‘Science Made Stupid: How to Discomprehend the World Around Us’ is a book written and illustrated by Tom Weller in 1985. The winner of the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Non-Fiction Book, it is a parody of a junior high or high school-level science textbook. Though currently out-of-print, high-resolution scans are available online, as well as an abridged transcription, both of which have been endorsed by Weller.
Highlights of the book include a satirical account of the creationism vs. evolution debate and Weller’s drawings of fictional prehistoric animals (e.g., the duck-billed mastodon.) Weller released a companion volume, ‘Culture Made Stupid’ (also spelled ‘Cvltvre Made Stvpid’), which satirizes literature and the humanities.
‘Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains’ is a magazine article by technology writer Nicholas G. Carr highly critical of the Internet’s effect on cognition. It was published in ‘The Atlantic’ magazine as a six-page cover story in 2008.
Carr’s main argument is that the Internet might have detrimental effects on cognition that diminish the capacity for concentration and contemplation. Despite the title, the article is not specifically targeted at Google, but more at the cognitive impact of the Internet and World Wide Web.read more »
Stupidity is a lack of intelligence, understanding, reason, wit, or sense. It may be innate, assumed, or reactive – ‘being ‘stupid with grief’ as a defence against trauma,’ a state marked with ‘grief and despair…making even simple daily tasks a hardship.’ The root word ‘stupid,’ which can serve as an adjective or noun, comes from the Latin verb ‘stupere,’ for ‘being numb’ or ‘astonished,’ and is related to ‘stupor’ (in Roman culture ”the stupidus of the mimes’ was a sort of professional buffoon – the ‘fall-man,’ the eternal he-who-gets-kicked.’ The word entered the English language in the 16th century; since then, stupidity has become a pejorative appellation for human misdeeds, whether purposeful or accidental, due to absence of mental capacity.
The modern English word ‘stupid’ has a broad range of application, from being slow of mind (indicating a lack of intelligence, care or reason), dullness of feeling or sensation (torpidity, senseless, insensitivity), or lacking interest or point (vexing, exasperating). It can either infer a congenital lack of capacity for reasoning, or a temporary state of daze or slow-mindedness.
Leaves of Grass is a collection of poetry by Walt Whitman praising sensuality, the material world, nature, and the experience of the senses. The book was published at Whitman’s own expense in 1855, a period where poetry focused on the soul and organized religion, and was a failure at first. Whitman spent most of his professional life writing and rewriting the book, revising it multiple times until his death. This resulted in vastly different editions over four decades—the first a small book of twelve poems and the last a compilation of over 400.
The collection is notable for its discussion of delight in carnal pleasures during a time when such candid displays were considered immoral. Where much previous poetry, especially English, relied on symbolism, allegory, and meditation on the religious and spiritual, ‘Leaves of Grass’ (particularly the first edition) exalted the physical form and ephemera. Influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalist movement, itself an offshoot of Romanticism, Whitman’s poetry praises nature and the individual’s role in it. However, much like Emerson, Whitman does not diminish the role of the mind or the spirit; rather, he elevates the human form and mind, deeming both worthy of poetic praise.
Christopher Nolan (b. 1970) is a British-American film director, screenwriter, and producer. He created several of the most successful films of the early 21st century, and his eight films have grossed over $3.5 billion worldwide. Having made his directorial debut with ‘Following’ (1998), he gained considerable attention for his second feature, ‘Memento’ (2000). The acclaim of these independent films afforded Nolan the opportunity to make the big-budget thriller ‘Insomnia’ (2002), and the more offbeat production ‘The Prestige’ (2006); which were well-received critically and commercially. He found popular success with ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy (2005–2012), ‘Inception’ (2010), and ‘Interstellar’ (2014). He runs the London-based production company Syncopy Inc. with his wife Emma Thomas.
His films are rooted in philosophical and sociological concepts, exploring human morality, the construction of time, and the malleable nature of memory and personal identity. Experimentation with metafictive elements, temporal shifts, elliptical cutting, solipsistic perspectives, nonlinear storytelling and the analogous relationship between the visual language and narrative elements, permeate his entire body of work.read more »
A sidekick is a close companion who is generally regarded as subordinate to the one he accompanies. Some well-known fictional sidekicks include Don Quixote’s Sancho Panza, Sherlock Holmes’ Doctor Watson, The Lone Ranger’s Tonto, and Batman’s Robin.
The origin of the term is unknown. It was originally ‘side kicker’ (as seen in the short stories of American writer O Henry), having grown from the 1850s term ‘side partner.’ Contrary to popular folk etymology, it is unrelated to the early-20th century British pickpocket slang ‘kick,’ referring to a trouser pocket. One of the earliest recorded sidekicks may be Enkidu, who adopted a sidekick role to Gilgamesh after they became allies in the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ (an epic poem from Mesopotamia). Other early examples include Achilles’ Patroclus from the ‘Iliad,’ and Moses’ Aaron from the Bible.read more »
Blonde hair has several stereotypes associated with it. In women is has been considered attractive and desirable, but is also associate with the negative stereotypes of the women ‘who relies on her looks rather than on intelligence.’ The latter stereotype of a ‘dumb blonde’ is exploited in ‘blonde jokes.’ In cognitive linguistics, the stereotype uses expressivity of words to affect an emotional response which determines a gender role of a certain kind. In feminist critique, stereotypes like the blonde bombshell or the dumb blonde’ are seen as negative images that undermine the power of women.
