Sunday, 31 March 2013

What can rugby tell us about the future of football?

A recurring question in discussions of the future of football in light of safety concerns is whether, and how, you can have a "safer" tackling sport. Thoughts generally turn towards rugby--dre did a workshop at FIU in February and this came up during that conversation. Having just watched the Tokyo Sevens rugby tournament, I wonder if the answer is in there somewhere. Without question it is a tough, brutal, physical sport and in all likelihood players are suffering some head trauma, as well as other physical injuries. But rugby seems to involve more tackling and less "big hits" or high-speed/high-impact collisions. Players (especially off the ball) do not get the same running start or head of steam, so they are not moving as fast when the hit one another.

So am I correct as to nature of the hitting and tackling in rugby compared with football? And if so, is there a way to change the rules of football and the way it is played to make the hitting more like rugby? And would it work to preserve football or would it so fundamentally alter the game?

MLB v. Biogenesis

In recently suing a Miami clinic, Major League Baseball signaled a new legal strategy for combating steroids: sue those who allegedly sell to players on grounds the sellers are intentionally interfering with players' employment contracts. I wrote an article titled "Squeeze Play" in the April 1, 2013 issue of Sports Illustrated that examines this strategy.

Hope you can check it out on page 20 of the magazine.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

State Bill Challenges NCAA Amateurism Rules

The battle over the future of college athletics continues to evolve as more and more people view the NCAA's failure to compensate student-athletes from the revenue created by their labor as hypocritical.  Most challeneges have come from either public commentary--Taylor Branch, Joe Nocera, Jay Bilas, etc.--or the court system, i.e. O'Bannon v NCAA.  However, the state of California continues to advocate on behalf of the college student-athletes, not surprising given that it's also home to the National College Players Association (NCPA)--a nonprofit student-athlete advocacy group.

The latest effort by the California legislature is Assembly Bill 475.  This Bill would require all public universities and colleges in California that offer full athletic scholarships and receive media and licensing revenues in excess of $20 million to provide each athlete $3,600 stipends and guarantee full-ride athletic scholarships for five years, instead of the year-to-year guarantee.  As of now, the only schools that meet these thresholds are USC and UCalifornia, Berkeley.

Of import is that this Bill directly conflicts with current NCAA rules regarding amateurism.  Any stipend will be defined as an "extra benefit" violating the NCAA's self-defined amateurism rules.  The $3,600 stipend, not coincidentally, is close to the average amount that the NCPA determined is the cost of attendance shortfall for student-athletes receiving a "full grant-in-aid" scholarship.  For more on this research, please see their study, conducted by Ramogi Huma and Dr. Ellen Staurowsky, entitled "The $6 Billion Heist: Robbing College Athletes Under the Guise of Amateurism."

Finally, from a strict legal standpoint, we may be heading for a showdown--does a state have the right to impose laws that supercede the NCAA's regulations?  I'd say yes.  Will the NCAA challenge this rule?  I'd say yes again.  The result, perhaps an expedited judicial hearing, and ruling on the merits, on the claim that the NCAA's rules impose an unreasonable restraint of trade under the antitrust laws.  Stay tuned.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Can't make it Malibu for Pepperdine Law Review Sports Law Symposium on Fri Apr. 5? Live and Free Webcast = Next best thing

From the Pepperdine Law Review: 

The Pepperdine Law Review is pleased to announce that we will be hosting a free, live webcast of our Sports Law Symposium next Friday, April 5th.  If you cannot join us in sunny Malibu, CA, please consider tuning in online!  You may add the webcast to your calendar here: http://t.co/3gkgDlUmMh.  Sports law experts Michael McCannGabe FeldmanMatt Mitten and ESPN's Roger Cossack are among our 22 speakers.  A full list of panelists is below.

The New Normal in College Sports: Realigned and Reckoning
Friday, April 5th – 8:30am to 5:15pm PST // 11:30am to 8:15pm EST
Live from Pepperdine University School of Law, Malibu, CA

Live Webcast:  http://t.co/3gkgDlUmMh
Complete Schedule of Events: http://bit.ly/UvxZRr 
Line-up of Speakershttp://bit.ly/UvxZRr

Web viewers may tweet questions for the panelists to @PeppLawReview
Note: if you wish to attend in person, registration closes tonight at 11:59pm PST.  You may register here: http://bit.ly/10gmGdV.

