(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘hazard

“History is a vast early warning system”*…


… Still, the hazards we face at any point in time have altogether-contemporary characteristics.  Happily, Anders Sandberg has ridden to the rescue a new collection of warning signs…

See them all at “Warning Signs for Tomorrow.”

* Norman Cousins


As we duck and cover, we might spare a thought for René Descartes, the French philosopher and mathematician who thought and therefore was; he died on this date in 1650.

Many contemporaries (perhaps most notably, Pascal) rejected his famous conclusion, the dualist separation of mind and body; more (Voltaire, et al.), since.  But Descartes’ emphasis on method and analysis, his disciplined integration of philosophy and physical science, his insistence on the importance of consciousness in epistemology, and perhaps most fundamentally, his the questioning of tradition and authority had a transformative– and lasting– effect on Western thought, and has earned him the “title” of Father of Modern Philosophy.

“In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn than to contemplate.”
– Rene Descartes

Frans Hals’ portrait of Descartes, c. 1649


Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 11, 2015 at 1:01 am

Odds are…

On the heels of the cosmic coincidence of a flaming fireball over Russia and a close approach by a larger asteroid, The Economist offers a comparative chart sketching the mortal risks one faces this year…

Of course, as astronaut Rusty Schweickart reminds us, the odds of an asteroid strike over a materially-longer period are much higher; over the next 100,000 years…

– There’s a 10% chance of an asteroid causing planet-scale damage with 100,000 megatons of energy released.

– There’s a 50-50 chance of a 500-meter asteroid that could destroy an area the size of Texas with a 6,000 megaton explosion—100 times the USSR’s biggest bomb.

– There will be about TEN 200-meter asteroid impacts, good for 400 megatons.

– There will be about A HUNDRED 70-meter-diameter asteroids, each causing 15 megatons of damage (i.e. worse than the Tunguska explosion, which would have wiped out all of London if it had hit there instead of the remote wilderness).


As we struggle to keep this all in perspective, we might send grateful birthday greetings to the man who wrote the book on perspective, Leon Battista Alberti; he was born on this date in 1404.  The archetypical Renaissance humanist polymath, Alberti was an author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, cartographer, and cryptographer.  He collaborated with Toscanelli on the maps used by Columbus on his first voyage, and he published the the first book on cryptography that contained a frequency table.

But he is surely best remembered as the author of the first general treatise– Della Pictura (1434)– on the the laws of perspective, which built on and extended Brunelleschi’s work to describe the approach and technique that established the science of projective geometry… and fueled the progress of painting, sculpture, and architecture from the Greek- and Arabic-influenced formalism of the High Middle Ages to the more naturalistic (and Latinate) styles of Renaissance.

from Leon Battista Alberti, Della Pictura



Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

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