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Showing posts from June, 2014

Why are we “the giraffes of altruism.”?

According to the neuro-scientist, Jonathan Haidt, humans are instinctively unselfish in some key respects. He sees altruism - acting for others rather than out of self-interest - as an evolutionary development. 

What's the evidence, Mr Haidt?There are signs that some forms of altruism are instinctive rather than learned. Even a very young child will come to you aid if you are struggling to open a door, for example. 

This suggests that an inclination to help others - is at least partially heritable. 

But isn't evolutionary theory based on the idea of the 'survival of the fittest'?Co-operation gives humans a competitive advantage over other species


But what's with the giraffe reference?The giraffe's long neck gives it an advantage over other species. Being nice - some of the time, anyway - is our equivalent of having a neck that gives you that extra bit of stretch when it comes to nabbing that fruit! 



BTW: giraffes & humans share the same number of neck vertebrae

What is an eysore? And a sight for sore eyes?

English can be a very confusing language.

An eyesore is something - typically a building - which is not pleasing to look at. This building is an example: 

A sight for sore eyes is the opposite - something is which aesthetically pleasing to the eye. This is often used as form of flattery e.g. you're a sight for sore eyes
What is the origin of eyesore?Shakespeare did not coin the phrase - though he is responsible for eyeball.  He did, however, provide an early example in The Taming of the Shrew, albeit one that is more metaphorical than is typical in modern English: 
Why, sir, you know this is your wedding-day:
First were we sad, fearing you would not come;
Now sadder, that you come so unprovided.
Fie, doff this habit, shame to your estate,
An eye-sore to our solemn festival!
And sight for sore eyes?First recorded example comes in another giant of literature: Jonathan Swift  in A complete collection of genteel and ingenious conversation, 1738:
"The Sight of you is good for sore Eyes.&quo…

Who is Shashibiya?

Chinese Shakespeare?
Few will be surprised to discover that Shakespeare (transcribed Shashibiya) never visited China. Nor was his work widely known there until comparatively recently. 

The first confirmed appearance of the name Shashibiya in a Chinese language publication was a brief mention in a translation of Milner’s The History of Englandin 1857. But it was the publication of Lin Shu’s Tales from Shakespeare in 1904 that first brought the Bard to a wider Chinese audience. 

Shu remarketed Shashibiya for a Chinese readership. He promoted the plays as traditional ‘stories of gods and spirits’. One of these tales was used for the first professional production of Shakespeare in China: a staging of The Merchant of Venice in 1913.


Sha Weng, or Old Man Sha, became an icon of modernity amongst Chinese intellectuals. Universities were a centre of protest against 'old China' and Shakespeare was seen as symbolic of what were perceived as progressive western ideas. He was still a cu…