Helpful Herbs

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Not every character is running around a world with convenient chemically created pills and drug stores on every corner. Before popping pills became common, and even now in many fantasy worlds, the best medicine for whatever may ail you came from the forests and fields. Here are some common herbs used in literature and real life. This list is for reference purposes only.

Chamomile – The flower heads can be used to help relieve indigestion, colic, anxiety, and skin inflammations.

Feverfew – The flowers and leaves of this plant can help with headaches and migraines, arthritis, and some skin conditions. Has also been used to treat tooth aches, insect bites, stomach aches and more.

Sage – This plant can be used to help with mouth and throat inflammations.

Comfrey – Treats bruises and sprains.

Yarrow – Helps reduce inflammation.

Barberry – Used to treat scurvy, skin and gastro-intestinal ailments.

Bilberry – This plant has been used at various times to prevent night blindness, treat stomach cramps, diabetes, and diarrhea, as well as varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and bruising.

Burdock – Used to treat liver problems, urinary tract infections, ulcers, eczema, to boost energy, and to boost the immune system.

Catnip – This herb isn’t just used to make cats tweak out, but also for coughs, bruises, restlessness, upset stomach, colic, colds, fever allergies, and sometimes as a mild sedative (at least for people).

For a more complete list check out these links:

wikipedia

Herbs List

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Inventors Who Were Killed By Their Own Inventions

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William Nelson – killed by prototype of a motorized bicycle

Otto Lilienthal – crashed one of his hang gliders

Marie Curie – died of radiation sickness after  isolating radium

Perillos of Athens – killed by the Brazen Bull (a torture device) he invented (he was the first test subject)

Thomas Midgley, jr – killed by the rope and pulley system he invented to help get him out of bed

Thomas Andrews – an architect of the Titanic who was on the ship during its maiden voyage

H.L. Hunley – invented the submarine and died on one during the testing phase when it wouldn’t resurface

Thought Experiments pt. 2

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Hopefully at least some people found the first article interesting. I think thought experiments are fascinating (the ones that aren’t too confusing, anyway), and so  wrote a part 2. For those who missed part 1, here is my definition of a thought experiment:

Simply put it is an experiment which takes place in your mind instead of in a laboratory. They are usually used to illustrate a point, or as an alternative when an actual physical experiment would be impossible or inhumane (such as Schroedinger’s cat).

The Ship Of Theseus – There is a ship that has been sailing for hundreds of years, thanks to constant repairs and replacement parts. In fact, it has been sailing for so long and repaired so often that there are no longer any original pieces on the vessel. So the question is whether the ship is still the same as the original, even though there are no original pieces and, if not, when did it stop being the original ship? This thought experiment is to explore how you feel about identity. What makes a person, a person?

An updated version of this is that a band changes members over several years so that no original members remain. Is the band still the same band?

My Take: Yes. Same ship, same band. For me identity isn’t just about the physical parts, it’s about feelings and other less substantial things. Identity isn’t just about the relationship about parts to the whole, but also about the connections between the whole and outside influences.

Brain In A Vat – A mad scientist has removed your brain from your body (let’s pretend that he somehow did it without your knowledge). He has placed it in a vat with electrodes attached. The mad scientist is now able to simulate all of your daily experiences. Since everything is processed through your brain, how could you ever prove that the world around you isn’t real? For that matter, how can you prove now that the world around you is real and not just a simulation?

My Take: I don’t have any good answer for figuring out what is real and what might be simulated, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. Even if you were just a brain in a vat, what could you do? You can’t unplug yourself and, as long as you aren’t being tortured or something, I would imagine that fake memories are better than being dead.

Survival Lottery – Imagine you live in a world where organ transplantation was perfect. There is no rejection of the organ and people who receive the transplant are cured. In this experiment you are asked to assume the following: the person donating the organs will always die, there is no difference between killing a person and letting someone die, and you can always save two people for every one person who donates. The experiment states that given these circumstances, it would be better to adopt a lottery where one person is randomly chosen every so often to donate their organs whether they like it or not.

My Take: The argument to this experiment is that you can not be assured that two lives are necessarily of more value than the one sacrificed. While I would normally say that it would be okay to sacrifice one for the greater good of saving two, in this case there is no guarantee that saving two is the greater good. Since the lottery is completely random, you could be condemning a great humanitarian or leader to save the life of a murderer or torturer. While I believe that every life has value, the question seems to be does every life have the same value?

What do you think? How would you decide?

