Kids philosophers. Not so good… (But better than you think!)

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New research by the assistant professor of animal behavior, ecology and conservation (ABEC) at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, reveals that pets are more than just animals to children.

“They often see themselves as the center of their pets’ affections”, says Russell, who conducted one-on-one interviews with children between the ages of six and 13. “They describe their pets as siblings or best friends with whom they have strong connections”. Α 13-year-old boy was shaken by the sudden death of his cat, even though it occurred two years earlier.

Children “have a distinct sense of existential fairness around whether or not an animal lived until an appropriate age”, Russell explains. A short lifespan “is normal for hamsters and fish,” according to the children interviewed, “but unexpected for dogs, cats and rabbits”.

“Children whose pets lived the extent of their potential lifetimes – or beyond – expressed acceptance upon their deaths,” Russell says. The children also suggested that euthanasia “was the moral thing to do when a pet is suffering”. Conversely, children whose pets died unexpectedly “described it as emotionally and morally unfair, and had a much more difficult time reconciling the loss”.

In all instances, family and friends helped the children cope with the loss, while moving on to a new pet for some children seems right and for some not.

A kid summarized it best, Russell concludes, when he said, “Sometimes death is tragic, like when a cat is run over by a car. But ultimately, death is part of life and life does go on”. (1)

How cute.

Learning about life and death from small children.

Not!

Surely children have a lot to teach us. Their fresh innocent look on philosophical questions is indeed refreshing and many times to the point. But we cannot rely on them completely in order to formulate conclusions. We must try to find out what is the gist of their beliefs in order to find the core of primordial a priori truth hiding in their little cute minds. But from that point the wisdom of a grown up philosopher is needed.

Kids in the aforementioned article speak stoically about death as part of life, feel a sense of justice or injustice even without knowing why. They understand that death is just part of life – which it is – but at the same time feel devastated by death. This implies that they are too emotionally attached to life – too much to actually see clearly the truth about life and death on a metaphysical level. Their love towards their pets shows their inner values but they cannot truly comprehend these values. Their love is raw and their emotions explode when they lose their loved cat. Even the easiness with which they replace their cat with a new one or their acceptance of euthanasia is actually a result of their inability to manage their emotions.

And yet their emotions towards a dead animal show that we are not just lifeless matter wondering around with no purpose. These kids know that there is something more than matter (or else they wouldn’t feel injustice for anything or affection for matter per se, they would never put their loved ones life on a higher priority than their own) and yet at the same time they complain and feel bad as if there is nothing more than death (or else they wouldn’t think their life ended when the cat died). What this “something else” is, is a matter of analysis. What “love” is, is a matter of analysis. And so on and so forth.

Yes, the kid with the cat is a good pointer to the truth. Actually babies and small kids (rather than grown up kids like in these examples, who have already been exposed to society and affected by its norms) could be the ONLY true pointers to the truth, at least as far as our senses and perception of reality is concerned.

But Parmenides is a better philosopher.

As simple as that.

Asymmetries. Sensing. Motionless.

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“Did something move over there?” Everyone has experienced this situation. One is looking towards a sound source, but with the best will in the world, one cannot detect an object. Only its sudden movement, even if minimal, allows its immediate perception.

Scientists at the Ruhr-University Bochum have investigated this phenomenon and show for the first time how simultaneous counterchange of luminance at the borders between object and background triggers activity waves in the visual brain. These waves may constitute a sensitive signal for motion detection. In their study, the scientists presented small gray squares on a monitor screen. The squares then either turned bright or dark with identical luminance intensities and the scientists recorded the subsequent brain activity. The surprising result was that the darkening squares were represented considerably earlier in the brain than the squares that brightened. “This shows that simultaneous changes in luminance occurring in the outer world were time-shifted in the brain,” says Sascha Rekauzke, first author of the study. A small temporal offset of a few milliseconds between the processing of darks and lights was already known. Within the eyes, retinal ganglion cells that signal light “ON” open their ion channels directly upon transmitter release. In contrast, light “OFF” signals are conveyed indirectly, via further intracellular cascades. The RUB scientist now showed that the resulting time difference is further amplified within the brain, in the range of about ten milliseconds.  As a consequence, simultaneous counterchange of luminance at neighboring locations leads to a spatiotemporal offset of activation in the brain. This offset triggers a motion signal in the form of a wave of activity spreading asymmetrically in one direction.

Asymmetry is also used for sound localization: Acoustic waves from laterally displaced sources reach the ears with minimal temporal offset. From the interaural time difference neuronal networks compute time delays and our brain interprets from them the presumed direction of the sound source. As Dirk Jancke said: “Our brain is a giant comparison machine based on self-generated asymmetries. Our study further substantiates this and shows that this is true even for elementary steps in perception”. [1]

So we detect motion due to asymmetries. Asymmetries in our sensory organs. Asymmetries in our brain. The whole world is in motion. And we sense it.

But could the world be stable? Could the universe and the cosmos be completely symmetrical, thus motionless? Could the asymmetries in our sensors be the CAUSE of the illusion of motion?

Stop sensing.

And you will see everything.

In one place.

Motionless.

Whole.

Excitons… Parmenidions… Exciting!

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Getting excited can kick a person’s energy to a higher level. At the nanoscale, strange almost-particles called excitons do the same trick.

In a crystal, thin film or even some liquids, an incoming particle of light can slam into an electron, bumping it to a higher energy level and leaving a hole at the energy level where the particle had been. The exciton is the excited electron paired with the resulting hole and can move energy in two ways: by physically hopping to a new molecule or transferring energy almost like an antenna transmitting a signal. Either way, the movement is quick, with the longest-lasting exciton existing for just a few milliseconds.

Even though excitons don’t last long, scientists were recently able to make images of how the quasiparticles moved (SN Online: 4/16/14). Investigating excitons’ ability to kick around nanoscale energy could improve scientists’ understanding of photosynthesis and lead to better solar cells, LEDs and semiconductor circuits. (1)

Naming a hole as A.
Naming a particle as B.
Naming the combination of A and B as C…

Discovering what we want…
Seeing what we wish…

Why not pair the whole world with all of us and discover… Parmenides?!? (what?!?)

Innanimate matter? Well, something more than that…

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The features of living matter emerge from inanimate matter in simulation. During a research droplets of filamentous material enclosed in a lipid membrane were used as the models of a “simplified” cell used to simulated the spontaneous emergence of cell motility and division – that is, features of living material – in inanimate “objects”. (1)

It seems impressive. But what is dead cannot come alive. What is alive cannot die. Parmenides said that a long time ago: Nothing changes. Nothing cannot become something. We are. We exist. Matter does not. Without us, without our consciousness observing the universe, matter can never “be”. We give meaning to the cosmos. Matter is what it is. If it can become alive, it always was. If it can be, it was never dead.

A universe full of life.

Call it “matter”. Call it anything else. It does not matter…

Cells change. Cells change?

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UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers created new nerve cells in the brains and spinal cords of living mammals without the need for stem cell transplants to replenish lost cells. More specifically, scientists in UT Southwestern’s Department of Molecular Biology first successfully turned astrocytes — the most common non-neuronal brain cells — into neurons that formed networks in mice. They now successfully turned scar-forming astrocytes in the spinal cords of adult mice into neurons. The latest findings are published today in Nature Communications and follow previous findings published in Nature Cell Biology. (1)

We believe things can be different.
We believe things can change from one thing to another.

And now we celebrate our ability to “change” things into something different, as if Parmenides never existed…