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  • I'm taking Barry's blog post back up to a new thread. It brings us right back to Nth's initial question of a protocol. I'd be curious for Barry to point to examples of Social Contracts that he is referencing. http://barrykort.wordpress.com/article/experiences-with-civility-and-the-role-3iyoslgwsp412-25/ So far the discussion is hinting at the question: Do we want written and documented rules of acceptable behavior?
    I prefer No, but will go with Yes if it fixes this issue.
    5 votes
    Social Contracts are not comprised of rules. They outline values and goals.
    2 votes
    Yes - Broad outline
    6 votes
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck How do you define "prescriptive"?
    • Todd Bredbeck Prescriptive would be more detailed and formal and require things like the moderators to function as referees more often.
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck I understand 'broad' then to be simple rules of conduct like 'no adhominems, keep it civil, discuss the topic not the person'
    • Todd Bredbeck Yes. There's a fuzzy area then between that and "no".
    • Todd Bredbeck Maybe the distinction would be between "clearly documented" versus "just informally agreed to".
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck Yes, it worries me that three people then already agreed to allow personal attacks and swearing
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck 'Informally agreed to' is difficult. Keep in mind that we're international, what is offensive in one culture isn't in a another. Several people have asked for guidance of what the group culture is. And they are lurking because they're not sure. It needs to be written down and told to new members day 1
    • Todd Bredbeck Well I hit the wrong button on my phone, so two, but I wouldn't immediately take a "no" vote as an endorsement of attacks and swearing.
    • Guillermo Lande *Removing my own comment* I don't really care if people make rules to make them feel good about interactions. I'll ignore them and be myself, and for those who will feel good about rules, more power to them. We make our way through life not just the best we can but hopefully the most content.
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck Then shouldn't you vote "I don't care"? I'm sure a lot of people would vote that way too
    • Barry Kort Here is an example of a Social Contract from a small community forum from a decade and half ago.

      Blooming Lotus Forum Social Contract

      Our purpose is to create and foster Communities of Practice and Communities of C...ommitment to work creatively, productively, cooperatively and synergistically toward the express common goals of the participants of the Orenda Project.See More
    • Guillermo Lande Daniel, I care, but I do not judge in this case. I am opposed to rules, but I am not opposed to people following their own free will making them so long as I do not have to follow them against my will.
    • Barry Kort Here is another one that is short enough that I'll paste the entire text here.

      Proposed Wikiversity Community Agreement


      Proposal for a Social Contract on Wikiversity.

      We, the Community, establish this Agreement to empower contributors and provide a healthy foundation for scholarly studies and academic excellence.

      I. First and foremost, we shall undertake to treat each other as honorable and respectable scholars who adhere to the highest standards of scholarly ethics.

      II. We cordially welcome all scholars who wish to contribute productively and who sincerely pledge to abide by the terms of this agreement among peer scholars.

      III. When any contributor submits a critique of the work, methods or practices of another contributor, we pledge to attend to such critiques promptly, and carefully attend to the presentations of all sides.

      IV. All contributors shall be accorded an opportunity to respond to comments and criticisms, and shall enjoy the presumption of having acted in good faith.

      V. We shall strive for high standards of personal integrity and good character, adopting no practices that would bring our community into disrepute.

      VI. We will strive for excellence in all that we do, and remain open to continual self-reflection and improvement.

      VII. We recognize our own limitations and shall give due deference to those who demonstrate superior levels of knowledge and methods of investigation, study, and research.

      VIII. We recognize the importance of all topics of study and agree that no topic of study should be held as more privileged than any other, as all topics of study contribute in their own way to the compilation of all human knowledge.
      Proposal for a social contract on Wikiversity.
    • Steve Andersen Prior to Volant, the best behaved group I participaed in was M-Powered and it was specifically unmoderated. If anyone was especially and repeatedly offensive, they got kicked off by a vote the 12 "moderators" after some group deliberation. The only stated rule was no ad hominem, and that was routinely ignored if the insults were offered without malice. So far this has been a marginally better group than that one in terms of behavior, but there was more banter and humor in M-Powered, of the sort that drove some people away; if umbrage came quicker than laughter, you wouldn't last there. This being a more serious group, I'd say we need to have some guidelines to protect those among us who are not so very thick skinned. Hard and fast rules would be a mistake as the interpretation of what transpires is inescapably subjective.
    • Barry Kort "Do we want written and documented rules of acceptable behavior?" ~Todd Bredbeck

      No. The whole point of a Social Contract is that there are no rules.

      The whole point of Social Contract Models is to move beyond rule-based self-regulation to a more evolved concept. Notice the language of the above model for Wikiversity. There are no rules to be enforced by a judge, referee, or umpire.

      Rather there are voluntary promises to strive to function at our best.
    • Barry Kort Here is another article that explains Social Contract Models.

      "Foundations of Ethics"

      This knol reviews and integrates fundamental ideas on ethics, including seminal ...contributions by Lawrence Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, John Rawls, Lonnie Athens, James Gilligan, Suzanne Retzinger, Ren...See More
    • Steve Andersen Any fool can make a rule, I tend to ignore them and yet rarely break them (except of course speed limits) so I'm against rules.

      I'm trying to distinguish a difference between the broad outline, and the social contract, that goes beyond the idea that a broad outline might say "Don't do X" and a social contrat might say "Do whatever in a nice way without doing X". At this stage I'm leaning towards what appears to me to be the simpler approach, i.e. a broad outline, but I haven't voted yet.
    • Barry Kort It's helpful to start with a vision statement and a mission statement for an intentional community.

      For example, here is one for The Orenda Project ...


      The Orenda Project

      Vision Statement
      We envision a wholesome world in which everyone can enjoy the fruits of world peace, prosperity, lifelong learning, spiritual growth, physical health and emotional well-being, satisfying roles and careers, and meaningful participation in the joy of creative living.

      Mission Statement
      To play a leadership role in guiding the advance of civilization through creative innovation, life-affirming applications of technology, and the wise and responsible use of scientific knowledge. To play a nurturing role in educating and empowering people to realize their full potential to participate cooperatively, creatively, innovatively, effectively, productively and rewardingly in achieving the common goals embodied in the Vision Statement.
      Vision StatementMission Statement To play a leadership role in guiding the advan...ce of civilization through creative innovation, life-affirming applications of technology, and the wise and responsible use of scientific knowledge. To play a nurturing role in educating and empowering people to realize…See More
    • Loren Hogan "So far the discussion is hinting at the question: Do we want written and documented rules of acceptable behavior?"

