“Gravitational ‘slingshot’ may have flung galaxies far, far away”

M32, surrounded by unrelated stars

  Fascinating new thoughts about "compact ellipticals," relatively small galaxies that aren't as rare as they were once thought to be: http://mashable.com/2015/05/04/runaway-galaxies-far-away/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-main-link Some of them are quite isolated, which might actually be a good thing if you were living in one. Thanks to David Wills for bringing this article to my notice.   … [Read more...]

“Religion poisons everything!” (13)

Persian miniature Elijah

  A few days ago, my wife and I were atop Mount Carmel in Israel, at the traditional site of the famous contest between the prophet Elijah and the priests of Baal that's recounted in 1 Kings 18. Working, again, from the late Christopher Hitchens's confident and universal assertion that "religion poisons everything," we must inescapably conclude that Felix Mendelsohn's oratorio Elijah (because it's a member of the set called "everything") was poisoned by … [Read more...]

The Economist: “Utah: Young, Tolerant, and Surprising”

The view from Y Mountain in Utah

  The Economist, a superb magazine despite its unmistakably liberal inclinations, is surprised by Utah and takes a surprisingly positive view of the place: http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21650153-some-lessons-practical-conservatism-desert-west-young-tolerant-and-surprising I'm bemused by the article's plain assumption that liberal = good, and that conservatism must entail disdain for minorities and lack of charity.  But that's pretty … [Read more...]

“Let your memory be your travel bag.”

A train in Lauterbrunnental

  Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn  Taken literally, I don't regard this as sound advice.  But, as a recommendation of priorities, it has great merit.  In fact, in the eternal scheme of things, it's probably inescapable. You may have seen the bumper sticker that reads "He who dies with the most toys wins."  I think it should be re … [Read more...]

How to treat people

President Obama's genealogy

  "When we treat people merely as they are, they will remain as they are.  When we treat them as if they were what they should be, they will become what they should be." Thomas S. Monson Posted from Atlanta, Georgia  … [Read more...]

“Religion poisons everything!” (12)

A beautiful meadow in England

  If, as Christopher Hitchens vocally maintained, religion poisons everything, it necessarily poisoned Psalm 23, too:  The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they c … [Read more...]

“Floods might have doomed prehistoric American city”

Cahokia Palisade

  When most Americans think of ancient or medieval history, they probably think of places like Egypt and Warwick Castle. But there are fascinating sites within the boundaries of the United States, and Cahokia Mound, near St. Louis, is one of the most arresting of them: http://www.nature.com/news/floods-might-have-doomed-prehistoric-american-city-1.17470 I'm planning on a visit to Cahokia in late September.  I've passed by it probably … [Read more...]

For all those who send me hate mail, insulting messages, and threats

CNJ's Loser Hall

.  I'm suddenly feeling guilty.  I've been neglectful, and I'm sorry. So I want to reassure you: Please don't think that your efforts go unnoticed. It's true that I never reply.  But I promise that I almost always skim through what you've sent me. And -- you'll like this! -- I keep your notes.  I don't just trash them.  In fact, I have a special file for them.  (No.  Not the proverbial "round file."  A computer file.  A … [Read more...]