I Don’t Want to Lose My Landline

I grew up before the invention of the cell phone. Indeed, I still vividly remember the day my father brought home a "cordless" phone. It was like magic! A walkie-talkie with no boundaries! We walked around the house with it talking to friends going, "Can you hear me now? There's no cord, I swear! Can you still hear me?! I'm at least twenty feet from the wall!" This really did happen, and it wasn't that long ago.But now, because of cell phones and competition and telemarketers, it seems that t … [Read more...]

Four Ways Voyager Reminds Us We’re Human

The Voyager-1 spacecraft recently made history by becoming the first man-made object to officially leave the solar system. Originally launched in 1977 with the intention of studying the outer planets, Voyager has lasted far longer than NASA engineers ever expected. It kept going, feeding data to scientists all the while, and has finally broken through into interstellar space. Throughout its journey, Voyager has given us an unprecedented view of the solar system and the universe beyond. This … [Read more...]

Three Things to Think About Before Using Headphones in Public

In today’s world, new innovations come along so often that we hardly have time to keep track of them, much less integrate them thoughtfully into our lives. New devices, and our changing perceptions of them, are part and parcel to modern life. I remember feeling a little bit silly as a college student walking around wearing headphones. I still did it sometimes, because listening to music while I walked to class was nice, and because even then it was a perfectly acceptable thing to do.Since t … [Read more...]

Open Letters: Prideful, Presumptuous, and They Need to Stop

Last week saw an upsurge in one of my least favorite types of writing, open letters. The occasion was Miley Cyrus' twerk-fest at MTV's Video Music Awards in which she danced provocatively in a nude-colored bikini, touched herself with a foam finger, and offered herself symbolically to Robin Thicke in a sexual gesture meant to shock. It wasn't a very good performance; the focus was on the spectacle of seeing the girl who used to perform as Hannah Montana shed off any last assemblages of … [Read more...]

How Theology Could Make Steven Pinker a Better Scientist

Experimental psychologist Steven Pinker ruffled some feathers recently with an essay in New Republic. In it, he defends a view known as scientism—the belief that science is the most legitimate source of knowledge and that it can explain all of human experience. The essay is postured to be a sort of peace treaty (or "plea," as Pinker calls it) to ease the tension between scientists and humanities scholars. Instead, many have complained that the essay comes off as scientifically arrogant and co … [Read more...]

ELSEWHERE: We’re Made for Relationship, Not Social Networking

A new study from the University of Michigan found that the more participants used Facebook, the more likely they were to feel sadness and dissatisfaction. These results echo previous studies that show face-to-face interaction with people makes us happier and healthier. There is a growing awareness among scientists that communications technologies are inadequate substitutes for the real thing; and, ultimately, we are made for relationship, not social networking. … [Read more...]

How Spotify and other Streaming Services Create Legal Artist Sweatshops

Online streaming and downloading services have changed my life. Unfortunately, they've also saddled me with a great deal of guilt. The foremost example of my emotionally distressed relationship with Internet technology is Spotify. Before discovering Spotify several years ago, I was stuck in what you might call a "musical quagmire." I didn't like what I heard on the radio, and because I went through a years-long phase of listening to only "Christian" music following my conversion, I lost track of … [Read more...]

Why the Powerful Often Lack Empathy

Recently, NPR reported on a new scientific study showing a correlation between feelings of power and lack of empathy. Apparently, feeling powerful can block a part of our brain that helps us empathize with others, while feeling powerless can boost that part of our brain. We've all seen how power can turn some people into jerks. Now we partially know why.This study doesn't have implications for powerful people only, however; it has implications for all of us, powerful or not. Even if we don't … [Read more...]

Shaming Sexists and Racists Online as a Form of Justice?

Earlier this year, tech consultant Adria Richards was attending a programming conference when she overheard two male developers make what she considered to be sexist comments. She tweeted a photo of the men to call them out, and sparked what would come to be known as "Donglegate." As a result of Richards' tweet, one of the developers lost his job, as did Richards. Meanwhile, blogs, Twitter streams, and comment sections discussed the affair with language that was frequently obscene in its hatred, … [Read more...]

ELSEWHERE: Tragic Texts, Tragic Art

Corporate sponsorship.  Public service announcement.  These are terms that would not seem to go hand-in-hand with great art.  Yet consider this half-hour documentary on the dangers of text-messaging while driving, which AT&T commissioned legendary Oscar-nominated filmmaker Werner Herzog to direct.  “From One Second to the Next” is a well-made, heartbreaking piece that allows some glimmers of the power of forgiveness. … [Read more...]