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The following episodes relate to the 'General TOK' Category



Newspaper Articles – Does Size Matter?


 

Metal door and key hole
How does the optical appearance of a newspaper article, the size of the headlines, the size of the pictures, influence its perception of its content by the readers? How does the context in which a newspaper article appears influence its perception by the readers?

I like to keep myself informed and I therefore like to read newspapers. Now with the internet being so widespread, I do not buy newspapers anymore, but rather visit my favorite newspapers online. Usually I start out with the computer news to keep myself updated on new products and developments, followed by science (deep in my heart I am a scientist, after all!) and politics and economics. The sports section I usually skip, I have to admit to you that I am not very competent in this particular area of knowledge. But I do read the sports section during the Olympics.
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Of Ghost Traps and Wrist Watches


 

Vitamin C under the microscope
Ghost traps are very useful devices – they can be used to catch evil spirits. What? You say that this does not make sense because ghosts do not exist? You say that ghosts are a product of our imagination? Well… do you believe in time? Could it not be that time is a product of our imagination as well?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit a cultural exhibition. There were all sorts of interesting exhibits, ranging from art work to the local food… and of course there were also rooms filled with religious objects, handicrafts, clothing etc. I also remember the nice photographs of the landscape that were on display. For the purpose of this episode, the country is of no importance. We were a small group of approximately 10 visitors and we had one tour guide for the museum.
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Three Different Types of Truth


 

Chess board
Here I will explain the differences between the Correspondence Theory of truth, the Coherence Theory and the Pragmatic Theory.

What is truth? This is an interesting but also difficult question to answer. It is possible to distinguish several different definitions or approaches of truth. Here are three of them.

  • Correspondence Theory of Truth: This theory states that a statement (a “proposition”) is true if it corresponds to (or reflects) reality. If somebody states “It is raining” (the proposition) then it is true only if it is really raining outside (reality). The interesting question is now: “What is reality”? We know that senses can deceive us. So how is reality really like? And of course we have to assume that something like reality really does exist and is not simply a product of our mind.
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Different types of knowledge


 

Camp fire
What are the differences between declarative and procedural knowledge? Declarative knowledge is the knowledge of facts, procedural knowledge is the knowledge on “how to” do something. For example: I know that 5+5=10 (declarative) and I know how to calculate (procedural).

Knowledge, according to Plato, is justified true belief. But this definition does not cover all types of knowledge. You know how to read, for example. This type of knowledge is not based on belief, justification or truth. In this edition we will discuss two different types of knowledge:

  • Declarative Knowledge: This includes the knowledge of facts. Some examples could include the knowledge that 5+5=10, the knowledge that the radius of the earth is about 6500km, the knowledge that ice is less dense than liquid water. Declarative knowledge can easily be communicated from person to person.
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What are the differences between Facts, Theories and Opinions?


 

Houses on a hillside
The terms facts, theories and opinions are often confused. The objective of this edition is to clarify these terms. Facts are observations or measurements from an experiment, theories are the explanation of these facts, while opinions are assessments or evaluations.

The terms facts, theories and opinions are often confused. The objective of this edition is to clarify these terms. Facts are observations or measurements from an experiment, theories are the explanation of these facts, while opinions are assessments or evaluations. Opinions are often not scientifically verifiable or falsifyable.

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What is Determinism?


 

Lake, tree, hut and fence in spring - a classic
Determinism refers to the idea that the future is not up to chance, the future can be predicted. Determinists claim that if you had sufficient knowledge of the current situation, then you could in theory predict the behavior of a system into the future. Certain systems are indeed deterministic, many others are not.

In this edition we will have a look at the concept of determinism. In a deterministic system the initial conditions of the system determine the future behavior of the system. The behavior of both a falling apple and a rolling die depend on the initial conditions. Even the same laws of physics apply, namely classical mechanics. Both falling apple and the rolling dice are deterministic systems. But I am able to calculate the landing position of a falling apple, but I am not able to calculate the result of a die roll. Why? How are these two examples different? Why does the die seem to behave according to chance, but not a falling apple? A rolling die is chaotic and it is unpredictable, even though it is deterministic. Even if we know all the physical laws and the starting conditions of a system, it is still not possible to predict the future behavior of chaotic systems.
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Why are Simpler Explanations Usually Better?


 

Old door and hinge
The purpose of science is to make things simpler and not more complicated. Scientists strive to discover theories and explanations that simplify the view of our world and not complicate them. According to Wiliam of Ockham (c. 1288 – c. 1347), if there are competing explanations for a phenomenon, the simpler explanation is to be preferred. The simpler explanation is often the correct one. It can be summarized as “With all other things being equal the simpler solution is the better one.” Simpler explanations rely on fewer assumptions which can not be proven or disproven.

In this edition of TOK-Talk I would like to explore the difference between a good and a bad explanation. Why are simpler explanations usually the better ones? Listen to find out! Continue reading »

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Better know nothing than half-know many things.

- Friedrich Nietzsche -