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Critical views of science in the news

Are war crimes caused by bad apples or bad barrels?

Are war crimes caused by bad apples or bad barrels?

When soldiers commit atrocities, we must ask why. The question is being raised once again by reports that a handful of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan carried out premeditated killings—murders—of Afghan civilians.

October 4, 2010 — John Horgan
Doubts about psychedelics from Albert Hofmann, LSD's discoverer

Doubts about psychedelics from Albert Hofmann, LSD's discoverer

Psychedelics are back! As readers of Scientific American know, scientists have recently reported that psychedelics show promise for treating disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety in terminal cancer patients.

September 24, 2010 — John Horgan
Battle fatigue: Can pretend warfare cathartically curb real war?

Battle fatigue: Can pretend warfare cathartically curb real war?

My teenage son, Mac, shot me. Twice, on the same day. I felt pride. And pain. Together with about 60 other guys, Mac and I were playing an "Airsoft" war game in a wooded Army Reserve training camp in Tolland, a tiny town in western Massachusetts.

September 20, 2010 — John Horgan
Cosmic Clowning: Stephen Hawking's "new" theory of everything is the same old CRAP

Cosmic Clowning: Stephen Hawking's "new" theory of everything is the same old CRAP

I've always thought of Stephen Hawking—whose new book The Grand Design (Bantam 2010), co-written with Leonard Mlodinow, has become an instant bestseller—less as a scientist than as a cosmic, comic performance artist, who loves goofing on his fellow physicists and the rest of us.This penchant was already apparent in 1980, when the University of Cambridge named Hawking Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, the chair held three centuries earlier by Isaac Newton.

September 13, 2010 — John Horgan
Contemplating the end of the world, math, mystery and other things

Contemplating the end of the world, math, mystery and other things

I suffer from eschatological obsession. That is, I spend lots of time brooding about ends. So the cover of the September Scientific American —which reads simply "the end."—made me all shivery, like when I hear the spooky sitar opening of The Doors' apocalyptic rock poem "The End." (I'm never more Freudian than when I hear Morrison's Oedipal yowl.)

Some issue highlights: Tom Kirkwood's article on why we shouldn't expect the end of death soon (someone send this to Ray Kurzweil); Arpad Vass's description of a corpse's busy afterlife (which reminds me of one of my favorite novels, Jim Crace's Being Dead , Picador 2001); George Musser's riff on whether time can end (which would mean the end of ends—like, grok that, dude!).

September 6, 2010 — John Horgan
Why I'm becoming a pro-nuke nut, continued

Why I'm becoming a pro-nuke nut, continued

Last week's post served up facts from Power to Save the World (Vintage, 2008) by Gwyneth Cravens, whose book forced me to see nuclear energy in a more positive light.

August 23, 2010 — John Horgan
Nuclear fall in: Why I'm becoming a pro-nuke nut

Nuclear fall in: Why I'm becoming a pro-nuke nut

My belated education in nuclear energy continues. I just read Power to Save the World: The Truth about Nuclear Energy (Vintage, 2008) by Gwyneth Cravens, a petite, energetic novelist and journalist.

August 16, 2010 — John Horgan
<i>Inception</i> is a clunker, but lucid dreaming is cool

Inception is a clunker, but lucid dreaming is cool

Inception is an absurdly complicated, clattering contraption of a movie that impresses only in a mechanical, Rube Goldberg–ish way. My intellect had to work so hard to figure out what was happening that my emotions never got engaged.

August 2, 2010 — John Horgan

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