Theology, philosophy, math, science, and random other things

A record of the total solar eclipse on 2024-04-08

Everyone who has actually seen totality is unanimous in how awesome it was. None of them even use any kind of reserved or qualifying language: nobody says that it was "kinda nice", or "pretty cool", or "quite pretty". No, their descriptions are always in the superlative form: "incredible phenomenon", "so beautiful", "10/10", "absolutely amazing". One man actually described today's eclipse in such terms to me, then only afterwards mentioned - almost in passing - that he had proposed to his girlfriend during totality.

Impressions from my trip to Ukraine during the war

(All the pictures in this post can be seen at their full resolution here, and my post about the whole trip in a larger context, including Norway and Moldova, can be found here.) So, how did I end up going to Ukraine during the war? I assure you this was initially not my own idea, […]

What do we want? Reflections on AI and morality

Essentially, these AIs solve all kinds of "how" problems for us. We now know how to play a good game of chess or go, how to reply to any text prompt, and how to create an image from just a text description. This leaves us with the "what" problem. What do we want? What do we value? This is a hard question. Can an AI answer it for us? No, I don't think so. At least not any of the AIs as we have them today. Remember, the fundamental function of all the AIs we've discussed is to take in data, and give us what we said we wanted. So it seems that there's some kind of bootstrapping step missing, in that we have to give the AI "what we want" as an input, but expect "what we REALLY want" as an output.

A record of the total solar eclipse on 2023-04-20

I chose to observe this eclipse from Australia. I'd considered Indonesia and East Timor, but eventually decided against them: Australia had better weather for the eclipse, I could cross it off from the list of continents, and I wanted to keep the trip in English. So my plan was to observe it in Exmouth - a small town in the northwest corner of Australia. Then I threw in the Philippines as another English-speaking country in the area that I had heard good things about.

A moral evaluation of abortion

Roe v. Wade was recently overturned. I think this is an opportune time to organize and express my thoughts on abortion. This is my honest attempt to understand the issue. I chose to tackle a controversial topic, take an unpopular position, then moderate it with nuance. I have no illusions about any benefits or harms I may acquire as a result. My only defense is that this is what I really think, after a genuine attempt to get as close as I can to the truth.

A record of the total solar eclipse on 2021-12-04, in Antarctica

Unfortunately, the best pictures I have of totality are poorly lit and out of focus, and of course we couldn't see the eclipse itself. This isn't what I wanted. It's not what I would have chosen. But it was still beautiful and magical in its own way, in its darkness and flaws. I've always held that reality, compared to any alternate possibility, has a goodness all its own - simply because it's real.

A record of the total solar eclipse on 2020-12-14

The covid pandemic added a new layer of difficulty to everything. Combined with the other challenges intrinsic to such an endeavor, I felt like everything was fighting me every step of the way. In fact, I initially conceptualized this trip as a sequence overcoming these difficulties: I was going to impose my will upon the world in the face of these challenges, and bring about my intended results. We'll see how that turned out.

The Gospel according to Frozen II (or, why Elsa is Jesus)

At that deepest level - at the very heart of the movie - is the Christ-figure of the story. This is the character we really need to understand to grasp the true essence of the film. For everything about Frozen II - its whole world and plot - is built from the ground up with a singular purpose, to place this Christ-figure character at the very center of the story.

A systematic mythology of the "Frozen" universe

There is a being of great power "behind" or "within" Ahtohallan - someone who possesses an incredible degree of consciousness, intellect, and agency, has clear moral priorities and goals, and is responsible for most of the key plot events in the movie. In other words, "Ahtohallan" is not just a place. It - or the being behind it - is something more like "God".

A record of the total solar eclipse on 2019-07-02

I was at La Serena, Chile for the eclipse on 2019-07-02. Here are some pictures from the trip. This was the view from my room. The beach at La Serena is quite pretty. You see that cross-shaped structure in the distance, which juts out into the skyline? That's the Cruz del Tercer Milenio, in the […]
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