      I voted: “No.” My reasoning was that I don’t think we should need written and documented rules of acceptable behavior.

      “…it worries me that three people then already agreed to allow personal attacks and swearing.”

      My vote was not a vote to allow personal attacks and swearing. It was a vote for reasonable adults to behave appropriately without requiring written and documented rules. We’ve done pretty well without them so far.

      A few people left. I knew some of them, but not others. I was glad to see Peter and Elanisa return, but thought we gained something when one particular person left, and perhaps we gained by losing some, but not all, of the others. As I see it, people either belong here or don’t. Those who belong here don’t need written and documented rules of acceptable behavior. Things may get a little heated, but we should be able to cool them off by being civil to each other without the necessity of having either formal or informal rules. If we can no longer do that, Volant is no longer what it started out to be.

      I've been annoyed two or three times, but people are entitled to opinions that don't match mine. I've also realized that I was mistaken a couple of times. One of those times Christian Nielsen pointed out a factual error. He was correct, and I had no problem admitting it. I still disagreed with other aspects of what he wrote, but after seeing some of his other posts I realized our opinions weren't as far apart as I'd thought.

      My vote was cast before Barry noted that social contracts are not comprised of rules. I have no problem with a written outline of values and goals, but we only require written rules of acceptable behavior if we make too many mistakes in allowing new members.

      A polite word from one of us to another, or an intervention by a moderator should be sufficient to take care of any problem. If it isn't, the problem is bigger than simply not having a rule to cover that particular situation.
    • Barry Kort Again, this is not about rules. Nobody that I know wants (or even believes in) rules (unless you are defining a game).

      The issue is about having a Social Contract (which is the antithesis of rules).
    • Guillermo Lande I'm having trouble finding a concrete anchor on the term Social Contract because I have always viewed a contract as an agreement in which each party offers consideration to the other party. An agreement in which consideration (something of value) is not offered from one side to another is a gift, not a contract. So how can someone have a social contract? What are they offering each other? If it's just an agreement not to be mean to each other, I don't understand why that needs to be a contract at all.
    • Loren Hogan Guillermo, in law a contract is exactly what you described and requires an exchange of consideration (goods or cash), even if it's just one dollar. A social contract is more like a treaty. It's a philosophical or political agreement.

      In a case like this, you might give up your freedom to act obnoxiously in exchange for being protected from having others act obnoxiously towards you. My thinking is that we all ought to behave ourselves without needing to make that a formal agreement, and that if things start to get a little out of hand each of us should know enough to back off. If we don't realize we're causing a problem, we should accept the decisions of whichever moderator intervenes. Even that is a kind of social contract, though. We stay in the group in exchange for accepting the decisions of the moderators.
    • Alan Wing-lun I have voted for a broad outline of rules.
      As a relatively new member I don't feel qualified to speak about Volant specially, but I do have experience in running my own groups. I have always written very few rules, usually only 4 or 5 and have kept them short and simple. I find that this system works very well IMO.
      When I visit other groups it's like visiting a friend's house, I will follow their house rules, whatever they may be, and I would expect the same from others.
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck But it's difficult for the visitor to know what the rules are if you don't tell them. For instance, in some homes they prefer you keep your shoes on, in others that you take them off
    • Fred Britton Here is a copy of the the guidelines for the Fire List, the official email list of the Prometheus Society. Not all of these rules would be appropriate here; they are perhaps too detailed, especially the procedural aspects. Bear in mind that the rules were written with the fact in mind that the constitution of Prometheus prohibits the derogation of members. I post it here, not as a recommendation that something similar should be adopted by Volant, but in case there may be some useful ideas which can be reformulated to suit Volant.


      Effective 29 October 2009.

      The purpose of the Fire List is for the communication of ideas among members of the Prometheus Society and those whom they choose from time to time to accept as subscribers.

      Both members and subscribers are bound by the following rules of conduct:


      Discourse on the list should be conducted in a civil fashion. It is possible to vehemently disagree with someone about ideas without resorting to derogatory remarks about the character of one's opponent. Remember that disagreements that descend to the level of personal attacks tend to drive participants away from the list. This tends to happen in a fashion that is unfortunately reminiscent of Gresham's Law, the bad driving out the good.


      List participants should not impugn the character, intelligence integrity or veracity of other list participants, or otherwise engage in derogation of list participants contrary the provision of the Prometheus Constitution (VI. 1).

      List participants may not impugn the character or integrity of others on the list by imputing motives for their beliefs or statements based on their affiliation or presumed affiliation with ethnic or religious groups, nor should list participants be subjected to needling in this regard, especially of a persistent or repetitive nature.

      The main thrust of this section is to avoid discussions becoming personal in nature, especially in an insulting manner. We do not seek to preclude discussion about demographic groups, nor do we seek to prevent discussion about world events, which often involve such groups. But we do intend to prevent such discussions from taking a personal turn.

      List participants also must refrain from referring to others on the list using insulting terms. This rule is somewhat like the rule which many legislatures have forbidding "unparliamentary language."

      After examining the circumstances, the Officers may vote as to whether or not the language is insulting in any particular instance.

      Anyone violating this section will be subject to the penalties spelled out in paragraph 3.

      The Constitution does not protect subscribers in this regard, but the Officers in issuing these guidelines hereby include subscribers to the list under this protection for purposes of preserving a civil atmosphere on the list, and also because it seems reasonable to treat them equally in this regard.


      Those who contravene these guidelines may be suspended from the list by majority vote of the Officers, or in the case of suspensions of not more than 7 days by the Internet Officer acting alone. If, in the judgment of the Officers, an apology to the offended party or parties is sufficient remedy for the situation at hand, then an apology that is accepted by the offended party ends the matter. Paragraph 3 of the guidelines is in accord with paragraph VII of the Constitution:

      II a. Participants who violate the guidelines established for the e-mail lists may be suspended from any e-mail list of the Society for not more than 30 consecutive days by a majority vote of the Officers; for not more than 7 days at the discretion of the Internet Officer.

      II b. Those who violate the guidelines repeatedly may be suspended for periods longer than 30 consecutive days by majority vote of the officers, but will have the right to appeal the suspension to those members participating in the relevant list. A majority vote of those members is required to overturn the suspension.


      The purpose of these guidelines is not to limit the free exchange of ideas in any way.

      Other germane sections of the Constitution:

      VI 1. The rights of each member shall include: The right to be protected from personal derogation, violation of privacy, or intimidation.

