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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.
  • 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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    Historian of Technology Cruelly Crushes Internet Myths

    standards

    As readers of this blog know, since 2005 I’ve been teaching at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. One of the best parts of being an academic is hanging out with cool (compared to me), young (compared to me), up-and-coming scholars, some of whom know far more about the history of science and [...]

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    More Cool Sh*t I’ve Read—and Seen—Lately

    john-oliver-stephen-hawking

    This is the fourth installment of my monthly feature “Cool Sh*t I’ve Read Lately,” in which I draw attention to, um, cool stuff. (Here are columns one, two and three.) Breakthrough Journal. My brain is still sore from all the stretching it underwent this week at the 2014 “Dialogue” of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental [...]

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    Prominent Economist Touts Benefits of War in The New York Times–Really

    Tyler Cowen's argument about benefits of war neglects to factor in casualties, such as the 350,000 people killed in recent fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, as tallied by Costs of War Project.

    I was hoping to chill out on Father’s Day, perhaps see the latest Tom Cruise sci-fi blockbuster, or stroll along the Hudson with my girlfriend. But then I read a New York Times essay so repugnant that I had to respond. “The Lack of Major Wars May Be Hurting Economic Growth,” by economist Tyler Cowen, [...]

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    My Ayahuasca Trip

    Painting of ayahuasca ceremony by Peruvian artist Pablo Cesar Amaringo, Wikimedia Commons.

    Ayahuasca—a foul-tasting hallucinogenic tea that can induce violent nausea and terrifying visions—is becoming trendy. A recent article in the “Fashion & Style” section of The New York Times notes that many people—including celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan and Sting—have turned to ayahuasca as a “catalyst for inner growth.” Ayahuasca is fascinating, for many reasons. Long [...]

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    Multiverse Skeptic Whacks Multiverse Peddler for Whacking End of Science

    Research on multiverses, according to science writer John Gribbin, shows that predictions of an end to science are wrong-headed.

    I suppose I should be grateful that, 18 years after the release of my book The End of Science, people still care enough about it to knock it. The latest whack was a book review published in The Wall Street Journal last weekend. British science writer John Gribbin, reviewing The Island of Knowledge, by physicist [...]

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    So Far, Big Data Is Small Potatoes

    bigdata-book.jpg

    Is Big Data going to revolutionize science and help us make a better world? Not based on what it’s done so far. Let me back up a moment. I was recently a speaker at How the Light Gets In, a groovy philosophy and music festival in Hay-on-Wye, Britain. The festival lodged me in a fantastical [...]

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    My Lunch with Psychedelic Chemist “Sasha” Shulgin (RIP) and His Wonderful Wife

    Sasha Shulgin, shown here with his wife and fellow psychonaut Ann, viewed death as “another transition, another state of consciousness. Admittedly it's one I've not explored, but then again, any new drug is one you've not explored.”

    Alexander Shulgin, the most prolific psychedelic chemist in history, has died at the age of 88. I interviewed Shulgin and his wife and co-researcher Ann at their home in California in 1999, when I was researching my 2003 book Rational Mysticism. What follows is an edited version of the profile of the Shulgins that I [...]

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