Atlas Shrugged: Rise of the Machines


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IIFor all its fixation on economic theory, Atlas Shrugged shows a dismal, incurious ignorance of how the economy actually works. When Ayn Rand's capitalists gather in sufficient numbers, consumer goods just spontaneously materialize around them. By all rights, the inhabitants of Galt's Gulch ought to be living like primitive pioneers - wearing furs, dwelling in shacks, subsisting on a diet of salted meat and hardtack. Instead, they inexplicably have a fully … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Fiat Motors


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IDagny and John Galt set off on their tour of the valley. They drop Quentin Daniels off at Midas Mulligan's house ("the only one built two stories high, an odd combination of fortress and pleasure resort, with stout granite walls and broad, open terraces"), then drive on:Abruptly, behind a turn of the road, she saw the green acres of pastures stretching to a distant farmhouse. There were herds of sheep, some horses, the fenced squares of pigpens under … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: April 18


The National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon is almost here again! If you've got a few dollars to spare and want to help strike down barriers to choice, please donate to my wife Elizabeth and her team, At Your Cervix.• The construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea is being blockaded by protesters who believe the mountain is sacred because of a Native Hawaiian myth stating that the world was created starting there.• Just for laughs: The Journal of Universal Rejection, … [Read more...]

Four More Solutions to Twitter Harassment


The CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, made headlines last week when he admitted in a leaked memo that his service has a serious harassment problem which they've done a terrible job of dealing with:We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years. It's no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day. I'm frankly ashamed of how poorly we've … [Read more...]

The Mabus Problem: Fighting Anonymous Harassment on Social Media


I'm not much of a video gamer (I spend my free time writing!), but I've been following the work of Anita Sarkeesian, a media critic whose non-profit group Feminist Frequency critiques sexism in popular culture, with a special focus on video games. Her series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games points out lazy, sexist clichés that game designers resort to repeatedly: damsels in distress, women in refrigerators, scenes of sexual violence just to make the game world darker and "grittier", and so … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Ayn Rand vs. Carl Sagan


Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter IIThe decay of Colorado is accelerating. Men that Dagny knows personally, men who love their jobs and swear that they'll never leave, that they'll resist whatever blandishment or temptation is claiming their fellows, or at the very least that they won't disappear without an explanation, are vanishing one after another without a word. Since I'm nothing if not scrupulously fair to Ayn Rand, I'll cite this passage as a well-executed example of building … [Read more...]

Is the Internet Killing Religion?


In recent weeks, we've seen a fierce debate ignited by a study which argued that the Internet is responsible for the dramatic growth in American religious disaffiliation over the last two decades. Since 1990, the number of Americans with no religion has skyrocketed by almost 25 million people. The study's author, Allen Downey, believes that the increasing uptake of the Internet is the best-correlated causal factor.While I'm not committing myself to Downey's conclusion, I find it very … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Publish or Perish

Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter IThe last few industrialists of Colorado are disappearing, and the John Galt Line has been reduced to mostly-empty trains pulled by rickety, coal-burning locomotives. Having run out of leads in her quest for the magic motor, Dagny has finally resorted to contacting Robert Stadler. He comes to New York to see her, and she tells him about her discovery and gives him the incomplete papers she found in the factory:She watched him as he read. She saw the … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Government Science


Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIIIn our last installment, Rearden Steel and Taggart Transcontinental were reeling after the State Science Institute put out a press release condemning Dagny and Hank's use of Rearden Metal to build the Rio Norte Line. In desperation, Dagny has traveled to New Hampshire to visit the State Science Institute and the man in charge of it, Dr. Robert Stadler:At the age of twenty-seven, Dr. Robert Stadler had written a treatise on cosmic rays, which … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: The Promise of In Vitro Meat


Earlier this month, the first ever lab-grown hamburger was eaten at a taste test in London. The tasters' reports were guardedly positive:Upon tasting the burger, Austrian food researcher Ms Ruetzler said: "I was expecting the texture to be more soft... there is quite some intense taste; it's close to meat, but it's not that juicy. The consistency is perfect, but I miss salt and pepper."This is meat to me. It's not falling apart."Food writer Mr Schonwald said: "The mouthfeel is like … [Read more...]