What would you think if one day someone came to tell you that you are in a dream – that everything around you was in this dream and it has also turned into a dream to come and wake you up?

That’s a major thought experiment in the philosophy of 2 whole continents (at least — I’m not an expert on philosophy), and the plot of the entire Matrix trilogy of movies.

In other words, it’s been mulled over, talked about, had entire libraries written about, and been stretched to screaming point across three over-wordy films.

If you’re interested, start with Matrix 1. It’s probably enough on its own. Then, check out William James, especially on perception and psychology, then take a deep dive into the Ancient Greeks. I’m sorry I’m not terribly familiar with Asian philosophy, but I think Chuang Tzu would be a good place to start.

ETA, m’more-learned colleague, Donal Farrell, suggests looking at Descartes’ demon and Harman’s Brain in a vat, too.


What is the possibility of my heritage being Scottish, if my DNA is 48% Welsh?


Assuming it’s actually possible to separate Welsh DNA from Scottish or English DNA – not to mention Irish DNA – then … it’s hard to be sure.

The difficulty lies largely in determining the number of other nations – sovereign, non-sovereign, dependency, federation, territory (disputed or not). The usual figure of 193 regards the UK as one country, not 4. There’s a second figure of 250, which includes dependencies, but that still considers the UK as a single country, not 4.

So I’ll go with 300, which I freely agree is an under-estimate. Wales being one of the 300, if we subtract that we’re left with 299 other countries. Scotland is one option amongst that 299. The probability that the remaining 52% of your heritage is Scottish is therefore

p(Scottish)=1/(300–1), or 0.003.

You’re welcome!

What happened to Irish Gaelic (as the dominant language in Ireland)?

Dia dhuit, a chara!

The Famine happened.

Contrary to popular opinion, the English/British never banned the Irish language, apart from rather unsuccessful attempts to stop the assimilation of English people in Ireland[1][2] and piecemeal efforts to restrict to English the language of the Dublin Parliament* and the courts. The Irish language did decline fastest in Leinster, the region most under English/British control. Bilingualism was common elsewhere, with monolingual Irish speakers found only in particularly remote areas.

The Irish National School system didn’t help matters. Conceived as multi-denomination schools in 1831, the language of education was strictly English, a position given extra power by the wholehearted support of the Catholic Church, who saw Irish as the language of poverty[3] . In this, they were supported by Irish-speaking parents, who were keen for their children to have access to the social and economic advantages associated with English speaking.

The Famine triggered the fastest decline, however. Partly, this was because those remote rural reservoirs of Irish-speaking were hardest hit; and partly because of emigration: speaking English was an economic necessity.

The Gaelic Revival which occurred only a few decades later did help to stop the rot, as it were, and after independence the Irish government made efforts to support the language and prevent it dying out. These have not been the roaring success the instigators doubtless expected. The reasons why are various, from the relative usefulness of English vs Irish, contrary attitudes to government mandates, the lack of inducements** (or inducements being inadequate), the boringness of the Irish curriculum in schools, a failure to set out the aims and provide measurable goals with scope for improvements[4], etc., etc.

But the critical point was the Famine, when the language lost the support of its people.

* – There’s a rather amusing tale, which may or may not be true, that when Henry VIII declared himself King (as opposed to Lord) of Ireland, the proclamation in the Irish parliament had to be translated into Irish by the one member of the parliament who spoke English.

** – When my mother was a child, there was a payment made to families who could prove they were full-time Irish speakers. A neighbour of her parents claimed this, but his wife only spoke English. So, whenever the government sent someone to check his household, his wife was sent to visit her parents, and their Irish-speaking maid stood in for her.


[1] 1537 Act for the English Order, Habit and Language

[2] Statutes of Kilkenny – Wikipedia

[3] https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1085869.pdf

[4] Dearcadh ar Athbheocan na Gaeilge on JSTOR

Why did so many Irish people in the 17th and 18th centuries identify as British, even though Ireland wasn’t part of the UK at that time? E.g. the Duke of Wellington, a large percentage of the Royal Navy and British Army, etc.

Do you have any evidence to support your claim?

I doubt it – that you have evidence, that is. You can’t even get your dates right.

  • There was no “Britain” or “UK” in the 17th century.
  • There was no UK which included Ireland in either the 17th or 18th century.
  • Irish Catholics were forbidden from joining the British Armed Forces throughout much of the period until the Papists Act 1778, and then only on condition of swearing an oath abjuring aspects of Catholic doctrine.
  • The Duke of Wellington was an Anglo-Irish Protestant, active in the late 18th and early 19th century. Irish Protestants were not prevented from joining the British Armed Forces.

