A missing gadget ?

by John Q on April 9, 2004

Brothers and sisters I have none, but that man’s father is my father’s son

Most people can solve this familiar puzzle if they think about it for a while, but only slightly more complex versions have them floundering. Yet the problem described isn’t much more difficult than naming the day after the day after yesterday, which (I think) most people can do instantly. The fact that such a simple problem can be posed as a puzzle is just one piece of evidence that people (at least people in modern/Western societies) have trouble learning about and reasoning about kinship relations.

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The big questions

by Eszter Hargittai on April 9, 2004

Last weekend when I realized the NCAA Final Four championships were being played on the first night of Passover, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Elijah would be interested in watching basketball.

I see now that others are pondering similarly important questions with respect to this week’s holidays. The Head Heeb wonders what would be a good Jewish substitute for the Easter Bunny. I think my vote would be to let it be so we don’t add to the ways in which these holidays can be commercialized. But if I want to play along, I’ll say I think we should have little personified matzah. They could have facial features and arms and legs. It would resemble SpongeBob SquarePants. I think it could be cute.

Spam without borders

by Henry Farrell on April 9, 2004

The “Washington Post”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A60804-2004Apr8.html reports on the interesting – but problematic – approach of Virginia to prosecuting spammers. Authorities in Virginia have arrested three suspected spammers from North Carolina. Their basis for asserting jurisdiction: that the spammers ‘went through’ servers in Virginia in order to disseminate spam.

bq. Although all of the suspects are from North Carolina, Cantrell said, “they went through a server in Virginia, and as long as they go through Virginia then we can prosecute them under our Virginia statutes.” Northern Virginia is a major hub for Internet traffic, and because of that Virginia has an opportunity to snag many more “spammers,” Cantrell said.

It’s not clear from the newspaper article how close the spammers’ relationship is with the server in Virginia – whether this is a server that they themselves used intentionally, or merely a server that their mail passed through en route to its final destination. But it certainly sounds as though Virginian authorities are asserting a general right to prosecute spammers (and jail them for up to twenty years), on the basis that their emails pass through Virginia at some point in their travels. Since roughly “50% of world Internet traffic”:http://www.reuters.com/locales/newsArticle.jsp?type=internetNews&locale=en_US&storyID=4778933 passes through Virginia, that’s a very far-reaching jurisdictional claim indeed. Of course, it’s nice to see spammers getting walloped with serious penalties (although 20 years of jail time would be a bit much). But it’s not at all clear to me that Virginia state authorities should appoint themselves arbiters of the world’s Internet traffic, with extraterritorial reach. If nothing else, it’s likely to lead to competing claims for jurisdiction from other authorities, in the US and elsewhere, and an incredible mess for individuals and firms trying to determine their legal liabilities. As Michael Geist “observes”:http://www.law.berkeley.edu/journals/btlj/articles/vol16/geist/geist.pdf, jurisdiction on the Internet is murky enough as it is. It looks as though it’s about to get a whole lot murkier.

Rousseau in Staffordshire?

by Chris Bertram on April 9, 2004

As part of a series about philosophers and places, BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting a programme this Sunday (21.30 GMT, so internet listeners should adjust for location) in which Jonathan Ree discusses “Rousseau in Staffordshire”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/playlists/sundayfeat.shtml . I’m rather hoping that this will clear up a little dispute I had with “Chris Brooke”:http://users.ox.ac.uk/~magd1368/weblog/blogger.html . Chris emailed me soon after “my Rousseau book”:http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0415201993/junius-21/026-9436596-5494024 came out to tell me that I was mistaken in writing that Rousseau had lived in _Derbyshire_ . Chris wrote, correctly, that the village of Wootton near where Rousseau stayed, is in Staffordshire and that, since the county line there is set by the River Dove, Wootton was almost certainly in Staffordshire in the 18th century too. We both set to consulting out various works of reference, only to reach a stalemate. So for, for example, this “1776 account of Hume’s life”:http://www.student.liu.se/~bjoch509/philosophers/intros/hum-intro.html has Derbyshire, as does Rousseau himself in correspondence, but other reputable sources insist on Staffordshire. I’m sure you’re all intruigued by this antiquarian mystery! I shall be listening with attention.

(And see “The Virtual Stoa”:http://users.ox.ac.uk/~magd1368/weblog/2004_04_01_archive.html#108150415084287134 for a map of the area).

Philosophy Group Blogs

by Brian on April 9, 2004

This is turning into a trend. In the past few weeks we’ve seen new group blogs started by philosophy graduate students at Syracuse (“Orange Philosophy”:http://www.orangephilosophy.blogspot.com/), Rochester (“What is the Name of This Blog?”:http://urphilosophy.blogspot.com/) and now Brown (“Fake Barn Country”:http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Philosophy/Blog/).

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