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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.
  • Did Edgar Allan Poe Foresee Modern Physics and Cosmology?

    Poe presented an ambitious theory of everything—which seems to anticipate certain modern scientific ideas--in Eureka, a book-length work that he write just before he died.

    I’ve always been an Edgar Allan Poe fan, so much so that I even watched the horrifying—not in a good way–2012 film The Raven. But when I spotted an essay on Poe by novelist Marilynne Robinson in the February 5 New York Review of Books, I hesitated to read it, thinking, What more can I [...]

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    Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Haunting Reflections on Science and Progress

    In his 1964 Nobel acceptance speech, King lamented the "poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance."

    Wanting to post something to honor Martin Luther King Day, I searched online for commentary by King on science. I found some examples in a terrific 2012 column by science journalist Cara Santa Maria, who quoted King decrying how science had served the causes of white supremacy and slavery. I also discovered King’s 1964 Nobel [...]

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    A Brief, Ironic History of “Ironic Science”


    Football is dead to me! I can’t watch any more without thinking about brain-damage and abuse of women and dogs. So instead of watching playoff games today (although I’m beaming bad-luck vibes at Brady and Belichick, whom I love to hate), I traced the history of “ironic science.” In my previous column, I claimed ownership [...]

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    What Is “Ironic Science”?

    As far as I know, the phrase "ironic science" was first employed in my 1996 book The End of Science.

    I was scanning my Twitter feed recently, pretending to look for “news” while really searching, as usual, for items that praise, condemn or merely allude to me—I mean, let’s face it, all of us social-media addicts are narcissists–when the bells in my amygdala started clanging. Someone had tweeted a paper called “The Ethics of Ironic [...]

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    Would Global Violence Decline Faster If U.S. Was Less Militaristic?

    Global violence has declined, but wars instigated by the U.S. have produced enormous casualties. Graph from

    2015 has begun with horrific violence: the slaughter in Paris, allegedly by Muslim extremists, of the staff of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Outbursts like these lead many people to despair over the prospects for peace. A recent essay in Slate, “The World Is Not Falling Apart“–subtitled “Never mind the headlines. We’ve never lived in [...]

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    Troublemaker Lee Smolin Says Physics—and Its Laws—Must Evolve*

    Smolin: "Fundamental physics and cosmology have to transform themselves from a search for timeless laws and symmetries to the investigation of hypotheses about how laws evolve."

    What separates good from bad troublemakers? Productive provocateurs from mere contrarians, bullshit artists, attention-seekers? This is the personalized equivalent of philosophy’s demarcation problem, which involves telling genuine from pseudo-science. Lee Smolin, a 59-year-old physicist at the Perimeter Institute in Canada, has always struck me as a good–even necessary–troublemaker. I first interviewed him in the early [...]

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    Need a New Year’s Resolution? Believe in Free Will!

    Choices, freely made, are what make life meaningful. Try telling prisoners in Guantanamo or Syrian civilians fleeing bombs and bullets that choices are illusory. “Let’s change places,” they might respond, “since you have nothing to lose.”

    New Year’s Day is approaching, a time when we—by which I mean I–brood over past failures and vow to improve ourselves: I will be less judgmental with my kids and more romantic with my girlfriend. I will stop binging on Christmas cookies and television–except X Files re-runs, which are awesome! I will remember that people [...]

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    How an Agnostic Science Writer Celebrates Winter Solstice

    Sitting in a circle of stones on Winter Solstice can help us intuit what science also tells us, that life is infinitely improbable.

    Winter Solstice, darkest day of the year, is fast approaching. So once again I’m posting an edited version of a column I originally wrote for The New York Times more than a decade ago, when I was still married and living in a Hudson Valley hamlet. –John Horgan My wife recently decided that our family [...]

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    Advice to Young Science Writers: Think Like Chomsky*

    Science journalists should challenge dogma and authority, just as Noam Chomsky does in the realm of politics.

    I’ve been pondering my profession again lately, for several reasons: shifts in the Scientific American Blog Network; the launch of a science communication program at my school, Stevens Institute of Technology, which is closely allied with a new program in science, technology and society (STS); and finally a chat with editors at IEEE Spectrum, where [...]

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    A Profile of Biologist, Warrior, Poet, Philosopher Edward O. Wilson

    In a 1994 interview, Wilson expressed doubt that "we are going to go through any revolutionary changes of how evolution works or how diversification works or how biodiversity is created, at the species level."

    Personal feelings can complicate science journalism. I dislike some scientists whose views I admire, and like some whose views make me squirm. For example, I admired Stephen Jay Gould’s hostility to biological reductionism but thought he was a jerk. Conversely, I resist some views of Gould’s archenemy, Edward O. Wilson, but in person I find [...]

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