Transforming the meaning of evidence and truth

This morning I read a post at Engadget titled Researchers make a surprisingly smooth artificial video of Obama "Their program grafts audio-synced mouths onto existing videos." The post describes the process used by the University of Washington researchers: "The researchers used 14 hours of Obama's weekly address videos to train a neural network. Once trained, their system was then able to take an audio clip from the former president, create mouth shapes that synced with the audio and then synthesize a realistic looking mouth that ...

Was Plato Right?

Plato’s definition of what knowledge is, ‘justified true belief’, has been trotted out by countless IB students for generations, often without much thought as to its genuine value or validity as a definition of what knowledge is. However, what are we to make of the fact that the definition includes the term belief? What does the definition actually mean? Is it not possible to interpret the definition in different ways? And has anyone since Plato not provided a better one? Let us explore ...

Doing good is good for you: Ethics and the Human Sciences, TOK and CAS

(re-post from December 16, 2013 blog. It's so appropriate for this time of year!) Is there really anything newsworthy about the value of doing good to others?  So much has been said over so many centuries that surely current psychological research cannot add tremendously to our understanding!  And surely doing good falls within the scope of ethics -- and not within the scope of the human sciences!  Yet, quite the contrary: recent studies in the human sciences do contribute knowledge -- and knowledge that is particularly welcome at a ...

Shroud of Turin follow-up: new material for AOK History

This topic of the Shroud of Turin just keeps getting better and better for TOK. In my last post, I outlined TOK lessons based on it. But now – even better materials for launching a class! A podcast interview with historian Charles Freeman (25 minutes), linked from the website of History Today,  readily sets up a leaner lesson on the methods of research of an historian. The interviewer applauds Freeman’s research as “historical detective work” on an “unsolved mystery” and invites ...

The Shroud of Turin: perspectives, faith, and evidence

  Intense emotions and extensive discussion have swirled around the 4-metre-long cloth known as the Shroud of Turin. Is it really the burial cloth that was wound around the body of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion (as many Christians believe), miraculously preserving His image? Or is it a hoax? Earlier this month (Oct 9-12), a conference in St. Louis, Missouri  brought together international presenters and participants on the topic “Shroud of Turin: The Controversial Intersection of Faith and Science”. However, it is ...

“Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change”

  On September 21, more than half a million people in 166 countries  (approximately 400, 000 in the New York flagship march alone) marched to demand that world leaders act to tackle climate change. Their demand was directed in large part to the leaders converging today for an emergency UN Climate Summit. Will their huge numbers have any effect on the attitudes--or beliefs--of those who have not already accepted the conclusions of 97% of the world's climate scientists? According to the author ...

breakthrough in science: gravitational waves

In my last post, I was captivated by the immediate impact on Andrei Linde himself of the recent breakthrough in astronomy, as recorded while Chao-Lin Kuo announced the big news that his theory concerning the Big Bang and inflation of the universe had been significantly borne out with evidence.  I was most interested in the humanity of science, and the people behind a major breakthrough. But what does this breakthrough illustrate for TOK about the nature of science?  What does it ...

big bang, big smile: happy moment in sharing knowledge

In TOK, we speak of the natural sciences as shared knowledge -- as knowledge built collectively as scientists publish their work and others use it toward their own.  But rarely is scientific knowledge shared with quite such a personal touch as in this video.  In it, Chao-Lin Kuo of Stanford delivers the news to Stanford physicist Andrei Linde, proponent of the theory of cosmic inflation, that his team of astronomers has just found evidence in support of Linde's theory.  Their ...

Internal Assessment Parts B (Summary of Evidence) and D (Analysis)

Although they are divided into two separate sections (and separated by part C) the Summary of Evidence (B) and Analysis (D) are inextricably linked – or should be.  Although the sections are assessed as discrete entities, they both must relate to the research question and the analysis should be only of the evidence presented in B. This can sometimes be frustrating ; you have spent a large part of your career as a history student trying to integrate these two elements ...