      VII 6. The e-mail lists maintained by Prometheus shall be under the aegis of the Officers of the Society. The Officers may from time to time establish guidelines for the lists with the purpose of maintaining civility and protecting members from derogation, as required by paragraph 1 d.

      X 7. The Internet Officer shall be responsible for maintaining an official web site for the Society and for administering an electronic mailing list which shall be made available to Prometheus Society members and subscribers.
    • Alan Wing-lun It is the responsibility of the home owner to state the rules to any newcomers.
      In a fb group scenario new members should be asked to familiarise themselves with the rules/guidelines.
    • Todd Bredbeck From the top of the About section for Volant:

      "Volant members are individuals who basically wanted a 3-sigma discussion group that was free of snarkiness, fighting, etc."

      This is the sum of the verbiage we have at the moment on anything behavioral, I believe.
    • Fred Britton The executive summary of the guidelines I posted above is:

      Criticize the idea; don't attack the person expressing the idea. Don't say, "You're stupid or malicious for saying X." Just make a good argument as to what's wrong with X.
    • Fred Britton I'm pleased that so far no one has voted for "highly prescriptive."
    • Todd Bredbeck I was thinking that as well.
    • Todd Bredbeck Although, that's with ~6% voting.
    • Julia Cybele Lansberry I LIKE the Social Contract option, but my experience is that it may be necessary to offer a broad outline of expected behavior, even though one might think it superfluous. The experience to which I refer is that many valuable participants will rapidly flee an environment that seems to tolerate even a hint of bullying or trolling behavior, even in the spirit of openness and free expression. If a bad situation arises through lapse of self-control, then precious diversity is LOST, perhaps irreparably, and we can't be happy to see that happen.
    • Barry Kort "I LIKE the Social Contract option, but my experience is that it may be necessary to offer a broad outline of expected behavior, even though one might think it superfluous." ~Julia Cybele Lansberry

      OK. Here goes...

      I expect to do my best to contribute in a constructive, conscientious, friendly, professional, and ethical manner.

      Does that work for you?
    • Nathan Bar-Fields I personally am against there being written out policies because I’m familiar with groups with ineffectual Constitutions. The members are smart enough to work around them in order to wreak havoc if they so desire. I much prefer having a culture than a Constitution.

      However, Volant’s future is too important to let the sliver of contentious posting and posters ruin the group. We are on the edge of something very beautiful and pioneering. If all things work accordingly, we’ll be a legitimate society. I’m talking about a group that offers a job placement service for its members, along with a grant writing service, dating service, Big Brother Big Sister program with SENG, maybe even a literary agency for its members who are aspiring writers. Remember, one of the key goals of Volant is for it to be a place where members can help each other succeed.

      There is a long history of high IQ clubs who’ve tried to start think-tanks and failed miserably. I think Volant can be the first to succeed. I didn’t join IdeaConnection just so that I could be paid to be in a think-tank; I also joined in order to see if they like my work and approach to solving problems, then if they’d be interested in using Volant as a subcontract group for certain problems they still haven’t been able to crack. I asked Jonathan Wai if he’d be interested in writing an article on Volant for “Psychology Today.” He could throw some challenges our way, and we could go about discussing them or solving them. I thought it’d be a great follow up on his Intellectual Dream Team article. However, he said he’d have to pass, and quite frankly, I don’t blame him, given the way a handful of members have recently behaved. I’m telling you, people don’t remember the 19 out of 20 great discussion threads, they remember the 1 out of 20 that is in WTF territory.

      Well, the cool thing is a "Newsweek" and "Daily Beast" journalist who interviewed me for the USA Memory Competition, Rob Verger, *is* interested in writing about us, but there is no way I’d have him do any such thing right now, until we get a solution for dealing with how hot button discussions are handled.

      If that means having some policies written in stone, I’ll stomach it. If that means our group may have to shrink a little in membership before it grows, I’m for that too. It’s a priority issue. The future is more important than a few of our fellow members who just don’t seem to get it about how to civilly disagree.
    • Barry Kort The Vision Statement, Mission Statement, and related elements of a Social Contract need not be written in stone. In general they evolve as the focus and the direction of community evolves. That's generally true of any Learning Community or Intentional Community.
    • David Lynn Smith Nathan. My experience moderating the Cold Steel forum was just as you describe in the opening paragraph. Some members regarded wrecking havoc while technically skirting the rules as if it were some sort of game or challenge. The bad part was these agitators would succeed in provoking some other member until that person actually violated the letter of the rule. Then we had the defenders and friends of each person join in. It seems like a judgment call is needed even if there is some such thing as a list of Forbidden Words.
      You can also get into the same mess the schools have with ‘zero tolerance’ policies. Where kids get kicked out of school for Midol and for having a butter knife in their lunchbox to cut an apple.
    • Loren Hogan I recall a thread in 2012 in which someone called me something, Dan called him stupid, it was clear that everyone was playing, we all settled on a smiley face, and there was never any thought that anyone was being offensive. (My apologies to any moderator who finds my search for that thread entered in the "invite new members box." Someday I'm going to get enough sleep and stop doing stupid things ...well, maybe it's possible that could happen.) Anyway, I think part of the reason we didn't have as many problems back then was that we usually gave other people the benefit of the doubt when there was a small dispute. Recently I've seen people throwing around accusations for real, and there's been no way you could have pretended they were just joking.

      How did it go from laughing at pretend insults to reading insults into situations where they weren’t intended and then putting a chip on your shoulder and daring someone to knock it off? I think the size of the group may well have contributed to that. Some people know practically nothing about others, and that can lead to misunderstandings. If you know something about the other person’s personality, life experience, current situation, etc., you’re less likely to write something that will offend the person or to take offense at things that weren’t meant to offend. I’d like to get to know a little more about each person, but really can’t handle adding hundreds of friends on Facebook just so I can visit their walls and figure out who’s who. Maybe it would it help if there were an area on the new website where we could each put up a little information about ourselves so we’d have a little general knowledge about each person and would be more likely to see each other as friends discussing controversial topics rather than as anonymous strangers pushing opposing views.
    • Todd Bredbeck Excellent idea, Loren. I've added a few friends but slowed down as I started to ponder the ways my different circles may interact. A profile would be great for those who wish to add info there.
    • Barry Kort David Lynn Smith, the dynamic you describe in the Cold Steel Forum corresponds to Girard's Model of Competition and Conflict (running the model in the escalating direction, rather than the more desirable de-escalating direction).

