About James Hoskins

James Hoskins is a teacher, writer, musician, and philosophy geek. He has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and a M.A. in Science & Religion from Biola University. James teaches philosophy and science classes at a private, college prep high school in the Kansas City area. You can find him at his blog PhiloLogos, and on Twitter under @clumsybrute.

On the Anniversary of His Execution, What Can We Learn From the “First Martyr of Science”

Giordano Bruno

On February 17th, 1600 A.D., Giordano Bruno, a Dominican priest, philosopher, and mathematician, was condemned as a heretic and burned at the stake by the Roman Inquisition. Among his heresies was the belief in an infinite number of worlds (similar to what physicists today call the multiverse hypothesis). In more recent times, Bruno has become somewhat of a patron saint of atheist and free thought groups, who gather each year at the statue commemorating his death in Rome. Some have even heralded … [Read more...]

Science: It’s Worth Doing Badly

Success

A younger student of mine recently remarked, “No one can be good at everything, because then they would fail at failing.” If she had been in my Logic class, I would have given her extra credit for that little gem, but it was Science. And the reason failure was on her mind was because her experiment didn’t yield the results she wanted. She felt like a failure and was trying to comfort herself with a witty proverb.Failure has been on a lot of people’s minds lately, in both theory and practice. … [Read more...]

Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham: Continuing Our Long American Tradition of Spectacle and Culture War

Ham vs. Nye

In 1925, the people of Dayton, Tennessee arrested a young science teacher, John Scopes, for teaching the theory of human evolution in public school. They dragged him from his classroom and threw him in jail to await trial. The town leaders called in the well-known biblical literalist and politician William Jennings Bryan to face off against famous (agnostic) defense attorney Clarence Darrow in “the trial of the century,” and to help ensure Scopes’ conviction. The trial created a national fires … [Read more...]

ELSEWHERE: Reconfigurable Robots of the Future

Remember the liquid metal guy from Terminator 2 and how he could reconfigure himself into different shapes? A group of scientists at MIT are working on something similar. It's not liquid metal, but it's still amazing. NPR's Robert Krulwich reports how these scientists are designing reconfigurable robots made from smart cubes. Each cube can move itself, even jumping through the air, to change the shape and function of the robot. … [Read more...]

ELSEWHERE: Nobel Prize for Using Computers to Do Chemistry

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry, announced earlier this week, has been awarded to three different scientists this year. NPR has an interesting story on the new laureates and how they changed the way molecular interactions are studied. The scientists made computer models in which Newtonian physics and quantum mechanics—two fields of science that have been notoriously difficult to reconcile—work together to simulate complex chemical reactions. … [Read more...]

ELSEWHERE: Reading Literary Fiction Develops Empathy

The New York Times reports how a new study published in the journal Science found participants who read literary fiction scored better on empathy tests than participants who only read non-fiction, popular fiction, or nothing at all. It seems reading Dostoyevsky and Proust can help you understand the minds of others better than, say, Stephenie Meyer or Dan Brown. Who'da thunk? … [Read more...]

Free Will Is Real, But Not so Simple

free_will

The free will debate is one of those issues that feels a bit worn out to me; it seems no one is saying anything new. But people can say old things in new, more interesting ways. Social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister has done that. He's written an excellent article in Slate, in which he argues both that we have free will and that our ability to make choices does not violate any laws of nature. That's a fairly unpopular thing to say these days. By doing so, Baumeister is going against the current … [Read more...]

Four Ways Voyager Reminds Us We’re Human

Jupiter_and_Io_as_seen_by_Voyager_1

The Voyager-1 spacecraft recently made history by becoming the first man-made object to officially leave the solar system. Originally launched in 1977 with the intention of studying the outer planets, Voyager has lasted far longer than NASA engineers ever expected. It kept going, feeding data to scientists all the while, and has finally broken through into interstellar space. Throughout its journey, Voyager has given us an unprecedented view of the solar system and the universe beyond. This … [Read more...]

ELSEWHERE: Stephen Hawking on Assisted Suicide

To mark the release of a documentary about his life, Stephen Hawking was recently interviewed by the BBC. Hawking gave this reply when asked about assisted suicide: "I think those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives, and those who help them should be free from prosecution. We don't let animals suffer. So, why humans?" Thankfully, Hawking has bravely chosen to live and to suffer through his illness, even though doctors only gave him … [Read more...]

ELSEWHERE: How to Quantify Your Self

The smartwatch manufacturing bandwagon is growing more and more crowded (with Nissan now jumping aboard). The rapidly growing popularity of smartwatches and other "self-tracking" devices seems to be fueling a lifestyle movement called the "Quantified Self." NPR has an interesting story on self-trackers, here, along with a list of apps to help you find meaning in the data of your bodily functions. Happy quantifying. … [Read more...]


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