Bill Nye the Science Guy gave a commencement speech at Rutgers on Sunday. Reading the speech left me thinking that if this is America’s designated Science Guy, I can be the nation’s designated swimsuit model. Up to now I have had only the slightest, vaguest awareness of Bill Nye. Readers have occasionally pointed me to... Read More
Reflections on medicine.
Reading the November issue of Literary Review (a British monthly, somewhat like the New York Review of Books but less claustrophobically liberal), the following thing caught my attention. It’s in Donald Rayfield’s review of Stalin, Vol. 1: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928, by Stephen Kotkin: That brought to mind a remark I’ve seen attributed to Winston... Read More
Although they probably aren't worth it.
Some boffins at Harvard University claim to have transmitted information from one person’s mind to another by telepathy. Reading through the paper, I thought the content transmitted wasn’t very impressive—just the Spanish and Italian words for “hello”—but hey, baby steps. Is telepathy a thing we should hope for? I have mixed feelings, based on long... Read More
Future population trends.
A new study on world population trends came out last week from the University of Washington in Seattle. If you’re one of those people who worry about an overpopulated world, the news is bad: total human population, currently a tad over seven billion, will likely be eleven billion by the end of the century and... Read More
The title I wanted for my 2009 call to pessimism was We Are Doomed, Doomed. The publisher thought that was too dark, though, so I settled at last for just one “Doomed.” A good thing, perhaps, as the original title is now available to authors reaching for a deeper level of despair. David Archibald might... Read More
Two conferences in one week.
That was me last week. It was a doubleheader. Sunday the 20th I flew to Tucson for the “Toward a Science of Consciousness” conference at the university there. (Shouldn’t that be “towards”? Fowler: “Of the prepositions the –s form is the prevailing one, and the other tends to become literary on the one hand and... Read More
Jeer politicians, not scientists.
This year is the centenary of the late great pop mathematician Martin Gardner (1914-2010). A posthumous autobiography (you don’t see that phrase often) appeared last fall. In 1957, Gardner published a book titled Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, debunking things such as extrasensory perception and Dianetics. I read the book in my... Read More
Human exceptionalism, pro and con.
A concerned reader sent me a link to this video in which, he said, my name was taken in vain. Yes, I know, it’s an irritating imposition on readers to open a column by linking to a 31-minute video clip. I’ll be offering a concise executive summary in just a moment, with links into the... Read More
Psst! Want a nice racy read about genetics?
The university I attended was (and still is) in west-central London. A fifteen-minute walk from the main campus got you to Tottenham Court Road tube station, with Charing Cross Road heading off to the south toward the theater district and the National Gallery. I was not much of a theater- or gallery-goer, but I did... Read More
In a recent edition of Radio Derb I mentioned the advantages of moving to Iceland but added: “The downside is, you have to not mind living on a volcano.” One listener—there’s always one—saw my volcano and raised me a supervolcano, attaching this news clip: This hasn’t actually happened since 637,987 BC, but the boffins reckon... Read More
Computing: A Concise History, Paul E. Ceruzzi
This time last year all I was hearing about was MOOCs—Massive Open Online Courses, in which university-level instruction, sometimes by big-name lecturers, is provided free over the Internet to anyone who wants it. Some visionaries were talking about MOOCs eventually bankrupting traditional universities. Apparently that’s not going to happen. There is a niche for MOOCs,... Read More
Too much humanity gets in the way.
Human nature is in the news: intelligence and prejudice. First, disgraced conservative analyst Jason Richwine published a piece on Politico.com under the rather plaintive title “Why Can’t We Talk About IQ?” (In case you’ve lost track of all the political-incorrectness defenestrations, Richwine’s was the one before Paula Deen’s. His was in May; hers, in June.... Read More
As a science geek from way back—Andrade and Huxley were favorite childhood companions—I try to keep tabs on that side of things. This can be disheartening. To quote from that intergalactic bestseller We Are Doomed: Scientific objectivity is a freakish, unnatural, and unpopular mode of thought, restricted to small cliques whom the generality of citizens... Read More
Understanding the fundamentals.
A couple of months ago here on Taki’s Mag I reviewed responses to geek website edge.org‘s Annual Question. The 2013 question was: What should we be worried about? The leadoff answer was from evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller, who thought we should be worried about Chinese eugenics. I expressed some skepticism. Leaving aside my skepticism, which... Read More
Lefties discover the Dissident Right.
An occasional point of discussion among us commentators on the dissident right is the degree to which our stuff is read by respectable pundits seeking inspiration. Steve Sailer, for example, is convinced that David Brooks is a regular reader of Steve’s blog. Others among us are dubious. I used to be with the dubious. As... Read More
Keeping up with the eggheads.
Although not afflicted with a crippling deficiency of self-esteem, I once in a while get to wondering whether my opinions on the passing charivari are perhaps ill-informed, warped by personal prejudice, absurdly reactionary, derivative, shallow, jejune, incoherent, or worthless. (Commenters, please restrain yourselves.) “Once in a while” actually translates to “about once a year.” That... Read More
What does the future hold?
Predictions are in the air, or at least in the dwindling little pocket of air from which I breathe, down here in my diving bell a thousand feet beneath the surface of Liberalism Ocean. Nassim Taleb, the Black Swan bloke, has a new book out; Nate Silver, who is famous for reasons I haven’t bothered... Read More
Sleepless from Seattle? Not me.
I am just recovering from a splendid weekend in Seattle, a conference organized by my good friend Guy Wolf, editor of an alternative-right blog. (You never know how people will react to having their names publicized in this context. To be on the very safe side, I have substituted pseudonyms of my own devising for... Read More
I'll admit it, I was apprehensive about the chemo. Some decades ago a female relative of mine — not long married, infant daughter — was diagnosed with cancer and subjected to the treatments of the time, both radiology and chemotherapy. The results were appalling. She lost her hair; her face and body shape changed horribly;... Read More
Meet Ragle Gumm
Did you see this news story the other day? The name that leaps to mind here is Ragle Gumm. At any rate, that's the name that leaps to mind if you are an old Philip K. Dick addict. Gumm is the hero of Dick's 1959 novel Time Out of Joint, which my early-teen self consumed... Read More
Climate change is the health of the state.
I see Al Gore's been at the sauce again. Like racists! What could be worse than that? That was Big Al's second excursion in the month of August. At the former end of the month he took on global warming deniers at an Aspen Institute forum, in a manner quite startlingly vituperative. He actually cursed... Read More
Curious little article here in the New York Times: Genetic Basis for Crime: A New Look. And so the wheel turns. In economics you have the business cycle: in the human sciences you have the nature-nurture cycle. Two or three hundred years ago it was all nurture, so far as enlightened people were concerned. From... Read More
Did you know that four percent of the U.S. population — one in 25 of us — are now "cancer survivors"? This I read in the current issue of Time magazine, whose cover story concerns what John Wayne called "the big C," its diagnosis and treatment. That means that twelve million of us are entitled... Read More
Manned space flight fades away.
Somewhere in the billionfold archives of the London Daily Mirror is a photograph taken in February 1964, and published in that estimable newspaper, of a small but enthusiastic crowd of Londoners on the grounds of the Soviet embassy in Britain's capital city. They had assembled to greet Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman ever to be... Read More
Rods, roods, noggins, and guineas.
Among the great heroes of innumeracy must be reckoned Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Sir Winston. Shown a column of figures that included decimal points, His Lordship grumbled "I never could make out what those damn dots meant." As Lord Randolph was Chancellor of the Exchequer (i.e. Treasury Secretary) at the time, this may go... Read More