      "Mimetic Contagion"

      If the desired object is Respect and is pursued by a public figure, if we don't ...want Rivalry we need to address the values of Society, where Respect is a desired quality. How can this model be a guiding principle for a society which doesn't have a model for Ethical thinking?See More
    • David Lynn Smith Bad thing is we had to expell some good people. 'Good' in the sense of great expertise and interest. the forum went downhill in some ways when they were removed. But the alternative was constant flaming. And in my limited experience people with high IQ are no different.
    • Alan Wing-lun Excellent idea, Loren. We could 'create a doc' in Volant group entitled something like 'An introduction to Volant members'. Each member is asked to write a synopsis about themselves; location, work, interests, goals etc.
      It would a quick way for people to find others with similar interests.
    • Barry Kort David, that's why I favor Social Contract Communities. In my experience they are considerably less likely to experience the lamentable breakdowns you have described.
    • David Lynn Smith Since I have very limited experience with such, I value your opinion
    • Barry Kort They are not entirely immune. If you have someone who is Axis II Cluster 'B', they are likely to test the system to its breaking point.


      There are four Cluster B personality disorders: Antisocial, Borderline, Narcissistic, and Histrionic. These are personality disorders that are characterized by dramatic, emotional or erratic behavior.
      The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (currently the DSM-IV)... lists ten personality disorders, grouped into three clusters in Axis II. The DSM also contains a category for behavioral patterns that do not match these ten disorders, but nevertheless exhibit characteristics of a pers...See More
    • Fred Britton My experience with online groups has led me to the notion that the probability of certain kinds of undesirable conflict does increase with size. Consider the following:

      1. There are certain kinds of people who are more likely to engage in certain kinds of conflict.

      2. They are more likely to engage in it with certain other personality types.

      3. This leads to the idea of the "toxic dyad," consisting of two people who, while otherwise not so bad, interact with each other in the worst possible manner, much to the irritation of others.

      This group has 174 members, thus 15051 potential dyads. When it was half the size, 87 members, it had 3741 potential dyads. Thus doubling the size of the group creates about four times as many dyads. So the potential for trouble may grow faster than linearly with size.
    • David Bergman I hope it does not come as a surprise to anybody in here that people "selected" mostly on their cognitive skills would be intrigued by the essence of cognition, and, specifically, the distribution(s) of such cognitive skills, in societies and ethnical groups.

      The difference between "being very smart" and "being very tall" is that the former contains, by its definition, a reflection mechanism, eager to understand the Why. "Why am I, or are we, smart?" and the almost implied "and why are not 'those other guys' smart?" Very few basketball players ponder the reason for their 7'1 height, but instead just go the bank and cash next check, after walking up and down a court - yes, at that height, one automatically gets a few $100k's per month just for being able to walk around.

      I also hope it comes as no surprise that:

      1. results on standard cognitive tests (the "SAT's" of the world) differ widely between ethnical and/or cultural groups

      2. that such standard tests correlate to a high degree

      3. that such tests - and the associated (cause or emergent) correlation factor (called liquid _g_) - correspond quite well to what we "softly" would consider "intelligence."

      What I object to is the *spurious* mentioning of that (what I consider) fact. But, *if* that issue comes up, one has to be prepared for facts to be revealed, and if one does not accept them as truths, then one has to somehow rationally be able to counter them. I have tried this before, and failed, since I actually did that "scientific thing" of actually researching the topic, and came to the same conclusion as my counterpart in that discussion. And, yes, that counterpart happened to be the same guy that left Volant, AFAIK.

      What I am trying to say is that it is quite embarrassing that we pushed out a guy stating facts. Again, we could always discuss the spurious nature of such statements, and I am not clear as to where that (inevitable...) IQ distribution sub thread came from.
    • David Lynn Smith I went a-round with that individual on another issue elsewhere. Like many of us he has a couple issues about which he is very informed and heavily invested. He gets fervently assertive about them with utter conviction he is right. He is hardly the only one like that. In fact I think it is a pretty common affliction for us. If you respond with emotion he scorns you as an opponent for being irrational. (In his mind he is displaying Vulcan-like pure logic.) His emotion is frustration with you not seeing his correctness, not hostility toward you as a person. The only way to ‘win’ is also the best way to preserve peace. To dispassionately point out flaws in his equations. As I said, he is hardly the only one like that.
      I'm surprised he went that long here. Actually I expected to be the cause of his blow up when the subject of religion came up. But he showed great restraint and I knew better than to poke the bear.
    • Loren Hogan I was sorry to see him leave. I didn't think he meant to attack or offend anyone, but when he cited statistics and people questioned their interpretation, instead of responding to the questions and defending his position, he cited more statistics. Also, he indicated that he believed anyone disagreeing with him was doing so solely to be politically correct. Some of us knew how extraordinarily intelligent he is and could see his frustration with our supposed irrationality. Others apparently thought he wasn't quite as bright as the rest of us, and therefore, believed he held his beliefs for racist, rather than intellectual reasons.

      That's why I suggested each of us post some kind of profile. "I designed nuclear reactors for a living" might explain why someone is inclined to be concerned with precision in measurement, but not with arguing with what he considers to be unsubstantiated opinions without any statistical foundation." I think there were legitimate objections to his interpretation of at least some of the statistics. It might have made a very interesting discussion if he had responded to the arguments instead of dismissing them. However, he chose to dismiss them without bothering to explain his reasoning and then insisted only a legitimate set of different statistics could prove he was wrong.

      There's a danger to being so sure you're right that you dismiss any arguments without first considering them and taking the trouble to respond to them. You could actually be wrong once in awhile, and if you’re not, your explanation might cause others to rethink their positions. I wish this hadn't happened, and I think the best way to avoid it in the future is to try to understand each other better.
    • Nathan Bar-Fields Oh, I'm pretty sure Bob will be back. I've yet to be wrong about who just needs some "alone time." I'm not overly concerned with that issue. What I am concerned about is making sure that were he or any other person with a similar "engineer" personality were to participate in a discussion, we have a way for them to be able to communicate without flame as well as other members with other personality types.

      I agree that Bob kind of got blasted (after all the thread did request for an "HONEST reply", and Bob gave readers his) , but there were certainly things he could have done to have minimized the likelihood of that occurring. For one thing, he had and has a tendency to try to bury people in data. Common sense would tell him that no one is going to be able to read 15+ studies in a day, hour or minute.

