Tuesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Tuesday, February 5, 2019, and that means that this evening I get to go to the Great Debate between Dan Dennett, Reza “I’ve blocked Coyne on Twitter” Aslan, and William Schweiker, described as a “respected religious ethicist”. I think there are still free tickets left, too: click on the screenshot below for a description of the discussion, and get your tickets here. The moderator is David Nirenberg, Interim Dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, so I guess it’s three to one against Dan.

On a more mundane note, it’s National Frozen Yogurt Day, for people who want to fool themselves into thinking they’re eating healthy, and National Weatherperson’s Day in the U.S.

The Year of the Pig is here! It’s Chinese Lunar New Year, and Google has an animated Doodle:

On this day in 1597, as depicted in the movie “Silence”, 26 Japanese Christians were crucified (and speared) by the Japanese government; their Christianity was deemed a threat to Japanese society. On February 5, 1852, the Hermitage Museum opened in St. Petersburg. I spent two days there and think that, considering both the art and the building, it’s the best art museum in the world. On this day in 1869, the world’s largest alluvial gold nugget was found in Victoria, Australia. Called the “Welcome Stranger“, it was 1 by 2 feet across and weighed 78 kilograms.

On February 5, 1885, King Leopold II of Belgium, using money loaned him by his own government, established the Congo (or rather “the Congo Free State”) as a personal fiefdom owned by himself, as if it were his backyard. Until 1908, when he ceded the state to Belgium as a colony, Leopold’s brutal policies resulted in the death of between 1 and 15 million Congolese people. A popular book about this horrible episode is shown below (click on link to order it). I am going to read it when I finish (tomorrow!) Walter Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein, which is very good albeit a bit weak on the physics. It’s well worth reading, though, and more engaging that Abraham Pais’s biography of Einstein.  Anyway, the book below is recommended by many:

On this day in 1909, Leo Baekeland, a Belgian chemist, announced the creation of the world’s first synthetic plastic, Bakelite. I had a Bakelite clarinet as a kid, but the plastic is no longer used as it’s brittle.

On February 5, 1919, the United Artists organization was founded by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith. In 1924, the Royal Greenwich Observatory began broadcasting the hourly Greenwich Time Signals.  You can hear the five short pips, followed by a longer one, on the BBC.  On this day in 1945, as he had promised, General Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines. Finally, it was on February 5, 1988, that Manuel Noriega was indicted for drug smuggling and money laundering. After ten years in the U.S., he went to prison in France, and then was incarcerated in Panama. He died on May 29, 2017.

Notables born on this day include Robert Peel (1788), Adlai Stevenson II (1900), William S. Burroughs (1914), Red Buttons (1919; real name Aaron Chwatt), Hank Aaron (1934), Al Kooper (1944), Charlotte Rampling (1946), and Laura Linney (1964).

Deaths of famous folk were thin on the ground on this day; among those who passed away on February 5 I could find only Banjo Patterson (1941; he wrote “Waltzing Matilda”) and Wassily Leontief (1999; Nobel Laureate).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Editor Hili is helping Malgorzata edit Listy (they’re sharing the same chair):

A: So you are hiding here.
Hili: Yes, I’m sitting behind Malgorzata. I can’t do everything by myself.
In Polish:
Ja: Tu się ukrywasz?
Hili: Tak, siedzę za Małgorzaty plecami , ale przecież sama wszystkiego nie zrobię.

A tweet from reader Barry, obviously but brilliantly edited, shows the cat that ran onto the soccer pitch the other day. He’s faster and more accurate than Messi! GOOOOOOOOOOALLLL!

Tweets from Heather Hastie. How will the world look during the next 250 million years? Have a look at the video below:

You can still canoe if you’re up Shit Creek without a paddle:

From reader Kurt, a beautiful and big snow sculpture from the annual Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan.

Tweets from Grania.  Really, my UK friends, do you want this man to be PM?

An office wag. But that’s what you get for not knowing how to spell!

Doesn’t this remind you of Chessie and Peake, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway mascots?

Tweets from Matthew Cobb, who’s busy grading. You should know what this bird is by now, as I’ve posted about it several times.

This is hilarious but oh so Canadian:

Another wonder of nature: a moth with nearly invisible scales, the better to hide itself with:



  1. Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    The footballing cat is interesting because in the first shot of the cat collecting the ball and running down the touchline, the pitch is not marked out as a football pitch. The cat passes several lines that intersect the touch line. On a football pitch (not the American variety) only the centre line and the goal lines do that.

    If I had to guess, I’d say the cat was on a Rugby pitch. I think the football was added in by editing too.

