Monday, December 29, 2008

Investigation into the claims of Braingym

In this BBC Newsnight investigation and interview, Jeremy Paxman (brother of the British ambassador to Mexico) looks into and questions the claims of Braingym:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Brain Gym Exercises

Brain Gym is a commercial training program that claims that any learning challenges can be overcome by finding the right movements, the use of which will create new pathways in the brain. They claim that the repetition of the 26 Brain Gym movements "activates the brain for optimal storage and retrieval of information." Its theoretical foundation has been discredited by the scientific community, who describe it as pseudoscience. Peer reviewed scientific studies into Brain Gym have found no significant improvement in general academic skills. Its claimed results have been put down to the placebo effect and the benefits of breaks and exercise. Its founder, Paul Dennison, has admitted that many of Brain Gym's claims are not based on good science, but on his "hunches". It is widely used in British state schools. It is also offered to both children and adults in parts of the United States and Canada.

Have a look at this video and try the exercises to make up your own mind:

Invalid Reasoning

Follow the link below to download a document which explains invalid ("fallacious") reasoning. Use them to attack the arguments of somebody you disagree with. The link takes you to another site. Scroll down and click on the orange download button. Avoid the other links on this site as they take you to some advertising.

Invalid reasoning

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Prescribed Essay Titles 2009-2010

Your essay will be marked according to the assessment criteria in the theory of knowledge guide. Remember to centre your essay on knowledge issues and refer where possible to other sections of your course to illustrate your experiences as a knower and a critical thinker. Always justify your statements and provide relevant examples to illustrate your arguments, remembering to include ideas of counter points of view. Remember to properly cite any external sources (use the Harvard System).

Statements in quotations should be analysed, but it is not necessary to research their context. Respond to the exact title, do not change it in any way. Your essay must be between 1200 and 1600 words in length.

1. To what extent is truth different in mathematics, the arts and ethics?

2. Examine the ways empirical evidence should be used to make progress in different areas of knowledge.

3. Discuss the strengths and limitations of quantitative and qualitative data in supporting knowledge claims in the human sciences and at least one other area of knowledge.

4. How can the different ways of knowing help us to distinguish between something that is true and something that is believed to be true?

5. "What separates science from all other human activities is its belief in the provisional nature of all conclusions" (Michael Shermer, Critically evaluate this way of distinguishing the sciences from other areas of knowledge.

6. All knowledge claims should be open to rational critisism. On what grounds and to what extent would you agree with this assertion?

7. "We see and understand things not as they are but as we are." Discuss this claim in relation to at least two ways of knowing.

8. "People need to believe that order can be glimpsed in the chaos of events" (adapted from John Gray, Heresies, 2004). In what ways and to what extent would you say this claim is relevant in at least teo areas of knowledge?

9. Discuss the claim that some areas of knowledge are discovered and some are invented.

10. What similarities and differences are there between historical and scientific explanations?

and, in my best Spanish:

1. ¿En qué medida es diferente la verdad en las matemáticas, las artes y la ética?

2. Examine los modos en que deben utilizarse las pruebas empíricas para progresar en distintas áreas de conocimiento.

3. Discuta las ventajas y las limitaciones de los datos cuantitativos y los datos cualitativos para sustentar las afirmaciones de conocimiento en las ciencias humanas y en, al menos, otra área de conocimiento.

4. ¿Cómo pueden las distintas formas de conocimiento ayudarnos a distinguir entre algo que es verdad y algo que se cree que es verdad?

5. “Lo que distingue a la ciencia de todas las demás actividades humanas es que cree que todas las conclusiones son provisionales.” (Michael Shermer, Evalúe críticamente esta forma de diferenciar la ciencia de otras áreas de conocimiento.

6. Todas las afirmaciones de conocimiento deben estar abiertas a la crítica racional. ¿Por qué razones y en qué medida está de acuerdo con esta afirmación?

7. “Vemos y entendemos las cosas tal como somos, no tal como son.” Discuta esta afirmación en relación con al menos dos formas de conocimiento.

8. “Las personas necesitan creer que, entre el caos de los acontecimientos, es posible atisbar un orden.” (Adaptado de John Gray, Contra el progreso y otras ilusiones, 2004) ¿Cómo y en qué medida diría que esta afirmación es pertinente en al menos dos áreas de conocimiento?

9. Discuta la afirmación de que algunas áreas de conocimiento son descubiertas y otras inventadas.

10. ¿Qué semejanzas y diferencias hay entre las explicaciones históricas y las científicas?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Art of Nothing

"The Art of Nothing" is a mini-documentary about the work of artist Hans Freeberling. It showcases his 2001 exhibition. This consisted of an empty room with whitewashed walls. Is this great art or an elaborate joke to see how far an artist can push the idea of conceptual art? Can some critics be blind to the criteria which are required to make something a piece of art?

Monday, December 8, 2008

The art critic

In this clip a great art critic shares his ideas about his work:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Shark at the Met

Damien Hirst's Tiger Shark #2 (titled "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living") was recently moved to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Opinion of its artistic merits are divided, especially since Hirst had a new shark preserved by professional taxidermists in 2006 after the original piece of work (Tiger Shark #1) started to go rotton. Art collector Charles Saatchi comissioned the original piece in 1991. The shark itself cost Hirst £6000 and the total cost of the work was £50 000. The shark was caught by a fisherman commissioned to do so, in Australia. Saatchi sold the original piece in 2004 for 12 million dollars (not a bad investment). This made it the second highest price paid in history for the work of a living artist.

Hirst's usual response to those who say that anyone could have done this artwork is, "But you didn't, did you?".

