A brand new website!

After months of waiting and staying in the middle ages, our website is now published and beautiful and streamlined. It is still in its infancy, still rudimentary, but we hope that it will be a home for future posts, collective insight, and service you on you way to total bliss.

If you have any opinions, thoughts/speeches, etc. let me know, and we can incorporate it into this beautiful layout! <3

love u like xo,



The Future of Competitive Games

By Keith Saver:

Hello everyone! For those of you who might not know me well, I have always been fascinated by and involved in competitive gaming. This is the first post in what will be a series on gaming. My posts will likely be focused mostly around the philosophy of game design.

For a little bit of personal background, my first exposure to competitive gaming was through chess, with most of my weekends in elementary and middle school spent at chess tournaments. More recently, I’ve played Super Smash Bros Melee (SSBM) and League of Legends (LoL) at moderately competitive levels, though much more LoL than SSBM. As a result, most examples I give will probably be from these three games, though I will be making an effort to make my points understandable to people with little or no exposure to these games, or competitive gaming in general. With the introduction out of the way:

As the title suggests, this first blog post is about my thoughts on how competitive gaming has and will continue to develop in the future as a result of technological advances. To make this discussion easier, I will first make a distinction between two types of games that I will refer to as discrete and continuous games.

Discrete games are characterized by well defined options in gameplay and tend to have turn based gameplay. I think it’s easiest to understand this concept through examples. Historically, most competitive games, such as chess, checkers, and go, have been discrete games. They have well defined rules, and with that, a clearly limited set of possible options at any point in the game.

In contrast, continuous games are characterized by having fewer hard limitations and are played in real time. Most video games fall into this category. As an example, consider SSBM. Characters, while limited by their individual design, move and act constantly. All fighting and real time strategy (RTS) games are very good examples of continuous games. While these games certainly have rules (for example, character movement speed), there is a clear difference between these sorts of limitations and the turn based play present in discrete games.

There is also a dichotomy between games of perfect information and games without perfect information. Games of perfect information, as the name suggests, are characterized by all players having knowledge of every possible move at all times. For example, chess is a game of perfect information, whereas poker is not, as a result of hidden cards.

Technology has had a massive effect on competitive gaming. It has changed how people study discrete games of perfect information, while resulting in the creation of continuous games. Computers have allowed discrete games of perfect information to be studied in a way that was never possible before. For example, checkers has been completely solved. Chess endgames with 7 or fewer pieces have all been solved. There are chess programs that can beat the top human players. Before the computer age, chess players’ knowledge was far more limited. Individuals were forced to innovate by crafting their own lines of play. Nowadays, anyone can buy a chess database, search for a position, and games between top players in which that position has occurred will pop up. This greatly accelerates how quickly people can learn the game, while allowing people to succeed without creative thought. All 10 of the players who have earned the International Grandmaster title (the highest title in chess other than world champion) at the youngest ages were born after 1980. Six out of the ten were born after 1990. My point is not to discredit these players’ absolutely incredible achievements, but I do think it is fair to argue that this trend is very much a result of technological advancements. There have also been a number of scandals around players illegally using computer programs during tournaments.

At this point, it is worth noting that many discrete games will never be solved by computers. For example, chess has approximately 10^47 possible positions, and go has approximately 10^79 possible positions. For a comparison point, it is estimated that there are around 10^80 atoms in the universe. These games, among others, are too complex to ever be completely solved by computers, as we do and will not have the memory and computational power to do so.

However, even before these games are completely solved, I would argue that something is lost in these games with the creation of computer programs that are stronger than human players. The issue is not specifically that computers can beat humans, but rather the result that, eventually, there may be no room left for human creativity within these games. Currently, humans are probably still better at certain types of analysis in chess, and human intuition gives some advantages (intuition in competitive games will likely be a topic for a later post!), but with our continually improving technology, chess programs may soon be completely superior to humans. It would be a shame for chess and go to devolve into memorizing computer analysis, but this isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

While technology has, in my view, removed some of the beauty in such classic games as chess, it allows the creation of continuous games. As a result of play occurring in real time, the computer analysis used in chess and checkers is not possible to the same extent. While there have been advances in developing AI for continuous games (which will also probably be discussed in much more depth in a future post), it is much more difficult to create such programs. In addition, no matter how good computer programs ever get at continuous games, this occurrence won’t have the same effect as it has on discrete games of perfect information. You will never be able to input an exact situation in LoL, or SSBM, or any other continuous game into a database in the same way you can with chess. The continuous aspect results in an infinite number of possible positions that is impossible in discrete games.