The symposium will consist of four panel discussions and a keynote address with leading academics, university administrators, and practitioners in a variety of areas, including: a conversation with institutional leaders of major intercollegiate athletic programs; a consideration of the possibility of an antitrust exemption for the NCAA; the impact of conference realignment, digital media, broadcasting, and commercialization; and other emerging hot topics in college sports.

Schedule of events (all times PST):
8:30-8:45am                       Introductions and Welcome
8:45-10:45am                     Institutional Control: A View From the Top
11:00-12:30pm                   NCAA, Legal Exemptions, and Liability
12:30-1:30pm                     Lunch (Pause in Webcast)
1:30pm-2:00pm                 Address by Jeff Moorad, Founder, Moorad Sports Management
2:00pm-3:30pm                 NCAA: Enforcement, Sanctions, and Relationship with Universities
3:45-5:15pm                       The Money: Broadcasting, Digital Media & What Drives the Machine

Speakers include: 

Michael McCann, Professor of Law and Director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute, University of New Hampshire School of Law; Legal Analyst and Writer, Sports Illustrated
Gabe Feldman, Associate Professor, Tulane Law School; Director, Tulane Sports Law Program; and Associate Provost for NCAA Compliance 
Roger Cossack, ESPN Legal Analyst & Pepperdine University School of Law Distinguished Visiting Professor
Jeff Moorad, Founder, Moorad Sports Management; Former owner of the San Diego Padres
Judge Ken Starr, President, Baylor University
Katherine Sulentic, Assistant Director of Enforcement, NCAA
Britt Banowsky, Conference Commissioner, Conference USA
Steve Potts, Athletic Director, Pepperdine University
Dave Roberts, Vice President for Compliance, USC
Maureen Weston, Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law
Daniel E. Lazaroff, Professor of Law and Director, Loyola Sports Law Institute at Loyola Law School
Jeffrey Standen, Professor, Willamette University 
Professor Ed Larson, Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law
Matt Mitten, Professor of Law and Director, National Sports Law Institute, Marquette University Law School 
Rod Smith, Director of Sports Law & Professor of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law 
Brian Halloran, NCAA Perspective 
Andrew Brandt, NFL Business Analyst, ESPN; Columnist for ESPN.com; Director, Moorad Center for Sports Law at Villanova Law School; and Co-Founder, The National Football Post 
Brian Marler, Director, Houlihan Lokey 
Babette E. Boliek, Associate Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law 
Mark Fainaru-Wada, Reporter, ESPN Investigations/Enterprise Unit 
Deanell Reece Tacha, Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean and Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law 
Margot Parmenter, Editor-in-Chief, Pepperdine Law Review

Email Michael Wood at mcwood@pepperdine.edu or call Pepperdine Law at (310) 506-4653 if you have any questions.  For more information, please visit our website: law.pepperdine.edu/SportsLawSymposium

Pepperdine Law Review
A scholarly law journal published by second- and third year law students at the Pepperdine University School of Law, the Pepperdine Law Review was founded in 1972. In its 40 years of existence, the law review has been a resource for practitioners, law professors, and judges alike and has been cited several times by the U.S. Supreme Court. Written contributions to the symposium will be published in Volume 41. For more information about the Pepperdine Law Review, please visit our website: pepperdinelawreview.com

Thanks,

Michael Wood
Symposium Editor, Pepperdine Law Review
mcwood@pepperdine.edu

Consumers and NCAA-licensed products: new findings

New empirical findings by Anastasios Kaburakis and his research team on how consumers perceive NCAA licensed products in relation to athletes featured in them. Key finding: consumers associate video game representations with actual NCAA players & a good number of consumers mistakenly believe that players endorse (and are perhaps paid to be in) these games. These findings clearly connect to O'Bannon v. NCAA and more broadly to evolving conceptions of amateurism in college sports.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Speaker needed

I am looking for a theologian, probably, to participate in an event on scientism, non-overlapping magesteria, etc. on June 8th, with Peter Atkins and philosopher David Papineau. Any suggestions? A woman contributor would be especially welcome given it's all guys at the moment.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Missing Chapter from "The Complete Philosophy Files" (The Outer Limits)

This chapter never made it into the final version of my children's book The Outer Limits (vol 2 of The Philosophy Files, now part of The Complete Philosophy Files). For Whittermarsh Jr.

4. The Mirror Puzzle


Sometimes it is the things that are most familiar to us that turn out to be the most deeply puzzling. Take mirrors, for example. How many times do you see yourself reflected in a mirror each day?

1.ILLUSTRATE: BOY LOOKING INTO A MIRROR

At least ten or twenty times, I should think. Most of us never stop to think about what we see. But, as you are about to discover, mirrors are very strange and puzzling things.