  2. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    That canoe motion is very interesting but quite baffling. Since the canoe is apparently fairly symmetrical end-to-end, why does it move in one direction rather than the other?

    I’ve seen skimboarders do the same ‘pumping’ action in videos (such as this one at 0:52 and 1:20)


    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      It is called “gunnel pumping” [gunwhale pumping] & below you can see it working in calm lake conditions. The way I think it works:

      The stern is pushed down creating a bow wave for the hull to ride down under gravity. repeated pushes downwards at the right frequency puts the hull at the peak of each wave, building forward speed to some maximum figure as the hull ‘planes’ down the self-made wave.

      Another way to look at it: I filled up my kitchen sink & floated a small, plastic rectangular sandwich box. I pushed down & released at left end of the box & the box rebounded upwards & then shot to the right. I noticed that the box continues pitching fore & aft after I release it at some frequency that’s natural for my sink/box system. If I push down repeatedly at that frequency I should be able to add energy to the system [like pushing a swing at the right frequency to give it more height]

      Note: we all know a pendulum maintains a constant swing time, the same interval for small & large swings – the interval [or frequency] depends only on the pendulum length under ideal conditions. I am still thinking about the fore/aft rocking of a canoe what factors are relevant/irrelevant in determining frequency? The reaction force [buoyancy] to the push down on the stern is determined by the additional water displaced from the stable, at rest position. A heavy canoeist should be able to apply my push downwards, but a heavy canoeist takes longer to ‘rebound’ up the wave. Hmmmm…

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted February 5, 2019 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        terminology correction: “I am still thinking about the fore/aft rocking pitching of a canoe”

      • rickflick
        Posted February 5, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        It might attract female ducks but stimulate attacks from drakes. 😎

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 5, 2019 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          You have been missing in action. Hols?

          • rickflick
            Posted February 5, 2019 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

            Yes, visiting relatives who live in Orange County, CA. Much warmer than ID.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 5, 2019 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for that.

        Looking hard at the Twitter video, it looks as if they’re timing it so the canoe is descending or pushing down as it rocks from front to back, thus pushing a wedge of water backwards (and thereby propelling itself by reaction forwards), while the corresponding rock from back to front is when it’s bounced back up and is almost airborne, so less effective.

        But it’s a bit hard to translate that to the video you posted. I think your lunch-box is a good analogy to ‘your’ video though. The reason it moves to the right on release is that the bottom of the box is sloping up to the right so as the box rises, the suction on the bottom makes it ‘slide’ up the inclined plane to the right. But why the push down doesn’t produce an equal impulse to the left, I can’t quite comprehend.


        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 5, 2019 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

          Don’t write “rocking” that’s side to side among the nauticals 🙂 You want “pitching” for the fore & aft

          Instead of forces try energy

          The waves in my sink are mainly going left thus the kinetic energy must go right to balance. So why do the waves mainly go left if I push down the left end?

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    “ it’s National Frozen Yogurt Day, for people who want to fool themselves into thinking they’re eating healthy,”


  4. Neil Wolfe
    Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    King Leopold’s Ghost is a fantastic but horrifying read. While reading it I kept asking myself “How could I have gotten so far through life without knowing about an atrocity on this scale?” and “What else am I missing?” Very disturbing.

    • Paul Beard
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      I have noticed references to Leopold and the Congo quite often in British books prior to WW1 but not after. At the start of the war Belgium was suddenly transformed from the subject of jokes to “plucky little Belgium” victim of the Germans and there was no more mention of the Congo.

    • Rasmo Carenna
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Indeed, the book is a masterpiece. It had a very profound effect on me.
      The author, Adam Hochschild, writes beautifully. His “Bury the chains” is also very interesting.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      I want to read the book (Hochschild is an excellent writer) but am afraid that I can’t stomach it; it’s the same for “The Rape of Nanking.”

      Speaking of books, “Savage Grace” is a fascinating book about the Bakeland family as seen through the disintegration of Antony Bakeland, one of Leo Bakeland’s great-grandsons, who murdered his mother and grandmother, then committed suicide by plastic bag (not Bakelite, but the plastics association can’t be ignored)

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted February 5, 2019 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        I knew a few of Bakeland’s descendents, but they are quite ‘normal people, not more or less murderous or suicidal than average, I’d say. Slightly brighter than average though.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted February 5, 2019 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

          Had to be another line of descent from Leo Bakeland. Brooks was a grandson. Antony Bakeland was Brooks Bakeland’s only child. Both of Antony Bakeland’s parents were eccentric, to say the least.