Continuous games include another aspect that is absent in discrete games: technical skill. It doesn’t matter how quickly or precisely you move a piece in chess. In contrast, top SSBM and starcraft players are performing hundreds of actions per minute, while still having to think about the strategy in the games. While the value of making technical skill a requirement for a game can be debated, it does mean that human vs human competition will always be interesting to watch in a way that is impossible with discrete games of perfect information. Top level play will always be more than the memorization of computer analysis, as may occur with discrete games of perfect information. Additionally, this makes continuous games much more similar to traditional sports.

In conclusion, I believe that continuous games have much higher potential to continue to have competition that isn’t ruined by technological advancements. Sadly, such seemingly eternal games as chess may not stand the test of time. While technology has hurt many classic games, it allows us to create new games with unique depth, and new strategic and competitive beauty to relish.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the first post in this series!

web design

This post is mostly an update of things to expect from the tuftsfreethought.org in the coming months.  I have been writing some code to redesign the web page because, honestly, I am ready to bring Freethought into a better place web design wise.  I want bright new colors, to extensively use Photoshop and to make this look like an awesome website that you want to see and use and click on and stuff.

I’m not feeling particularly eloquent. I can’t focus on the words being produced by my brain when everyone in the room is talking, but like whatever. All you need to know is that, we’re designing this and if you want to get involved let me know. I’m really hoping to have the site live by the end of the semester. Let’s see what happens.

Announcements, Feb 18th

Hey folks! It’s been a super super long time since we last posted, but we’re hoping to get the blog going on some sort of sporadic and/or semi-regular basis.


Seven of us are currently sitting in the campus center hanging out, being awesome, and theoretically writing blog posts in a three hour blogathon! We’re going to start updating on a regular basis, with a few posts from a few of the members who have joined – Katrina, Keith, and Leah – as well as a couple of other long-time folks!  Hopefully their posts will be up soon as the first posts of a regular pattern, but before then , here’s a quick update on what we are going to be up to this week!

This Thursday at 9:00 p.m. (later than usual because of Tufts’ Thursday-as-a-Monday schedule) in Eaton 202, we are returning to a discussion topic on a theme that got many of us interested in freethinking and Freethought to begin with: religion. Specifically, our discussion is going to be about Pascal’s Wager and other arguments that often lead people to religion. It’s the first time in a while that we’re going to do a topic on religion, and while this week is going to be a broader topic about what drives people in society in general to be religious, next week is going to be a lot more personal: we are going to be doing a meeting to talk about our personal stories, but with a twist from how we usually do it. Keep your ears peeled for more news soon!

Friday at 7:00 we will (finally!) be watching District 9 in Pearson 106. Come for free food, an interesting movie, and a great discussion afterwards. Immediately after, we are heading over to Granoff 271 for a multihour jam session! Bring your instruments and board games and come hang out for a great time! Both are open to all even if you don’t normally attend our discussion meetings and we would love to have you!


Hope to see you all soon!

Announcements, Sept 25th

Heya folks! Lots of ways to connect with the Tufts Freethought community this week.


Sure hope no rival groups (do we have rival groups?) read our blog! We’ll be painting the cannon specifically advertising Tufts Freethought FOR WHAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE THE FIRST TIME EVER [last year was for Sherlock, an equally compelling cause]. We have paint, just come by the President’s Lawn and help us guard it into the early morning. We should be there until around 2a.m., come whenever you can!


This week we’ll be talking about sustainability, particularly w/r/t how we consume food. Is dumpstering tenable? Is it delicious and fun? Is it legal? What kind of technologies are we developing to compensate for our food consumption? ALSO: We’ll be taking nominations for our Freshman Rep! Elections (and last-minute nominations) will take place the week following. If you’re interested, definitely talk to myself (Walker) or Claire, both of whom have been Freshman Reps in the past.


