Hephaestus's Blog

We Are All Baby Factories… and We Can Be More
December 7, 2015, 20:10
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Consider this: All human life, at its simplest, revolves around one goal: To make more humans who can then repeat the process to achieve the same goal. Everything else is simply added on.

This has more implications. It means that every romance story ever written, every love song, every love poem, everyone who ever wasted away  or made grave mistakes or achieved great things for love, is a side effect of this process.


However, as a simple look around you will demonstrate, there is more to human life, and to humanity, than that.

Each of us, as a conscious being, has- in addition to the simple need to make life, and the basic needs of existence- likes, dislikes, aesthetics, creativity, animosity, generosity, pride, ambition, and a simple need to be entertained. If these, and other qualities too numerous to name, are allowed to flourish, then we can achieve great things and small things, good things and bad things, and everything in between.



A device for helping society to cope with the essential fact that we are humans, and thus, baby factories.

Secret Box
November 16, 2015, 21:35
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On October 25, I found a small box made of Legos under a radiator.


This box had been there for over four years. According to a slip of paper stored inside, I made and closed the box on April 7, 2011. Some time after that, I moved it from my radiator to my parents’, where it stayed until this October.


The box and its contents.

Inside the box were these items:

Clockwise from upper left: The labels from a bottle of San Pellegrino (which may still be on my shelf); paper with the date of sealing; some thread; a balsa card painted gold; part of an orange zip tie; some of my hair; Vontromp the Lego guy.

As for why I did this, it’s a little complicated. I have done this sort of thing at least twice before, and when I made this box, I distinctly remember that I wanted to forget about it before I found it again. That only partially worked; I remembered the box’s exsistence, and three of the things inside (Vontromp, the gold card, and the date slip), but I forgot the exact date of sealing, all the other contents, and its eventual location.

Are We Simulated?
October 22, 2015, 14:57
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Imagine this: Your entire world, along with everyone you know, everyone you’ve ever met, everything you’ve ever heard of, and you yourself, is a computer simulation. Nothing is real; it is all virtual reality created out of bits and bytes.

This scenario is one that has been considered many times, by many people, since the invention of the computer. As I see it, there are two main variations of the idea. I’ll call them the anthropic and the solipsistic.

The basic premise of the anthropic version is this: a sufficiently advanced civilization, or if you want to be cynical about it, a super-kid with a supercomputer, is simulating the entirety of our civilization and possibly our universe, along with everything and everyone in it. (The odds that the entire Universe is being simulated are extremely low, simply because it is impossible to build a computer powerful enough. As in, it would be bigger than the Universe and require more energy than exists).

On the other hand, the solipsistic version of the concept is that the entire simulation, or at least some part of it, is being run for your benefit, and you have some sort of existence beyond the simulation On a large scale, this is The Matrix. (I think… I haven’t actually seen it yet).

Most people, on first thinking of this, feel some sort of existential horror. I know I did. However, after some consideration, I have come to a rather comforting conclusion:

It doesn’t matter if reality is real or not, it’s what you do with it that counts.

Whether your actions, or mine, have any actual concrete impact is moot, if we consider them to be worthwhile, they are. We create our own meaning for our lives, and it is our duty to live our lives according to that meaning. In a simulated reality, the goals of life are the same, whatever they may be. Objective reality is not necessary for a meaningful existence, any more than fame and fortune.

Regarding Toplessness
July 28, 2015, 19:54
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In the unwritten rules of our society, as well as a few written ones, there is an interesting discrepancy between the acceptability of toplessness in women and men. It seems to me that this discrepancy, that men are given considerably more licence to not cover their fronts than women are, arises from an implied notion that the sight of a woman’s breasts is somehow indecent or immoral.

This makes no sense. The only way it can, to my mind, be rationalized is thus: That men, at the sight of a woman’s breasts without covering, will be aroused, so aroused, (it is implied) that they could not control themselves or their impulses.

As a male member of our society, I take offence at this, not only because it is an unfair prejudice reeking of patriarchal Victorianism, but because men seem to be implying that they themselves are not responsible for their actions when confronted with an attractive being.

I can hardly imagine something more demeaning and powerless disguised in such moralistic language.

Pluto… Pluto… PLUTO!!!
July 13, 2015, 11:00
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Tomorrow morning, at just before 11:50 AM UTC (7:50 EDT), the New Horizons space probe will fly past the dwarf planet Pluto.

NH Launch

Launch, 1/19/2006.