Ireland was a Lordship of England from 1171, a status created by Pope Adrian VI’s Bull, Laudabiliter, in 1155 and later confirmed by his successor, Pope Alexander III. It remained a Lordship of the English Crown until Henry VIII, King of England (note: still no Britain or UK), converted it to the Kingdom of Ireland, held with the Kingdom of England in “personal communion” by the monarch.

When James I (of England ) and VI (of Scotland) ascended the English throne, he held the 3 Crowns of Scotland, England, and Ireland in personal communion. This state of affairs continued until, during the reign of Queen Anne, the Kingdoms of Scotland and England were combined by the Acts of Union 1707 into the Kingdom of Great Britain (now there’s a Britain and a UK, but one that doesn’t include Ireland). Thereafter, her heirs and successors held the 2 Crowns of Great Britain and Ireland in a personal communion, until 1800 (19th century), when, under the Acts of Union, the separate kingdoms of Great Britain and of Ireland were combined into a single Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (a UK including Ireland).

Once Irish Catholics could join the British Army, they did so in fairly large numbers; then again, they also joined other professions in increasing numbers, as they became open to Catholics.

I think it very unlikely that any Irish people claimed to be British, except where legally required to do so. Certainly, looking at military and immigration records for my ancestors, where a place of birth was asked for, the answer was “Ireland”, not the UK; and where citizenship (UK) was required, there was usually a second question about nationality, where they answered “Irish”. NB: most of my ancestors were Irish Protestants – it was not unusual for Irish Protestants (such as the Duke of Wellington) to claim to be both Irish and British and to think no more of it than a US citizen would of calling themselves both American and Oklahoman. My ancestors appear to have considered themselves more Irish than British, however, and I can’t think of a reason why Irish Catholics would not have considered themselves similarly, the legal niceties be damned.

What happened as a result of the Irish potato famine?

A million died, at least a million emigrated. The population never recovered.

The potato blight did affect other countries, but those other countries had their own government, situated in their own country, and those governments were willing to help those affected. Ireland had none of that.

I have always tried to be balanced about the Famine, in which many of my ancestors died. I have always pointed out that the British government operated a policy of laissez-faire, assuming the market would correct itself; and did not realise that the political and social exigencies present in Ireland meant that there was no such “market” in Ireland – in short, that the British parliament was mostly just ignorant and ill-informed, with only a few deliberately genocidal elements like Charles Trevelyan.

What European TV am I legally permitted to watch in the UK without buying a UK TV licence? I want to watch European TV in various languages online, without breaking UK TV Licence regulations.

The TV licencing laws are changed regularly, becoming increasingly egregious. Not content with robbing the elderly, the cheeky cunts at the BBC are now demanding payment for foreign TV channels that they have nothing to do with!

Now, the only exception appears to be for non-live TV. You can’t record live TV, or watch live TV through streaming or a service like Sky or NOW, or watch live foreign channels.

Incidentally, you’re under no obligation to let the fuckers into your home to search for TV sets or other illicit entertainment-watching equipment. They can “suspect” all they want, but they can’t get access and therefore cannot prove you have any.

If green pigments are so difficult to produce in mammals, why are green eyes so relatively common?

Colour-mixing. And also other people’s perceptions.

Eye colour fundamentally depends on the amount of melanin in the iris. Melanin is like gravy browning:

it looks black in concentration, but is brown or yellow in small amounts.

If someone has little to no melanin in the iris, their eye colour is blue or grey. This means that the basic iris colour is blue/grey.

If a person has a medium-ish amount of melanin in their eyes, the melanin added to the base iris colour of blue results in green eyes.


That’s the colour-mixing aspect (NB: the genetic story is more complicated)

The other part is the perception of others. This is not so much an issue of perception as it is of laziness. Most people, in my experience, haven’t a clue what colour their eyes are, because they were told a colour and just ran with it. So people with light-coloured eyes are told they have blue eyes, when in fact they’re green or grey, and people with darker eyes are told they’re brown, when they might be hazel.

Why didn’t the EU take a smarter & more business like approach towards the UK? You can leave if you like & still have full access to the single market, but at a certain price & fee of one billion a year? They would still get the contribution back?

Because – and this is REALLY IMPORTANT – the UK did not want access to any aspect of the EU.

The EU’s approach was to be guided by what the UK wanted. There were several options available to the UK, with varying levels of access to the EU and related price tags. The UK wanted the no-access, zero-cost option. So that is what they got.

What is the difference between MA in psychology and MA in applied psychology? What should I do if I want to get into the clinical psychology field?

MA psych is general, MA applied psych is the practical, useful bits of psych – so no farting about with the psychology of dreaming, or Freud/Jung.

The “MA” bit is worrying. Typically, BA and MA psych contain no statistical or methodological content, and they are a poor entry into the science of psychology.

If you want to get into clinical psych, don’t waste your time on either MA. You need to get onto a PhD-level degree in clinical psych.