      , when an error was pointed out in one of his studies, he didn't seem particularly receptive to discussing if it was valid. He just retorted with variants of "I've read up on the research; you have not." or "You're letting emotions (or something similar) blind you." Often that is true, but sometimes it isn't. I and a few others actually have looked at the data he's presented, and if we bring up conflicting stats and facts to him (like blacks in the $75,000/year SES income bracket actually commit a smaller percentage of violent crimes than whites in the same bracket, both overall and within group percentage; or that neurofeedback actually has a lengthy history of enhancing IQ in patients), he dismisses them in a casual way that he accuses others of doing with his studies.

      Thirdly, there actually were people--myself included--who wanted to civilly discuss one or more of his many data points with him, but he seemed more focused on "sparring" with the people who were a bit more...passionate about the topic.

      So, we need a set up that allows for people to make controversial assertions, but also a way that those assertions can be given counterpoints without venom. Otherwise, we'll wind up with this.
    • Barry Kort "I'm having trouble finding a concrete anchor on the term Social Contract because I have always viewed a contract as an agreement in which each party offers consideration to the other party. An agreement in which consideration (something of value) is not offered from one side to another is a gift, not a contract. So how can someone have a social contract? What are they offering each other? If it's just an agreement not to be mean to each other, I don't understand why that needs to be a contract at all." ~Guillermo Lande

      The term "Contract" here is historical, evolving from the work of philosophers (not lawyers!) Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke.

      A social contract is unlike a legal or binding contract in law.

      A social contract is a good faith offer, a pledge, and a promise to voluntarily comport oneself in a specified way (e.g. non-rude, non-obnoxious) in the hopes (not legal requirement or expectation!) that others will voluntarily join in that practice. It also signals the kind of behavior the protagonist would take exception to if he or she were on the receiving end of the undesirable (e.g. rude or obnoxious) behavior that one is voluntarily promising to eschew.

      No one is obliged to make any such voluntary, good faith offer, pledge, or promise, as it would be logically impossible to compel someone, against their will, to voluntarily promise to comport themselves in a prescribed way.

      What a social contract does is provide a way for those who wish to comport themselves in a manner they wish others would reciprocate, to spell out in advance their personal ethic, in the hopes that it establishes a model for others to voluntarily adopt of their own free will.

      While it would be convenient if everyone signed identically worded social contracts, that's not an absolute requirement. I could publish my own personal pledge with idiosyncratic wording that others would find too challenging (or too silly) to go along with on their side.

      One can also "publish" the Null Social Contract, which tacitly means "I'm not promising a goddamned thing to youse guise. So there. Deal with it. (Neener, neener.)"

      All I would do with a Null Social Contract is make note of the fact that Joe "Troll" Schmoe has "published" the Null Social Contract as his (empty) Declaration of Personal Integrity.
    • David Lynn Smith I agree with your evaluation Nathan. Often people who believe they are being purely logical and rational are not. As I said, he is deeply invested in some things and investment effects reason. But, as you indicate, the concern is not so much any individual.
      Just yesterday I saw an interesting column by Thomas Sowell. It dealt with regional effects on the advancement of populations. I thought it would be interesting to discuss, but did not bring it here for fear of ‘starting something’.
    • Loren Hogan Barry, rules won't work if people ignore them, but unless everyone adopts pretty much the same form of Social Contract, it won’t do us much good to go with that instead of rules. A few people promising nothing could deliberately cause trouble. Expulsion from the group would solve that, but expelling people from the group or having others leave because of their behavior is exactly what we're trying to avoid.
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck I refer to my previous taking off the shoes when you visit analogy. It sounds all very fine and dandy with informal rules and a culture developing by itself. But if you communicate the expectations from the beginning, be they semantic rules or values and beliefs, it will give a newcomer a sense of comfort and security. Paraphrasing Loren; so they don't run away screaming when it goes wrong. And it will go wrong, always does. If they're told before hand it's not acceptable behaviour, they might feel secure enough to stay. And never forget that it is an international community, from all walks of life. What may be obvious "good behaviour" for you, might not be for another
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck And something I've been wanting to say for days, but hesitated to; to me, "informal rules" or "unwritten code" are oxymorons. They aren't informal when we're all taught the same as children. A culture developing itself without documented rules of conducts? Then why are there so many Bibles and books of law?
    • Todd Bredbeck I think "informal" and "unwritten" refers more to the desire to not have rigid rules, like a constitution with bylaws, etc. I think what we're kind of heading towards here, if I may, is a paragraph or short list of what is expected of people here.

      I'm getting a bit lost in the definitions on this thread though, so maybe I've missed it.

      The fact that this is an international group does, I agree, bear repeating and consideration in how the rules are written.
    • Víctor Sánchez What I meant on previous posts was what David Bergman said above, and I was not trying to rationalize anything. There seems to be data collected around a given issue, let's say the alleged black-white gap in X (be it IQ, crime rate, SES or whatever). Or, at least for me more interesting, the men-women differences in Y (IQ, personality...). And we should be able IMO to discuss that in a unpassionate manner, without unnecessary feelings of being attacked nor unnecessary statements that could make other feels uncomfortable. We should be able to discuss possible systematic bias, explanatory theories or whatever. And if someone makes objective comments that we could categorize as white supremacist, racist or anything the moderators could easily remind him/her that whites are still behind some asians and a full standard deviation from northeuropean jewry (I've always find funny that white racist, although near always racist with blacks and jews, focus only on their superiority over blacks but not in their inferiority relative to jews) and delete him from this group. Quickly. And regarding Bob Williams this is his usual style, everything he writes is full of references, is not something he only did recently. Truth is I like to read his papers (I know him for the blog of Dr. Jouve, Michael Chew and Bob Williams), I found them very informative (btw I recommend you "the evolution of human intelligence") although it does not mean I take it as pure truths given that I am no specialist in the matter. I know that mainly for our americans friends it is a very very delicate issue, and any care with that is not enough.
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck The problem with expecting moderators to delete the offending party quickly, is that when it gets heated, it may get superhot in a flash. I was following the thread in real time, and before I even could step in, there were insulting posts that could be off-putting to others not even involved and Jacinda had decided to leave (actually Jacinda's post that she was leaving was written at the exact same time I wrote for them to stop it)
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck Which is why taking proactive measures, even if they don't work in 100% of the cases, has merit over only sitting back and doing things reactively
    • Barry Kort "Barry, rules won't work if people ignore them, but unless everyone adopts pretty much the same form of Social Contract, it won’t do us much good to go with that instead of rules. A few people promising nothing could deliberately cause trouble. Expulsion from the group would solve that, but expelling people from the group or having others leave because of their behavior is exactly what we're trying to avoid." ~Loren Hogan

      Loren, I am not familiar with the concept of a Rules-Based Social Contract, as such an imaginary beast could not logically exist.