New Horizons launched in January 2006, and has spent the past nine and a half years coasting out of the Solar System. Along the way, it passed by Jupiter, getting a speed boost from its gravity and taking pictures of the giant planet and the Galilean moons.


Ganymede, the Solar System’s largest moon.

After Jupiter, nothing much happened until the beginning of this year, when the probe began its Pluto encounter mission.

New Horizons returned its first colour image of Pluto in April, and the pictures have been getting better ever since.


Colours! Nice!


Um. That escalated quickly.

These are only a few of the best pictures; for more goodies check out the official website at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/ and the NASA page at https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/. You can also find pictures at the Planetary Society’s website, http://www.planetary.org/.

Tomorrow is actually my birthday, so it’s almost as if I’m getting a special birthday present from the Universe: The first ever spacecraft flyby of Pluto.

All images credit NASA.

Word of the Month: Cacophony
July 2, 2015, 08:20
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Etymology: English 1650s, from Greek κακόφωνος kakophonos harsh-sounding, compound of κακό bad and φωνή sound.

Definition: A mess of sound; dissonance.

A cacophony, such as that created two or more musicians try to compete for attention in the same space, can be loud and terrifying. On the other hand, some intentional music could be described, at least by critics, as cacophonous, such as improv jazz or punk rock.

However, such exceptions aside, a cacophony is usually a bad thing. Take a large crowd having an argument, for example. If everyone has his or her own thing to say, or at least is going along with someone else, you have a recipe for getting nothing done- except, or course, hurt eardrums.

Please let me know if there are any words you would like featured by posting a comment on this post.

Hip hip… Hooray!
June 26, 2015, 17:32
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Today the Supreme Court announced its decision that marriage is a fundamental right that should not be denied to same-sex couples.

I am glad to see that the Supreme Court, the highest judicial authority around, has finally sealed the fate of the state laws restricting marriage to heterosexual relationships only. Perhaps now we can finally say that the process, begun over ten years ago, of expanding marriage rights in the United States has reached its goal.

Now we as a nation can perhaps accept that marriage is about more than physical, biological procreation: it is about love, a vow to love one another (theoretically) forever, no matter the consequences. Love of this kind is more than a one-track phenomenon; it is a powerful bond that unites people who care deeply for one another.

Three cheers for marriage equality!

April 2, 2015, 18:06
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Epics are full of tangents. Examples of this abound in literature, from the Odyssey taking time out for extended simile practise, to the Roman sequences in The Count of Monte Cristo, to the ballad of Luthien Tinuviel in The Lord of the Rings (such a tangent it made my mom quit reading), to the online extravaganza known as Homestuck, where, in some cases, the “actual story” is a tangent from a tangent. A mark of a well-told epic is one where even the tangents are interesting, which in my case would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, where there are large sections devoted not only to the science of terraforming Mars, but to economics, psychology, and sexuality.

RIP Terry Pratchett
March 12, 2015, 17:13
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I was very saddened to hear that Sir Terry Pratchett, author of over seventy (!) novels, died today. I have read seven and a half of his books, (not quite 10%) and enjoy his witty and concise style of prose. (That may be because it reminds me of how I think… or else has influenced me subconsciously.) According to the Telegraph, he died of a chest infection, with his family and cat beside him.

The first of his books I ever read was Good Omens, a collaboration with Neil Gaiman about the Apocalypse. The first of his solo works, and the first Discworld novel, I read was Men at Arms, the fifteenth in the series, about guns.
Most (four books) of the Pratchett novels I have “read” have been in the form of audiobooks, which, of course, gives convenience at the cost of the loss of much of the more subtle wordplay. This includes the first three Tiffany Aching novels, as well as Amazing Maurice.

Word of the Month: Aglet
March 2, 2015, 17:22
Filed under: Uncategorized, Words of the Months

Etymology: Old French aguillette, diminutive of aguille, needle.

Definition: The cover at the tip of a shoelace.

Aglets seem to have been around for some time (Merriam-Webster date it to the fifteenth century). However, they are so ubiquitous as to be almost entirely unknown. This is most evident when trying to write about them; most Google search results are someone a) selling them, b) teaching you how to make your own, c) dictionary sites, or d) something about “agile applets,” a computer term sometimes contracted as “aglet”.

Personally, I think that aglet is a word which deserves to be better known, even if, as aglets are a rather boring piece of equipment, it would be a rather boring word if it were less obscure.

As an aside, Google’s suggested search (at the bottom of a page of results) includes “aglets conspiracy theory”.

Please let me know if there are any words you would like featured by posting a comment on this post.