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Further: Seth Shostak

Planets aren’t rare. Life is surprisingly durable. The more we’ve learned about the Universe, the more the search for extraterrestrial life has shifted from science fiction to serious scientific undertaking.

Coding is not ‘fun’, it’s technically and ethically complex

Programming computers is a piece of cake. Or so the world’s digital-skills gurus would have us believe.

The whistle

‘They think that a referee has no feelings at all.’ The Polish director Grzegorz Zariczny’s The Whistle follows Marcin, a low-league soccer referee, as he breaks up fights and absorbs the criticisms and ire of angry players, rowdy fans, disgruntled coaches and a referee committee.

America’s Declaration of Independence was pro-immigrant

In 1776, American Patriots faced problems of crushing sovereign debt, vituperative debates about immigration, and questions about the role of foreign trade.

It is and it isn’t

Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ is not just a radical kind of art. It’s a philosophical dialetheia: a contradiction that is true By Damon Young & Graham Priest Read at Aeon

Opposition to Galileo was scientific, not just religious

In 1614, when the telescope was new technology, a young man in Germany published a book filled with illustrations of the exciting new things being discovered telescopically: moons circling Jupiter, moon-like phases of Venus, spots on the Sun, the rough and cratered lunar surface.

Books for life

There is something deeply revealing about the books one truly loves in childhood and adolescence By Adam Gidwitz Read at Aeon

Farewell: etaoin shrdlu

Once called the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ by Thomas Edison, Linotype typecasting machines revolutionised publishing when they were invented in 1886, and remained the industry standard for nearly a century after.

Why panpsychism fails to solve the mystery of consciousness

Is consciousness everywhere? Is it a basic feature of the Universe, at the very heart of the tiniest subatomic particles?

What kind of citizen was he?

Conventional wisdom sees Socrates as a martyr for free speech, but he accepted his death sentence for a different cause By Josiah Ober Read at Aeon


Shohaku Okumura was born to a worldly merchant family in Osaka, Japan, but, to their chagrin, he chose a life as a Zen Buddhist monk and abbot in Bloomington, Indiana.

How US prisons violate three principles of criminal justice

The United States has 5 per cent of the world’s population but 25 per cent of its prisoners. Right now, 2.2 million people are locked up across the country, and while crime has been decreasing since the 1990s, rates of imprisonment are at historic highs.

A theory of creepiness

A bear chasing you is simply scary but a guy with a big mouse’s head can give you the creeps. What’s the difference?

Hunter S Thompson on outlaws

‘We do have this mounting violence in us.’ The enigmatic and wildly influential US journalist Hunter S Thompson first broke into the mainstream with his 1966 book Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs – a two-year-long insider’s view of the notorious California motorcycle gang.

The fugue of life: why complexity matters in neuroscience

People like simplicity. Each decade, corporate logos grow progressively minimalistic, pop songs use ever simpler melodies, and visual arts embrace simpler compositions as Monet gives way to Picasso, and Picasso to Rothko.

The tracers

With more than 300 million guns in the United States, the country has nearly one firearm for every citizen.

Do only humans have souls, or do animals possess them too?

In common parlance, the word ‘soul’ pops up everywhere. We may speak of a vast, soulless corporation or describe an athlete as the ‘heart and soul’ of his team.

Religion without belief

Most Japanese reject religious belief while embracing multiple forms of ritual practice. Are they religious or secular?

How Cold War rivalry helped launch the Chinese computer

It was the summer of 1959, and the United States needed a Cold War win. In 1957, the Soviet bloc scored a major technological victory with Sputnik 1.

Taming the quantum spooks

Reconciling Einstein with quantum mechanics may require abandoning the notion that cause always precedes effect By Huw Price & Ken Wharton Read at Aeon