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Hofstadter Docudrama: "Victim of the Brain"

Douglas Hofstadter is the author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, a now-classic work on how the mind arises from mechanical parts. While I'll admit I haven't gotten through the entire book, I recently enjoyed Victim of the Brain, a 1988 docudrama featuring interviews with Hofstadter.

It's a strange little film, following Dutch director Piet Hoenderdos as he struggles to understand philosophical questions about consciousness through interviews as well as (slightly cheesy) adaptations of stories from The Mind's I, a book which Hofstadter wrote with philosopher Daniel Dennett (who also appears in the film).

The film's title comes from an interview with Hofstadter featured in the film (starting around three minutes in), in which he says:

"I watch my own decisions and I feel, sometimes, as if decisions come from parts of me that I realize are not under what I would call my control. I realize that my own self is really not under my control. I look at what I prefer in life -- my tastes, my interests, my aesthetic preferences -- and I know that those things come from places that I certainly don't decide upon. I am just a victim of my brain. [smiles] But I have to live with that. And, I mean I'm a victim of my brain in that I can't play music as well as I would like to be able to. But I don't know, it's a very complex thing. I think being a good human being seems to be the much more deep thing in life than being able to explain human beings. But still, trying to explain them is a fascinating thing."

Victim of the Brain is available in its entirely via Google Video. If you're into philosophical issues of human consciousness (or awesome 80's fashion), you'll probably enjoy it. I do warn you -- it's dated and nerdy, but if you're like me you'll appreciate both of those supposed shortcomings.

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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This First-Grade Math Problem Is Stumping the Internet
May 17, 2017
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If you’ve ever fantasized about how much easier life would be if you could go back to elementary school, this math problem may give you second thoughts. The question first appeared on a web forum, Mashable reports, and after recently resurfacing, it’s been perplexing adults across social media.

According to the original poster AlmondShell, the bonus question was given to primary one, or first grade students, in Singapore. It instructs readers to “study the number pattern” and “fill in the missing numbers.” The puzzle, which comprises five numbers and four empty circles waiting to be filled in, comes with no further explanation.

Some forum members commented with their best guesses, while others expressed disbelief that this was a question on a kid’s exam. Commenter karrotguy illustrates one possible answer: Instead of looking for complex math equations, they saw that the figure in the middle circle (three) equals the amount of double-digit numbers in the surrounding quadrants (18, 10, 12). They filled out the puzzle accordingly.

A similar problem can be found on the blog of math enthusiast G.R. Burgin. His solution, which uses simple algebra, gets a little more complicated.

The math tests given to 6- and 7-year-olds in other parts of the world aren’t much easier. If your brain isn’t too worn out after the last one, check out this maddening problem involving trains assigned to students in the UK.

[h/t Mashable]

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