    • Carl S
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Agree, although I remember reading Vachel Lindsay’s poem “The Congo” in elementary school–didn’t really comprehend the true history then.
      Other books that made me smh and wonder why I didn’t know about him, two come immediately to mind: The Black Count, by Tom Reiss, about the father of Alexandre Dumas pere (guess that makes him Alex Dumas grandpere).
      The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf, about another Alexander, von Humboldt, whose name is on a CA, an ocean current, a squid and who knows what else.

      • Carl S
        Posted February 5, 2019 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        (A California county)

    • Posted February 5, 2019 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      With you on that.

  5. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    That is a very surprising animation of the future of tectonics. No idea how they figure it beyond extrapolating the current movements. And why did not California split away? We were promised that!

    • rickflick
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Yes, that was my observation too. How did California last for 250 K years? I have relatives there. I’m deeply disappointed.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      I’ve embedded a pic below – note that the fault is slidy slidy [not geologist speak] rather than under or over

      Calif ‘falling’ or drifting into the ocean? That’s a myth it seems – perhaps a myth fed by Hollywood & clickbait journalism. Or maybe it was a scientific ‘true fact’ at some point in the past which has been overturned with more data these days. Perhaps there’s a tectonicologist [I like my coinage so shut up] here who knows the history?

      The latest ‘true fact’ is the ocean [west] side of the fault is sliding north relative to the continent [east] side of the fault. This means that Compton [LA, ocean plate] will do a major ‘drive by] on San Francisco [continental plate] – you have been warned! THe chunk west of the fault will end up in Alaska – you can see it in the animation.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted February 5, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        I see no animation, but indeed I was told that the western part of California, including the Peninsula, would end up near Alaska, in the not so far future.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 5, 2019 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

          This is the animation I didn’t link before – better than the one in the OP Twitter:

        • rickflick
          Posted February 5, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

          Ah…much better.

  6. Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    “January 5”? What is it? Groundhog Month?


    • Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      PS. Re the time signal: “Up to 1972 the pips were of equal length and confusion arose as to which was the final pip, hence the last pip was of extended length.” I remember that changing, although I don’t remember that being the given as the reason. I remember it as having to do with the accuracy of the clock – maybe wrong, as I’d have been only 11 at the time.


  7. Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    “I guess it’s three to one against Dan”

    Professor Dennett has written favorably about, and presumably believes in “belief in belief”, so the “Great Debate” might end up being a mutual lovefest…

    • darrelle
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Can you point me to some sources that demonstrate this? I’m pretty familiar with Dan’s stated views regarding belief and religion. Unless he’s said or written something fairly recently that supports this then it is surely inaccurate.

      • Posted February 6, 2019 at 10:06 am | Permalink

        From https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2009/jul/16/daniel-dennett-belief-atheism

        “As I explain in the chapter by that title in Breaking the Spell, “belief in belief” is a common phenomenon not restricted to religions. Economists realise that a sound currency depends on people believing that the currency is sound, and scientists recognise that the actual objectivity of scientific studies on global warming is politically impotent unless people believe in that objectivity, so economists and scientists (among others) take steps to foster and protect such beliefs that they think are benign. That’s acting on belief in belief.”

        He goes on to state that he believes that those who believe in belief are wrong, but implies that he believes that there is a considerable amount of “belief in belief” at work:

        “Sometimes I wonder if even 10% of the people who proclaim their belief in God actually do believe in God.” [the implication being that 90% believe in belief]

        In any event, it will be interesting to hear how the “Great Debate” unfolded…

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Daniel Dennett:

      I am confident that those who believe in belief are wrong. That is, we no more need to preserve the myth of God in order to preserve a just and stable society than we needed to cling to the Gold Standard to keep our currency sound. It was a useful crutch, but we’ve outgrown it. Denmark, according to a recent study, is the sanest, healthiest, happiest, most crime-free nation in the world, and by and large the Danes simply ignore the God issue. We should certainly hope that those who believe in belief are wrong, because belief is waning fast, and the props are beginning to buckle”

      Quoted from THE FOLLY OF PRETENCE

      • rickflick
        Posted February 5, 2019 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. Belief in belief is actually disbelief disguised as belief. It couldn’t start a love fest without full disclosure, which would destroy it’s effect.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 5, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          Belief in belief: the eternal afterlife & heaven is a strange aspect. To look forward to such a fate for oneself & loved ones requires that one doesn’t look at the horrific implications of ending up somewhere with no possibility of escape – where change, development & surprise cannot be options. The absurdities mount up the more one reflects on it.

