Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Love at no sight

We live in a world where many people are obsessed about the way they look. You might think that blind people would attach little importance to others' looks, especially when it comes to falling in love. Some people might even say that it gives visually impaired people the moral high ground, or a better appreciation of others' personalities. Is a blind person unable to "fall in love at first sight"? Are blind people really as prejudiced as the rest of society when it comes to looks? In this magazine article for the BBC, Damon Rose invesigates perception and love.
And by the way, is it just me, or was Lionel Richie stalking that poor woman? If you are interested in building your own Lionel clay head, I found a nice website about it here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Game of Life

The Game of Life is a computer simulation devised in the 1960's by the British mathematician John Horton Conway. It's a very good example of how a few simple rules can quickly create order out of chaos. The simulation takes place on a 2-dimensional grid divided into cells. Each cell has eight neighbouring cells and can be either "alive" or "dead". The rules which determine it's fate are very simple:

  • If a cell has one or no living neighbours, it will die of loneliness.
  • If it has too many neighbours - four or more - it will die from overcrowding.
  • New cells are "born" whenever an empty square has exactly three living neighbours.

This clip shows a Game of Life Grid in action:

You can create your own grid by going to the website here

In this interview, John Conway gives his thoughts about the Game of Life:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bill Nye the Science Guy discusses... Pseudoscience

Does the media distort Science?

In this article, the Guardian newspaper columnist Ben Goldacre discusses how the work of scientists is distorted (deliberately?) when reported in the media:

Cancer jabs, good or bad?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The history of science

Nicolas, our resident expert on the philosophy of science discusses science history (in Spanish) in an excellent seminar:

Monday, May 11, 2009

More Advice on TOK Assessment

These pages of advice on TOK assessment are from Amy Scott's website. Please visit it for more useful information at

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Your presentation

Please visit this post at the ibtokspot blog for help in designing your presentation:


Understanding Knowledge Issues

Please visit this page at the ibtokspot blog to improve your understanding of knowledge claims and knowledge issues:

Knowledge issues

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Emotion and Language

In 2007 the BBC's flagship current affairs series, Panorama, tried to produce a programme discrediting the Church of Scientolology. They found themselves among the first victims of "video ambushing", in which the people being investigated turn the tables on the journalists. The BBC interviewer, John Sweeney remained remarkably calm as he was followed around by a Scientologist spokesman, Tommy Davis, for six days. However, he eventually lost it in an embarassing outburst. Sweeney was later disciplined by the BBC, and made a public apology. The Church of Scientology produced their own documentary, refuting Sweeney's claim and making him look extremely foolish. The moral is... try to be in control of your emotions before you open your mouth (admittedly sometimes easier said than done).

Here is a link to the whole programme if you are interested in watching it:

Panorama - Scientology and Me

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Example of a fallacy

Interesting developments in the Swine Flu outbreak this week. China and Russia have banned imports of Mexican pork, despite the fact there is no evidence that the virus is passed on through meat products. The Mexican government has complained to the World Trade Organisation as a result.

I saw this quote from Nikolai Vlasov, the Russian chief veterinary inspector:
"We are constantly told that pork is not dangerous. But at the same time, nobody has proved that it is safe."
Why is this a fallacious argument?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Emotion and Reason

When somebody feels very emotional about a particular subject, reason sometimes goes out of the window. BBC journalist Louis Theroux recently visited members of the Westborough Baptist Church in Kansas. They have been called the "most hated family in America" after they started picketing the funerals of American servicemen killed in Iraq, in a protest against the prevalence of homosexuality in the USA. He tried (in his own way) to reason with their leaders (Fred Phelps and Shirley Phelps-Roper) but came away as lost as when he started.

In this second clip Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Pastor Fred Phelps appears on Fox News in order to defend the church - but can you follow her reasoning?

Eugène Ney Terre'Blanche (born January 31, 1941) is a Boer-Afrikaner who founded the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging during the apartheid era in South Africa. Terre'Blanche remains leader of the recently reactivated AWB and continued to push for an Afrikaner state within South Africa (until his death in 2010). In this clip he explains his reasoning to Louis (and obviously frightens the life out of him).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

TOK Presentation Documents

TOK Presentaion Marking Criteria:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Dark Matter

When the Universe was first formed it was completely featureless (just a vast patch of hydrogen gas). Over time (billions of years) the hydrogen gas began to clump together to form the first stars, and these in turn created the elements that would form future stars, planets, nebulae and all the other components of today's Universe. The space between galaxies (clusters of stars) contains hot gas. In fact, this gas is so hot (tens of millions of degrees) that it shines in X-rays instead of visible light. By studying the distribution and temperature of the hot gas we can measure how much it is being squeezed by the force of gravity from all the material around it. This allows scientists to determine how much total material (matter) there is in that part of space.

Remarkably, it turns out there is five times more material in clusters of galaxies than we would expect from the galaxies and hot gas we can see. Most of the stuff in clusters of galaxies is invisible and, since these are the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, scientists then conclude that most of the matter in the entire Universe is invisible. This invisible stuff is called 'dark matter'. There is currently much ongoing research by scientists attempting to discover exactly what this dark matter is, how much there is, and what effect it may have on the future of the Universe as a whole.

Take a look at this documentary about dark matter and whether the search for it really constitutes proper "science".