Monday, December 26, 2016

The Tootsie Pop Problem

Another year has rolled by and I still don't know how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.  

"How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?"

Tootsie Pops are known for the catch phrase "How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?" This infamous challenge has plagued society since the animated commercial debuted on U.S. television in 1969. 

For those of you who don't know, the Tootsie Pop is a hard candy lollipop filled with chocolate-flavored chewy Tootsie Roll candy. It debuted in 1931. By 2002, 60 million Tootsie Rolls and twenty million Tootsie Pops were produced every day. 

         According to 

Engineering students from Purdue University built a "licking machine", modeled after a human tongue, and concluded that it took an average of 364 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, but only 252 natural "licks" ... twenty of the group's volunteers assumed the licking challenge - unassisted by machinery - and averaged 252 licks each to the center. 

A chemical engineering doctoral student from the University of Michigan recorded that his customized licking machine required 411 licks, while undergraduate students at Swarthmore College concluded that it takes a median of 144 licks (range 70-222) to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. 

Harvard Grad students created a rotating mechanical tongue and concluded it took 2,255 licks on a normal raspberry Tootsie Pop to get the center showing. In 2014 the Tribology Laboratory at the University of Florida published a study examining the coupled effects of biology, corrosion, and mechanical agitation on the wear of Tootsie Roll Pops. In my mind, they WIN with the topic description alone. 

Self reported wear data from 58 participants was used in conjunction with statistical analysis of actual lollipop cross-sectional information in a numerical simulation to compute the average number of licks required to reach the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Roll Pop. 

The number of licks required, based on equatorial cross-section data, was found to be nearly independent of the licking style with the one-sided approach required 195±18 licks and the full-surface approach requiring 184±33 licks. 

Independent researcher Cory Heid presented his Tootsie Pop findings at the 2013 Joint Mathematics Meetings in January, and at the Michigan Undergraduate Conference in February, as a data analysis project using a data-driven model. His findings are presented in this post: Tootsie Pop Findings. Heid concluded that people love Tootsie Pops just as they are, even if they don't solve this problem.

While the list of unsolved problems in philosophy generally relate to the problems associated with language, ethics, knowledge, the mind-body connection and consciousness, the Tootsie Pop Problem is a preoccupation of lay philosophers across multiple disciplines. 


If Tootsie Pops are anything like people, no two are the same. 

While answers vary between 144 licks (Swarthmore College) to a whopping 2,255 licks (Harvard University), one thing is for certain, the world may never know ... unless they conduct their own experiment.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Free Cookies for All

Election Day 2016

It's that time again, when all the world becomes philosophical in the sense that you question who you are going to vote for. 

When you break down the word philosophy we get the Greek words philo (loving) and soph(ía) (wisdom) ... in this sense, liberally reaching, philosophers are "lovers of wisdom." 

When voting for the best candidate to represent a nation and thus a collective philosophy, despite its many nuances in expressing that philosophy, we each seek our own sense of wisdom, we each wish to be "wise". 

The reasons we give fall into different categories. 

  1. The person who offers views or theories on who should be president based on profound questions in ethics, metaphysics, logic, or other related fields. 
  2. The person who delves deeper into the bigger picture. 
  3. The person who establishes the central ideas of a given movement, belief system, etc. 
At the beginning of C.S. Peirce's 11th Lowell Lecture, he asserts that "All men philosophize ... [t]hose who neglect philosophy have metaphysical theories as much as others - only they are rule, false, and wordy theories" (Lowell Lecture XI
Right Wing

Do women philosophize, too? 

These two differences of opinion represent a nation considering Trump or Hillary Clinton to serve as the United States Top Ambassador to the World. 

Image result for hillary clinton young

The way we vote is an exercise in forward-thinking as well as philosophizing. We deduce or induce certain scenarios based on the candidate who wins. In the absence of knowing the candidates personally, our opinions become a semantic debate (our perception of the language and logic used when discussing issues). 

Is anyone who ever voted a philosopher? Just as: Is anyone who has ever written a word on paper a writer? Clearly not, for the intended purpose of those terms. 

But here in the big grand scheme of things, we categorize ... and loosely categorized, we are all philosophers. 

Philosophy is, at its simplest, the application of reason to life. Anybody who conceives of, or has adopted a particular application of reason has become a philosopher. The degree to which they philosophize may lead them to a formal study of the history of philosophy or it may simply represent their natural cognitive response system to information they encounter, internally and externally. 

Whether or not one has set foot in a philosophy department, Descartian approaches to philosophizing are not uncommon. Even if someone has never read The Method ... which is funny given Descartes' rejection of the scholastic tradition in which he had been educated in favor of his own pursuit of mathematical and scientific truth ... people regularly examine and reexamine their own thoughts (as did Descartes), ever trying to validate their conclusions (epistemology). 

