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    Every week, hockey-playing science writer John Horgan takes a puckish, provocative look at breaking science. A teacher at Stevens Institute of Technology, Horgan is the author of four books, including The End of Science (Addison Wesley, 1996) and The End of War (McSweeney's, 2012). Follow on Twitter @Horganism.
  • U.S. Bombs, Which Helped Spawn ISIS, Can’t Crush It

    One of the great ironies in debates about war and peace is that hawks--including those now urging attacks on ISIS militants--view themselves as hard-headed "realists" and denigrate doves as soft-headed and delusional. The real delusion is thinking that U.S. military force—which over the last decade has exacerbated the terrible violence wracking the Mideast—can now dispel it.

    Once again, U.S. leaders are beating the war drums–or rather, beating them harder, because when in recent memory have the drums fallen silent? Aspiring President Hillary Clinton and Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are all urging President Obama to take stronger military measures against ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which has [...]

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    Cool Sh*t I’ve Read and Seen Lately. Cops Waging War, Masters of Sex, Nabokov and More!


    I’ve got an especially eclectic bunch of “Cool Sh*t” to nominate this month. Two articles by top-notch science journalists, a tough, timely investigative report by the ACLU, a sexy cable series and a classic short-story collection. (See my previous nominations in columns one, two, three, four and five of this series.) “How to Talk about [...]

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    Quantum Gravity Expert Says “Philosophical Superficiality” Has Harmed Physics

    Carlo Rovelli: "Theoretical physics has not done great in the last decades. Why? Well, one of the reasons, I think, is that it got trapped in a wrong philosophy."

    As readers of this blog know, late last spring I spoke at a cool conference in England called How the Light Gets In, where I hung out with all kinds of professional reality-ponderers. I’ve already posted Q&As with two fellow speakers I shared housing with: biologist Rupert Sheldrake, who urges scientists to take telepathy more [...]

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    World’s Biggest Warmonger Could Lead Humanity to Peace

    If Americans want to rid the world of lethal fanaticism, they should start with themselves.

    Last week, on the same day that McSweeney’s Books published a new, paperback edition of my book The End of War, I argued that we must and can end war and militarism, our most urgent problems. In a thoughtful response to my column, my fellow science writer Keith Kloor suggests that “at first blush,” the [...]

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    War Is Our Most Urgent Problem. Let’s Solve It

    War exacerbates or perpetuates other problems, including climate change, poverty, oppression and disease, either directly or by draining precious resources away from their solution.

    Is there a more urgent problem in the world today than war? And when I say “war” in this post, I mean also militarism, the culture of war, the armies, arms, industries, policies, plans, propaganda, prejudices, rationalizations that make lethal group conflict not only possible but also likely. My answer to the above question: No, [...]

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    A Brief Correspondence on Copernicus, Descartes, Kant, Darwin, Freud, George Ellis and Thomas Nagel (among Others)

    The scientific and philosophical insights of 19th-century German polymath Emil du Bois-Reymond are as relevant as ever, says historian of science Gabriel Finkelstein of the University of Colorado Denver.

    My friend Gabriel Finkelstein is an historian of science whose most recent book, Emil du Bois-Reymond: Neuroscience, Self, and Society in Nineteenth-Century Germany, profiles a 19th-century German polymath who was extraordinarily prescient about science’s potential and limits. Last fall, I re-posted a great Q&A that MIT Press, his publisher, carried out with Gabriel. Gabriel, an associate [...]

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    Cool Sh*t I’ve Been Reading This Summer

    Image by Courtney Nicholas for VICE,

    I’m on vacation, in an island paradise, and I’m sorely tempted to skip my end-of-the-month “Cool Sh*t” post. I want to just hang out on the beach and watch the waves roll in. But I don’t want to disappoint the hordes of readers eagerly anticipating my picks. (I mean, look at all the “Likes” and [...]

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    Physicist George Ellis Knocks Physicists for Knocking Philosophy, Falsification, Free Will

    "You cannot do physics or cosmology without an assumed philosophical basis," says George Ellis. Photo: David Monniaux, Wikimedia Commons.

    Biologist Rupert Sheldrake, whom I interviewed in my last post, wasn’t the only fascinating scientist I hung out with recently at Howthelightgetsin, a festival hosted by the Institute of Arts & Ideas. I also befriended George F. R. Ellis, the physicist-mathematician-cosmologist, an authority on the Big Bang and other cosmic mysteries. Ellis and I hit [...]

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    Scientific Heretic Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Fields, Psychic Dogs and Other Mysteries

    Rupert Sheldrake believes the "materialist worldview" has "become excessively dogmatic."

    For decades, I’ve been only dimly aware of Rupert Sheldrake as a renegade British biologist who argues that telepathy and other paranormal phenomena (sometimes lumped under the term psi) should be taken more seriously by the scientific establishment. Since I’m one of those fuddy-duddy establishment doubters of psi, I never bothered to examine Sheldrake’s work [...]

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    Could Consuming More Energy Help Humans Save Nature?

    "Ecopragmatists" contend that higher energy consumption may help us "decouple" from, or reduce our impact on, the environment. Photo: Breakthrough Institute.

    Even before I arrived at the annual “Dialogue” of the Breakthrough Institute, an Oakland, California, think tank that challenges mainstream environmental positions, I was arguing about it. When I explained some of the institute’s positions to two green friends, they were aghast that I would hobnob with a group that favors nuclear power, natural gas, [...]

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