Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 96

Here it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

In Silicon Valley employees have drank the cool-aid and are now happy to be exploited.

Turns out, only children books with human characters make a moral impact.

The conceptual evolution of mass and matter, by my friend Jim Baggott.

The alleged crisis of the humanities is hardly such a thing after all.

Where modern philosophy began, maybe.

Why the coming-of-age narrative is actually a conformist lie.

These women were what they ate. Or where they?…


Please notice that the duration of the comments window is three days (including publication day), and that comments are moderated for relevance (to the post one is allegedly commenting on), redundancy (not good), and tone (constructive is what we aim for). This applies to both the suggested readings and the regular posts. Thanks!

72 thoughts on “Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 96

  1. brodix

    What if our experiences in life create a sense of the way nature functions?

    My walkabout was hitchhiking about 15,000 miles between the ages of 16 and 19, yet in the broader picture, it was about normal. My father and three uncles were in WW2 and the Korean War. My oldest sister had taken over training horses from my father by the time she graduated college and was training Maryland horse of the year in her early 20’s. Another decamped for the Virgin Islands for a few years, then traveled around Europe with her future husband, as team photographers for Graham Hill. My brother disappeared/went to work into the Australian outback for a year, before catching a cargo ship back to Panama and hitchhiking up the Pan-American highway. Two cousins were world class skiers. One in the Olympics twice and the other set the world speed asking record 5 times, as well as hanggliding off Everest.
    One ancestor was Jackson’s Sec of State, after being Tres Sec and ambassador to England. Washington Irving was his private secretary and his son was first president of Wells Fargo. My mother’s grandfather was Gov of Maryland, when my father’s grandfather was his Sec of Agriculture(big in those days). Her brother was head of the Maryland National Guard, which in the late 60’s, 70’s had significant social issues to quell.
    There were a fair number of mess ups and deaths as well.

    So were does one draw lines between what is significant and what is just basic trauma? Consequently I did find myself drawn to philosophy and when that seemed too muddled, physics.

    So to put forth a basic question, is the quantification of light inherently atomistic/pixilated/digital, or is it holographic?

    On a personal level, I find myself in a very atomistic and isolating social world, where some distance from others might be slightly anti-social, but it is also profoundly necessary, because I seem to find myself in a very holographic, entangled state with the totality of reality. The light, the energy, the senses, the smells, the totality of interactions are not just distinct input into me, they are me. It is not atomistic, it is holographic.

    Does this give me some right to ask questions about physics, or have I simply not accumulated enough degrees to afford a point of view?


  2. synred

    I appreciate the recommendations, especially one coming from a medical professional, but I’d prefer we not give anyone the (false) impression that we are promoting brand name drugs

    Cymbalta is now available generic. The generic name is as usual a mouthful.


  3. synred

    The author takes a dim view of opioids, writing, “One would think that opioid analgesics would be helpful in calming an agitated and dysregulated nervous system, but this premise has been debunked. In fact, to the contrary, long-term use of opioid analgesics, especially high-dose extended release drugs such as OxyContin and methadone, have been associated with the development of a particular type of central sensitisation called ‘opioid-induced hyperalgesia’, resulting in abnormal sensitivity to pain

    Hyper sensitivity happens when you stop it too quickly. The research these days is biased against opiates.

    Margaret drifted up and down with her pain level. In the end she was down by a factor 3 from the dose she needed at the start.

    If she’d been started on it immediately after her surgery instead of after a year+ the ‘pain path way’ may established and she might not have needed it long term.


  4. SocraticGadfly

    Robin, I’m totally with you on accepting the Bronze Age benefits. I’ve used anti-Ds myself. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t ignore the meds have side effects, or downplay that if not ignoring it. And, more importantly, that we still don’t know much at all about how they work, so we shouldn’t rest on scientific laurels.

    And, we should recognize that such medications often work best in conjunction with talk counseling that insurers, in the US, don’t like to pay for.


  5. brodix


    Actually on both sides. My father through Louis Jr and my mother through James.

    Then again, my mother is a Warfield and that is another story.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. synred

    Well, I finished ‘Mass’ and I liked it a lot. The last (admittedly most difficult) chapter is confusing and has I think a few misconceptions.

    It does go a little hypie at the end – but not bad compared to most popular physics books these days.

    “This is conceptually quite shocking, but at the same time extraordinarily appealing. The great unifying feature of the universe is the energy of quantum fields, not hard, impenetrable atoms. Perhaps this is not quite the dream that philosophers might have held fast to, but a dream nevertheless.”

    Baggott, Jim. Mass: The quest to understand matter from Greek atoms to quantum fields (p. 253). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

    ==>Well pretty good. I liked it quite a lot.

    There is a little hype here at the end. I’m not sure what is meant by ‘dream’. I don’t find mass being the result of energy shocking. The ‘dream’ of the philosophers was not all that clear in the first place.

    He does not explain field theory as thoroughly as I’d hoped, but I’m pretty sure I could not do better.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Robin Herbert

    From the part of Baggott’s book quoted by Synred

    “This is conceptually quite shocking, but at the same time extraordinarily appealing. The great unifying feature of the universe is the energy of quantum fields, not hard, impenetrable atoms. Perhaps this is not quite the dream that philosophers might have held fast to, but a dream nevertheless.”

    I am a little puzzled by this. Which philosophers does he think would not welcome this and ehy?


  8. brodix


    Yet have the implications really fed back through theory? Isn’t string theory the last, dying gasp of atomism; that all quanta are different vibrations of the same underlaying string?

    It seems that a field doesn’t shrink to a microcosm, but would simply go flat, as in a temperature of absolute zero. A non-fluctuating vacuum, not a dimensionless point. It would make more sense of “spooky action at a distance, but the basic premise of spacetime is that gravity is space collapsing and that might pose problems, if the field/vacuum is elemental to the fluctuations. What is being measured is matter and matter does collapse, but in doing so, it radiates out enormous amounts of energy, from light, to quasars, to gravity waves, which would seem to be more of a circulation process within space.
    If all physical properties were eliminated from space, it could potentially still have the non-physical properties of infinity and equilibrium(absolute), which are useful conceptual tools, when one is looking to build a theory of everything from nothing.
    Equilibrium is implicit in measures of physical dimensionality and duration being slowed in a moving frame, as that frame with the largest spatial objects and fastest rates of change would necessarily be closest to the equilibrium of the vacuum.
    It would obviously raise issues for cosmology, but more importantly for the nature of light, as well. Say photons as holographic sampling of waves, not point particles.


    My full name is John Brodix Merryman Jr. Which makes me another in a long line of John Merrymans around these parts. One of which is famous in legal circles for a civil rights ruling, passed down by the now infamous Roger Taney. When I’ve used John Merryman as a sign in, a few times I’ve been asked if it was a pseudonym.

    Liked by 1 person

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