Henri Frédéric Amiel’s journal—a couple of quotes

(Wikipedia entry over here; translation of journal here.)

Stimulus oriented versus stimulus independent thought?

“[…] respect in yourself the oscillations of feeling. They are your life and your nature […]. Do not abandon yourself altogether either to instinct or to will. Instinct is a siren, will a despot. Be neither the slave of your impulses and sensations of the moment, nor of an abstract and general plan; be open to what life brings from within and without, and welcome the unforeseen; but give to your life unity, and bring the unforeseen within the lines of your plan. Let what is natural in you raise itself to the level of the spiritual, and let the spiritual become once more natural. Thus will your development be harmonious […]”


“[…] what we call “society” proceeds for the moment on the flattering illusory assumption that it is moving in an ethereal atmosphere and breathing the air of the gods. All vehemence, all natural expression, all real suffering, all careless familiarity, or any frank sign of passion, are startling and distasteful in this delicate milieu; they at once destroy the common work, the cloud palace, the magical architectural whole, which has been raised by the general consent and effort.”

Prover9 and Mace4

Just found two fantastic programs and a GUI for exploring first-order classical models and also automated proof, Prover9 and Mace4.  There are many other theorem provers and model checkers out there.  This one is special as it comes as a self-contained and easy to use package for Windows and Macs.

There are many impressive examples built in which you can play with.  To start easy, I gave it a syllogism:

all B are A
no B are C

with existential presupposition, which is expressed:

exists x a(x).
exists x b(x).
exists x c(x).
all x (b(x) -> a(x)).
all x (b(x) -> -c(x)).

and asked it to find a model. Out popped a model with two individuals, named 0 and 1:

- a(1).

- b(1).

- c(0).

So individual 0 is an A, a B, but not a C. Individual 1 is not an A, nor a B, but is a C.

Then I requested a counterexample to the conclusion no C are A:


- b(1).

- c(0).

The premises are true in this model, but the conclusion is false.

Finally, does the conclusion some A are not C follow from the premises?

2 (exists x b(x)) [assumption].
4 (all x (b(x) -> a(x))) [assumption].
5 (all x (b(x) -> -c(x))) [assumption].
6 (exists x (a(x) & -c(x))) [goal].
7 -a(x) | c(x). [deny(6)].
9 -b(x) | a(x). [clausify(4)].
10 -b(x) | -c(x). [clausify(5)].
11 b(c2). [clausify(2)].
12 c(x) | -b(x). [resolve(7,a,9,b)].
13 -c(c2). [resolve(10,a,11,a)].
16 c(c2). [resolve(12,b,11,a)].
17 $F. [resolve(16,a,13,a)].

Indeed it does. Unfortunately the proofs aren’t very pretty as everything is rewritten in normal forms.  One thing I want to play with is how non-classical logics may be embedded in this system.

Peter Wilby on Yachtgate

(New Statesman, 27 October 2008):

My mind goes back now, not only to Cripps, but also to the 1930s when politicians, aristocrats, diplomats and businessmen met at country house weekends and decided Hitler was quite a decent chap who should be allowed to have most of what he wanted; and to the early 1960s when half the ruling class seemed to be involved in weekend sex orgies, complete with specially hired prostitutes, on country estates.

Those matters concerned only the Tories, but this one now involves both government and opposition, showing, in the northern phrase, how they all piss in the same pot. The details, obscured by denials and counter-denials, will escape most voters. But there is a sense, perhaps more in the middle class than the working class, that a super-class of rich people lives on a different planet from the rest of us and most politicians have been bought by them.

While the rest of us get screwed, our rulers, enjoying parties and freebies, making deals and exchanging gossip, are too busy to care.

