Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Meaning Of Life

Second one from the same Monty Python film and the animation project, as it happens, contains the phrase "wafer-thin mint".  Yesterday brought this:
It's an ancient idea that superficiality hides meaning, and that depth is in some way more significant than shallowness.  For instance, many people would approach a work of art as having a meaning beyond what's suggested by the words themselves.  They might look for irony, symbolism or a deceptively simple insight into the human condition.  A similar approach is taken to the observed world as a whole and to the details of one's own thoughts, feelings and relationships.  The idea of depth revealed by analysis exists all over the place, in literature, psychotherapy, politics and religion, to take a few examples.

However, more recently, this has been challenged.  The very idea of a world view which explains everything has been rejected by many.  Examples of that might include, in a simplistic view (but then we're talking about superficiality here) science, Marxism, ideology, politics, psychodynamics and religion.  As a result, activities which seek to uncover depths are now seen by many as futile.

If someone said to you, "we need to stop the sodomy in New York City because it could cause an earthquake", you would probably find it hard to empathise with their point of view.  Similarly, if i curse Thor, i don't expect to be struck by lightning.  On the other hand, if i underwent hypnotherapy to remove my caffeine addiction, i would expect there to be an underlying reason for that addiction which means i won't get off without some kind of adverse consequences unless the reason i'm addicted is also addressed.  Now the question is, when i think that way, is it different than expecting a thunderbolt from the gods if i do something they don't like?  Is that the way the world works?

There is another aspect to all this.  We are currently living in a situation where we are expected to disclose things and be on show.  We post a load of stuff on social networking sites like Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube and are admired for confession and we are also told "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear".  Airport staff expect to see us naked, we are expected to tell all in CRB checks, be seen by CCTV and so on.  However, going back to willing disclosure, what we reveal often seems superficial - we had X for breakfast or went shopping and bought Y - plenty of haul videos on here for example.  It seems to me that when we do that, we unfold ourselves and lay it all out in front of people, and when we do that it becomes shallow because we have removed our depths.  Is this the same kind of thing?

Nevertheless, i can't shake the feeling that there's a difference between watching Big Brother and listening to Turanalila, but i don't know what that is or why i prefer the latter.


That should explain the title.  This is in fact the preamble to last night's Drink And Think discussion on profundity and superficiality.  It's a simple video - no cuts, no need to spend ages trying to sync the audio and not a huge amount of fiddling about with start and end screens.

This was a very hard video to tag though.  It has difficulties of a different kind to the others, mainly to do with "advertising".  In any event, this video is never going to be hugely popular, so it's probably not worthwhile putting much effort into promotion.

I then ended up doing a second video, yet to be listed:

Moles often scare or confuse people but they are in fact quite simple.  A mole is simply the name of a number, like "dozen".

A mole is the number of atoms in twelve grammes of carbon 12, which is basically just carbon.  If you wanted to make a dozen egg sandwiches, you might use two dozen slices of bread and a dozen eggs, because you would be putting a sliced boiled egg between two slices of bread.  Moles are used in chemistry in the same way as the word "dozen" is used in what i've just typed.  They're just a number.

So, suppose the egg is an oxygen atom and the slice of bread is a hydrogen atom.  A molecule of water, dihydrogen monoxide, is sort of an oxygen between two slices of hydrogen.  If you wanted to make a mole of water, which is eighteen grammes, you would need a mole of oxygen atoms and two moles of hydrogen atoms.  It's the same with common salt, sodium chloride - a mole of salt, about 58 grammes, is made of a mole of chlorine and a mole of sodium.

I also demonstrate how big a mole of gas would be using the balloon.  It's about four and a half lungfuls.  However, there's no such thing as a mole of air because it's a mixture.  A mole of nitrogen molecules or oxygen molecules would be that size though, more or less.


This video is a bit long and i should probably explain the context - it's probably also inconveniently high in bandwidth requirements incidentally.  Anyway, yes, it's quite different from my originally planned video on molarity, which would've involved a vast array of burrowing mammals.  I might still do that at some stage.

What happened was, last week i did Big Science via Skype, and it seemed to go quite well.  This week i planned to do the same but hit the snag of the smartphone at the other end being inaccessible, so instead of doing that, i put my plan of sticking explicit curricular content "home ed" videos on YouTube into action.  This is the first.  The thumbnail's not up to much but will be improved.

Probably the drawback of this video other than its length and the fact it's unedited is the bandwidth and quota issue.  Unfortunately, in this case i can't realistically reduce them because of things like needing to see the details on the measuring cylinder.  You might also notice that it's in the living room rather than the front room.  This is because i was handling food.  The other thing about it is that there are trademarks clearly visible on the food packaging, which is rather unfortunate.

It occurs to me that i could equally well make a video on "Morality explained using egg sandwiches".