Category Archives: Links

Final meeting for sem1, 2012: The functions of language and the plural of ‘octopus’

On June 22 we’re having our last meeting of the semester: Dr. Jonathan McKeown-Green from the philosophy dept. will be joining us to give a talk called The functions of language and the plural of ‘octopus’ (link to Facebook event), at our usual time of 5 pm but in Case Room 2 instead of Case Room 1 (Owen G. Glenn building ground floor). This is the first time we’ll explore the philosophy of language.  Here is a shortened abstract for the talk:

“Correctors of essays and letter-writers in newspapers complain about mislaid or misplaced prepositions, clumsy sentences, infelicitous pluralisations and sometimes even split infinitives. Descriptive linguists don’t care. They rely on the testimony of individual speakers when they hypothesise about grammars for particular languages, but they do not assume that there are community standards that these grammars should track. Sociolinguists are more generous, noting that the language one uses reveals much about one’s social status, but even they are not interested in the idea that some constructions are better than others. I want to see whether this idea has anything going for it.”

McKeown-Green’s current research interests include philosophy of language, logic, philosophical logic and philosophy of music. He gave a talk last year on logic, part 1 (of 2) of which can be found below. Recently we’ve uploaded a lot of past videos, so check out our YouTube channel for some videos from late last year and most of this semester’s meetings. We’ll do our best to record this one too and have it online before too long.

Human evolution videos

Today we’re discussing human evolution at our new second regular weekly meeting slot of Thursday 4-5pm OGGB5. We’ll only have time to watch a few short videos before the discussion, but here are some cool longer ones.

Also some “interesting” videos I saw on my travels: An anti-evolution Christian video and one which prefers Sumerian mythology.

When can you come to RSS?

Hi everyone

Now that a lot more people have joined RSS, we want to get some input from the new participants on when we should have our meetings. Our meeting times are based on when is most popular amongst our members, as well as when guest speakers are free. We may also be having a new regular meeting time in the second half of semester, so the most popular non-Monday timeslot will be selected for that. Here’s the link – please fill in the times when you’re available on a typical second half of the semester week (time period roughly mid April-mid June). We use this information in deciding when our non-fixed meetings and one-off social events are held too, so please have your say – it often comes down to one or two votes to decide which time to do something.

January in review

We resumed meetings early in 2011 and have done quite a bit before the first semester at the UoA has started.

Our first meeting was on the 10th of January, where we discussed mental disorders. We watched a video from MIT about recent research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which you can find here.

At our second meetup we talked about aesthetics. We watched a video of Denis Dutton discussing evolutionary aesthetics at TED (link). For a longer talk by Dutton, see this Authors@Google talk.

For our first social event, we went to see The King’s Speech at the movies. Most seem to think it was a great film (but see Christopher Hitchens’ article “Churchill Didn’t Say That“).

We discussed placebos and the placebo effect the same week, starting with a podcast from Skeptoid on the subject, which details some interesting research. We mainly focused on the ethics of using placebos, and the relationship with alternative medicine.

Life outside the solar system

On Monday 27th September, RSS member (and new secretary) Josh Krissansen-Totton gave a talk on detecting life in the universe. He explained the methods used to find extra-terrestrial life and the likelihood that scientists will discover life outside earth in the near future. He also touched on SETI, the methods for finding intelligent alien life and some of the implications that this may have.

Today the Washington Post published this article:

First habitable planet outside solar system is found.

By Marc Kaufman, Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, September 29, 2010; 9:14 PM

For the first time, astronomers have detected a rocky planet in another solar system that has the most basic and essential conditions needed to support extraterrestrial life. The presence of Earth-like exoplanets in what is called the “habitable zone” has been predicted for some time, but actually identifying and measuring one was referred to Wednesday as the beginning of a new era in the search for life beyond Earth.

Read more..