Have You Misunderstood Apple’s New Holiday Commercial?

Earlier this week, Apple released a holiday commercial featuring their iPhone. Titled "Misunderstood," it follows a teenager who's been dragged along to the big family Christmas. While his family enjoys their time together (baking cookies, sledding, etc.), he stares at his iPhone. He's occasionally cajoled into participating, but he quickly returns to staring at that Retina display, seemingly oblivious to everything, and everyone, around him. Until Christmas morning, that is, when he... well, … [Read more...]

Facebook “Likes” Aren’t Enough, But Would a “Sympathize” Button Make it Worse?

Poke, Like...Sympathize?Facebook engineers discussed a previously developed “Sympathize” button to add to the ubiquitous “Like” button with which we’re all familiar. Isn’t it about time we have an option other than “Like” for maintaining our social relationships? For years Facebook’s Like button has performed much more for our online lives than its simple name implies. For example, I Like funny posts because I share in the humor. I may Like a friend's article because I agree with what's been … [Read more...]

Snapchat and the Ghost of Communication

When I began inviting friends to join me on Snapchat a few weeks ago, most of them had no idea what I was talking about. Despite the fact that almost every teenager I talk to has a Snapchat account, a good portion of the adults I know don't know what it is. (The only exceptions were those in education. Invariably, my teacher friends already had accounts.) So the first reaction I got to Snapchat invitations was mostly "What is that?" The second most frequent response I got was "Wait... isn't that … [Read more...]

We Know Less About Our Universe Than We Think (and I’m OK With That)

When it comes to understanding how the universe works, humanity has made amazing strides. The realization that the Earth revolves around the Sun; Sir Isaac Newton's discovery of the laws of motion and gravity; Einstein's breakthrough regarding general relativity; last year's uncovering of the Higgs Boson particle -- these represent pinnacles of human reason and intelligence, and have given us deeper knowledge of the cosmos. However, with every discovery, nature is revealed to be far stranger and … [Read more...]

New Rules for User Comments: The Bottom Line for the Common Good?

In the past few weeks various Internet sites, such as YouTube, Goodreads, and Popular Science, have announced new approaches to user comments, either regulating, deleting, or getting rid of the option altogether. In response to negative reactions from regular users and commenters, these sites all defended the switch by emphasizing a desire to improve Internet communications, and by doing so to promote a common good. As leaders of society, they are taking the initiative to set new standards on … [Read more...]

Can You Tweet Your Way to Immortality?

Human beings have been obsessed with living forever since, well, forever. Kings and wise men have sought various elixirs and substances, hoping they'd extend their lives indefinitely. In ancient China, for example, it was believed that ingesting long-lasting substances like jade would impart their longevity to the consumer. (Ironically, the Jiajing Emperor likely died because of this belief, from ingesting too much mercury.) The legendary philosopher's stone was seen by ancient and medieval … [Read more...]

The Problem with Social Media According to ‘Fahrenheit 451’

I’ve been a fan of the late Ray Bradbury ever since picking up The Martian Chronicles at the local children’s library sometime around 5th grade, and I've returned again and again to his short fiction. But somehow, I had managed until just recently to miss what is perhaps his signature novel, Fahrenheit 451, which will mark sixty years in print on October 19. I knew it by reputation only: it was that novel about authoritarian censorship, set in a future where a totalitarian government burns books … [Read more...]

ELSEWHERE: Nobel Prize for Using Computers to Do Chemistry

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry, announced earlier this week, has been awarded to three different scientists this year. NPR has an interesting story on the new laureates and how they changed the way molecular interactions are studied. The scientists made computer models in which Newtonian physics and quantum mechanics—two fields of science that have been notoriously difficult to reconcile—work together to simulate complex chemical reactions. … [Read more...]

Free Will Is Real, But Not so Simple

The free will debate is one of those issues that feels a bit worn out to me; it seems no one is saying anything new. But people can say old things in new, more interesting ways. Social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister has done that. He's written an excellent article in Slate, in which he argues both that we have free will and that our ability to make choices does not violate any laws of nature. That's a fairly unpopular thing to say these days. By doing so, Baumeister is going against the current … [Read more...]

How Can I Protect My Kids from Internet Porn?

Few are probably unaware, at this point, that Internet pornography is a serious problem, one that affects men and women alike, destroys marriages, ruins lives, and contributes to problems like sexism, rape, and sexual harassment. Our culture's problem with porn is getting so bad that it's even getting serious attention from prominent, non-Christian sources like in Joseph Gordon-Levitt's new film Don Jon.Nonetheless, the Daily Mail has still managed to shock and horrify this week with its … [Read more...]