September 21st, 2004

NIF visit: Ed Hudgins and David Kelley

We just had a very good NIF meeting on Saturday.  Stephen Boydstun talked through his recent JARS paper on measurement theory as it relates to concept formation and analysis.  There was a very lively discussion, partly because we have a number of people with a lot of mathematical knowledge of various sorts in the group.

We are following that up with a special meeting this Friday, September 24, at 7:30 PM.  Ed Hudgins and David Kelley of The Objectivist Center, will be our guests.  Ed is Senior Fellow and Washington Director, and David is the Executive Director of the Center.

I believe they are in town for some other reason, but couldn't resist a visit to NIF.

The floor will be open to questions for them on their work and ideas, and the work of other staff of the Objectivist Center.

If you're thinking of coming, we'd appreciate an email or phone call to let us know, just in case I have to borrow extra chairs from my mother's house!

So that's 9400 S. Damen, Chicago, IL, at 7:30pm on Friday.  Our phone is 773-233-8684.

Quest for Fire

is a movie, and before that it was a book by "J.H. Rosny".  The story concerns a tribe of prehistoric men who don't know how to make a fire.  They use fire, but they do it by keeping a continuous fire going at all times.  Then one day, their fire gets extinguished, and members of the tribe must go out hunting for some more fire.

In the movie, the characters speak, but in made-up prehistoric grunturral languages, and there are no subtitles.  You can still figure out what's going on, but it's kind of weird to watch a movie that way.  Fortunately, the cave-men and women gesticulate a lot.

Anyway, I just got done reading the book on which the movie was based.  It's been a while since I saw the film (1981) but I believe this is one of those cases where the book was not as good as the movie.  But what's good about the book is that you do find out exactly what the characters are saying and thinking.  Mind you, I still enjoyed the book.  Yes, it has a happy ending.

Does it sound far-fetched?  Until recently, I thought that the basic story could only take place in prehistoric times.  I thought that no "primitive" human tribe had ever been found that didn't know how to make fire.

But here's an article about the people who lived in Tasmania before the Europeans got there.  According to the article:

"The Tasmanians also carried firebrands as they walked, and lit a fire for warmth whenever they stopped even briefly. That brings up another surprise: despite the importance of fire to Tasmanians, most archeologists suspect that they had no means of kindling it. Instead, they depended on the firebrands that they carried and which they had to relight from a neighbor's if their own fire went out."

Of course, there had to be some original source.  But fire does occur occasionally in nature, from lightning strikes and spontaneous combustion.

Another article, lamenting the wiping out of the aboriginal Tasmanians, describes them delicately as having "exceptionally basic technology."

Rhyme of the day:

Fire burns, controlled
In my basement, heating cold
Water so I can take
Hot showers.

Promethean power
My life possible here
Where it snows every year.