Photo by Carlos de Toro @carlosdetoro

Some make us look foolish,

and some make us look wise.

We are imperfect mirrors

for each other’s lives.


Which attracts you more, the outside or the inside?

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

Most of us know
we all love a show.

Some of us care
what goes on back there.

Is it cleverly slick
or just a cheap trick?

What does it take
to discover a fake?

Why do we hide
what happens inside?

What do we feel
the works will reveal?

Will people be awed
or uncover a fraud?

Boundaries are everywhere, between outsides and insides. They separate how things interact from the details of how and why they behave as they do. Mostly that’s a good thing; knowing what’s going on…


It's interesting to realize that any finite sequence of digits in the expansion of Pi is indistinguishable from a sequence of digits produced by a natural random process. One can use a Geiger counter to generate decimal digits from measurements of natural radioactive fission of,, say, radium atoms. If we do that and stop after generating any such finite sequence, no matter how long, there is a non-zero probability that that same sequence will occur somewhere in the expansion of the digits of Pi.

In fact, that finite sequence is almost certain to occur in the expansion of Pi if we can continue generating digits of that expansion indefinitely!


The Paradox of Detail

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

Those of us who have working vision know about the phenomenon of focus. Whether we have to wear corrective lenses for our eyes, or whether we have just used binoculars, a telescope, a magnifying glass, or a microscope, we know that small visual details can often be made clearer by adjusting the focus of a lens. Lines, edges, and intersection points look sharpest when they are in focus.

An analogous phenomenon occurs as we learn more details about an event, a situation, an activity, or an area of knowledge. What previously seemed “fuzzy” or vague about…


Human language can be used honestly and effectively, but we have to understand how it works

“A thousand words are worth a picture.” — photo by author

I have put it in a poem and in longer essays, but I want to emphasize perhaps the most important thing to understand about how we humans communicate. We depend on a balance of economy and precision in our use of language. From the most ordinary requests — “Could you please hand me that?” — to the most profound discussions — “Do you believe in God?” — we often use as few words as we think we need to, in order to make our meaning clear. And we often err.

Our interlocutors may reply, “Hand you what?” or “What do…


To Linda, who has taught me this by her example

Photo by author

A magic moment may be most mundane.
A simple smile and brief remark, when paired,
may leave a deep impression in your brain
that echoes long, long after it is shared.

You may recall a time from long ago
when one gave such a gift to you by chance.
It could be someone you no longer know,
who simply gave a passing, loving glance.

Your simple act could likewise be a gift, a precious affirmation of their day, to someone else who badly needs a lift as you go kindly…


It has both commercial possibilities and philosophical implications

Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

In my Medium article, “A Computer Program That Exhibits Consciousness” https://medium.com/datadriveninvestor/a-computer-program-that-exhibits-consciousness-964ab03f61e5?source=friends_link&sk=7d87e5563ec8cdeae80c79544a583743 , I described an artificially intelligent system, that I called CardExpert, for learning and mastering rules of card games in a way that it could communicate about such games in natural ways with people.

The idea described in this article is for a similar, but somewhat more ambitious system, RecipeExpert, for learning and mastering food recipes. It should have more commercial potential than CardExpert, and it raises more interesting philosophical issues of the sort that CardExpert does. …


Doesn’t the worry compound the problem?

Photo by Jay Rembert on Unsplash

To all of the anxieties

its guns have caused before,

in schools, at play, at worship … ,

the U.S. adds one more —

Another reason to get armed?

You can die at the grocery store.


In the broadest sense “life” means energy, but that’s not what most of us value

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Although scientists define “life” in a narrow, biological sense, I find it interesting that, in English at least, we generally use that word much more broadly to refer to anything that is capable of expending energy, like a fire. While it’s burning, a fire is “alive”, but afterward there is nothing but “dead” ashes.

It’s a matter of degree, too. As it nears its end, a fire has “dying” embers. And we think of the sun as quite “alive” and the moon as, comparatively, “dead”…

Jim Mason

Studies language, cognition, and humans as social animals

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