On Financial Independence

Via this interview on Vox, I came across an intriguing blog by a writer who goes by the unlikely appellation of Mr. Money Mustache. MMM, as I'll call him for short, argues that an ordinary person can save enough to retire after as little as ten years of full-time work, without winning the lottery or coming into a windfall inheritance. He did it himself, and he's happy to explain how. Much of his advice struck a chord with me, and I've found a lot in what he says that should make humanists sit up … [Read more...]

Neil deGrasse Tyson Shows Why Small-Minded Religious Fundamentalists Are Threatened by Wonders of Universe

This column originally appeared on AlterNet.Neil deGrasse Tyson's new Cosmos series is a worthy reboot of Carl Sagan's original. Following in Sagan's footsteps, Tyson takes viewers on a voyage through the outer reaches of the solar system and beyond, showing how our sun is just one star out of a hundred billion in the majestic spiral of the Milky Way galaxy, and even the Milky Way itself is a speck in the observable universe. As in the original series, he compresses the history of the … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Buy Local

Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter VIIIWhen the villains put Directive 10-289 into effect two chapters earlier, Dagny quit her job and flounced out. This chapter opens with her living in hermetic solitude, at an old rural cabin in Woodstock that she inherited:The sun touched the tree tops on the slope of the hill, and they looked a bluish-silver, catching the color of the sky. Dagny stood at the door of the cabin, with the first sunrays on her forehead and miles of forest spread under … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 12

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 that inevitably result from retreading the same ground, when that time could have been devoted to the scientific advances that have come about since the … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 9

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, have been outstanding, and in my opinion this was the best of the three.We started out back on the Cosmic Calendar, this time in mid-December, the … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 7

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 avoided by making changes in society. And when that happens, they're inevitably faced with a choice between disinterested investigation and political … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Intrusions of Nature

Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter IAfter 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 thought … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: Rewilding

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

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter XWhile 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

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...]


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