Monthly Archives: April 2013

Good and Bad Cosmopolitanisms

If there are good and bad patriotisms, then there are also good and bad cosmopolitanisms

For that matter, there are good and bad forms of creedalism (loyalty with one’s religious team), ideologism (joining an ideological team), civilizationism (membership of a civilizational team), and so on.

Negative cosmopolitanism is antagonistic, antithetical, and destructive of nations. It is detached, rootless, elitist, and parasitic because it lacks attachment to the bonds of ordinary life.

Positive cosmopolitanism is one among other circles of sympathy. It combines cosmopolitan interest in humanity with patriotic interest in community, love of country and love of humanity. For state-leaders, it means they should pay heed to the national interest and the human interest, national security and human security.


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What If … No Modernity?

Suppose the world was still agrarian—no modern science, or technology, or industry, or economic growth.

What would things be like? Much like the whole world was a few centuries ago. Poor and violent. But there would also be no global warming. On the contrary, a 2000-year trend of gradual global cooling might have continued. It might have been a poor, violent, and cool world. (Admittedly only about 0.5C cooler per millennium.)

Were things headed towards an icy era until modernity switched the tracks to a new direction?


2000 years of global cooling–until recently

(h/t Scholar’s Stage)

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Mill: Good and Bad Patriotism

For John Stuart Mill there is bad (=vulgar) patriotism and good (noble) patriotism.

The bad:

We need scarcely say that we do not mean nationality in the vulgar sense of the term; a senseless antipathy to foreigners; an indifference to the general welfare of the human race, or an unjust preference of the supposed interests of our own country; a cherishing of bad peculiarities because they are national or a refusal to adopt what has been found good by other countries.

And the good:

The third essential condition of stability in political society, is a strong and active principle of cohesion among the members of the same community or state

We mean a principle of sympathy, not of hostility; of union, not of separation. We mean a feeling of common interest among those who live under the same government, and are contained within the same natural or historical boundaries. We mean, that one part of the community shall not consider themselves as foreigners with regard to another part; that they shall cherish the tie which holds them together; shall feel that they are one people, that their lot is cast together, that evil to any of their fellow-countrymen is evil to themselves, and that they cannot selfishly free themselves from their share of any common inconvenience by severing the connexion.

Put in other words, good patriotism is one of the larger circles of sympathy, bad patriotism is the limit of sympathy.

But, where does good patriotism come from? What makes people “feel that they are one people”? Could it be that in practice it arose from a sense of antipathy to foreigners? Was bad patriotism the father of good patriotism?

From Mill, A System of Logic 1875 edition.

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The Good Side of Sous Vide

As promised, the advantages of sous vide cooking:

  1. A bug for some is the main feature for others: you get to experiment with food, discover what temperatures and times suit your palate. Some people are just curious about these tweaks.
  2. Meat or fish cannot get overcooked and dry when temperatures are low.
  3. There is no gradient in a piece of meat of over-done around the edges and under-done in the middle. Doneness is uniform throughout.
  4. Tough cuts can be tenderized with long times in the water bath—such as 72 hour short ribs.
  5. Sous vide eggs are unique.
  6. Custards (egg-thickened creams) are easy to do.
  7. And finally, there is a rich online community of sous viders sharing information and advice. One of the best sources is Douglas Baldwin’s superb guide.

I’ve been a SVer for almost 5 years and I think SV is the greatest advance in cooking technology of recent times. It is spreading in commercial kitchens, and I hope it catches on in home cooking.

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Question of the Day

Today’s QOTD is from War of Ideas blog at Foreign Policy: “Questions you never thought to ask: is inbreeding bad for democracy?”

Well, actually I did think to ask that question (in pondering clannism). But it certainly has not been asked widely enough.

Here’s another unasked question: why have so few people thought to ask about the effects of cousin-marriage? My guess is that thinking in terms of genes, Darwinism, and the like is generally frowned upon, marginalized.

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The Pros and Cons of Sous Vide Cooking

To Bushwakker’s BrewPub the other night to give a talk in the Science Pub series on The Science of Sous Vide Cooking. Very good it was too. The world needs more talks in pubs! (Isn’t that like the original meaning of symposium?) The Q and A session at the end was particularly lively, and lengthy, no doubt assisted by good food and good ale.

This is the gist.

Sous vide is the most important technological advance in cooking in many years, maybe since the microwave.

But admittedly it has some drawbacks too. Let’s look at the main ones.

  1. The name. It is French (a sign of classy grub) for “under vacuum” (and not “under pressure” as some think). But being under vacuum is not the key thing. The technology should really be called something like “Precision Temperature Water Bath Cooking”—though that won’t happen. The term sous vide is here to stay.
  2. More clutter in the kitchen. Undeniably, SV equipment will take up some space.
  3. Things usually need to be vacuum sealed. But a ziploc bag works well as a substitute.
  4. Cost can be substantial.
  5. Safety is a concern. But a few simple rules, like not cooking below 53C, will maintain food safety.
  6. The food does not brown in a water bath. But it can be browned after cooking with a blowtorch or in a hot pan.
  7. And perhaps the main drawback: you have to experiment with food, discover what temperatures and times suit your palate. Many people simply do not have the curiosity or temperament to do this.

More later on the positives…


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Biology and Crime

New Scientist reviews Adrian Raine’s The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime.

Crime, like most things, is partly heritable. Identical twins are more likely than fraternal twins to engage in antisocial activities.

about half of the variability in antisocial behaviour between individuals has a genetic basis. Even identical twins brought up separately show a shared tendency towards criminal behaviour.

Some specific genes have been linked to violence, like the “warrior gene”, MAOA.

Several physiological conditions are also associated with crime, including:

  • A less developed prefrontal cortex:

[Raine] led the first study to image the brains of convicted murderers. Using PET scans, he found that their brains showed reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex, the region just behind the forehead that controls impulses and is responsible for planning. In other words, the murderers were less able than average to restrain themselves in stressful situations….Raine scanned the brains of people diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, he found that their prefrontal cortexes had 11 per cent less grey matter than those of individuals who did not have the condition.

  • Hormone levels:

testosterone levels in the womb can alter the size of the prefrontal cortex – it is smaller in males, which may be part of the reason most violent crimes are committed by men.

  •  Impaired nervous system:

Many offenders also have impairments in their autonomic nervous system, the system responsible for the edgy, nervous feeling that can come with emotional arousal. This leads to a fearless, risk-taking personality, perhaps to compensate for chronic under-arousal.

  • Low heart rate. Heart rate is a good predictor of criminal tendencies. Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, had very low resting heart rate.


Bob Holmes, “Time to get tough on the physiological causes of crimeNew Scientist

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