Atlantis: No way, No how, No where: Kevin Christopher on the history of the Atlantis myth.
The enduring question, now two millennia old, is whether Plato's account of Atlantis is a description of an actual civilization that sunk beneath the waves, or a tantalizing tale that rose up wholly from the depths of the Athenian philosopher's imagination. In general terms there are three possible conclusions to be made for the Atlantis legend:
1. the account is entirely factual and inerrant;
2. it is a blend of fact, fiction, and error; or
3. it is entirely fictional.
Most cranks and all legitimate scholars alike have jettisoned the first conclusion. Unfortunately these cranks and several scholars agree on the second possibility, but the great pitfall is that each detail of Plato's Atlantis that is cast aside so that it will fit a theory weakens the very premise of having solved the question of whether Atlantis existed. Librarian Rand Flem-Ath thinks Atlantis is really Antarctica; Swiss geoarcheologist Eberhard Zangger thinks Atlantis is Troy. But the more that Plato's dates, location, and other details are changed, the less stands to be proven about the truth of Atlantis. It becomes as ridiculous as arguing that a missing Victorian house in Hackensack, New Jersey was really a Spanish Villa in Mexico City all along, QED.
[via abuddhas memes]
Seeing Around Corners: on studying society by simulating it.
In 1994 Epstein went back to the Santa Fe Institute, this time to lecture on Sugarscape. He told me, "I came to a run in the Sugarscape that we called the Protohistory, which was really this made-up toy history of civilization, where it starts with some little soup of agents and they go to peaks on the Sugarscape and coalesce into tribes and have lots of kids and this forces them down in between the peaks and they smash into the other tribe and they have all this assimilation and combat and all this other stuff. And I showed that toy history to this typically unlikely Santa Fe collection of archaeologists and biologists and physicists, and I said, 'Does this remind anyone of anything real?' And a hand shot up, and it was George Gumerman's hand. I had never met George. And he said, 'It reminds me of the Anasazi.' I said, 'What the heck is that?' And he told me the story of this tribe that flourished in the Southwest and suddenly vanished. And why did they suddenly vanish? I thought, That's a fascinating question."
See also:[via Robot Wisdom]