TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 12

CosmosEpisode12

(I've decided to review the new Cosmos series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson that's airing on Fox. If you missed it, you can stream full episodes online.) Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 12, "The World Set Free" For its penultimate episode, Cosmos returns to the subject of climate science, a familiar variation on a sermon it's already preached more than once. I have some mixed feelings about this. With the series pressing against time constraints, I worry about the lost opportunities … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 9

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(I've decided to review the new Cosmos series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson that's airing on Fox. If you missed it, you can stream full episodes online.) Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 9, "The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth" At the beginning of its run, Cosmos tended to alternate excellent episodes with mediocre ones, which made me wonder if that would be the pattern for the whole series. But I'm happy to say that the show has hit its stride: the last three episodes, including this one, … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 7

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(I've decided to review the new Cosmos series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson that's airing on Fox. If you missed it, you can stream full episodes online.) Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 7, "The Clean Room" There may be some fields of science that have absolutely no political implications, but they're few and far between. Scientists stand on the front lines of humanity's advancing knowledge, and as such, they're often the first people to glimpse a looming danger, one that can only be … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Intrusions of Nature

OilDerricks

Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter I After a brief detour through the glorious disaster that was the Atlas Shrugged: Part I movie, we're ready to dive into the second part of the book. When we last checked in, Ellis Wyatt had blown up his oil wells and vanished. Part II raises the curtain at the State Science Institute: Dr. Robert Stadler paced his office, wishing he would not feel the cold. Spring had been late in coming... It was not cold today, the chill was in his bones — he … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: Rewilding

UnderGreenLeaves

While I was doing research for this week's post on de-extinction, I came across an article by George Monbiot on the phenomenon of "accidental rewilding" that I thought was worth sharing. I loved the book The World Without Us, which describes how rapidly nature would move in and erase the artifacts of civilization if human beings weren't there to act as caretakers and groundskeepers. The author, Alan Weisman, cites a few places where this has happened, like the village of Pripyat near … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Fires of Kuwait

KuwaitOilWellFires

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter X While Dagny has been criscrossing the country seeking the inventor of the motor, she learns from Eddie Willers that the looters are once again making absurd demands, this time clamoring for new laws that would kill the John Galt Line and strangle the industry of Colorado: The Union of Locomotive Engineers was demanding that the maximum speed of all trains on the John Galt Line be reduced to sixty miles an hour. The Union of Railway Conductors and … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: De-Extinction

Dolly

I was fascinated by a lengthy article last week on "de-extinction", the emerging science of cloning extinct species back to life. While we almost certainly won't be recreating dinosaurs Jurassic Park style, there are many vanished animals for which we have well-preserved specimens from which we could extract genetic material, from passenger pigeons to woolly mammoths, dodos to thylacines (or even the Australian gastric brooding frog, a bizarre species that gestates its young in its stomach). … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Price of Progress

SmogInChina

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter IX As I've mentioned before, even though Atlas Shrugged is intended to be a complete guide to Ayn Rand's economic and political philosophy, there are some fundamental aspects of an economy that she never addresses or makes only the vaguest of passing allusions to. I'm going to linger on the scene we discussed last time, because it has one of those fleeting mentions that's of enormous importance. Mr. Mowen looked at the skyline, at the belts, the wheels, … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Gasland

OilDerricks

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIII After Dagny and Hank's train rolls in triumph into Wyatt Junction, Ellis Wyatt invites the two of them to his house for a celebratory dinner. While they eat, he encourages Hank Rearden to move to Colorado ("This is the capital of the Renaissance") and lets them in on his own future plans: He pointed west. "The Buena Esperanza Pass. Five miles from here. Everybody's wondering what I'm doing with it. Oil shale. How many years ago was it that they gave … [Read more...]

Repost: Fossilized Opinions

Ammonite

[Author's Note: I'm reposting some old favorites while I'm away on vacation this week. This post was originally from March 2010.] Sam Harris is famous for the argument that religion, even moderate religion, does harm by teaching that faith is a virtue that should not be questioned, which encourages militant and violent strains of fundamentalism. Today, I want to talk about another way, subtle but unmistakable, that religion causes harm to human beings. Because of its tendency to treat … [Read more...]


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