On the importance of procrastination

“I had been preparing myself (though I did not always realize it) from the day that I was born, preparing myself, wrote Harsnet (typed Goldberg), but always aware of the dangers of beginning too soon. For there is nothing worse, he wrote, than beginning too soon. It is much worse to begin too soon, he wrote, than not to begin at all. Much worse to begin too soon than to begin too late. Much worse to begin too soon and realize one has begun too soon than to begin too late and realize one has begun too late. Much worse to begin too soon and realize one is inadequately prepared then to begin too late and realize one is over-prepared. Much worse to begin too soon and reach the end too quickly, typed Goldberg, squinting at the manuscript before him, than to begin at the right time and discover one has nothing to begin. That is why, wrote Harsnet, I have been preparing myself for that moment for a long time, that is why I have cleared the decks and prepared the ground, because unless the decks are cleared and the ground prepared there is little hope is succeeding in what one has planned to do, little hope of achieving anything of lasting value, though lasting is a relative term and so is value and whatever it is one has planned to do is certain to be altered in the process, which does not of course mean, he wrote, that one can start anywhere at any time. It is just because whatever one has planned to do is bound to be altered in the process that it is important to start at the right moment, he wrote. It is just because whatever one has planned is bound to change as one proceeds that it is fatal to start too soon or too late, though it may be no less fatal, he wrote (and Goldberg typed), to start at the right time, for then there is no excuse, no excuse whatsoever. I have done with excuses, wrote Harsnet (typed Goldberg), I have done with excuses towards myself and towards others, that is the meaning of the right time, he wrote, that I have done with excuses, that I have used up all the excuses and reached the bottom of excuses, that I have wrung the neck of excuses, that I have settled the hash of excuses. To begin at the right time, he wrote, means to be done with the excuses once and for all. Excuses, wrote Goldberg in the margin of his typescript with a felt-tip pen, an end to excuses…”

From The Big Glass by Josipovici


Winsorising is named after Charles Winsor (Huber, 2002), with whom Tukey had (a mean of) 1.9 meals per day over a period of 3 years (Fernholz and Morgenthaler, 2003).  Winsor, an “engineer-turned-physiologist-turned-statistician”, converted Tukey to stats (Brillinger, 2002).

A nice biographical detail about Winsor (from here):

I have heard gossip
that he was brilliant,
lazy and died young.


Peter J. Huber (2002).  John W. Tukey’s Contributions to Robust Statistics.  The Annals of Statistics, 30(6), 1640-1648.

Luisa Turrin Fernholz and Stephan Morgenthaler (2003).  A Conversation with John W. Tukey.   Statistical Science, 18(3), 346-356.

David R. Brillinger (2002).  John W. Tukey: his life and professional contributions. Annals of Statistics, 30, 1535-1575.

(For the FBI agent who, enquiring about a sister, asked “Who is in her network?”)

Who is in my network
What links us to be exact?
Better to ask to understand the force
that cuts through rock the water’s course,
and binding like to like
makes also opposites attract.

Who guides the earthworm underground,
and makes the stubborn ants persist?
When wind and rain erode the land
who calls the root work to resist?
And what clandestine hand inscribed
the coded message in the seed?
Who masterminds the spider’s web
and plans the strategy of the weed?

What inspiration could invent
the infrastructure of the vine.
the grass revolt against cement,
the rebellion of the dandelion?
What force undermines the walls
to make then crack
or makes the branches of the tree
when cut grow back?
Who conceals the passages between death and birth?
Who leads the revolution of the earth?

Who is in my network
What links us to be exact?
Better to ask to understand the force
that cuts through rock the water’s course,
and binding like to like
makes also opposites attract.

Investigate the daisies for invasion of the lawn,
or the ivy for trespass where it wants to grow.
Indict the sky for pouring out its rain,
contributing to the rivers overflow.
Arrest the seagull for unlawful flight,
impose a boundary to confine the sea,
demand a mountain modify its height,
dare my woman-spirit to break free.

Susan Saxe

[Spotted thanks to Jamie.]

Individual differences (continued)

“I am surprised that the author has used this data set. In my lab, when we collect data with such large individual differences, we refer to the data as ‘junk’. We then redesign our stimuli and/or experimental procedures, and run a new experiment. The junk data never appear in publications”

—An anonymous reviewer in 2005, commenting on research that sought to model individual differences in cognition.

From the intro to Navarro, D. J.; Griffiths, T. L.; Steyvers, M. & Lee, M. D. Modeling individual differences using Dirichlet processes. Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 2006, 50, 101-122