If you follow the NFL, and if you’re familiar with its history, you may have noticed something strange about the Super Bowls: they seem to be so much closer than they used to be. In the 21st Century so far, most of the Super Bowl games have been back-and-forth thrillers which don’t get decided until the very end of the game. In stark contrast, in the 20th Century, most of the Super Bowl games were blowouts which were basically over after three quarters (some of them were over as soon as they started). …


The Second Law of Thermodynamics relates the concept of entropy, a measure of disorder, to the concepts of heat and temperature. It states that the change in a system’s entropy can never be less than the heat added to the system, divided by the ambient temperature. One very important corollary is that if a system is isolated (meaning it doesn’t interact with its surroundings), then its entropy can never decrease …… and for any real-world process, it will always be increasing. In an isolated system, the entropy is always rising.

Mathematically, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is written as:

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

where…


The First Law of Thermodynamics is one of the most important laws in all of science. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most confusing laws in all of science, and it tends to stump high school and college students. In this article, I will try to alleviate the confusion a little.

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that the change in a system’s internal energy is determined by two processes: heat and thermodynamic work. Mathematically, it is written as

The First Law of Thermodynamics

where dU is the change in the system’s internal energy, δQ is the heat added to the system, and δA…


Part 10 of 10: The Atman and Free Will

The question of free will is one of the oldest, deepest, and most important questions in philosophy. Since ancient times, philosophers have been divided over it. On the one hand, it seems like we have free will (and most of us want to believe that we do), but on the other hand, the scientific worldview suggests that our brains are only physical systems, which means that their future behavior is determined by the laws of science, not by some independent animus from within.

As in my previous essay, I have a…


Part 9 of 10: Are You Always the Same Person?

Are you the same person now that you were five minutes ago? This is one of the most strange and disillusioning questions that you can possibly ask yourself. When you first hear of it, it might seem like a stupid question, but then after you think about it, you realize how curious it really is.

Before going any further, I want to make it clear what exactly the question is asking. The question is not asking whether or not one’s personality, moral character, or perspective on the world change over…


Part 8 of 10: The Atman is the Definition of Life

The question of what makes something alive has been a difficult and controversial question for millennia. It is a central question in several of the most controversial issues in society. For example, in the debate over abortion, people don’t agree on when exactly a fetus becomes alive. The question of when something is alive is also a central question in debates over animal rights, stem-cell research, and end-of-life issues.

Is a lizard alive? Is a grasshopper alive? What makes something alive?

Personally, I think that the defining characteristic of life is consciousness. However, you can be alive without being conscious (like…


[under revision]

Author’s note, February 2021:

Hello, dear reader.

For reasons too weird to describe here, I had to remove Part 7 from the series. However, I will post a revised version sometime this summer (Summer 2021).

Next part: Part 8


Part 6 of 10: The Views of the Philosophers

The philosophy of consciousness, better known as the philosophy of mind, has a rich history. Countless philosophers have speculated about such concepts as the soul, the mind, the Atman, and the self. In this essay, I will summarize the views of some of the most famous philosophers on these topics. For each one, I will focus on their ideas about the philosophy of mind, although I may briefly mention some of their other ideas, too.

I have divided my list into two parts: philosophers of the past and philosophers of the…


Part 5 of 10: Brain, Soul, Self, Atman, Mind

Since antiquity, people have been speculating about the mysteries of consciousness and personhood. Because it is such a vague and mysterious topic, people have invented many different words in their attempts to describe it: the words include “brain”, “soul”, “self”, “Atman”, “mind”, as well as the word “consciousness” itself. The meanings of these various words are similar, but not exactly the same. There are some important differences between them, which I will explore in this essay.

I. The Brain

The brain, of course, is the physical organ inside your skull. It…


Part 4 of 10: Definition of the Atman

In Part 1, I introduced two “mind-blowing” questions:

Question 1: How is it that I’m me and you’re you?

Question 2: How (and why) does consciousness exist at all?

I went on to argue that it is impossible to answer either of these questions by using science alone. Since science can’t do it, I like to answer them by using philosophy. Specifically, I use the concept of the Atman.

I am getting the word “Atman” from Hinduism. Personally, I am not a Hindu; however, I chose the word “Atman” for this series…

Matthew Gliatto

Grad student and TA. Born 1993.

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