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Science, Fiction, and points in between

Wednesday 2 October 2002

§ New York Times: "According to a recent survey, 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them - and that they should write it." (Here's a report on that survey.) Joseph Epstein urges them not to.

Something on the order of 80,000 books get published in America every year, most of them not needed, not wanted, not in any way remotely necessary.


I wonder if the reason so many people think they can write a book is that so many third-rate books are published nowadays that, at least viewed from the middle distance, it makes writing a book look fairly easy. After all, how many times has one thought, after finishing a bad novel, "I can do at least as well as that"? And the sad truth is that it may well be that one can. But why add to the schlock pile?

§ Edge: long, fascinating interview with Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature...

The main question is: "Why are empirical questions about how the mind works so weighted down with political and moral and emotional baggage? Why do people believe that there are dangerous implications to the idea that the mind is a product of the brain, that the brain is organized in part by the genome, and that the genome was shaped by natural selection?" This idea has been met with demonstrations, denunciations, picketings, and comparisons to Nazism, both from the right and from the left.

§ The Atlantic: A long interview with Nick Cook, author of The Hunt for Zero Point: Inside the Classified World of Antigravity Technology.

§ Salon: review of Strange Matters: Undiscovered Ideas at the Frontiers of Space and Time by Tom Siegfried.

§ Salon: Math is hard.

§ Wired: Wil McCarthy on programmable matter.

§ Leave it to William Shatner, nominal author of Star Trek: I'm Working on That: A Trek from Science Fiction to Science Fact, to see that Star Trek's future technology comes about; here's a long excerpt from the book.

August Aether Vibrations

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