We’ll be watching Danny Boyle’s fantastic sci-fi epic “Sunshine”, discussing some of the atheistic/humanistic themes, and just relaxing on a Friday evening. The film chronicles the journey of a group tapped to pilot a ship to reignite our solar system’s dying sun. Is it scientifically plausible? Will Chris Evans go shirtless? DROP BY TO FIND OUT!


The saga of the weekly TFS Jam Sessions continues! This week I’m hoping to play some of the new Mumford and Sons album (as well as their classics) which has sucked away my time this week. But we’ll play some of our regular bits (and of course, Dr. Horrible) as well! Drop by if you can.

Cheers, everyone!

Announcements, Sept 14

Our year is up and moseying along again! Last night we had a fantastically successful General Interest Meeting (here’s the Prezi we presented, in case you want revel in our gloriously awkward pictures once more), and earlier this week we tabled at the Activities Fair. A few announcements for this week:


Our weekly Jam Sessions are starting up again! Unfortunately I won’t be able to host one next week since Ben and I will be out of town, but if you want to get your community-musical fix for the next two weeks, or you’ve never been and want to see what people are always raving/cheering on/complaining about, definitely drop by. MIKA has already been requested, and so MIKA shall happen.
If you have trouble finding us or getting into Granoff, feel free to call/text me at (910) 398 3340.


Steve’s spearheading a fantastic new initiative to make monthly trips to religious communities, to educate ourselves, foster diversity, and show solidarity. The first trip took place at a SIkh Gurdwara in Medford after the Oak Creek shootings in July; this Sunday, we’ll be travelling to the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Back Bay at First Church Boston. Every community is prescreened to ensure that they’ll be non-proselytizing and welcoming to a nonreligious visitation. You can reach Steve with any questions at (609) 238 5910.


THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! JP Morgan/Chase is currently running a campaign to disseminate upwards of $5 Million dollars to select nonprofits, based on voting from the public on Facebook! Foundation Beyond Belief, with whom we’re a partner, and Secular Student Alliance, our umbrella organization, are both in the running, along with Camp Quest, who run a summer camps for the children of secular families. Currently, FBB needs a couple hundred votes to be in the running for the $50k prize, and Camp Quest as well, for the $25k prize. Please consider lending your support. It only takes a few minutes to vote, and you’ll be rewarded with the expansion of several organizations already doing fantastic work fostering nonreligious giving and community building worldwide. 
To vote for FBB: http://fb.chasegiving.com/charity/view/ein/26-4822541
To vote for SSA: http://fb.chasegiving.com/charity/view/ein/41-1967141
To vote for Camp Quest: http://fb.chasegiving.com/charity/view/ein/27-0100286

Alright, that’s all folks! Thanks for reading, and keep in touch if you have any questions about this week’s events at tuftsfreethoughtsociety@gmail.com, or e-mail me personally at walker.bristol@tufts.edu. Cheers!

Apologies, Updates, and Cylons

But Walker, this blog has been inactive for months!

Indeed, concerned reader. You see, last January in a grossly underreported story by the plutocratic mainstream media, an ancient extraterrestrial robot army returned from exile and kidnapped the regular TFS blog contributors. Oh dear! Worry not, though—for, in perfect Battlestar Galactica fashion, deus ex machina invoked, and we’re now safely back on Earth, albeit without spaceships. So say we all! (Anybody? Nope? Okay, sorry.)

But before we can begin regenerating (resurrecting? I’m done.) content, I wanted to give a few updates on the State of the Union Freethought Society, for anyone disconnected over the past semester.

Firstly, we have a new exec board! EXCITEMENT. In May, Tufts Freethought elected a new crop of fine, talented individuals (also me), some of them veteran board members, others obscenely-awesomely-involved freshman. So tell your fantasy football league: here’s the TFS exec lineup for the 2012-13 school year:

President: Walker Bristol
Vice President: Ben Chamberlain
Secretary: Gabby Raymond
Treasurer: Bhushan Deshpande
Programming: Elizabeth Kaleko
Community Outreach: Stephen Goeman
Philanthropy: Mike Schneeds
Public Relations: David Berrios
Webmaster: Anschel Schaeffer-Cohen
Freshman Rep: MAYBE YOU?

