The Slants on the Power of Repurposing a Slur

“The idea of reappropriation isn’t new. The process of turning negative words, symbols or ideas into positive parts of our own identity can involve repurposing a racial epithet or taking on a stereotype for sociopolitical empowerment. But reappropriation can be confusing. Sometimes people can’t figure out the nuances of why something is or isn’t offensive — government bureaucrats in particular.”


Monuments or Memorials? “The Meaning of Our Confederate ‘Monuments’”

Interesting discussion on the difference between “monuments” and “memorials” and how that distinction plays out with the contemporary controversy around the removal of Confederate Civil War statues.

“The debate around these monuments — Should they be destroyed, maintained or removed elsewhere? — has been heated and, I believe, misguided. We should be asking other questions instead: Are these statues really “monuments” by our present standards? Or are they rather “memorials”? Are we misled by the avenue’s name? Do we need to rename the avenue itself as we attempt to remedy our deferred maintenance of history?”

A Map of Lexical Distances Between Europe’s Languages


How does this visual representation give us a different sense of meaning than a traditional map?

“This linguistic map paints an alternative map of Europe, displaying the language families that populate the continent, and the lexical distance between the languages. The closer that distance, the more words they have in common. The further the distance, the harder the mutual comprehension.

“The map shows the language families that cover the continent: large, familiar ones like Germanic, Italic-Romance and Slavic; smaller ones like Celtic, Baltic and Uralic; outliers like Semitic and Turkic; and isolates – orphan languages, without a family: Albanian and Greek.”

Here is a site with some additional posts and discussions of related issues by the creator of this image.

How do language and lifestyle affect your perceptions?

Part of an interesting video series, Do You See What I See. The first part of this link shows an African tribe, the Himba, whose language and environment differ so much from ours that they are able to distinguish different shades very differently from us. The link below is for the part that shows the Himba tribe. At the bottom of the video player are links for the rest of that show.

Here an article about how those same people are able to discern optical illusions better than people who live in modern societies.

The Astonishing Vision of Namibia’s Nomads

“The Himba people of Namibia can see fine details and ignore distraction much better than most other human beings – a finding that may reflect the many ways that modern life is changing our minds and abilities.”

A new definition would add 102 planets to our solar system — including Pluto

The debate about whether Pluto is or is not a planet is an interesting one in that it highlights many interesting aspects of what we study in TOK.

Pluto itself did not change but the definitions we use to define what comprises our solar system did change. When we only knew of 9 objects of a particular size orbiting the sun, the inclusion of Pluto as a planet was not controversial but as new objects were added to the list, scientists needed to come up with a definition that either excluded Pluto or added many more objects to our list of planets.

It’s important to remember that like most definitions and language, meaning is based on agreement and man made rules. There is no “cosmic” definition of a planet. This article discusses this concept to some degree.

“For years, astronomers, planetary scientists and other space researchers have fought about what to call the small, icy world at the edge of our solar system. Is it a planet, as scientists believed for nearly seven decades? Or must a planet be something bigger, something more dominant, as was decided by vote at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2006?

“The issue can bring conversations to a screeching halt, or turn them into shouting matches. “Sometimes,” Runyon said, “it’s just easier not to bring it up.””

Here are some interesting comments from the article as well. They illustrate some of the interesting aspects of the “debate” where people can get very emotional about the issue, as illustrated by the first comment below. But the second comment raises an interesting question about whether we would care as much if we hadn’t discovered Pluto almost a hundred years ago.Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 9.59.39 AM

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 10.00.17 AM