August 26: Happy Birthday, Mother Teresa!
Being good doesn’t mean that one has to be perfect.
Mother Teresa, born August 26, was a divisive Saint who devoted her life to the care of the poorest in Calcutta, India. (more...)
August 25: Happy Birthday, Galileo’s Telescope!
Was Galileo ultimately right?
Being right is a relative thing. No one illustrates this better than today’s celebrant: Galileo’s telescope, presented to the world on August 25, 1609. (more...)
August 25: Happy Birthday, Gutenberg Bible!
How the world changed on an August afternoon in 1456
In 1456, Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz, Germany, printed the first Bible with his new printing press using moveable type. In time, this led to an explosion of books and literacy and to the world as we know it today. (more...)
August 22: Happy Birthday, Geneva Conventions and Ray Bradbury!
If the Geneva Conventions didn’t exist, Ray Bradbury might have invented them.
August 22 marks the birthday of both the first Geneva Convention (1864) and science fiction writer Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) (more...)
August 21: Happy Birthday, Sergey Brin!
Are we allowed to be evil now?
Today marks the birthday of Sergey Brin of Google fame (born August 21, 1973) and the first public presentation of William Burroughs’ calculating machine in 1888. The calculating machine formed the basis of a company that made some of the first modern computers, Unisys. Google was officially launched 110 years later. (more...)
August 20: Happy Birthday, H.P. Lovecraft!
Lovecraft (1890-1937), creator of ancient horror gods
August 20, 1890: Birthday of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. (more...)
Is it stupid to hoard toilet paper?
Sometimes, weird behaviours can be rational
It is too often assumed that hoarding commodities in a crisis is irrational and that everyone would be better off if nobody was hoarding things. But there are arguments to the contrary. (more...)
April 5: Happy Birthday, Thomas Hobbes!
Can the government do whatever it wants?
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), born on April 5th, created the Social Contract theory, which aims to explain how governments derive their power from the will of the citizens. Hobbes thought that a monarchy is the best form of government and that the king (or queen) should be able to do whatever they want without the citizens having the right to oppose them. (more...)
March 28: Thales Predicts a Solar Eclipse
March 28, 585 BC - Really?
On March 28, 585 BC, Thales of Miletus was supposed to have observed an eclipse of the Sun. But what date was it for him? A short history of the difficulty of knowing the date. (more...)
The Four Qualities of Life
Veenhoven on the different meanings of happiness
Ruut Veenhoven, Dutch sociologist and happiness researcher, distinguishes four different types of happiness along two dimensions: 1. objective vs subjective quality of life and 2. chances vs outcomes. This four-quadrant model of happiness avoids comparing incompatible types of happiness to each other. (more...)
August 19: Happy Birthday, Gene Roddenberry!
Creator of Star Trek and dreamer for a better world
Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek (August 19, 1921 - October 24, 1991). (more...)
Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976)
Are philosophers like map-makers?
Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) was a British philosopher, primarily concerned with the nature of the mind and the role of philosophy in the world. (more...)
Hacker culture and Hesse’s Glass Bead Game
What’s wrong with the world and how to fix it.
Hermann Hesse’s ‘The Glass Bead Game’ is probably his greatest novel, his deepest, most intriguing, most hackerish in spirit. It combines a theory of history and education with lessons in Zen, meditations on the enduring power of institutions, friendship, duty and excellence. (more...)
How Happy Does This Make You?
Daniel Kahneman on how to measure happiness
Happiness researchers are faced with the question how to reliably measure happiness in surveys. A paper by Kahneman discusses Direct Utility Measurements, the Experience Sampling Method and the Day Reconstruction Method as three approaches that allow us to measure how particular activities contribute to changes of happiness throughout a person’s day. (more...)
Can we measure happiness in a survey?
The difficulties of measuring self-reported happiness
Happiness researchers are often required to determine the level of happiness of a population in order to evaluate policies that might affect it. One way to determine population happiness is through surveys. In this post, we discuss some points that one must keep in mind when designing a happiness survey. (more...)
Can We Be Wrong About Being Happy?
Kahneman’s objective happiness
Can we be mistaken about our own happiness? Proponents of subjective happiness measures would say no: one is as happy as one feels. Proponents of objective happiness would try to measure happiness “objectively” and could thus show that one is mistaken about one’s own happiness. (more...)
The Gift of Sinning. Autonomy, Surveillance and Freedom.
How surveillance undermines morality
Surveillance, instead of forcing citizens to behave more ethically, in reality undermines the essence of morality. According to Immanuel Kant as well as the Bible, the free human choice is the basis for all moral behaviour. (more...)
Aristotle’s Four Causes
Aristotle on knowledge and purpose
Aristotle distinguishes four causes which determine the nature and purpose of every thing: the “material”, the “formal”, the “efficient” and the “final” or “teleological” causes. (more...)