Sunday, March 30, 2008

One Day University

Very enjoyable! A member of the audience rightly called it "mind-expanding." There were four speakers, and I went to the session in Morristown. After the session, I signed up for the next one. Not cheap.

*Walter Sinnott-Armstrong of Dartmouth spoke about neuroscience and brain scans. Can we tell whether people are lying by checking their brains? Perhaps with 95% accuracy--but the whole subject is fraught with ethical questions.*

Paul Bloom of Yale on art--Why do we value the original at millions--and if it's revealed as a good copy, as worthless? Because of associations--the artist painted that. Just as an autograph is more valuable than a photocopy. What about a white sheet of paper that the artist looked at 1500 times? Bloom was justifiably skeptical. (Reminds me of John Cage's 7.5 minutes of silence.)

Richard Freedman of Haverford on music--Among other things, he talked about the wildness of the 3rd movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. (I asked: Why is most music in a minor key sad? Lots of answers, he replied, but in other cultures a minor key doesn't necessarily mean sad music. I myself thought that, in Western culture, lamentations are in a minor key.)

Khalilah Brown-Dean of Yale talked about the prison paradox--how America has more prisoners than other countries, largely because of drug arrests. Convicts aren't entitled to Federal benefits (like subsidized housing), can't get licensed as, say, cosmoloists in various states, and can't vote. But they count as part of the local population when federal subsidies are calculated, so some areas love building new prisons. Prisoners bring in business--restaurants, hotels, shopping, etc. The conviction rate among blacks undermines their families, esp as more women wind up behind bars. A very disturbing talk she gave. I wonder: What's the relationship of this to the fact that so many US soldiers are black?

*I witnessed an accident--motorcycle with 2 passengers was cut off by a dippy female driver of an SUV. In my deposition, I said that the motorcycle was an old-fashioned one, with a passenger seat on the side. Later, I saw a photo: It was a normal motorcycle! How had I been so wrong?
The accident took maybe a minute. The picture embedded in my mind was: The woman passenger flying in the air, to the left of the male driver. I assumed that she was sitting in a chair next to him--instead of that the motorcycle was just turned around toward the right. A shocking mistake--but totally honest. (It had no bearing on the outcome. The lawyers were probably impressed that no one had coached me beforehand.)

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