A quick recap of events last semester: we welcomed our wonderful friend James Croft in February to talk about humanist advertising! You can watch the video of his talk on Vimeo. We also hosted another Freethought Week in April, featuring Rebecca Goldstein, a third Humanist Forum, volunteer work at Haley House in Dudley Square, and another fantastic Freethought home-cooked dinner night. We continued our weekly Jam Sessions, and, thanks to our film studies-minor former VP Ria Oparil, began doing biweekly movie nights, screening and discussing flicks like Donnie Darko, Man on Wire, Batman Begins, and Jesus Camp. We also took part in a handful of joint discussion meetings and philanthropy projects with groups like the Boston University Interfaith Council, the Tufts Muslim Students Association, and Hillel (a Humanist Shabbat!), and in one of my favorite moments of the semester, myself and a handful of musically-inclined members bookended the year with a performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at a Chaplaincy End-of-the-Year Interfaith Celebration.

Ryan Long, Stephen Goeman, and Alex Kaufman at the Humanist Forum III

TFS Weekly Jam Session (Photo by Kumar Ramanathan)

Freethought alongside Rebecca Goldstein


Further pictures and recaps of most of these events can be found on our Facebook page, and hopefully soon on tuftsfreethought.org.

Speaking of: for the next few months we’ll be redeveloping and reupdating the website, so if it’s down for a day or two fret not! We just want to make it a bit more user-friendly and add more pictures from last year. Write in (see below) if you have any suggestions!

(From left) Tufts Futurism founders Kumar Ramanathan, Mike Schneeds, and Brendan Fleig-Goldstein

We also had a team of brilliantly future-minded freshman members, via inspiration from one of our discussion meetings, head off and found the Tufts Futurism Society, which holds weekly discussion meetings on topics like environmental sustainability, the possible technological singularity, and (of course) space colonization. It’s a really fantastic group of folks—support them by joining their Facebook group if you’re at Tufts and interested.


Also! I’m writing in the midst of the Secular Student Alliance’s #SSAWeek (I know, I know, hashtags belong to Twitter)! All this week, the SSA has been and will continue to be organizing a bunch of outstanding and funtastic fundraising events– blogathons, Twitter follower drives, portrait drawings, essentially anything that can done legally over the internet for money (er, almost anything). Except the money goes to a fantastic umbrella organization to help grow the secular student movement. If you’re willing and able, participate or make a donation: http://www.secularstudents.org/ssaweek

Also re:SSA, the Secular Student Alliance Leadership conference is July 6-8 in Columbus, Ohio, and if interested, you can still sign up (early registration ends June 17)! I’ll be there, and if past experience serves me well, I have no doubts regarding the radness of the conference. Speakers include Matt Dillahunty, Hemant Mehta, Evan Clark, Kelley Freeman, and Jen McCreight, as well as past Tufts visitors James Croft, Greta Christina, and Jessica Ahlquist. EXCITEMENT SUSTAINS.

Lastly but certainly not leastly, a jumbo-sized congratulations to our graduating senior Lisa Tannenbaum! She’s graduated with a degree in biopsychology and cogsci, and delivered a humanist reading–the first ever for Tufts–at commencement!

Okedoke. I think that’s roughly it. OH MY WAIT ONE MORE THING! In addition to getting this blog going more regularly with member content, I’ll hopefully start recording more episodes of the FreethoughtCast soon! Seeing as I’m halfway across the world right now, as is Lauren (albeit several countries away), the first couple of shows might just be me rambling about religion and politics, but hopefully later this summer I can feature other TFS and community members as well.

If you have any questions, concerns, ideas, thoughts, pictures of cats, suggestions, upcoming local events, or if you’re interested in writing for the blog or appearing on the radio show, definitely write in! You can e-mail either the group at tuftsfreethoughtsociety@gmail.com or myself at walker.bristol@tufts.edu.

Thanks for reading! Stay classy. Make change. Give hugs.

FreethoughtCast Update!

Heya again everyone!