Thought Experiments

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What is a “thought experiment?” Simply put it is an experiment which takes place in your mind instead of in a laboratory. They are usually used to illustrate a point, or as an alternative when an actual physical experiment would be impossible or inhumane (such as Schroedinger’s cat).

Thought experiments are used in many fields, but the ones that interest me the most (and consequently the ones that are easiest for me to understand) are those in the field of psychology and philosophy. These experiments are usually geared more toward allowing you to think through the morality of an issue or to get a handle on your own brain. The following are a few of my favorites. Remember if you do these yourself, that there aren’t really any right or wrong answers. They are tools not tests.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma – You and another accomplice are arrested for the same crime and placed isolation from each other. The prosecutor goes to talk to each one separately, but makes the same deal to both: They can confess or stay silent. If you confess, but your accomplice stays silent then all charges will be dropped against you and your accomplice does the time. The same is true the other way around as well. If both confess, then both will get convicted, but the sentence will be much more lenient. If both you and your accomplice remain silent then both will be let off with only token charges. What do you do?

My Take: I ain’t going to jail for you if I don’t have to. Confess! While it won’t give the ideal solution (both parties remaining silent), it reduces my risk. The ideal solution is an all or nothing gamble. Either you get off or you go to jail forever.  Confessing would mean that you either get off, or at the very least your sentence is lessened. Sorry Mr. Accomplice, I wouldn’t do well in prison.

The Trolley Problem – You can also use a train (which I prefer). You are at the controls of an out of control train. On the current track there are five people tied to the tracks. You cannot stop the train, but you can switch the tracks so the train will go down a different set. The problem is on that different set there is one person tied down. What do you do?

Another way to look at this is the same train is heading down the track to the tied up people, but this time there is no other track. Instead there is a man who is standing by the train. You know he is the only one within range that happens to weigh enough to derail the train (no passengers are on the train), but it would obviously kill the man. Do you push him onto the track?

My Take: Kill the one. In either scenario. Inactivity, when it is not forced, is still a chosen action, so you cannot hide behind “fate” and say it wasn’t your choice. I believe that in a case where you cannot avoid loss of life, it is your responsibility to lessen the damage as best you can provided you are in a position to do so. For those who argue that it is only murder if you choose to kill the one, then I believe that it is selfishness which is the primary motivation and still say that they are guilty. After all, the only reason I can see that you would choose not to pull the lever or push the person is your own fear of becoming a murderer. So the question then becomes “are you willing to sacrifice yourself for the good of the many?”

The Ticking Time Bomb – Imagine there is a bomb somewhere in your city. It will soon strike zero and detonate. The “good” news is that you have a man in your custody who knows about the bomb and its location. The bad news is that he is unwilling to share this information. Do you resort to torture to get the information out of him?

There are several ways you can subtly alter this scenario to make it more interesting. The first one that comes to my mind is all you know is there is a bomb and it will detonate soon. You don’t know where it is (Like in the first scenario), but you also don’t know how many people will die because of it, or even if any will die. You don’t know how big the bomb is or what it’s made of. So your result could be that you torture the man for information, but the bomb ends up being no more powerful than a small firework set off in an abandoned field where no one or nothing can be injured. Another variation suggests that although the man may not respond to torture, he will respond to his wife and child being tortured. Do you still try to get the information? What if the man wasn’t the bomber, but an innocent civilian who had been threatened with violence against his family if he talked?

My Take: As absolutely repugnant as torture is to me, in most of these cases I would still say that it is, while not wholly morally correct, at the very least a necessary evil. Like in the trolley problem, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few. As we get into the variations however, I find myself less and less willing to accept torture as a solution. While the basic premise stays the same (the needs of the many…), it becomes harder to accept such rationalization. So even though theoretically I believe that torture would be necessary in any of these situations, if such a problem were to become reality, I doubt I would be able to actually go thorough with it.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?

Numerology

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Numerology is the belief in a special relationship between numbers and the world around us, or events that transpire. Today it is often associated with things like astrology and tarot.

There are no set definitions or meanings for digits, rather they vary between cultures and schools of thought. There are also various methods used to manipulate numbers to divine their meaning. Other ideas related to numerology include arithmancy and gematria. Below are some common number interpretations taken from wikipedia.

  1. Individual; aggressor; self; leadership yang
  2. Balance; union; receptive; partnership yin
  3. Communication/interaction
  4. Creation
  5. Action; restlessness; life experience
  6. Home/family; responsibility; artistic in nature
  7. Thought/consciousness; spirit
  8. Power/sacrifice
  9. Highest level of changes

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