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Cross-Check


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    John Horgan 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.
  • Are Scientists on “Cusp of Knowing” How Weird We Are?

    In his new book Caleb Scharf writes: "So are we unusual or not?... Neither side is yet a winner. But we are much, much closer to an answer than we have ever been in the history of the human species; we are on the cusp of knowing."

    I’m writing this post for two reasons. One is to recommend a new book by Columbia astrobiologist Caleb Scharf (who also writes a terrific Scientific American blog, “Life, Unbounded“), and the other is to defend an old book of mine. Scharf’s book is The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and [...]

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    Green Analysts Respond to Cross-Check Concerns about Warming, War and Hawkish U.S. Policies

    Photo: Meditate.com, http://www.mediate.com/mobile/article.cfm?id=5042.

    For a professional blowhard, there is no worse fate than being ignored. So I’m always—well, almost always—delighted when my posts get pushback, especially from people who are smart, well-informed and thoughtful. In my last post, “Hawkish U.S. Policies Pose Bigger Threat to Peace Than Climate Change,” I complained that discussions of how global warming might [...]

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    Hawkish U.S. Policies Pose Bigger Threat to Peace Than Climate Change

    Hawkish U.S. policies are far more of a threat to world peace than global warming, if recent history is any guide.

    In a previous post, I poked my nose into the debate over whether climate change will precipitate more conflict. I offered a half dozen objections to predictions that more warming means more war. One objection was that “many people making decisions that lead to large-scale violence—politicians, generals, warlords, drug kingpins and so on—work indoors in [...]

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    Does the Sebastian Junger/HBO Film Last Patrol Glorify War?

    Sebastian Junger says that war is "exciting" and helped him become "the man I wanted to be." Photo: http://www.sebastianjunger.com.

    “To honor a fallen peer and adjust to life outside the war zones, four men linked by combat journey by foot from Washington, D.C., to Pennsylvania.” That is how HBO describes Sebastian Junger’s new documentary, The Last Patrol, which HBO is airing Monday night. Last month I saw the film—and listened to Junger discuss it–at [...]

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    Greens Should Stop Claiming More Warming Means More War

    War deaths have plummeted since 1950, according to data compiled by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)...

    “There’s a surprisingly strong link between climate change and violence.” That’s the headline of a recent article by journalist Chris Mooney in The Washington Post. As fossil-fuel emissions push temperatures higher, we can “expect more wars, civil unrest, and strife, and also more violent crime in general,” Mooney says. But the evidence for this alarming [...]

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    New Hawking Film Brilliantly Dramatizes Paradox of Modern Science

    The new Hawking film gets some scientific details wrong but still brilliantly dramatizes profound themes embodied by the iconic physicist's career.

    I met Stephen Hawking in the summer of 1990, when I spent five days in northern Sweden at a conference attended by 30 or so leading cosmologists. He was already almost totally paralyzed; he could move only one finger, with which he controlled a computer and speech synthesizer on his motorized wheelchair. One day, when [...]

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    Surfer-Physicist Garrett Lisi Offers Alternative to String Theory—and Academia

    Lisi (third from right) and friends at the "Pacific Science Institute," a cluster of cabins that he built on Maui to provide a place for scientists to "work and play." Lisi adds, "I do have to let students know I am not a degree-granting institution, but they're welcome to visit."

    In 2007 Garrett Lisi was a 39-year-old physicist, unaffiliated with any institution, toiling in obscurity on what he called “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything,” which could account for all of nature’s forces. Over the next year he became a celebrity, after The New Yorker, Outside, Discover and other publications described him as a rootless [...]

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    Quest for Intelligence Genes Churns Out More Dubious Results

    A new report linking intelligence to specific genes will probably turn out to be yet another false positive.

    For more than 20 years, I’ve hammered behavioral genetics, and especially research linking genes to intelligence. Last spring, I proposed a ban on research into race and intelligence. As I explained in a follow-up post, I oppose this research not only because of its potential to exacerbate racism but also because the entire field of [...]

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    Atomic Reporters Curbs “Egregious” Coverage of Nuclear Perils

    Recent U.S. "modernization" of nuclear arsenal "will probably mean that nuclear weapons will be with us for another 100 years," says Peter Rickwood of Atomic Reporters, "and trigger a response by Russia and China to build-up their weapons programs."

    Yes, the Cold War ended long ago, but we still live in a nuclear-armed world, in which the possibility of nuclear war, terrorism and accidents is all too real. That is why my school, Stevens Institute of Technology, hosted a “Workshop on Nuclear Education” last year, organized by Edward Friedman and Julie Pullen of Stevens [...]

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    Chewing the Fat with Diet Journalist Gary Taubes

    A non-profit co-founded by Gary Taubes has raised $40 million to test weight-loss theories, including the low-carb hypothesis he favors.

    Weight-loss research has generated headlines lately, leading me to wonder what my pal Gary Taubes is up to. Over the past dozen years, Taubes has transformed himself from a mere journalist into a major player in dietary science, who has helped raise millions for research. In Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007), Why We Get Fat [...]

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