An adventure in the mirror

Aisha and Kobir are visiting Kobir’s auntie. Auntie Anaximander lives in an enormous, fusty old house deep in the moors.


2. THE BIG SPOOKY HOUSE IN THE MOORS. LIGHTNING.


It’s a wild and stormy night and the phone and power lines are down. Auntie Anaximander has gone off in her car to report the powercut leaving Kobir and Aisha all alone in the dark house.

3: ILLUSTRATE: NERVOUS KOBIR AND AISHA AT DOOR OF CREEPY COUNTRY HOUSE. STORY WEATHER. THEY ARE WAVING OFF AUNTIE A WHO IS DRIVING A MORRIS MINOR. NB KOBIR IS OLD PHILOSOPHY FILES CHARACTER WITH GOATIE BEARD HAS A RING ON HIS RIGHT HAND AND WATCH ON HIS LEFT AND A HIS-LEFT-SIDE HAIR PARTING.


They light a candle and decide to explore. After a while, Aisha and Kobir come across a huge echoing hall.

4. ILLUSTRATE: KOBIR AND AISHA ENTERING SPOOKY ROOM AS DESCRIBED, HUNG WITH OIL PAINGINGS .HOLDING CANDLE.

There’s no furniture, just lots of dusty oil paintings of Auntie Anaximander’s dead relatives, and, at the very end of the room, a huge mirror stretching from floor to ceiling.
Aisha and Kobir walk up to the mirror and look at their reflections.

5 ILLUSTRATE: KOBIR AND AISHA, HOLDING CANDLE, BEFORE THE HUGE BAROQUE MIRROR, WITH CANDLE. STARING AT THEMSELVES.

As they have nothing better to do, they decide to sit down on the carpet in front of the mirror and play cards. Outside, the wind howls and rumbles over the chimney tops. But inside it is deathly quiet. The candle casts flickering shadows up the walls. Aisha opens her notebook to keep score and starts to shuffle the cards. While she is shuffling, Kobir stares distractedly into the vast mirror. And the more he stares, the more perplexed he starts to look.

KOBIR: That’s really, really weird.
AISHA: What is?
KOBIR: Take a look at our reflection.

Kobir and Aisha both stare into the mirror.

KOBIR: Notice anything odd?
AISHA: Odd?
KOBIR: You can see a mirror version of yourself can’t you? And a mirror version of me.
AISHA: Of course.
KOBIR: But there’s something very, very peculiar about our mirror selves. They are reversed.
AISHA: Reversed?

Kobir stands up in front of the mirror.

KOBIR: Yes. Suppose this wasn’t a mirror but a big sheet of glass. And suppose I was actually over there, where the mirror-version of myself appears to be standing. Then my right hand, the one with the ring on, would be where my left hand actually appears in the mirror. And my left hand, the one with the watch on, would be where my right hand appears.

6. ILLUSTRATE: KOBIR STANDING NEXT TO SEATED AISHA BEFORE MIRROR. WATCH ON LEFT HAND AND RING ON RIGHT. HAIR PARTED TO HIS LEFT. HE IS LOOKING IN THE BIG, FULL LENGTH MIRROR.

Kobir walks closer to the mirror, so that he’s staring right into the face of his mirror-self.

Kobir: And look, my left eyebrow – the one I’m raising – appears where my right eyebrow would be.

7. ILLUSTRATE: KOBIR’S FACE AND ITS REFLECTION, WITH EYEBROW RAISED AS DESCRIBED. HAIR PARTED TO HIS LEFT.

Isn’t that odd?

Kobir is right about the reversal. When we look at Kobir in the mirror we see this:

8. ILLUSTRATE: KOBIR STANDING LOOKING AT US, RING ON LEFT HAND AND WATCH ON RIGHT. HAIR PARTED TO HIS RIGHT.

But if Kobir was actually standing where his image appears to be standing, we would see this:

9. IDENTICAL IMAGE BUT WATCH ON LEFT HAND AND RING ON RIGHT. HAIR PARTED TO HIS LEFT.

See? Kobir’s left and right sides have been reversed.

Why do mirrors reverse left to right, but not top to bottom?

Aisha just wants to play cards. She’s irritated by Kobir’s question.

AISHA: Why is it odd?
KOBIR: Well, mirrors reverse us left to right. So why don’t they also reverse us top to bottom.
AISHA: Top to bottom?
KOBIR: Yes, in the mirror, what’s top and bottom is the same. Take a look: my head is still at the top and my feet are still at the bottom. But my left and right sides are swapped round.
AISHA: True.
KOBIR: So my question is: Whydo mirrors reverse one way, but not the other? It’s very, very strange.