      The form of a social contract is a declaration in which the parties signify their intent, expressly spelling out how they propose to treat their fellow participants in an Intentional Community.

      If a few people expressly promise nothing, then one can plausibly anticipate their participation will cause unwanted drama.

      If you like, I can direct you to a model of the kind of drama one could anticipate from those who eschew the concept of a social contract and pointedly or adamantly decline to adopt one.
    • Guillermo Lande I just don't get the purpose of social contracts in a non-work environment (where no compensation is provided to anybody). The only thing I would promise in a non-work environment is to be honest and myself which happens to include doing my best to understand people and exchange ideas. What is the purpose of conformity in an intellectual environment. Would that not be anti-intellectual?
    • Víctor Sánchez You are right Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck. But at least we'll remove bad grass in a day or two and won't have an endless discussion about if someone must leave or not. That said, I must remark that this recent issue and one I remember that happened a few months ago does not deserve an overreaction, they were more or less "light". However, and bearing in mind what Fred Britton said (although I think the odds are lower given the double non aleatory preselection of the members of this group), voting an algorithm for potential cases is not redundant. I would vote "no" for written rules. I think that a +3 sigma person that our moderators choose to become a member knows perfectly what and mainly how he can say. I do not like redundancy, and I even find it a little bit unaesthetic. However, I won't vote since my participation here is testimonial.
    • Barry Kort Guillermo, the purpose is to enable others to discover how you would like to be treated. At this moment, I honestly don't have much of a clue how you would like to be treated, except that I now glean that you would like me to be honest with you, and do my best to understand you. And I can honestly say that I'd be thrilled to exchange ideas with you. That is, I would like to meet you on mutually agreeable, mutually beneficial, and mutually enjoyable terms. I hope you would understand and be amenable to that express intent of mine.
    • Guillermo Lande Hi, Barry. Aren't you and I doing a good job without a social contract? I understand what a social contract is now due to the several explanations, but I don't understand "why" someone would enter into a social contract for a social situation. Isn't the point of interaction to interact with the real person, and if you don't like them to decide not to interact with them? If people are faking their behavior, you're not getting the real person and hence not their real intellectual ideas. I realize I'm by nature an individualist, a humanist and the nadir of a pack animal, but it just seems anti-intellectual to ask people to change their behavior when you want to exchange ideas socially.
    • Fred Britton I'd like to say a bit about the incident which led to this discussion.

      First of all, some comments about Bob's posts. I am familiar with much of the literature on the research on intelligence which Bob cited to support his position, having followed it off and on for over 40 years. In recent years, Bob is more familiar with many specific papers than I am. I am in broad agreement with the central theoretical positions and theoretical finding of this literature, as they have been outlined by Bob. Where I would differ from him would be more at the level of details and precise application.

      Now, why did Bob's presentation of what he, and several others in this thread, it seems, take to be a serious body of evidence for a particular view of differences in intelligence?

      Well, several people have mentioned Bob's style of presentation and interaction. I am inclined to the view that this element was more important than the actual information presented in leading to what happened.

      Bob's style of discussion on controversial issues is to present papers and statistics, and he does this on most of the topics on which he engages, not just intelligence. So far so good. If you challenge his claims, he will ask for statistics and papers which support your claims in the same way as he sees what he has cited as supporting his claims.

      This style of argument we could term academic, because it's the style used when people duke it out in academic journals and at academic conferences. It can be a little intimidating in a nonacademic venue, because it can take many hours to amass a similar battalion of papers supporting a different point of view, even assuming there is such out there. Again, so far so good, However, at this point, what if someone says, "Here's the evidence for my claims, 15 papers. Where are your 15 papers?. Oh, you don't have any? Well, I guess that settles the matter: I win!"? Now, we may be on the way to having a problem.

      Most of us have likely been in the position of having a great deal of specialized knowledge in a given domain, and experienced the frustration of trying to convey points to people who may be little acquainted with that domain. Point after point will be raised by the other side in a discussion, the answers to which are often available in the specialized literature with which your interlocutors are largely unfamiliar. What to do?

      I have more, but am going to take a break right now. My idea is to finish describing what I think happened, and why. Then to try to figure what lessons may be drawn from this as to how we can reduce the chances of discussions getting out of hand in the future.
    • Todd Bredbeck Guillermo - I would argue you and Barry are in fact using an implicit Social Contract.
    • David Bergman If one indeed needs a written social contract for proper social interactions, one is bound not to follow it...
    • Nathan Bar-Fields ^History has indicated as much.
    • David Lynn Smith One of the arguments our Founders had against a Bill of Rights is that the Government would interpret it as authorization to do anything not specifically forbidden. That prediction has pretty much proven true. The same seems to apply to individuals. Whatever rules or contract, I would say leave much discretion in the hands of the Moderators or Board or Council or whatever you call it to go beyond rules and decide that someone is more trouble than they are worth.
    • Barry Kort Guillermo, it might not be obvious to you, but you and I are engaged in the process of negotiating and constructing a social contract. The problem for me is that I am having to do an extraordinary amount of work to discover how you would like to be treated.

      If you had a smidgen of compassion for this aging and exhausted correspondent, you'd relieve me of all this burdensome work simply by frankly disclosing how you'd like to be treated so I wouldn't have to do so much work to try to piece it together from the scattered clues.
    • Barry Kort David, I don't understand your point. If I sign a declaration spelling out how I intend to treat you, and if I am honestly disclosing to you the parameters of my personal integrity, how I can I depart from my authentic character?
    • David Lynn Smith Well, because people are not honest with themselves. Much less with others.
      O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!
    • David Lynn Smith People honestly believe they are the epitome of reason and manners, while they are trodding on every toe in sight.
    • Barry Kort Am I trodding on your toes?
    • Barry Kort Can someone point to the passage of text where I trespassed?
    • Todd Bredbeck Nope. Don't think you did.
    • Barry Kort Well, that's a relief.
    • Todd Bredbeck But that's only my take. For all I know you've started a multigenerational grudge match with everyone else.

      Part of my contract is that you not take me very seriously. Unless I'm being serious.
    • David Lynn Smith Oh no. My toes feel fine thanks I was speaking pure theory. For example that aforementioned individual. I feel confident he saw no offence on his part. Nor intended any. Well. Perhaps at the end as tempers were already high.
    • Barry Kort OK. So you have a working hypothesis on the table.

      So far so good.

