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Archive for ‘The Friday Fillip’ Feature

The Friday Fillip: Sound Arguments

We are all rhetors. Lawyers more than most, using words to persuade, which is to say arguing. Most people think of arguing as a negative thing, emphasizing the fact of disagreement, disharmony. But, of course, just as it takes two to tango, so it takes two to have an argument, and the latter, like a tango, needs the pair to engage and stay responsive to each other. A good argument is, in fact, an exercise in careful cooperation. It’s a duet.

Most duets in music don’t display the aggressive edge that arguments can have, opting to explore the harmonious side . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Les Mots Justes and Justice

I’ve long thought that law and poetry share a number of interesting features, or, to put it another way, live on the same language axis. Look at what’s valued in both:

  • concision: indeed a parsimony, a precisely “shaped charge,” if you will, brought about in law’s case by the notion of relevance and the wish to do as little harm as possible, and in the case of poetry brought about by the poet’s wish to capture and express something real and true and specific.
  • precision: by this I mean taking very great care, word by word, to choose
. . . [more]
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The Friday Fillip: Fetch and Carry

Ever since things were invented, which is to say ever since the dawn of time, we’ve needed to take these things from one place to another. Using wheels to shift our stuff was a smart but later development and one that even now isn’t always available to us. So a great deal of the time we carry.

This business of carrying is so fundamental that we use the term in a large number of metaphorical ways, too: we “carry” tunes, conversations, genes, resentments, and legal cases, among other things. But I thought we’d take a look today at how in . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Strong Verbs

Verbs like “heave” or “shove,” “endure” or “conquer”?

Nope. More like “be” and “do” and “let.”

I chanced on the word “gat” recently. Not the gun slang, though; rather, a past tense of “get.” It came in a passage from the King James version of Ecclesiastes (the “there is no new thing under the sun” book; a short, well-written, skeptical blast worth reading in full):

2:8 I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as

. . . [more]
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The Friday Fillip: How Time Flies

Too fast, too slow, too big, too small, too quiet — most of what there is lies beyond our senses, which is intriguing, if also more than a little humbling. So ever since Galileo spotted the moons of Jupiter and van Leeuwenhoek watched his animalcules wriggle around, the rest of us have been fascinated by this invisible world made present for us by clever scientists and engineers.

Photography has played a huge role in gratifying our appetite for the imperceptible. There’s the obvious but now taken-for-granted ability to see aspects of the otherwise lost, invisible past, of course. And shots . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: An Indifferent Foot

Remember school physics and the whole business of learning the difference between mass and weight? Weight is what you gain as you get older and what the Beatles were singing about; mass is, well, a much heavier concept by far, given that it remains constant no matter where you are — here, on the moon, or in deep space.

And constancy is the thing. At least it is if you’re to swap measurements with others or carry measurements over time. Think only of the Chancellor’s foot, as John Selden did four hundred years ago:

. . . what

. . . [more]
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The Friday Fillip: Emergent Orange

Emergent phenomena aren’t really predictable. They’re the result of the interaction of complex forces that don’t combine in a simple or linear fashion. So you don’t know what you’ll get until it arrives.

Certainly no one predicted — or could predict — that the combination of a large number of online photographs would be a formless blur of orange. Jim Bumgardner, “a senior nerd at Disney Interactive Labs,” happened to be puzzled when his summations of a lot of Flickr photos all produced this bronzy, beigey orange each and every time. Since his original observation way back in 2005, . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Know When (And How) to Fold ‘Em

Folding is fairly nifty.

For one thing, it lets you increase surface area without increasing volume. Which is why radiators are folded into sections or have multiple fins, allowing heat to escape maximally into the surrounding air via convection off the expanded surfaces and why ostriches fold their wings and legs against their bodies at night to cut down on heat loss. Our lungs pack a lot of oxygen transferring surface — 2,400 kilometres of airways! — into a comparatively modest volume thanks to a kind of folding. And our “little grey cells” find themselves on folds surrounding unfolded . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Venom and Vanity

Here’s an incongruity — at least it seems so to me.

The world’s most expensive substance is used in one of the most trivial ways possible.

The substance? Botulinum toxin, commonly known as Botox. The BBC says it costs £100 trillion (C$182 trillion) per kilo — yes, that’s trillion. And people buy it to inject into their faces so that (they think) we won’t think they’re as old as they really are. Moreover, a third branch in the incongruity (if such things can have a tertium quid) is the fact that gram for gram it’s the deadliest substance . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Well-Being

I get a really rather shameful pulse of pride when some organization releases a ranking of nations along one scale or another, showing Canada at or near the top. Shameful, for one thing, because comparisons, even at the level of nation states, are odious (and perhaps also “oderous” as Shakespeare joked). And for another thing because they’re typically based on a combination of loose judgements that would baffle even an expert in Bayseian theory.

Most recently, the OECD has published a Regional Well-Being website:

This interactive site allows you to measure well-being in your region and compare it with 300

. . . [more]
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The Friday Fillip: Sweet Dreams

Few things are as boring as someone else’s dream.

If you don’t believe me, I invite you to sample some dreams recorded as part of a research project and accessible at the DreamBank. Here’s a dream chosen at random:

A group of friends and I are standing in a long line of people waiting to enter a patriotic shrine or public monument. The group is in a rowdy mood and there is much joking and kidding. As we walk single file through an underground hallway at the entrance we notice that there are signs hanging on the walls spelling

. . . [more]
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The Friday Fillip: Shoes That Talk

Now, if shoes could tell where they’ve been
When you say you’ve been visiting a friend
Ain’t you glad?
Hey hey hey, ain’t you glad?
But ain’t you glad, glad that shoes don’t talk?
Ry Cooder, “If Things Could Talk”

Trouble is, it turns out that things can talk — in a manner of speaking. Seems that when a sound is emitted the vibrations of the air don’t rest when they’ve hit our eardrums but continue radiating out, causing, well, most everything to oscillate in sympathy. This isn’t — or shouldn’t be — exactly news to anyone, certainly anyone who’s . . . [more]

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