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Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Ontological Proof and hedonism

Monday, August 24th, 2009

(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Coverage of the “self-thinking thought” in the New York Times online. It’s been a while since I’ve seen discussion of this proof of God’s existence, but describing it as a hedonistic argument got my immediate attention.

For more on arguments for proof of God’s existence, see coverage in these sources, which Tufts subscribes to. Note: if you’re off-campus or on wi-fi you’ll be asked to log in.

Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Encyclopedia of Religion

For non-Tufts readers, and for comparison, you might also be interested in the (freely available and web-based) Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s coverage of Anselm and ontological arguments, and Wikipedia’s article on the ontological proof.

Future of Newspapers (again)

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Rupert Murdoch recently announced in an earnings call with investors that he intends to charge for access to all his news websites. No details on how this would be managed have been announced, nor any time frame. The Wall Street Journal, a recent acquisition, is one of very few online publications which have successfully charged for access.

Which raises from a different angle what I discussed on this blog recently. Is this the future of newspapers?
I think the question here is about what kinds of information people are willing to pay for. Readers of the Wall Street Journal are paying for information they think will make them money. Most newspaper stories do not fit into this category. Robert Andrews, writing for the Guardian, comments that a better approach might be to charge for unique and special interest things like crossword puzzles and soccer memorabilia. Why charge for that and not the paper as a whole? Because putting the paper behind a pay wall renders it invisible to search (and therefore makes any advertising on the page, probably, less valuable). Also because most of the news in any given newspaper is not unique and can easily be found elsewhere. Charging for what makes your paper unique *does* seem like a reasonable strategy.

If you followed any of the links in paragraphs one or two, your exposure to the advertising on the pages I linked to makes money for, respectively, the New York Times, Motley Fool, and The Guardian. Free to the reader doesn’t necessarily mean free–see discussion by John Gruber.

Don’t worry: Tisch Library has you covered either way. Most of News Corporations newspapers are in our collection, typically via Lexis-Nexis and/or Factiva–including less well-known publications like the Fiji Times and the Sunday Tasmanian. One limitation of Lexis-Nexis and Factiva is that they don’t include photographs, just text, which makes tabloids like The Sun and the Daily Mirror much less exciting (and renders almost pointless baby elephant stories like this). So for historical purposes, we also keep microfilm copies of key newspapers like the Wall Street Journal (1959-present) and London Times (1785-present). Yes, you read that correctly: our coverage of the London Times starts during the reign of Louis XVI.

We subscribe to thousands of newspapers in a variety of formats. Examples for this article are exclusively from News Corporation properties. For others, just do a title search in the library catalog.

40th Anniversary of Apollo 11

Friday, July 17th, 2009


(image courtesy of NASA)
The 40th anniversary of the first moon landing is kicking up a storm on the Internet. There are a variety of sites and services to look at if you’re interested in more information about this particular piece of history.
The most spectacular is We Choose The Moon, a project of the JFK Presidential Library, which is streaming telemetry and communications between ground control and the spacecraft in real time–which is to say that as of this moment, the crew will land on the moon in a little over seventy-seven hours and they are two hours away from a course-correction burn. There is a live audio stream of conversations between Houston and the spacecraft, but you can also follow the conversation on Twitter (Capcom or the capsule).

NASA also has a photo gallery; some of these photos appear in a photo essay in this week’s Boston Globe’s Big Picture column. My favorite is above.

For the sordid story of how NASA for several years lost the original footage of the moon landing and then found it in time to have it restored, see this Associated Press story. When asked whether restoring the original tapes would contribute to conspiracy theories about the landing, the president of Lowry Digital (the company doing the restoration) said “if there had been a conspiracy to fake a moon landing, NASA surely would have created higher-quality film.” The argument from bureaucracy is almost always the conclusive one.

You can also watch a digital facsimile of the original news coverage of the landing at, starting at about 4:10 EDT on Monday July 20th. Kottke also has a much more comprehensive list of resources than this meager post.
Tisch Library has a variety of things which might be of interest:

eBay and the Economics of Looting

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Charles Stanish of UCLA, writing for, has a fascinating description of eBay’s surprisingly positive effect on the black market for antiquities. It turns out the eBay, rather than making it easier to run a black market for real antiquities, has instead helped flood the market with reasonably high quality yet inexpensive fakes. By the operation of Gresham’s Law, the fakes are destroying the market for the really expensive actual antiquities…which are expensive because they are risky and expensive to acquire and sell.

Tisch owns several of Stanish’s works on Peruvian archaeology.

Dystopia meets alternative energy

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Something lovely from XKCD, my favorite web comic. It’s as a rule disturbingly well-read, and tends to do math, science, and geek culture jokes. But today, some crossover. Read to the last panel for the literature tie-in.

Controversial religion encyclopedia

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Inside Higher Ed has a discussion of the controversy over the recently released Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. “Controversial” and “encyclopedia” are not typically words one finds in the same sentence, but there are apparently some questions about the objectivity of the editor-in-chief and about the accuracy of some of the entries. Coverage by a columnist at the Telegraph is a little more incendiary.

Google Earth for fun and profitable research

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Google Earth continues to add new features and to be used in interesting ways. Originally based on satellite photos by a company called Keyhole, the scope and usefulness of it has grown as Google has added new data from a variety of sources. Version 5.0 was recently released, and adds high quality imagery of the ocean floor and Mars, with data from NASA (including photography from the latest Mars rover project) and other government agencies (review).

Another relatively recent addition is a three-dimensional map layer of ancient Rome built in collaboration with the Rome Reborn team at the University of Virginia, with models of the city and buildings (including some interiors) in their ancient context as of 320 AD. I can see the potential of this even as my office computer struggles gamely to cope with the relatively high processor and graphics requirements–the moving 3D modeling is pretty rough on my poor under-appreciated Dell, but the static images work quite well. And you can see Google’s promotional video to give you a taste of what the glorious full version looks like.

I was also delighted to find a description of a game for archaeologists on the Ancient World Bloggers Group site. Given an image from Google Earth, the game is to identify the site. The first to correctly identify it gets to host the next round of the game. I’m sure Google didn’t have this in mind when they designed the product, but part of what’s most delightful about the web is the unintended uses people find for it.

Video lectures on Greek history

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

A very happy discovery today: twenty four lectures, with course materials and syllabi, from Donald Kagan’s Introduction to Greek History course at Yale are available in several places online. I found it through Academic Earth, a new website which pulls together open course materials from several universities, including MIT and Yale. As it happens I like the additional features Yale offers on its site (copies of reading assignments, syllabi, and audio and video versions of the lecture material), but I think Academic Earth may have a business in reaching into the silos of this kind of information kept by universities and making it more approachable and findable. It certainly worked for me. (Note: I’d mention iTunes University, which is aiming in a similar direction, but since I don’t have iTunes on my work computer at the moment it was easier to look at the competition. iPods are ubiquitous, but not as easy as web video for this kind of thing.)

Kagan is most famous for his work on the Peloponnesian War. He does not exhibit the tendency of many scholars to gloss over the darker details of the Athenian Empire, which by itself is an argument for reading his works. A good place to start is his 2003 The Peloponnesian War, in which he revisits the topic of his earlier works: The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, The Archidamian War, The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition, and The Fall of the Athenian Empire. The series looks at the history very, very closely, and ends up being a more approachable companion to Thucydides, the major source for the time period–at least for the general reader. Hornblower and Gomme are still the places to go for the heavy stuff on Thucydides.