Kobir is correct. In a mirror image, what’s at the top and what’s at the bottom remains unchanged. But left and right are switched. That is why the word “ambulance” is painted in reverse on the front of an ambulance.

10. ILLUSTRATE: AMBULANCE WITH WORD “AMBULANCE” REVERSED ACROSS THE FRONT.

The word is seen by other motorists in their rear view mirrors. Because mirrors reverse left to right, and because the word “ambulance” is itself reversed left to right, a rear view mirror has the effect of turning the word the correct way round so it can easily be read.

11. ILLUSTRATE: SAME AMBULANCE SEEN IN REAR VIEW MIRROR: NOW THE WORD IS RIGHT WAY ROUND (DRIVER ON OTHER SIDE, OF COURSE)

An ancient and infernal puzzle


Why do mirrors reverse left and right, but not top and bottom? Some of the world’s greatest minds – including that of the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato – have struggled with and been defeated by this infernal mystery.

12.ANCIENT GREEK IN BEARD AND ROBE LOOKING IN MIRROR AND THINKING BUBBLE: “WHY DOMIRRORS REVERSE LEFT/RIGHT BUT NOT TOP/BOTTOM?”

Can Kobir and Aisha do any better? Can you?
            Perhaps. But before we try to come up with an explanation that mightwork, let’s take a look at a few explanations that definitely don’t work.

 

“Doesn’t it depend on which we up we are?”


Aisha can now see the puzzle.

AISHA: Hmm. I’m not sure why mirrors do what they do. Now you mention it, I suppose that is rather peculiar.
KOBIR: It’s weird!

Suddenly, Aisha thinks she has the solution.

AISHA: Doesn’t it all depend on which way up we are? If we lay down, then it would be top and bottom that are reversed, not left and right.
KOBIR: I don’t think so. Let’s try.

Kobir moves the candle safely to one side. Then they both lie on their sides and stare at themselves.

13.ILLUSTRATE; T AND A LOOKING INTO MIRROR AS THEY LAY ON THEIR SIDES. KOBIR IS WIGGLING FINGERS OF RIGHT HAND (THE ONE WITH RING).

KOBIR: You see? If I was over there, my right hand – the one with the ring – would be where my left hand appears. My left and right sides are still reversed.
AISHA: True. And our tops and bottoms are still the right way round.
KOBIR: So the mirror flips things around left to right but not top to bottom no matter what way up we may happen to be in front of it.
AISHA: Hmm. I guess you’re right.
KOBIR: I am right. The reversal has nothing to do with which way up we are. Actually it doesn’t have anything to do with which way up the thing we are looking at is, or which way up the mirror is, either. Mirrors always reverse left to right but not top to bottom.

You can confirm this for yourself. Here’s the word “ambulance” reversed from left to right:

            14.ILLUSTRATE: “AMBULANCE” REVERSED L/R

Try putting this page up in front of a mirror. Because the mirror also reverses left and right, the word gets switched round the right way again, doesn’t it?

15.ILLUSTRATE: MIRROR IN FRONT OF REVERSED WORD “AMBULANCE”, IN MIRROR THE WORD IS ROUND THE RIGHT WAY.

Now let’s try turning you, the observer to see if that has any effect on how the word is reversed. Hold the book upright, but turn your head sideways like this.

16.ILLUSTRATE. KID BEFORE MIRROR: HE IS HOLDING BOOK UPRIGHT WITH HEAD TILTED OVER SIDEWAYS.

See? It doesn’t matter which way up you are. The mirror still flips the letters back the right way. It still reverses them left to right to make them readable again.
Now let’s try rotating the book 90 degrees, like this.


17.ILLUSTRATE: SAME KID BEFORE MIRROR, NOW WITH HEAD UPRIGHT BUT HOLDING THE BOOK SIDEWAYS ON.


Does that have any effect on how the word appears? No. The word “ambulance” is still legible. So it doesn’t matter which way up the word is either.
Maybe you’re thinking that the solution has something to do with which way up the mirror is. But it doesn’t. Turn the mirror upside down, and the image will remain exactly the same.
So it doesn’t matter which way up we are, which we up the thing we are looking atis, or even which way up the mirroris, a mirror always reverses left to right but not top to bottom.