Epistemology is the study of the nature, source, limits, and validity of knowledge. It is especially interested in developing criteria for evaluating claims people make that they "know" something. 

However the nation votes today, for whichever multitude of reasons given, we vote in proportion to our own sense of wisdom, which is a culmination of all our qualities, good or otherwise. The soundness of our action or decision with regards to the candidate we endorse for President of the United States is our application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment at play. 

When there are only two candidates representing society, our wisdom becomes a representation of our shared philosophy - otherwise we'd vote for ourselves. 

The current position and deduced trajectory of the United States is thusly measured. 

Whatever side of the fence you find yourself voting this election season,

Just Vote

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Avatar Alice

Avatar Alice leisurely leans upon a cloud of infinity, 
infinitely existing in the stillness,
resplendent images are met with a softness of grace,
and a sprig of rose ...

With no superimposed image set upon it,
Avatar Alice delights in the images that appear, 
and from time to time,
leaps into a Cosmic Vessel
traveling down-inward into a vibrant world
called the Forest of Kings ...

Arriving on a wooden mushroom
with time as a natural accompaniment, 
Avatar Alice is met by a Welcoming Committee

With considerable effort,
she leans inward, partaking of those little niceties
that enable her to fit 
inside the beautifully decorated and oddly friendly door

Knock, Knock ...

The door marks the entrance to 
the Temple of Wonderland
where guides stand ready at every corner
to direct one onward, inward and upside-down-ward
and far deeper into her many spectacles ...

Happy little clams,
piping hot coffee burbling (bubbling & gurgling) and brewing
red painted roses
vibrant contrasts
metaphorical colors
offering a first-hand glimpse of striking significance
and because
Alice is a connoisseuress of beautiful things
she, with gladness, adoration and readiness
accepts an invitation to tea
from the seasonal sprites,whose charm and innocence 
captivate her affections ...

With a slight tilt of her beaconess head
and an air of happiness,
Avatar Alice bows in dignified congeniality to the Court
and then returns to polite conversation with her newfound friends

Ready upon their faces
are a variety of compliments
the greeting for which Avatar Alice endeavors to honor
for each newly acquired choice and its accompaniment, 
the experience, are, from her understanding,
an emergence of raw unicity in a fully livened form

As Avatar Alice eavesdrops on their conversation,
sitting side by side so that she has less difficulty hearing them,
she catches a drift of their talk,
a conversation that began before she arrived
and will continue until the sun begins to drop behind the landscape,
just across the sea

It is aimless, cheerful chat,
for the most part mundane
They talk about the sunlight,
which is delightfully bright today,
or depending upon their mood,
unusually hazy,

The owner of a new cheese stall in a port market,
their children and grandchildren,
storks and bunnies and mice, alike
the state of Wonderland affairs,
and Occasionally one tells a story from his or her past
~ usually one his or her companions have heard before

The talk is punctuated by leisurely,
comfortable silences

As they gaze out upon the childlike landscape,
making clouds into animal shapes,
a mist falls over the land and
Wonderland fades into an imaginative memory
replaced by newly discovered notions of sights and sounds
that lend to further imaginary indulgences ...

Avatar Alice returns many times to Wonderland,
and on occasion, for several extended periods,

Herein we find clues in the way people live there,
plus an assortment of other favorites,
and if I dare say,
a few clues in those too ...

Although not a subject of hilarity
youthful ambitions and the prospect of their ancient-ness
are the things of philosophical inquiry
and boundless curious energy

The prospect of reading into such absurdities
surrounded by a rocky, sunlight landscape
where ideas flourish until they feel right
and are then released,
like balloons,
is humor epiphany enough
for one not searching for shocking glimpses of mirrors
that set the wheels of rabbit holes turning

With the unmistakably wry smile of an Avatar,
Avatar Alice earnestly finds Wonderland a good thing
and something not to be missed,
for it has an appeal of the 
"forever young" 

And at the very least,
in the best and most appropriate way,
is subject to its table settings (and manners),
so that all are in comfortable reach 
of the buffet of feasts ...

Bon appétit !!

Friday, September 30, 2016

The BS Election

It's an election year, after all - a time when BS is generally at its height. That foundation would be sufficient to let imaginations run free, but the flaws in analyses for having done so seem staggering. The "hold on a minute" crescendo of the intellectual elite is rising, but it is in fact confused, vague, and murky. 

New and clearer interpretations of the candidates and their aims would be of value to those who find themselves astonished by the sheer indifference to truth and falsity, and its hidden interest in manipulating belief and behavior, and in one way the senses. 

These are in fact what one would call "troubled times". 


