Conan the Philosopher

From Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian story “Queen of the Black Coast”, some serious philosophy that is applicable to both theories that the universe is a hologram and that some quantum fluctuation could cause all reality to unravel in a moment:

“But what of the worlds beyond the river of death?” she persisted.

“There is no hope here or hereafter in the cult of my people,” answered Conan.

“In this world men struggle and suffer vainly, finding pleasure only in the bright madness of battle; dying, their souls enter a gray misty realm of clouds and icy winds, to wander cheerlessly throughout eternity.”

Bêlit shuddered. “Life, bad as it is, is better than such a destiny. What do you believe, Conan?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. ..Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”

This was effectively condensed into the most famous line in the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Conan the Barbarian:

Mongol General: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?

Conan: Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.

Mongol General: That is good! That is good.

For actual philosophy, check out Peter Adamson’s podcast History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps or the book version, Classical Philosophy: A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, Volume 1 

Lucretius the Epicurean

If you have been following Mike’s Sunday Science Poem series, you know that we are fans of Lucretius. Lucretius was a Roman poet and philosopher in the first century BC. He is famous for his only extant work De Rerum NaturaThe Nature of Things, covering many topics near and dear to the hearts of modern scientists.

I am also a fan of the podcast History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps by Peter Adamson at King’s College London and LMU Munchen. Lucretius was an Epicurean, which is one of the many schools of philosophy covered. It may not be a replacement for studying philosophy in school, but listening to episodes 55-59 (including an episode on Lucretius himself) will help you understand the philosophical paradigm Lucretius was using when he wrote his great poem, especially when you are reading Mike’s series of posts on Lucretius:

Sunday Poem

Sunday Science Poem: The Epicurean Theory of Vision, and Bedwetting in Ancient Rome

Sunday Science Poem: Why You Should Read Lucretius

Lucretius Did Not Believe in Non-Overlapping Magisteria

Lucretius and The Fear of Death

There is Grandeur in Lucretius’ View of Life

Lucretius: Lightning is Not a Means of Divine Communication


Fire action

Next to our elevator is a sign telling you what to do in the case of a “fire”. My favorite step (after Step 1: Read this sign) is Step 3:

3. Attack the fire if possible using appliance provided (DO NOT TAKE RISK). Continue reading “Fire action”

Best letter response. . .EVER

Charles Bennett has a beef with the wording of an article title in Science“At long last, Gravity Probe B satellite proves Einstein right”.

I find myself frequently repeating to students and the public that science doesn’t “prove” theories. Scientific measurements can only disprove theories or be consistent with them.

Instead of going on about the philosophy of science at length, let’s just quote the spot-on quote from their response:

Bennett is completely correct. It’s an important conceptual point, and we blew it.



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