

Killing time in a Barnes & Noble one hot south Louisiana afternoon, I opened a copy of Dante’s Inferno, the first of his Divine Comedy trilogy, and read these words (the translation I cite in this essay is by Robert and Jean Hollander):

Midway in the journey of our life

I came to myself in a dark wood,

For the straight way was lost.

I read on in that first canto, or chapter, and stood with Dante the pilgrim as wild beasts—allegories of sin—cut off all routes out of the terrifying wood. Then, to the frightened Dante’s aid, comes the Roman poet Virgil:

‘It is another path that you must follow,’

he answered, when he saw me weeping,

‘if you would flee this wild and savage place.’

So Dante follows Virgil—and I followed Dante. I did not know it in that moment, but those were the first steps of a journey that would lead me through this incomparable 14th-century poem—all 14,233 lines in 100 cantos—through the pits of Hell, up the mountain of Purgatory, beyond space and time to the zenith of Paradise—and out of my own dark wood of depression.

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Classical Self-Help

Please read Rod Dreher’s piece, How Dante Saved My Life, for the March/April 2014 issue of The American Conservative. It is a beautiful reminder that the works on a canonical reading list are not only politically and philosophically applicable, but are often also spiritually and personally invaluable.  Read More »

When Humanities and Natural Sciences Meet… In Outer Space

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What do black holes, the mysterious cosmological matter-sucking bodies at the centers of galaxies, have in common with yin and yang, the ancient Chinese philosophical concept? Check out this vid.

 

When Humanities and Natural Sciences Meet

It can be strange to think sometimes of the humanities and sciences meeting. A poetic stanza has very little to do with a mathematical equation one would think; not Edna St. Vincent Millay. In this poem, “Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare”, the Father of Geometry can see what poets, those so attuned to pointing out the beauty of the world, cannot. Here is the text:

Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere
In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese
Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release
From dusty bondage into luminous air.

O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized! Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.

Noise vs. Sound

Silence is hot right now. On the market, it takes the form of headphones, train compartments, dishwashers, vaccum cleaners, and a whole lot of other products that have taken the absence of sound and packaged it up for capitalistic consumption. Not to say that there is necessarily anything wrong with this–but how does it reflect on our society’s reception (ha-ha) of sound? According to a recent New Republic article, the commoditization of silence is a testament to today’s consumer’s itch “to shed modern life’s “noisy” baggage: all those emails, texts, and bits of media—digital, social, etc.—that clutter our consciousness.” Ironically, the increase in the past few decades of aural turbulence, which has accompanied the technological revolution as it was ushered in, is responsible for a new trend of wanting some sort of simplicity or purity; in the case of “sound pollution”, this means silence. In the article, those following this trend are referred to as “disconnectionists”. Read More »

David Green on Core and the canon

Prompted by Dean Sapiro’s lecture on Mary Wollstonecraft to question why there are so few women authors in the Core Humanities, Prof. David Green had his CC 202 students this week  momentarily put aside Pride and Prejudice and the question of whether happiness in marriage is a matter of chance to consider the criteria for including authors in our curriculum. In the following guest post, Prof. Green reports on the results of those conversations, and gives his own reflections on the matter of Core and the canon.

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Another Facet of William Blake

William_Blake_by_Thomas_PhillipsWho was William Blake? Ask a CC202 student and they’ll tell you he was an English Romantic poet. They’re right but that’s not all. Blake was also a talented artist and many of his subjects will appear familiar to keen-eyed core students. We thought we’d take a moment to share a bit of this lesser known side of Blake.

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing (1786)

 

 

 

The Lovers Whirlwind illustrating Canto V of Dante's Inferno

The Lovers Whirlwind illustrating Canto V of Dante’s Inferno

 

 

Newton (1795)

Newton (1795)

Depiction of the Minotaur from Dante's Inferno

Depiction of the Minotaur from Dante’s Inferno

 

 

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun (1805)

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun (1805)

What would Plato Tweet?

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With cerebral momentum from yesterday’s post on why philosophy won’t go away, let’s move on to another question raised by the same author, Rebecca Goldstein: what would Plato Tweet?

Goldstein likens the modern social media attention-seeking frenzy to the ancient Greek striving for kleos, which, as students will remember from CC101, is somewhat equivalent to “glory”. Goldstein does well to flesh out the definition:

The word comes from the old Homeric word for “I hear,” and it meant a kind of auditory renown. Vulgarly speaking, it was fame. But it also could mean the glorious deed that merited the fame, as well as the poem that sang of the deed and so produced the fame. The medium, the message, and the impact: all merged into one shining concept.

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