Reading through even just a third of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins, the celebrated biologist, one is armed with enough aha! moments and anti-charlatan detectors to fill a season of Oprah and perhaps half one of Mythbusters respectively. Continue reading
It’s a fine, sultry Sunday on which I should be relaxing but I’ve done all I can to avoid my chair: stayed up in bed, tidied up my apartment, prepared food and ironed. That’s because my back has been killing me since Friday. That’s on top of the fact that my feet have swelled with increasing frequency over the past year. This is all a result of what Yuval Noah Harari calls in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind the biggest fraud in history.
‘Post-truth era,’ ‘alternative facts,’ ‘misrepresentations.’ These are all colourful synonyms of what the unpolitical types call lies. At a time when truth has been so thoroughly molested, long-respected institutions questioned, the old ways of doing business suffering an ever-more critical gaze, it’s perhaps apt to exhale in relief as we reflect on some undeniable certainties. There really are some ideas that can’t be shaken. If they are, that would require a shift in our thinking so seismic it would be intolerable in the absence of a better, alternative idea. Continue reading
I vaguely remember back in my preteen years asking my mother what nature was, but not her reply. I suspect it was similar to the one she gave when I asked why it’s often said time is money. To that, I distinctly recall her answer: ‘You’ll understand some day.’ That was her way of deferring what would have been a complicated explanation of economics with the expectation that I would one day figure it out myself. Unlike my mother, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself, by Sean Carroll, does offer an answer to an equally complex question, ‘what is nature?’—a satisfyingly simple and concrete one: a quantum wave function. Continue reading
In the documentary J K Rowling: A Year in the Life, the author of the wildly popular Harry Potter series says something becomes true for her only once she writes it down. Upon reflection, I’ve found that this was also true for me: I always avoided fan-fiction stories based on the second generation of characters because there was no canon that recorded their dimensions from which my imagination could proceed; it felt fraudulent from the first, a misgiving that entirely missed the irony that I write stories based in a universe created by another writer. Continue reading