18.ILLUSTRATE: KOBIR AND AISHA LOOKING AT THEMSELVES IN MIRROR 9STILL IN THE SPOOKY ROOM): BIG THOUGH BUBBLE WITH QUESTION MARK IN IT COMING OUT OF THEIR HEADS. THEY LOOK PERPLEXED.

The more you grapple with this mystery, the deeper and more profound it seems to become. In fact, the more you think about mirrors, the more they seem to take on a rather spooky, almost magical quality. Just why do mirrors do what they do?

I think I know the solution, or at least a part of it.
            Aisha and Kobir heard a distant bang followed by echoing footsteps. After a minute or so, Auntie Anaximander’s damp features appear round the doorway.

25.ILLUSTRATE:. ANAXIMANDER IN RAINCOAT, LOOKING ROUND DOOR OF ROOM.

ANAXIMANDER: Ah. There you are! Power should be back on soon. What have you been up to?

Auntie Anaximander takes off her raincaot and shakes out the raindrops, spraying them across the room. A few droplets land on the pages of Aisha’s open notebook.

26. ILLUSTRATE: RAINDROPS ACROSS THIS PAGE.

Aisha and Kobir explain that they had been discussing why mirrors reverse left and right, but not top and bottom. Auntie Anaximander, who loves puzzles such as this, sits down on the carpet beside them. She thinks hard for a moment or two.

ANAXIMANDER: You know, in a sense, a mirror doesn’t reverse anything at all.
AISHA: In what sense?
ANAXIMANDER: Well suppose we hold a clock up in front of a mirror, like this.

Anaximander draws this picture on a page of Aisha’s notebook.

27.ILLUSTRATE: CLOCK AND ITS REFLECTION IN MIRROR
           
ANAXIMANDER: Now let’s draw arrows linking each number on the clock face with the same number reflected in the mirror.

Anaximander adds arrows like this:

28.ILLUSTRATE: AS ABOVE BUT WITH ARROW DRAWN FROM EACH NUMBER ON CLOCK FACE TO IT’S IMAGE IN THE MIRROR (I WILL PROVIDE ROUGH)

ANAXIMANDER: These arrows show that the way the mirror reflects is entirely symmetrical in every direction. The arrows don’t cross over top to bottom. But neither do they cross over left to right.
KOBIR: You know, I think you’re right. In a sense, nothinggets reversed!

Auntie Anaximander is right. The way in which the mirror reflects what’s in front of it is perfectly symmetrical. It is not as if a mirror reflects rays of light differently depending on whether they are coming from your left and right sides rather than your top and bottom. The light is reflected in the same way no matter where it happens to land on the mirror.
So the puzzle has absolutely nothing to do with how light behaves.

KOBIR: But hang on. We said, didn’t we, that the left and right are swapped round? And that top and bottom are unchanged?
ANAXIMANDER: Yes. That is how we would normallydescribe what we see.
AISHA: Normally?
ANAXIMANDER: If we were to replace this mirror with a sheet of glass, and you were to walk round the glass and stand on the other side, looking towards me, in the exact spot you currently see your mirror-self standing, then what would I, standing over here, see?
KOBIR: You would see my right hand to your left, and my left hand to your right.

29.ILLUSTRATE: WE ARE LOOKING AT KOBIR BEHIND BIG SHEET OF GLASS. AUNTIE ANAXIMANDER AND AISHA ARE THIS SIDE, WATCHING.

ANAXIMANDER: True. And of course, when we look at your mirror-image, your left hand appears where your right hand would be if you were standing there, and your right hand appears where your left would be. That’swhy we said that the mirror-version of you is reversed left to right. Correct?
KOBIR: Yes.
ANAXIMANDER: But notice that we have just taken something for granted: the axis about which we rotate you when we imagine you over there.
AISHA: The what?
ANAXIMANDER: When we turn something round, we rotate it about an axis, don’t we? A spinning top, for example, rotates around a verticalaxis, doesn’t it?

30. ILLUSTRATE: SPINNING TOP WITH VERTICAL DOTTED LINE LABELLED “VERTICAL AXIS”

And a car wheel rotates around a horizontal axis.

31.ILLUSTRATE CAR WHEEL WITH DOTTED LINE THROUGH MIDDLE LABELLED HORIZONTAL AXIS.

Now, when we imagine you over there in the position your mirror-self seems to be in, we mentally put you there by rotating you about a vertical axis, like this.

Anaximander draws this diagram in the notebook:


32.ILLUSTRATE: SEMI CIRCLE DOTTED ARROW SHOWING HOW KOBIR IS ROTATED BY AN INDICATED VERTICAL AXIS. SEE ROUGH.