Some blonde jokes rely on sexual humor to portray or stereotype their subjects as promiscuous. Many of these are rephrased ‘Valley girl’ or ‘Essex girl’ jokes. Others are based on long-running ethnic jokes, such as humor denigrating the intelligence of Polish people. Similar jokes about stereotyped minorities have circulated since the seventeenth century with only the wording and targeted groups changed. In 20th century, a class of meta-jokes about blondes (i.e. jokes about blonde jokes) has emerged where a blonde person complains about the unfairness of the stereotype propagated by blonde jokes, with a punch line actually reinforcing the stereotype.read more »
What social psychologists call ‘The principle of superficiality versus depth’ has pervaded Western culture since at least the time of Plato. Socrates sought to convince his debaters to turn from the superficiality of a worldview based on the acceptance of convention to the examined life of philosophy, founded (as Plato at least considered) upon the underlying Ideas (the belief that non-material abstract ideas, and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality).
For more than two millennia, there was in the Platonic wake a general valorization of critical thought over the superficial subjectivity that refused deep analysis. The salon style of the Précieuses (a 17th century French literary movement characterized by wit and wordplay) might for a time affect superficiality, and advance the treatment of serious topics in a light-hearted fashion; but the prevailing western consensus firmly rejected elements such as everyday chatter or the changing vagaries of fashion as superficial distractions from a deeper reality.read more »
John Swartzwelder (b. 1950) is an American comedy writer and novelist, best known for his work on the animated television series ‘The Simpsons,’ as well as a number of novels. He is credited with writing the largest number of ‘Simpsons’ episodes by a large margin (59 full episodes, with contributions to several others). Swartzwelder was one of several writers recruited to show from the pages of George Meyer’s ‘Army Man’ magazine (a short-lived comedy periodical published in the late 1980s; Meyer would also go on to become an acclaimed ‘Simpsons’ writer).
Swartzwelder has been animated in the background of several episodes of ‘The Simpsons.’ His animated likeness closely resembles musician David Crosby, which prompted Matt Groening to state that anytime that David Crosby appears in a scene for no apparent reason, it is really John Swartzwelder. Additionally, Matt Groening has stated that the recurring character ‘Herman Hermann’ (the owner of Herman’s Military Antiques) was originally physically based on Swartzwelder–with the exception of his one arm.
‘Holy cow!‘ is an exclamation of surprise used mostly in the United States, Canada, Australia and England. It is a minced oath or euphemism for ‘Holy Christ!’ Similar expressions such as ‘Holy buckets’ and ‘Holy underwear’ employ a play-on-words, ‘holy’ implying ‘riddled with holes.’ According to the ‘Dictionary of American Slang’ (1960): ‘It is also the common oath and popular exclamation put into the mouths of teenagers by many screenwriters, and, is universally heard on radio, television, and in the movies. It was first popularized by the ‘Corliss Archer’ series of short stories, television programs, and movies, which attempted to show the humorous, homey side of teenage life.’
‘Bad Science‘ is a 2008 book by British physician and science writer Ben Goldacre, criticizing mainstream media reporting on health and science issues. The book contains extended and revised versions of many of his ‘Guardian’ columns. The book discusses topics such as detoxification (Aqua Detox, ear candles etc.) that can easily be shown to be bogus by simple experiments, and discusses the ‘detox phenomenon’ and purification rituals. He also addresses the claims for Brain Gym, a program of specific physical exercises that its commercial promoters claim can create new pathways in the brain. The uncritical adoption of this program by sections of the British school system is derided.
Goldacre used the example of homeopathy to prompt a discussion of the nature of scientific evidence, with reference to the placebo effect, regression to the mean, and the importance of blind testing and randomization in the design of fair clinical trials. Having concluded that homeopathic pills have been shown to work no better than placebo pills, the author suggests homeopathy may still have psychological benefits which could be the subject of further study.
Tit for tat is an English saying meaning ‘equivalent retaliation.’ It is also a highly effective strategy in game theory for the iterated prisoner’s dilemma (shows why two individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so). The strategy was first introduced by mathematical psychologist Anatol Rapoport in political scientist Robert Axelrod’s two tournaments, held around 1980. Notably, it was (on both occasions) both the simplest strategy and the most successful.
An agent using this strategy will first cooperate, then subsequently replicate an opponent’s previous action. If the opponent previously was cooperative, the agent is cooperative. If not, the agent is not. This is similar to superrationality and reciprocal altruism in biology. The success of the tit-for-tat (TFT) strategy (which is largely cooperative despite that its name emphasizes an adversarial nature) took many by surprise. In successive competitions various teams produced complex strategies which attempted to ‘cheat’ in a variety of cunning ways, but TFT eventually prevailed in every competition.
A howler is a glaring blunder, typically an amusing one. Eric Partridge’s ‘A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English’ (1951) defined it in part as: ‘… A glaring (and amusing) blunder: from before 1890; … also, a tremendous lie … Literally something that howls or cries for notice, or perhaps … by way of contracting howling blunder.’ Another common interpretation of this usage is that a howler is a mistake fit to make one howl with laughter.
All over the world, probably in all natural languages, there are many informal terms for blunders; the English term ‘howler’ occurs in many translating dictionaries. There are other colloquial English words for howler, in particular the mainly United States and Canadian slang term ‘boner’ which has various interpretations, including that of blunder. Like howler, boner can be used in any sense to mean an ignominious and usually laughable blunder, and also like howler, it has been used in the titles of published collections of largely schoolboy blunders since at least the 1930s.
The Big Lie is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book ‘Mein Kampf,’ about the use of a lie so ‘colossal’ that no one would believe that someone ‘could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.’ Hitler asserted the technique was used by Jews to unfairly blame Germany’s loss in World War I on German Army officer Erich Ludendorff.