The Lobster and the Octopus: Thinking, Rigid and Fluid

by Jochen Szangolies Consider the lobster. Rigidly separated from the environment by its shell, the lobster’s world is cleanly divided into ‘self’ and ‘other’, ‘subject’ and ‘object’. One may suspect that it can’t help but conceive of itself as separated from the world, looking at it through its bulbous eyes, probing it with antennae. The…

Erring on the Slippery Earth: Conceptions of Moral Identity

by Jochen Szangolies Who Are You? I want you to take a moment to reflect on the answer that first came to mind upon reading this question. Was it something related to your job? Are you a baker, a writer, a physicist, a construction worker? Or did you start thinking about your passions—the things you…

Fake News and Phase Transitions: The Physics of Social Interaction

by Jochen Szangolies Aristotle characterized humans as zoon logon echon, the rational animal. In general, we like to believe that our opinions are formed through reason—that we have arrived at them by means of a process of weighing the alternatives, selecting that which we deem most appropriate. This implies a certain mutual intelligibility—I might not…

Doomsday and the Dark Forest: The Fall of the Berlin Wall and our Quest for the Stars

by Jochen Szangolies J Richard Gott and the Fall of the Berlin Wall J Richard Gott, now an astrophysicist famous for the notion that the universe might have created itself by reaching back through time, visited the Berlin Wall in 1969, while an undergraduate at Harvard. There, he made the following prediction (paraphrased): The Wall…