KOBIR: That’s right. That’s how I would get over there, by walking round the mirror like that.
ANAXIMANDER: Of course. But what if we were to get you over there not by rotating you around a vertical axis, but a round a horizontal axis? What would happen then?
KOBIR: I’m not sure. Let’s draw it to see.

Kobir now draws this picture:

33.ILLUSTRATE: AS ABOVE, BUT KOBIR IS NOW ROTATED AROUND HOROIZONTAL AXIS, LEAVING HIM STANDING ON HIS HEAD BEHIND THE MIRROR (I WILL PROVIDE ROUGHS)

ANAXIMANDER: Now see what happens! You are standing on your head. And, compared to your mirror image, your left and right sides aren’tswitched round.

34.SPLIT ILLUSTRATION: CAPTION 1 “MIRROR IMAGE” RING ON KOBIR’S LEFT, WATCH ON HIS RIGHT, PARTING TO HIS RIGHT. CAPTION 2: “KOBIR STANDING ON HIS HEAD” KOBIR UPSIDE, BUT NOT REVERSED LEFT TO RIGHT.

Your right hand stays over to the right, just as it appears in the mirror. But top and bottom have been switched round!
AISHA: Wow! You’re right.
ANAXIMANDER: So you see, the reason we say mirrors reverse left and right but not top and bottom is due to the fact that we take for granted a particular axis of rotation. But we could just as easily choose a horizontal axis. Then it would be true to say that a mirror reverses top to bottom but not left to right.

I think Auntie Anaximander is correct. She really has hit on the explanation of why mirrors reverse left to right but not top-to bottom. Yes, it’s true to say mirrors reverse left to right, but only if we choose a vertical axis of rotation. Choose a horizontal axis and they then reverse top to bottom.
Kobir furrows his brow.

KOBIR: But why do we take the vertical axis for granted?
ANAXIMANDER: Because people aren’t in the habit of flying through the air like pigeons and settling on their heads. When people normallyrotate, it’s almost always about a vertical axis. So we just took for granted a vertical axis of rotation in this case too.

Suddenly the electricity comes on. The chandeliers above their heads flood the hall with light. Auntie Anaximander jumps up and blows out the candle. She suggests they all go downstairs for some hot chocolate. So they do.

35: ILLUSTRATE: AUNTIE, KOBIR AND AISHA LEAVING THE NOW VERY BRIGHTLY-LIT HALL.

The door puzzle


I believe Auntie Anaximander is right: this puzzle about why mirrors do what they do is created by our not noticing what we have taken for granted. To solve the puzzle, we need to take a step back and start questioning what we taken for granted.
Actually, I have noticed a similar puzzle about doors. Walk though a door that opens on your left and turn round to come back through it, and the door now opens on your right. But pass through a door that opens at the top (like a cat-flap) and turn to come back through it and the door still opens at the top.


36.ILLUSTRATE: DOOR OPENS AT TOP LIKE A CAT FLAP.


Why does passing through a door reverse the way it opens from left to right, but not from top to bottom? What explains the difference?
The solution is much the same as Auntie Anaximander’s solution to the mirror puzzle. When you pass through a left-opening door and turn around to come back through it, you would normally rotate about a vertical axis, like this:


37.ILLUSTRATE: AS FOR PREVIOUS ILLUSTRATION BUT ONE: EXCEPT WITH AXIS OF ROTATION ADDED: SEE ROUGH.


But what if you were to rotate about a horizontal axis, like this?


38.ILLUSTRATE: AS ABOVE, BUT PERSON FLIPPED HORIZONTALLY, LEAVING THEM UPSIDE DOWN.


Then the door that opened on the left would still open the left on the way back though it, but a door that opened at the bottom would now open at the top. We say that left and right are reversed but not top and bottom only because we take for granted a particular axis of rotation.
In space, where we are weightless, the axis of rotation about which we choose to rotate when turning to come back through a door is less likely to be the vertical axis. You could just as easily spin about a horizontal axis instead.

39.ILLUSTRATE: SPACE MAN LEAVING SHIP THROUGH DOOR, THEN ENTERING THROUGH DOOR UPSIDE DOWN.

So, after years in space, it might start to seem as natural to you to say that a door that opens at the top opens at the bottom when you come back through it as it does to say that a door that opens on the left opens on the right when you return though it.
For creatures that live in a weightless environment, where it’s as easy to rotate about one axis as it is to rotate about the other, perhaps neither the mirror puzzle nor the door puzzle would even bepuzzles!