When Trump claims to "tell it as it is", he is operating under the guise of "truth-telling" and while the issues upon which he argues are of great concern to the public given their ramifications, he is in fact abusing logic. 

Philosophers recognize five categories of fallacy: 
  1. formal 
  2. informal (linguistic) 
  3. informal (relevance - omission) 
  4. informal (relevance - intrusion) 
  5. informal (relevance - presumption) 
Let us first examine an informal fallacy of relevance (presumption): abusive analogy. The fallacy of abusive analogy is a highly specialized version of the ad hominen argument. Instead of the arguerer being insulted directly, an analogy is drawn which is calculated to bring someone into scorn or disrepute. The opponent or her behavior is compared with something which will elicit an unfavorable response toward her from the audience. 

Trump compares Clinton's legal luck with her email scandal to illegal-immigrant criminals as he says both 'have evaded justice'
It may be time to deport Hillary Clinton, a half-joking (calculating) Donald Trump told a teeming mass of Arizonans,
Trump then pledged to create 'a special deportation task force'  
(Perhaps Hillary has technophobia, and who wouldn't given the pressures of public service? Still, the documents, technically known as Form 302s, depict less a sinister and carefully calculated effort to avoid transparency than a busy and uninterested executive who shows little comfort with even the basics of technology, working with a small, harried inner circle of aides inside a bureaucracy where the IT and classification systems haven't caught up with how business is conducted in the digital age. Reading the FBI's interviews, some 250 pages of interview notes and reports, including interviews with former Secretary of State Colin Powell to CIA officers, one can liken the "scandal" to your parents asking for tech help with their phone or computer.) 

The analogy may be a valid one, from the point of view of the comparison being made or the fact that politicians in today's age should be tech savvy. These arguments make the blown-out-of-proportion scandal more effective, but no less fallacious, since the purpose is to introduce additional, unargued and in some cases, completely absurd material to influence a judgement. 

When Trump speaks I hear: "Your call is important to us" followed immediately thereafter by hold music, in which a slanderous, ill-informed paid-for commentary on the state of a nation, of which Trump is grossly misinformed and misinterpreting to support his personal aims. 

Classical Logic 

Classical Logic is a formal language, with a rigorous syntax and grammar. The meaning of its formulas is given by the deductive system and semantics. In logic we define an argument to be a non-empty collection of formulas in the formal language, one of which is designated to be the conclusion. The relationships in logic's deductive system and its semantics can be shown between derivability and validity. We show that an argument is derivable if it is valid. 

This pleasant feature is called soundness. A sound argument means that no valid deduction can take a true premise to a false conclusion. Deductions preserve truth. Completeness, on the other hand, is an argument that is valid only if it is derivable. This establishes the deductive system as encompassing in that a deduction for every valid argument can be made. 

There's nothing new in the appeal to BS by individuals, corporations, or governments seeking to legitimate and advance their specific interests and plans. What is new is the depths to which society has allowed this campaign to travel. Fortunately Hillary is not following Trump down his murky gopher hole - for it is clear to those of sound mind that whatever legitimate knowledge he claims to have is hyped through an effective public relations campaign of "let's throw it against the wall and see what sticks".

While most academics shun the vulgarity of Trump's Marching Campaign Circus, that politeness has not stopped the establishment of new academic journals and commentary dedicated to analyzing and better understanding all such varieties of fraud and misrepresentation throughout modern culture. 

Others, if less polite, are more direct. 

This election year is a theatrical defense of truth, with scandals and fiction and nonfiction commentary running side by side. But for many the curiosity is connected to deeper worries about what lay ahead for a culture so knee-deep in it. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

1,000,000 Visitors

Anyone else wake up in a grass skirt and coconut bra?

Just kidding, but what a fun way to announce 
1,000,000 unique visitors to Happy Thoughts Travel Fast !!!


Visitors have found their way to Happy Thoughts Travel Fast for many reasons. Like any subject we encounter, we largely react to humor based on how we are feeling at the moment. To jokes we bring our history, our culture, our tastes and preferences, our sensitivities and our biases; in other words, we bring our unique perspective

When it comes to the examination of humor, scholars often focus on our reaction to it. From here, we each have so-called humor styles, tastes or affinities for a particular mode of mirth and play. 

The humor style reflected herein is affiliative. The header of HTTF reads: 

Humor is infectious. It lightens burdens, inspires hope, connects us to others, increases our insight, keeps us grounded, focused, alert, and happy. Laughter is a universal language that stimulates both sides of the brain. It allows us to get messages quicker and remember them longer. We all learn more when we are having fun. 

Philosophy of Humor 

From a philosopher's perspective, humor theories rely on classifications of: incongruity, superiority, and relief theories. Two sides of the same coin, really. One from a feeling (humor styles) perspective, the other from a thinking (classification). 

