Who Said It?, Part the second

by John Holbo on April 5, 2006

Jon Mandle points to one anticipation of Thomas Kuhn. Here’s another – this one about the romance of paradigm shift vs. the pedestrian dullness of ‘normal’ science:

In a philosophical view, consistency is a certain level at all times, maintained in all the thoughts of one’s mind. But, since nature is nearly all hill and dale, how can one keep naturally advancing in knowledge without submitting to the natural inequalities in the progress? Advance into knowledge is just like advance upon the grand Erie canal, where, from the character of the country, change of level is inevitable; you are locked up and locked down with perpetual inconsistencies, and yet all the time you get on; while the dullest part of the whole route is what the boatmen call the ‘long level’ – a consistently-flat surface of sixty miles through stagnant swamps.”

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The Irish Person Thing

by Kieran Healy on April 5, 2006

For some reason someone thought this clip from _Rachel’s Holiday_ by Marian Keyes was something Henry and I should read. I can’t imagine why.

And although we didn’t want to … we traipsed over behind him. Where we had to do the Irish person meets other Irish person abroad thing. Which involved first of all pretending that we hadn’t realized the other was Irish. Then we had to discover that we had been brought up two minutes’ walk from each other, or that we’d gone to the same school, or that we’d met on our summer holidays in Tramore when we were eleven, or that our mothers were each other’s bridesmaids, or that his older brother had gone our with my older sister, or that when our dog got lost his family found it and brought it back.

I’m sorry to say this sort of thing happens all the time. For some reason — possibly due to the combination of a small base population, large extended families, general nosiness, and the propensity to talk the leg off a donkey — Irish people are appallingly good at uncovering the normally invisible web of latent network connections that surround us. Out at Langley, teams of NSA analysts are using the most sophisticated computing technology to dredge through terabytes of data using fast homomorphic reductions, Markov graph regressions and Galois lattices in an effort to do what your typical Irish Mammy accomplishes by asking you two or three questions, taking a sip of tea and saying something like “Oh are you related to [your Aunt or Uncle’s name here] then?”

Who Said It?

by Jon Mandle on April 5, 2006

I recently ran across a quote that I don’t remember ever seeing before, but which expresses pretty clearly a view that is commonly associated with Kuhn. Who said it (and when)? Answer below.

Old ideas give way slowly; for they are more than abstract logical forms and categories. They are habits, predispositions, deeply engrained attitudes of aversion and preference. Moreover, the conviction persists – though history shows it to be a hallucination – that all the questions that the human mind has asked are questions that can be answered in terms of the alternatives that the questions themselves present. But in fact intellectual progress usually occurs through sheer abandonment that results from their decreasing vitality and a change of urgent interest. We do not solve them: we get over them.

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by Chris Bertram on April 5, 2006

Here in the UK we’re all being entertained/informed by “BBC4’s 1973 week”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/features/seventies1.shtml . Back in 1973 (I was 14/15) I remember my Dad telling me to pay close attention to the news one day and that people in the future would say it was a big year, a year when everything changed. He was right about that. So far there have been excellent documentaries about the “Poulson Affair”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Poulson (1972-4), one about Derek “Red Robbo” Robinson and a fantastic 1973 episode of Panorama with Alistair Burnett where a nurse, a car worker, a “businessman” and a merchant banker are asked what they think about their relative salaries. (Everyone accepting that one of the government’s jobs was to decide fair pay relativities). Naturally, nearly everyone said the nurse should earn most and the merchant banker least. The distance between then and now was also brought home to me by the remark that in 1973 everyone knew the names of the top union leaders. Today almost nobody does. The pervasiveness of the sense of national crisis was well brought out by clips from Blue Peter where Valerie Singleton and John Noakes explained to children facing power cuts to surround candles with earth to make them safer and to interleave the bedding of elderly relatives with newspaper too keep them warm. Revolution (or a military coup) seemed just around the corner ….

The real Oil-for-Food scandal

by John Q on April 5, 2006

You may have noticed that pro-war blogs have gone kind of quiet about the Oil for Food “scandal’ lately. But unless you follow the Australian press, you probably don’t know why. While the Volcker inquiry turned up lots of instances of oil export licenses given by Saddam’s regimes to various individuals and groups, presumably with some quid pro quo, the real revelation was that Saddam extracted corrupt payments from suppliers of food and other imports. By far the largest party to these dealings was an Australian quango, AWB Limited which, before its privatisation in the late 1990s, was the Australian Wheat Board. Although the story seems complicated, it’s actually fairly simple.

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