The “ambulance” test


Perhaps you are still not convinced by Auntie Anaximander’s solution. If so, here’s another little experiment you can perform. We said that in a mirror the word “ambulance” is reversed left to right and not top to bottom. So now write out, on a separate piece of paper next to the word “ambulance”, the left-right reversed version of the word. It should look like this:

40. ILLUSTRATE: SEE ROUGH.

You have kept what’s at the top at the top and what’s at the bottom at the bottom, but the right hand end of the word has become its left hand end.
But now suppose that mirrors reversed, not left to right, but top to bottom. What would that look like? What would we see then?
Try to draw it. This time, write on a separate piece of paper underneath the word “ambulance” how the word would look if what’s at the top becomes what’s at the bottom, but the left and right ends remain unchanged. It should look like this:

41.ILLUSTRATE: SEE ROUGH

The word is flipped top to bottom but not left right.
But now look very closely at the two reversed words.

42.ILLUSTRATE: THE TWO REVERSED WORDS (SEE ROUGH), LABELLED “REVERSED TOP TO BOTTOM” AND “REVERSED LEFT TO RIGHT”.

Notice anything peculiar?
The two reversed versions of the word that you have written are actually exactly the same! Turn the second one round to check, like this:

43.ILLUSTRATE: SEE ROUGH (LABEL LEFT RIGHT REVERSED AND TOP BOTTOM REVERSED)

The left-right reversed version of the word just is the top-bottom reversed version.
So why did we call one left-right reversed and the other the top-bottom reversed? Because we just assumed a different axis of rotation in each case. Whether we describe an image as left/right reversed or top/bottom reversed all depends on what axis of rotation we choose.

When science can’t help us


So I think we have solved the puzzle (or at least we solved this version of it).
Here’s an interesting fact about the mirror puzzle: it can’t be solved by doing science. It can only be solved by thinking philosophically. We didn’t have to any scientific research into how light and mirrors behave. We didn’t have to investigate how our brains work.

44.ILLUSTRATE SCIENTISTS IN LAB EXPERIMENTING WITH MIRRORS, LAZERS, BRAINS ETC.

Even if we had done that sort of scientific research, it wouldn’t have solved the puzzle. In order to solve the puzzle, we need to stop doing science and start doing philosophy. It’s a puzzle that can be solved just by thinking.

45. ILLUSTRATE: ME SLUMPED IN CHAIR, LABELLED “PHILOSOPHER AT WORK”

            People sometimes assume that all our questions can be answered by science. They would just assume that the mirror puzzle must have a scientific solution. But it turns out that the mirror puzzle is a puzzle that science can’t solve.
Sometimes, only philosophy will do.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Talk in Oxford tomorrow night with Sanal Edamaruku

 


Full details here.

When?
Monday, March 25 2013 at 7:30PM
Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)
Where?

9 - 13 George Street
Oxford
OX1 2AU

We use the upstairs function room.

To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it will be open, so no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. If you want to eat in the function room then you have to order your food downstairs and then carry it up yourself.

Step-free access is available.
Who?
Sanal Edamaruku
What's the talk about?
Sanal Edamaruku has been a force for reason all his life. As president of the Indian Rationalist Association he’s continually challenged the gurus and godmen who have such a pervasive influence in society. But it’s an uphill struggle: a wave of increasing fundamentalism and intolerance may be responsible for his current predicament: when he returns to India it’s likely that he’ll be arrested for “outraging religious feelings” after he debunked a Catholic “miracle” statue in Mumbai.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Friday, 22 March 2013

Legality of NFL teams asking College Players about their Sexual Orientation

Can NFL teams legally ask college players about their sexual orientation? They clearly shouldn't, but legally it's a complicated issue involving states' anti-discrimination laws and federal labor law, as I write about in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated (March 25, 2013 issue). My article is titled "Loaded Question" and it's on page 16. Special thanks to the smartest lawyer around, Alan Milstein, for his insights.

Here's a brief excerpt:

But in Washington, D.C., where the NFLPA is based, and in 21 states, including those that are home to 13 NFL teams, it is unlawful for private employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. When local laws are taken into account, as many as 25 teams could be barred from asking prospective employees about sexual orientation. 

The jurisdiction with one of the toughest laws against such bias is New York, where the NFL is headquartered. The CBA, which amends the standard NFL player contract, stipulates that New York state law applies when federal law does not. In other words, a prospect who sued the league for discrimination could make a reasonable case.