      Here is the first question any good scientist would ask at this point: Have you falsified the Null Hypothesis? If so, how?
    • Todd Bredbeck Is this to DLS or me?
    • Barry Kort DLS is the one positing a theory. His theory would be the Working Hypothesis, to be contrasted against the Null Hypothesis (which must be falsified so as to eliminate it from the race).
    • David Bergman Oh, noes, another engineer!
    • Barry Kort Full Disclosure: I am an educator from STEM to stern. Except that I'm not a particularly stern educator.
    • David Bergman Don't get me wrong, Barry Kort; I am all for null-hypothesizing and am intrigued on the Null Hypothesis approach/methodology as it relates to Closed World Assumption and Constructive Mathematics (and the lack of RAA therein); just thought it was a bit funny that "engineering talk" entered in this specific thread. Sorry.
    • Barry Kort Given that I'm a Systems Theory guy, I tend to contribute from my strengths in the STEM disciplines.
    • David Bergman My own little disclosure (since you and I are just settling some informal social contract ): I am an obsessive scientist --- and happen to enjoy Systems Theory --- since the age of 8; not before, when I basically drooled around, quite Neanderthal-like. I do try to stay anti-Spockish though, except for when entering discussions about formalisms (including parts of Systems Theory); so I will avoid those discussions...
    • Barry Kort Fascinating.

      The following appears on page 93 of Rosalind Picard's 1997 book, Affective Computing, in Chapter 3, Applications of Affective Computing:
    • David Bergman Very nice! I might leach on you for some further insights in to those areas, if that is alright. Well, I might do it anyway Thanks for being here.
    • Barry Kort My material goes pretty deep. You could plumb the depths for months on end.
    • David Lynn Smith Well, in the spirit of disclosure. In social science matters I regard formal rules whether of theory or of application, much like the Pirate’s Code. More like guidelines. Occam’s razor ne’er shaved the barber, it is much too dull.” My “theoretical”...See More
    • Guillermo Lande Barry, with regard to: “If you had a smidgen of compassion for this aging and exhausted correspondent, you'd relieve me of all this burdensome work simply by frankly disclosing how you'd like to be treated so I wouldn't have to do so much work to try t...See More
    • Barry Kort I confess that my eyes are now bleeding.

      "I’m sorry you are frustrated arguing with me." ~Guillermo Lande

      I exited the Argument Culture more than a decade ago, Guillermo. I no longer found it to be the kind of culture I cared to dwell in. Can you app
      ...See More
    • Barry Kort "My 'theoretical' suggestion is that someone will come along who obeys whatever rules or contracts you erect to the letter of the law. And you will find you do not want them here. Human perversity is too vast and diverse to be constrained by written ru...See More
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck By argument then I assume you're referring to the Bohm definition of discussion and debate?
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck I'm feeling we're getting way to detailed and nit-picky semantic for the purpose
    • Barry Kort I am not familiar with the Bohm definition of discussion and debate.

      What is your understanding of the Bohm definition of discussion and debate?
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck That it has a predefined goal, and ends with a group approved conclusion
    • Barry Kort Is Volant organized to solve a specific problem calling for an agreed-upon conclusion or decision? If so, what is the issue to be resolved in this convocation?
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck Currently it isn't, but the plan is to get there. Selling think tank services on the new web site. The point now is to make sure that we can work together as a team. We need to avoid antagonistic situations that hinder teamwork
    • Guillermo Lande Hi, Barry. I do not think you and I have the same definition of argument, by the way. What you think of an argument I think of as a fight (someone trying to "win" in a conflict). What I think of an argument is where people simply put opposing contentio...See More
    • Todd Bredbeck Maybe now I should clarify the "broad concepts" option in the initial poll. It would have statements along the lines of "don't be an ass". I'm not sure which philosophical school of debate definitions that would belong to.
    • Barry Kort An argument (or more formally, a debate) is when two or more individuals each adopt disparate theses and undertake to defend them (and perhaps convince an audience their argument is the winning one). There is typically no effort to reach common ground...See More
    • Barry Kort Guillermo, when I drone on with exposition of technical theory, most people's eyes will glaze over. If I cruelly strap them into a chair and prop their eyelids open, as was done when the "Ludovico Technique" was being administered to Alex in "A Clockwork Orange," their eyes won't merely glaze over, they will understandably start to bleed.

      A Clockwork Orange Film 1971 (Two-Disc Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Book Packagin...g) Buy from Amazon Description A Clockwork Orange film is written, directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick. It is adapted from Anthony Burgess' 1962 short novel A Clockwork Orange. The film stars Malcolm McDowell as the...See More
    • Guillermo Lande Hi, Barry. Be careful limiting yourself to any testable system model for understanding the world and humanity. Nathan recently mentioned his former university is studying the "science" of forgiveness. I'm okay with scientists who have no real understa...See More
    • Barry Kort I have a five-stage model for recovering from an encounter with an abusive person:

      1. Survive Them.

      2. Surpass Them.
      ...See More
    • Guillermo Lande Does life require we follow sage advice, Barry? We can get data and suggestions and more from anywhere including sage people, but recovering people don't need higher powers. The concept that we need higher powers one of the fallacies of our society. We are built with our own mechanisms for healing.

      [edit for clarity]
    • Steve Andersen I have a one stage model for recovering from an encounter with an abusive person: Fuck 'em. If you have to go looking for models and formulas and ordered steps to get through life, you'll miss most of it.
    • David Bergman Steve Andersen: so, that was Barry's stage two then...
    • Barry Kort Life doesn't even require listening or thinking. It's an available option, but it's not compulsory.
    • Steve Andersen Those of us who are able to trust our subconscious decisions, our intuition
      if you will, don't need to wade through conscious processing of options in response to all that we encounter.
      14 hours ago via · Like · 2
    • Guillermo Lande I consciously pre-program my subconscious, so that when I think subconsciously it's already a simple extrapolation of the pre-considered conscious. It's much like what divers do: you practice consciously so that you can do it reflexively.
    • Barry Kort "Is Volant organized to solve a specific problem calling for an agreed-upon conclusion or decision? If so, what is the issue to be resolved in this convocation?" ~Barry Kort