We’ve recorded a fourth episode of the FreethoughtCast, and its posted on the RSS feed for the podcast. We’re still pending approval to be listed on the iTunes store– until then, though, you can subscribe directly to the podcast by doing the following:

1. Open iTunes, click the Podcast tab on the left sidebar

2. Click the Advanced dropdown menu and select Subscribe to Podcast

3. Enter the URL “http://tuftsfreethought.org/podcast.xml”

There you go! That’ll subscribe with largely the same benefits of any other podcast, the only real difference being you’re not getting the data through the iTunes store. Once it is listed on iTunes, I’ll update this post– until then, enjoy our latest show (re:feminism) and happy post-Halloween recovery!


Tufts FreethoughtCast XML

Re:The Word “Quantum”

Dearest Quantum Mechanics,

I’m so very sorry people keep saying that “true randomness” exists within you. It’s really a shame, to hear skeptical, naturalist connoisseurs of philosophy decide that because something is so tiny and complex, all of sudden it becomes magical, and a realm from which a supernatural freedom from causality can suddenly emerge. If, dear Mr. Mechanics, you feel unexposed to this sad misappropriation of science, I bid you never to set foot in an introductory-level philosophy class during a discussion of free will.

And I mean, I know you’re incredibly hard to study. I know you’re utterly intricate, and even with all the technological prowess available to us today, you’re virtually impossible to predict. I’ll never forget the time you found a way to make Heisenberg and the rest of us petty humans unable to entirely accurately study you, due to the requirement for using measurement tools with the same inherent mechanisms to do so. Ah, good times.

But for a long while now, people have taken your fun tricks and shenanigans much too far. Don’t get me wrong, I love them just as much as any of the good folks working at the Large Hadron Collider do, or of course good ol’ Albert, FSM rest his soul. But they keep getting so very misused– to postulate that some phenomena could occur without a source action, an inherently unmaterialistic view of the universe.

It may well just be, like so many of today’s debates, a confusion of terms. Things can certainly be unpredictable, even with the greatest computational power, given the nature of our universe (again, since we’re stuck in a closed system which requires the use of atoms and molecules to analyze and describe the behaviour of the very same atoms and molecules). Randomness, however, in a noncolloquial sense, refers in science to something that is impossible, from an outside viewer, to predict– someone in a different universe looking into ours would be incapable of describing the event because it lacks any ulterior direction.

And thanks to this linguistic ambiguity, further terms–your poor, poor namesake included–have come to be abused by the ill-purposed. Just observe what happened when the minds behind the self-described “inspiring” perversion of cinema What the Bleep Do We Know!? added “quantum” to their vocabulary. We were exposed to, well, What the Bleep Do We Know!?— pseudoscientific dribble that, among other things, includes a woman who claims the ability to, through use of quantum physics, channel a Raj-speaking warlord who fought the Atlanteans dozens of millennia in the past. (Not to mention its view that, thanks to reincarnation, there’s really nothing bad about murder— I shit you not.)

Tell me that isn't sexy.

So let’s take you for what you are: wonderfully mysterious and majestically powerful, yet subject to the same determinism and materialism that are all natural things. You may be non-magical– but it is that very quality of being just out of the grasp of explanation that makes you so mathematically gorgeous. If only, from this point onward, we could stop exploiting your mysteriousness to posit the supernatural– then, maybe, more of us could see your true beauty.


Forever yours,


FreethoughtCast 3!

The official Tufts Freethought podcast– after a brief, week-long hiatus– returns! Forgive us for skipping a week, audio struggles and human error left us with an unrecorded hour of podcast, and similar problems eliminated the first couple minutes of this show, but stick with us! Soon we’ll be in an on-campus recording studio where audio troubles will (hopefully) become a thing of the past!

As always, you can contact myself (walker.bristol@tufts.edu), Lauren (lauren.rose@tufts.edu), or TFS (tuftsfreethoughtsociety@gmail.com) with anything at all– we primarily would love some listener emails that we can read and talk about on the air. We’re *so* close to getting on iTunes, it’ll just take me (Walker) getting some free time later this week to finalize, so get pumped! Enjoy:


The Churches Show!
Lauren and Walker return to chat about meditation, Occupy Boston, going to church, leaving church, the Catholic church, and many more fun commentaries!

Download Podcast