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AETHER
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1999


 

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Science, Fiction, and points in between

Skeptical Inquirer November/December 1999
A short news item (page 8) reports that when presidential candidates were asked about the recent decision by the Kansas Board of Education to omit the requirement to teach evolution in public schools, most seemed confused and several supported creationism. When asked by Reuters, a spokesman for Vice President Al Gore initially responded in favor of teaching evolution and that ''localities should be free to teach creationism as well''. When informed that the Supreme Court ruled that unconstitutional in 1987, the spokesman amended the statement to say ''teach creationism within the context of religious courses and not science courses''.

Also in this issue: a long excerpt from Keay Davidson's Carl Sagan: A Life (Wiley); and an article by Aaron Lynch about millennial panic as 'thought contagion' -- sort of a Y2K bug of the human mind.

§ The Top 5 List October 29, 1999
The Top 12 upcoming books from St. Martin's Press include L. Ron Hubbard's Spiritual Enlightenment Through Poverty and Humility and titles by Stephen King, Newt Gingrich, and Michael Jackson.

(Sun 31 Oct 1999)

§ New York Times October 30, 1999
In Arts & Ideas: David Blum's essay ''Embracing Fear as Fun to Practice for Reality -- Why People Like to Terrify Themselves''.

The New Yorker Nov. 1, 1999
A cartoon on page 72 shows a witch sitting across from a real estate agent in his office. ''I'm looking for a nice cottage in a wooded area that would appeal to children in the four-to-seven age group.''

§ The Atlantic Monthly November, 1999
Richard Rorty reviews and essays about Ian Hacking's The Social Construction of What? (Harvard University Press), a book that tries to find a middle ground between scientists and rationalists on the one hand and postmodernists on the other. ''In this spirited and eminently readable book [Hacking] ... focuses on three questions: Are the best scientific theories of our day the inevitable results of serious inquiry, or might science have taken a different turn and still had equal success in building bombs, say, or curing diseases? Do these theories tell us about the intrinsic structure of reality, or are they simply the best tools available for predicting and controlling nature? Are the longest-lasting theories stable because they match a stable reality, or because scientists get together to keep them stable, as politicians get together to keep existing political arrangements intact?''

§ New York Times October 28, 1999
Are Books too long?

§ Salon October 27, 1999
Arthur Allen essays about John Horgan's The Undiscovered Mind (Free Press).

§ New York Times Magazine October 24, 1999
Article by Lawrence Osborne is about scholars witnessing the birth of a language -- a sign system being created by deaf children in Nicaragua. On another linguistic note, the November 1st Time Magazine has an Ideas essay [not online] by Steven Pinker, adapted from his book Words and Rules, about what language 'mistakes' by children reveal about language and the human mind.

Also in this NYT Magazine, Bringing Out the Dead screenwriter Paul Schrader is interviewed. ''The goal of any artist somebody else said this, but I'll take credit for it is to attempt to sell out but fail.''

§ Newsweek October 25, 1999
Article about a new method of self-publishing, via eMatter, a website that publishes your work and splits the proceeds with you 50-50.

On related notes, here's a Reuters via CNN article about how publishers hail the net as an ally. Foreign fiction, however, doesn't sell.

§ Village Voice Literary Supplement October - November
Richard B. Woodward asks Has American Lit Crit Burned Out? In the same issue, Blanche McCrary Boyd writes a retrospective review of Olaf Stapledon's Sirius.

§ BBC October 1
An online poll for greatest thinker of the millennium was won by Karl Marx, with Albert Einstein in second place. Following them: Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, St. Thomas Aquinas, Stephen Hawking, Immanuel Kant, René Descartes, James Clerk Maxwell, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

§ Ig Nobel Prizes
Winners of the 1999 Ig Nobel Prizes include the Kansas State Board of Education.

§ Science Essays

  • Richard Dawkins disputes the notion that science and religion are converging.
  • Maybe time doesn't exist suggests physicist Julian Barbour.

    (Sat 30 Oct 1999)

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