      "Currently it isn't, but the plan is to get there. Selling think tank servic
      ...See More
    • Guillermo Lande *Chuckles* Daniel is correct. Nathan's trying to turn this into an official think tank. I don't know the specifics (I don't think they were mentioned yet).
    • David Bergman I think by "plan," Daniel meant "hope and some somewhat communicated direction." I like formalism, in the right context, but am not a big fan of feeling like I have to defend a case when doing social chit-chat, even amongst reasonably smart folks
    • Steve Andersen Guillermo - That's a good trick, beyond the capability of most, I should think.
      14 hours ago via · Like · 1
    • Steve Andersen Barry - I don't think there is a published plan; a mentioned plan is perhaps a better characterization.
    • David Bergman So the slightly implicit plan is then to go from fish tank to think tank.
    • Julia Cybele Lansberry Cephalopods welcome!
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck There is no detailed and official project plan or business plan as such yet, no. It is an idea and an ultimate goal we want to strive for - one step at a time
    • Todd Bredbeck So 121 comments later, in addition to Nth's first thread, I see......... little to no real consensus. Somebody else write something and start a new thread.
    • Julia Cybele Lansberry I request as a Moderator, that we table discussion on this thread as it's becoming an endless loop... give a breathing space for perusal.
    • Barry Kort Well, golly. If there is an undisclosed Mission or Vision, it sure would be nice of the Visionaries and Missionaries would be kind enough to disclose it to the rest of us.
    • Nathan Bar-Fields Both are pretty much outlined in the group description, Barry. Now just to make it closer to reality. Thankfully, all of the points have been made--many of them more than once (as Julia hinted to)--and it looks like we have enough info to go from here. Just processing it all...
    • Barry Kort What group discussion, Nathan?

      At 3:33PM on April 4th, I asked you, "Do you have a written Social Contract, or at least a tacit one that has emerged from meta-conversations about community norms and self-governance?"

      And the answer was: [There was no answer.]
    • Barry Kort The result of this conversation is something that sounds a whole lot like Beethoven's Great Fugue of 1827, Opus 133.

      Ludwig van Beethoven's Große Fuge (Great Fugue), opus 133, accompanied by an ani...mated score. FAQ Q: Where can I get free sheet music for this piece? A: You c...See More
    • Dave Stubbs you mean it was soothing?
    • Barry Kort Have you listened to that fugue?
    • Barry Kort I understand that the kind of music one likes sounds like it's half way to heaven from one's personal hell.
    • Dave Stubbs It appears you missed my irony, as I was rather pondering on the interesting fact that no matter how elegant you make an insult, it doesn't change what it is... <wink>
    • Barry Kort I agree that this conversation has been insulting as hell.
    • David Bergman Barry Kort: this just shows how right on I was with my (then...) tongue-in-cheek comment that those who need formal social contracts will inevitably break them; I thought you were the expert on virtual social contracts, but that has not exactly shined through in these last few threads. You can shrug at this comment, but there might be few left here in a few weeks to listen to the insights you could bring to us mere "social interaction mortals."
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck Barry, as far as I remember, you did get an answer to your question, to look on the About page. Someone (I think it was Steve) also posted excerpts of it. Here it is again: '... we're currently the optimal combination of insightful, active, and friendl...See More
    • Daniel Magnus Bennét Björck And as mentioned the think tank desire is also there: 'Volant aims to evolve into an organization for 3-sigma adults ... And truly outstanding members from all of these groups will be invited to join a crowdsourcing platform and think-tank called Hard Problems Club (for the social club part) and Hard Problems Consulting (the actual think-tank for hire).'
    • Barry Kort David, may I ask you a question?

      How can you tell, one way or another, when I adapt to your example, and inject a tongue-in-cheek comment to discover how others react to that occasional practice?
    • Barry Kort The Snark Was Boojum, You See.

      "Brief Description: Volant aims to evolve into an organization for 3-sigma adults, similar to how the Davidson Institute is an organization for 3-sigma kids. People don't mind putting Davidson on their resume; they ofte
      ...See More
    • Barry Kort "Since becoming Volant, the group’s admission requirements for new members have become much more formal. You do have to actually prove the minimal 3-sigma IQ of 145. It can no longer be inferred."

      There is a formal rule for admission?!?

      Now that's od
      ...See More
    • Barry Kort "And truly outstanding members from all of these groups will be invited to join a crowd-sourcing platform and think-tank called Hard Problems Club (for the social club part) and Hard Problems Consulting (the actual think-tank for hire)."

      By Hard Problems, do you mean hard problems like these:

      I hope he's made some progress singling out what dimension of his behavior peopl...e are reacting negatively to, and what their reaction is, in more specific terms. My guess is that they are 'baffled' by him and don't quite know how to react.See More
  • It seems to me that generally people think that less intelligent people are more likely to be passionate, throwing temper tantrums, while more intelligent people restrain themselves, keeping a cool head and thinking things through with an open mind. Is that true?
    Like · · Follow Post · 4 hours ago near Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Hubble captures view of “Mystic Mountain”

    This craggy fantasy mountaintop enshr...ouded by wispy clouds looks like a bizarre landscape from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, which is even more dramatic than fiction, captures the chaotic activity atop a pillar of gas and dust, three light-years tall, which is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being assaulted from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks.

    This turbulent cosmic pinnacle lies within a tempestuous stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula, located 7500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina. The image celebrates the 20th anniversary of Hubble's launch and deployment into an orbit around the Earth.

    Scorching radiation and fast winds (streams of charged particles) from super-hot newborn stars in the nebula are shaping and compressing the pillar, causing new stars to form within it. Streamers of hot ionised gas can be seen flowing off the ridges of the structure, and wispy veils of gas and dust, illuminated by starlight, float around its towering peaks. The denser parts of the pillar are resisting being eroded by radiation.

    Nestled inside this dense mountain are fledgling stars. Long streamers of gas can be seen shooting in opposite directions from the pedestal at the top of the image. Another pair of jets is visible at another peak near the centre of the image. These jets, (known as HH 901 and HH 902, respectively, are signposts for new star birth and are launched by swirling gas and dust discs around the young stars, which allow material to slowly accrete onto the stellar surfaces.

    Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 observed the pillar on 1-2 February 2010. The colours in this composite image correspond to the glow of oxygen (blue), hydrogen and nitrogen (green), and sulphur (red).


    NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

    See More
  • I saw this on facebook today - "There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance" - Socrates.

    Far be it for me to question the great Socrates, but that seems wrong. History is awash with very knowledgeable evil people, and I'm sure I've met a few. Do you agree, or do you have an alternative explanation?
    • Steve Smith Good is usually the benefit of others, although the scope of which others, varies; and the lives that are sacrificed for them varies. For instance, hitler tried to restore his country's pride by invading the countries who took ww1 reparations which wer...See More
    • Steve Smith Empathy has been suggested as a way of defining goodness, but empathy can be very selective. Who or what you empathise with, and to what depth, determines your allegiances and potential enemies.