I wonder how these discoveries might have been received 50 years ago, back when America was actually working to put humans on other worlds. Would we have thrilled over Martian water because of the prospect of finding microbes? I wasn’t there, but I think we would have been more interested in water because of its usefulness to humans. Whether or not there were microbes would have been a secondary consideration, viewed through the lens of human exploration.Continue reading Life on […]
It is always dangerous to claim that something about yourself is unique, because it probably isn’t. There is almost always someone who is just as adjective as you are or has done just as much gerund as you have. Nonetheless, I suspect that I might actually be unique when I name Redwall as a formative influence on my philosophy.
Millions of people have read Redwall, and nearly all of them have liked it. I found it deeply horrifying. Twenty years later, there is still no other work that has affected me as intensely. I didn’t immediately understand why, but in time I figured it out: Redwall was horrifying because its characters were dishonest. I do not mean that the characters told lies–to the contrary, telling lies was something which they sternly frowned upon–I mean that their perception of their world and the facts of their world were virtually unrelated to each other. Continue reading Attempting Honesty
My car has an eighth-inch audio jack so I can listen to Rdio when I drive it, but the minivan is old; FM is its only option. The other day when I was on my way to pick up a van-load of children, I flipped on the radio and found myself listening to a top 40 pop song. Just from hearing the opening measures and noting what station it was playing on, I guessed what the lyrics would be. I went ahead and listened to the whole thing, mostly to see if my prediction was correct. It was. “There are no surprises on hit radio,” I thought. “I haven’t listened to this station for over a year, and I can still guess the lyrics of whatever comes on. Are pop songs really that predictable, that homogeneous?” Continue reading No One Ever Finds True Love
This is probably the most important article you will ever read: it will teach you how to conquer a democracy. Not in the traditional supervillainous sense–the people you conquer probably won’t even realize what you’ve done to them–but you will rule them nonetheless. The method is very simple; it has only two steps, and everyone already knows them. They are expressed in two famous aphorisms: Continue reading How to Win at Democracy
It is impossible to eliminate all risk in life, but we can do things to minimize it. For instance, you can minimize the risk of breathing toxic gas by staying on the surface of the Earth instead of digging beneath it. Staying on the surface does not guarantee good air, but it makes good air likely. Dig very deep, and the chances of the next breath being toxic increase with every foot. Continue reading Cook the Courageous
There is an episode of Dragons: Riders of Berk in which the town is plagued by lighting. The frequency of lightning strikes has suddenly increased, from being rare to being almost constant. The Berkians are Vikings; they attribute their problem to the wrath of Thor, and the story follows their blundering attempts to appease him. Eventually they realize that the iron dragon perches they had installed around town at the beginning of the episode are what is attracting the lightning. They remove these perches, and the lightning stops.