          It is said that the relief of grief is assisted by convincing oneself that little Jimmy has gone to a better place, but I don’t think this delusion is as firmly believed as claimed. I remember my Betty [neighbour] near the end in hospital quaking at the prospect of death – a Christian in her 80s who had spouted unthinking Jimmy-type platitudes all the decades I knew her.

          As an atheist I hold no fear of death [I know this about myself from past experience, not just intellectual supposing] & it is such a liberation to no longer be under the control of my early RCC programming.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted February 5, 2019 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        Yes, even in his ‘Breaking the Spell’ he’s quite scathing about belief in belief.

      • pierluigi Ballabeni
        Posted February 6, 2019 at 3:12 am | Permalink

        Denmark also has the European Union’s second highest rate of violence against women (only Finland does worse), does not seem to like immigrants and has a pretty successful far right party (the latter is true for several European countries).

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 6, 2019 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          Please provide links to your stats! I hate it when people throw figures at me without any references. Let’s see if it it’s like the debunked rape in Sweden meme!

          I remember there was a survey that said reported gender-based [I think it was] violence in Denmark was 52% compared with 15% [or something] in Poland. Plainly absurd – probably a definitional or methodological problem.

  8. BJ
    Posted February 5, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Hi, Jerry. Do you know if the debate will be streamed for those of us at home? It doesn’t say anything about such a stream in the linked article.

    Hope you have fun and, if you deem it worthy of a post, give us your thoughts on it tomorrow!

  9. Stephen Caldwell
    Posted February 5, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    King Leopold’s Ghost was very eye-opening to say the least. May I suggest Adam Hochschild‘s book “Spain In Our Hearts”? An excellent story about the Americans who went to Spain and fought for the Republic.

  10. David Evans
    Posted February 5, 2019 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    In defense of Corbyn:
    Venezuela’s problems are internal and arguably none of our business.
    Israel’s problem (one of them) is that it is continuously expanding settlements in illegally occupied territory, which should be a concern for every member of the UN.
    Treating those two cases differently is not being hypocritical.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Perhaps not, but it’s hardly praiseworthy to say that it’s no one else’s business if Venezuelans starve while their oligarchic leaders are subsidized by Russia and China.

    • Malgorzata
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      And the territory is not “illegally occupied” or at least there are very serious legal arguments from very serious scholars stating that Israeli administration of parts of the West Bank is under no definition “illegal”. Among other arguments, this administration is confirmed in an agreement between PLO and Israel, signed and approved by UN, USA and EU.

      And the settlements are not expanding geographically. There are more people in each of them, and all together they take well under 5% of the area of the West Bank

  11. Charles Minus
    Posted February 5, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Regarding the movie _Silence_ which tells the story of the 16th century Christians killed in Japan, I recommend the review of this movie at God Awful Movies https://player.fm/series/god-awful-movies-1262692/ep-180-silence for a sober discussion of the movie and the events it depicts.

  12. Posted February 5, 2019 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know about Leopold and Congo. What a mass murderer!

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Having spent a substantial part of my youth in Belgium, Leopold’s disastrous colonisation is not unknown there. The details are rather scarce though, we don’t even know whether 1 or 15 million died because of his policies. We only knew it was pretty bad.

  13. Posted February 5, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    My cat, Tessie, used to tuck herself into bed with me in just the pose of Chessie in the ads for sleeper cars.

  14. Ewan
    Posted February 6, 2019 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    On Jeremy Corbyn: he is a social democrat in domestic policy (only the neoliberals who constitute the current consensus in the West should find that objectionable). On foreign policy, he says that the UK, US and their allies should observe the international law they did so much to institute and undertook to uphold (he would be a welcome change from previous PMs who eagerly joined in sanctioning Iraqi children to death, bombing Iraq and Libya, aiding jihadis in Syria, and helping the Saudis starve the population of Yemen). Anyone who criticises the Venezualan government for its mismanagement should also share their thoughts on the previous colonialist exploitation and the current crippling sanctions – which the US government has explicitly said has everything to do not with a moral crusade for freedom and democracy (!) but with US access to Venezualan oil. By what law has the US any right to seek the overthrow of the duly elected government of another state?

  15. Posted February 6, 2019 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I apply Star Trek’s prime directive to V. and not to I. for good reason – the former is an internal matter. The latter is not, since there is, again, an occupying power (yes, one can find dissenting legal opinion, but in the absence of a good argument I will go with the consensus) and *external* victims. Not to mention allied countries that some of us are citizens of and hence can control policy (to some extent of).

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