My question is: is it possible to defend this work as a piece of art while you would presumably be unable to do so for my Granny's old stuffed cat? After all both of them are just dead animals prepared by professional taxidermists.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Arnold Schoenberg (13 September 1874 – 13 July 1951) was an Austrian and later American composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art. He was known for his pioneering innovations in atonality—during the rise of the Nazi party in Austria, his music was labeled, alongside swing and jazz, as degenerate art. Have a listen, and make your own mind up about some of his music. This is one of the more accessible pieces, "transfigured night".

Monday, December 1, 2008

An example of flawed reason

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quantum Mechanics - The Bell Experiment

This cartoon shows the basis of the Bell Experiment - which showed that the act of observation may influence the action of an electron:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cultural Week November 2008

And now it's time for a look at your work in the gallery....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Is this Art?

Helvetica A documentary film by Gary Hustwit

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Do you have a male or female brain?

Follow this link and do a test to find out how male or female your brain is (the test just takes a few minutes):

What sex is my brain?

Are you convinced that your sex affects the way you perceive things?

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Homunculus

If the concentration of touch receptors on your skin and therefore the relative volume of the brain devoted to them determined how big the different parts of your body is, you would look something like this (it is called a homunculus):

Plato's Cave

This is an animation which shows the Allegory of the Cave from Plato's Republic. Its a bit dated now - but it does feature the voice of Orson Welles, which is never a bad thing.

The movie The Matrix is really a rip-off of Plato's allegory. Take a look at this clip which compares the two stories:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What you need to achieve to pass your IB

  1. At least three subjects must be completed at Higher Level (HL) and three at Standard Level (SL).
  2. Should four subjects be completed at HL then only two need be completed at SL.
  3. All six subjects must have been awarded a numerical grade higher than 1, with a minimum total score of 24.
  4. The CAS requirement of 150 hours must have been completed.
  5. The Extended Essay and TOK course must have been completed and essays submitted.
    Additionally a grade D or better must have been awarded in either the Extended Essay or TOK.
  6. If the overall score is 24-27, there is no grade 2 at HL and not more than one grade 2 at SL; if the overall score is greater than or equal to 28, not more than one grade 2 at HL and no more than two grades 2 at SL; altogether, there are no more than three grades 3 or below.
  7. At least 12 points (12 for overall score 24-27; 16 if four HL subjects are taken) must have been gained on HL subjects, and 9/8 (6/5 if only two SL subjects are taken) on SL subjects.
  8. The final award committee has not judged the candidate to be guilty of malpractice.
  9. A minimum amount of hours must be achieved per year by students in order to pass. If an excessive amount of hours are missed, they may have to resit the year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

When Louis Theroux met Korton

In his weird weekends series for the BBC, presenter Louis Theroux meets Reverend Shaw - a man who believes he can channel the thoughts of an alien named Korton.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Test your memory

Explore your memory with this test designed by a professor at the University of Edinburgh. This is taken from the BBC science website.

Memory test

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Advice on writing a good TOK essay

1. Write an introduction in which you address the question and put it into your own words.

2. State your own position with regard to the question.

3. Identify at least one counter argument (do this through the 'ways of knowing' and/or the 'areas of knowledge')

4. Return to and discuss your original position in light of your discussion during the essay

5. State your conclusions.

Orson Welles talks about "War of the Worlds"

Monday, September 22, 2008

How to conduct a séance

Instuctions from

1. Assemble the participants. Gather the people who will participate. Some say the number of participants must be divisible by three. But this does not seem to be an absolute rule. No fewer than three people should attempt a séance.

2. Choose a medium. You might want to choose a medium among the participants. This could be a person who has had experience with séances or someone who tends to have psychic abilities.

3. Use a round or oval table. This helps create the symbolic circle believed necessary for the ritual.

3.Set the table. In the center of the table, place some kind of simple, natural aromatic food, such as bread or soup. This is believed to help attract the spirits who still seek physical nourishment.

4. Light candles. Also in the center of the table, place no fewer than three candles (or a number divisible by three) lit candles; the more candles, the better. Spirits still seek warmth and light.

5. Create some atmosphere. Dim the lights and eliminate any distractions, such as music and television.

6. Join hands. Seated around the table, the participants must all join hands in a circle.

7. Summon the spirit. The participants must speak these words together: "Our beloved [name of spirit], we bring you gifts from life into death. Commune with us, (name of spirit), and move among us."

8. Wait for a response. If none comes, repeat the chant until the spirit responds.
Communicate. If and when the spirit responds -- either by rapping or some other means, or through the medium - ask your questions.

9. Begin simply. Ask yes and no questions at first -- one rap for no, two raps for yes, for example.

10. Communicate directly. If a spirit chooses to speak through the medium, you may ask any kind of question.

11. Maintain control. If the séance seems to be getting out of hand, end the séance by breaking the circle of hands, extinguishing the candles and turning on the lights.
End the séance. When you're done with your questioning, thank the spirit for joining you and tell them to go in peace. Break the circle of hands and extinguish the candles.

Don't allow participants who you don't think could handle a séance psychologically. Children, for example, must never participate.
What You Need:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Knowledge and Belief

Essay titles September 2008

“If the frog tells you that the crocodile is dead, do not doubt it.” What might this Ghanaian proverb suggest about who it is that provides the justification for a knowledge claim?

Does knowledge come from inside or outside?

What is the difference between “believe that” and “believe in”?

What is the difference between belief and knowledge?

Top 10 tips for writing a good TOK essay

top 10 tips

Friday, September 5, 2008


Take a look at these pictures and think about what they tell you about your own perception

Known knowns

"The message is:

That there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don't know. And each year we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns".

Donald Rumsfeld Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Knowledge Issues

Try to list as many knowledge issues as you can in these cartoons

Tuesday, September 2, 2008