When ethics and dogma meet politics

Stephen Crane

“Think as I think,” said a man, “Or you are abominably wicked; You are a toad.” And after I had thought of it, I said: “I will, then, be a toad.” — Stephen Crane (1871–1900) It can be dangerous to bisect any part of the world around us into two paths, but I have come to view human expressions of… Read more »

Worth a read: Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality by Frank Wilczek

Fundamentals

I still remember the classic picture of the atom from my Michigan high school physics class, about the same time MIT professor Frank Wilczek was in a similar class in New York City in the late 1960s. Called the Rutherford model, that atom was pictured as a miniature solar system. with electron “planets” revolving around a sun-like nucleus, which was… Read more »

Minneapolis: When two things are simultaneously true

Privilege

These two statements, I assert, can be simultaneously true: I want to live in a secure society. I want to live in a free society. And most of the time, for most of us (cough, cough, middle-class white Americans), these two statements rest comfortably together in our heads as our view of “the real America.” I feel free to leave… Read more »

Betting against the house on the Covid vaccines

Slot machines

“You have a greater chance of being in a car accident on the way to getting this vaccine than you have of having a problem from this vaccine. But that’s not how people view risk.” — Paul Offit, vaccine expert at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. Maybe it is because I do not seem to have a gambling gene in my body…. Read more »

Penny sucking and corporate tax reform

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Amazon van

When I purchase some stock online, I never try to nail my “limit price” down to the penny. I do not believe that ordinary people can do market timing that well. But that penny means a lot to the high-frequency traders and their AI computer algorithms. In a story that you might not see as connected, Amazon has had to… Read more »

Choosing your “Covid restaurant”

Cafe Risky

Imagine that there are just two cafés in your town at which you can dine. At Café Safe the menu is limited and rather bland, your parent’s music is playing over the PA system, and people are friendly but stand-offish. However, the place is clean, and they follow all health protocols. Business is good at Café Safe and it is… Read more »

Adam Smith meets the Suez container ship

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Adam Smith

Now that the massive container ship Ever Given has been freed from clogging up the Suez Canal, perhaps we can step back from “crisis economics” to look at the larger state of global transportation logistics. I agree with Australian economist John Quiggin that this event was more of a temporary glitch in this complex system, and perhaps a warning flag… Read more »

Beware the modern-day Gnostics

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Irenaeus

Most people know what an agnostic is, but fewer know much about the people at the root of that word, the Gnostics (without the ‘a’). Gnostics caused one of the first great doctrinal splits in early Christianity, but their intellectual descendants remain today, not just in churches, but also throughout the business and political worlds. And they want to sell… Read more »

Worth a read: A Series of Fortunate Events by Sean B. Carroll

A Series of Fortunate Events

Good science is hard; good science communication may be even harder. During my publishing career I was the editor or managing editor on quite a few university-level texts, and I usually found the “Introduction to …” textbook authors to be better communicators and classroom teachers than the authors of “upper division” specialized texts. Ironically, the best-selling intro text authors may… Read more »

Coronavirus mutations and the evolutionary race for time

Ark under construction

The greatest irony of the coronavirus pandemic, in my view, has been that of anti-science political forces who have resisted the most basic mitigation measures facing off against one of the best examples ever of Darwinian evolution and its related math of fecundity being played out in real (and scary-fast) time. And it ain’t over yet, with the exponential spread… Read more »