Psychology and Philosophy departments are generally located right across the hall from one another, and while operating in the same space, they do so from divergent perspectives.

Philosophy professors will tell you that if you want to "feel" you must leave (the philosophy department) and go across the hall, but if you wish to "think" to remain seated. 

Psychology profs say that if you really want to "understand" what is going on with the glass and its contents you'll have to understand yourself, first. 

Fortunately, I majored in business otherwise I'd never get anything done.

5 Years Ago  

The first humor book I read was 

Exploring the Philosophy of Humor enabled me to approach the subject with a sense of initial categorical understanding. I read the top scholars, studied hieroglyphs for "laugh" and "laughing" (which appeared in 2900 BCE), and poured through thousands of jokes, dating back to the Group of Sixty (In the Athens of Demosthenes, there was a comedians' club which met in the Temple of Heracles to trade wisecracks):
Sir Alan Gardiner, who knew more about ancient Egypt than anyone else, who compiled an Egyptian Grammar, and who had a beautiful hand for these majestic squiggles, said, "Whenever I write that hieroglyph, I find myself laughing." "Why, Sir Alan?" "Oh, I don't know, Old Boy. Thinking of those funny old priests, chipping it into the rock."  

W.C. Fields, who spent sixty years trying to amuse people on stage, in print, on the airways, in silent movies and talkies, put his finger on it: "We know what makes people laugh. We do not know why they laugh."  

Laughter is like dreams. We know as much about it now as we did five thousand years ago. 

In 2011, I published the Punchline Theory of Humor, which highlights the punchline as the climax of a joke.

Psychological triggers serve as part of the joke's exposition and rising action, and philosophical categories part of a joke's falling action or denouement. 

Feel Good Humor

My primary motivation for sharing my exploration of humor is simple: to have fun with others. 

The humor that has been shared in this blog over the last five years is total nonsense, some of which is coherent, some incoherent. Much has been theoretical, quirky or family-oriented, with a smattering of nonsensical ramblings just because. While Harold Bloom searches for wisdom, I searched for the best jokes ... and I have found some pretty good ones.

Humor is not as satisfying when we laugh at misfortunes or poke fun of others, but it is hilarious when we play the role of the priest, the rabbi, and the minister walking into a bar. Doing so we get to appreciate life from all three perspectives, including that of the Bartender (so, I guess that's four).

The Platypus sitting at the end of the bar, he's another story .... I'm still trying to figure him out.

What's Next? 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Looking Glass Self: Self-Objectivation in Vajra Dakini

This post concerns Vajra Dakini, an esoteric teaching concerned with self-consciousness held within the human body. I was introduced to the concept for the first time without any intention of formulating a post; but I become motivated to engage in the exploration of it. 

By remaining within the natural attitude, the visitor to the garden of a pure land is unaware of shifts in noetic acts through which noematic correlates of the garden and associated images undergo presentational modifications within the context of the experience. 

One can shift into the aesthetic order of reality, which brackets the pragmatic motive of the paramount province of the everyday in order to savor, for the sake of aisthetikos, the perceptual/sensuous presentation of the image. 

Within the natural attitude this aesthetic province is easily conflated with the cognitive province of knowledge. In the cognitive order, the image is analyzed by applying concepts that serve to increase understanding and to acquire new data in a circumscribed context. 

The images presented in relation to Vajra Dakini, one in particular, can be experienced both aesthetically and as an image of cognitive analysis. A cognitive analysis may either enhance or stifle the aesthetic experience, and vice versa. 

From within the natural attitude, other orders of reality are also naively intended, and the observer usually shifts from one attitudial mode to another without achieving excellence in any one province of meaning-intention. 

The perceiver at times relates the artifact to him or herself personally. It then becomes subjugated to the role of psychological trigger, prompting the observer's thoughts about his or her own life. The Vajra Dakini merely functions as the occasion for introspection in which the self-reflective content only obliquely concerns the image. 

The artifact can also serve sociality, whereby consociates are escorted to the Vajra Dakini for their enjoyment. The value of the artifact in this instance is in its function of providing for a favorable social impression. 

One may focus on the image for its moral edification or as a vehicle for personal propaganda. One may attend to how the image has been produced, or perhaps to the stature of the producer/owner or his or her historical milieu. 

During my first visit to the Vajra Dakini and its associations, I shifted between the natural attitude and the phenomenological attitude, which allowed me to make these preliminary observations concerning attitudinal modifications. 

The problematic could be formulated as such: 

Is it possible to experience the phenomenon of the looking-glass self through an artifact or image that has been owned and expressed by a predecessor? The implications are many.