Every video has an equal and opposite reaction video

I’m not a big fan of reaction videos as a genre, but Glamour‘s second-order reaction video series You Sang My Song is an exception. A star watches YouTube1 covers of their hits, and then the people who made each cover watches the reaction video of the star watching their cover. The stars sometimes get genuinely excited. The YouTubers are often genuinely verklempt.2

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Not understanding how consent works

Via the Guardian: Jonathan Mitchell, the architect of Texas’ abortion ban, claims that it doesn’t limit women’s ability to control their own bodies. Instead, “women can ‘control their reproductive lives’ without access to abortion” because they can practice abstinence. This is a bad take in lots of ways, but it requires at minimum that all sex be consensual. If he took as hard a line against rape culture as he takes against women’s choice, one might believe that he isn’t just plumping for patriarchy.

Over on Twitter: Kathleen Stock writes, “Some knowledge is essentially experiential- you can’t get knowledge of x, just by hearing description of x. Colours, tastes are like this.. and sexual pleasure. If you’ve never had sexual function, you can’t give informed consent to losing it imo: you can’t know what’s lost.” It’s an argument against puberty blockers, but it also has the immediate consequence that first sexual experiences can’t be consensual.1

Colour me chuffed

Under the headline How philosophy is making me a better scientist, Rasha Shraim discusses how her undergrad degree in Philosophy is helping her in genomics and data science.1

The article ends by recommending Philosophy resources for scientists and, under the heading of Logic and inference, suggests my free textbook forall x.

They don’t link to the webpage for the textbook here at fecundity.com, instead linking to the University of Minnesota Open Textbook Library. Nonethless, they give the citation as “(Fecundity, 2012).” It’s odd to see that in the same sentence as “(Oxford Univ. Press, 2012).”

Some days you need snarky animals

Over the summer, I recommended some long-form narrative webcomics. However, my greatest comics love has always been stand-alone funny comics.

Reza Farazmand’s Poorly Drawn Lines regularly makes me laugh out loud.1 There are some recurring characters, but no plot to speak of. There aren’t punch lines so much as perverse situations that escalate into absurdity.

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Science journalism and the experimenter’s regress

The dialectic of science journalism, especially as refracted through social media, is to begin with the overenthusiastic claim “Study proves P.” Within a couple of days, the antithesis: “Study shows nothing of the kind, and anyway not-P.” Then there’s a storm, a cute puppy, or racism, and the matter is never resolved in a progressive synthesis.

Take the recent specimen of a study on the effectiveness of various kinds of face mask. Coverage popped up in my feeds from numerous friends.1 Most people took away the lesson that gaiters were worse than no face mask at all.

Yesterday, Slate ran the antithesis under the headline For All We Know, Gaiter Masks Are Fine.

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Ongoing, young, odd

Here’s another post of webcomic recommendations. The loose thread connecting these is that they are ongoing comics about young people in odd situations, for some values of ongoing, young, and odd.

  • Questionable Content started back in 2003 as a slice-of-life comic with some science fiction elements. I didn’t start reading it until much later, when there were 1000s of comics in the archive. It manages to simultaneously deliver goofy, fun characters and real emotional engagement.
  • Dumbing of Age has been running since 2010, but David Willis had a number of earlier comics that covered similar ground. This started out as a reboot of his series of comics which began as a college slice-of-life comic, turned into an interdimensional government conspiracy comic, and then turned into a comic about working at a toy store. The current run began with students starting at college and hasn’t added any of the science fiction elements. The characters take on a new life, so appreciating it doesn’t require looking back at any of Willis’ earlier work.1
  • Monster Pulse by Magnolia Porter is about kids who have bodily organs turned into magical monsters. It’s a comic with heart.2 The story is drawing to a close, so it’s close to belonging in the completed epics post.

Mad science comic serials

As a followup to my previous post, I’ve decided to share some webcomic recommendations.

In the early days of the pandemic, I reread two fantastic science fiction comics that were written from the beginning to tell a specific story.1 Both of these manage to pull off the trick of presenting extraordinary characters in a universe that is nothing like mine while still getting me emotionally invested in them.

I originally read them as were coming out, waiting for the each new page. This time, each story wiled away a shelter-in-place afternoon. Afternoons well spent.

"A Miracle of Science" and a picture of a lady's head
  • A Miracle of Science, by Jon Kilgannon and Mark Sachs, is set in a solar system overrun by mad scientists. It follows the adventure of Benjamin Prester, agent of the Vorstellen Police.
  • Alice Grove, by Jeph Jacques, is about life in a fragile Eden. I can’t think of anything to say Alice herself that wouldn’t be misleading or a spoiler.

Pandemic and epistemic humility

I was asked by a colleague recently what I think is going to happen in the Fall. My answer was that I don’t even pretend to know.

There’s not too much overlap between my professional expertise and my opinions on our current situation, but there’s this: There is more uncertainty than you’d like to admit, but that doesn’t mean that you can say whatever you want. This holds both in general and in the present specifics.

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Sacrobosco via Morgan Mar

I recently discovered David Morgan Mar’s fun blog 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe. He’s adding things over time, so he’s only up to 42 proofs so far.

I browsed the site looking for a proof that I know from Copernicus. It figures in debates about underdetermination, and it’s a stock example I give to students to illustrate the Duhem-Quine problem.1

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Bentham’s philosophical remains

Back in the 90s, when I wanted to move my website off university servers, I brainstormed possible domain names. I settled on fecundity partly just because it sounds good, but also because I learned the word from reading Jeremy Bentham. A webcam pointed at Bentham’s dressed-up remains was a highlight of the internet back then, and the association amused me.

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