Hope you have a chance to read the rest in this week's issue.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Tricks of the Mind, March 30th

Illusion Eye Trick
It works for cats too...
Tricks of the Mind

Come and hear leading experts explain how our minds can distort and deceive, including how they often play a role in generating a wide range of paranormal experiences. Discussion will include magic, time distortion, hypnotism and past-life regression.

Presented by Centre for Inquiry UK and Conway Hall. Organized and introduced by Stephen Law.

Book signings and shop.

Saturday, 30th March 2013.

Venue: Conway Hall (main hall), 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, WC1R 4RL London (nearest tube Holborn).

10.30am registration (speakers at 11-1, 2-4pm). Ends 4pm.

Tickets £10 on door (£5 student concession) (and from BHA website shortly)


Daniela Rudloff: Mental ‘Short-Cuts’ - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
11.00

Can we trust our eyes? Why does a footballer’s performance usually drop right after they’ve been sold to a high-paying football club? What exactly is “anchoring”, and why are we doing it on dry land?

Daniela Rudloff will answer these and other questions by giving an introduction to some of the mental shortcuts and biases in our everyday thinking. In her talk she shows how these shortcuts are often useful and sometimes counterproductive, always pervasive and surprisingly difficult to avoid.

Daniela has always had a keen interest in critical thinking, cognitive psychology and the scientific method. After completing her PhD in Cognitive Psychology she now teaches at Leicester University, with a particular focus on research methods and statistics. Daniela has previously presented at Skeptics in the Pubs events and at the Skeptics on the Fringe.

Claudia Hammond: Time Warped 
12.00

We are obsessed with time, but why does it play so many tricks on us? Why does time slow down when you're afraid and speed up as you get older? Drawing on the latest research from the fields of psychology, neuroscience and biology, and using original research on the way memory shapes our understanding of time, the awarding-winning writer and broadcaster Claudia Hammond delves into the mysteries of time perception and how the mind creates a sense of time.

Claudia is an award-winning broadcaster, writer and psychology lecturer. She is the presenter of All in the Mind & Mind Changers on BBC Radio 4 and the Health Check on BBC World Service Radio every week and BBC World News TV every month. Claudia is a columnist for BBC.comand the author of "Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception" and "Emotional Rollercoaster - a journey through the science of feelings" which won the Aoen Transmission Prize in February 2013. 

Martin S Taylor: More Lives Than One?
2.00


Martin S Taylor became interested in hypnosis when he was studying for a PhD at Imperial College, and soon became well known on the student circuit with his science based lecture-demonstration. At first he believed in the traditional view that hypnosis is a special induced state of mind, but discussions with friends and his experience with his own hypnotic subjects led him to subscribe to the 'social-compliance' view, namely that hypnosis is best explained by normal, well-understood psychological principles.

He now makes a living as a lecturer and consultant on hypnosis, talking and demonstrating at schools, universities, and anywhere else they'll pay him. It was at one of Martin's lectures that Derren Brown was inspired to take up his career, and Martin has worked with Derren on a number of recent television shows. Recently he has been working as a hypnosis consultant for Paramount Pictures, producing promotional videos for horror films.

In today’s talk, Martin will be examining the notion that hypnosis can be used to get people to remember past lives, a phenomenon taken by many as evidence of reincarnation.

Robert Teszka: Mind and Magic
3.00

Robert Teszka is a cognitive psychologist, magician, science promoter, and massive geek. He uses the techniques of misdirection to study the psychology of attention and awareness at Goldsmiths University, and has travelled internationally to give lectures on the surprising insights of cognitive psychology.

Mind and Magic is a talk about how our own minds deceive us as readily as any magician, and how magician's tricks can help us understand our minds a bit better. Expect a curated collection of demonstrations, experiments, and original research - and perhaps a magic trick or two - as Rob attempts to convince you that sometimes, you just can't trust your own mind.

Image credit maltesen flickr. Creative commons.



Monday, 18 March 2013

From Tweeting to Meeting Lance Armstrong

I was a guest on NPR's All Things Considered this past weekend to talk about my interview with Lance Armstrong at his home in Austin, Texas.  I'll have more to write about it later this spring.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

US TV series "Closer to Truth" - 11 ten minute clips of me.

I am currently appearing on several episodes of "Closer to Truth", the TV series on Cosmos, Consciousness and God. The series goes out in the US and elsewhere and features very many high-profile academics. I was flattered to be included. Online clips of me on the following topics can be found here (click on titles to view):