Maybe it’s just me, but the last few years are getting tough to tell apart. Imagine a quiz question:
Name that year where we threw obstacles in the recovery’s way, but kept growing slowly; where Europe avoided both a disaster and a solution to its mess; and where China kept growing over 7 percent, but didn’t rebalance its economy like it said it wants.
You’d be right to guess 2013. You’d also be right to guess 2012, 2011, or 2010. [Read the full article]
Last Monday the International Panel on Planet-Threatening Demi-Gods presented the most peer-reviewed scientific paper in all human history, giving unarguable evidence that Earth will be destroyed by a malevolent super-being called Malignos at teatime (GMT) next Tuesday. I was on tour, sitting in Belfast airport departure lounge, when I read about it in the Guardian. It seemed like an important story, but I noticed other passengers skipping it in their papers in favour, for example, of a charming Daily Mail centre-spread of Photo-shopped pictures of tiny people in a world made of massive vegetables. There was some giant broccoli that a bike had crashed into and a little white man was standing next to it looking at the buckled wheel, scratching his head in astonishment. He simply couldn’t believe it. He had driven his bike straight into some giant broccoli! [Read the full article]
Leo Szilard was the man who first realised that nuclear power could be used to build a bomb of terrifying proportions. Lisa Jardine considers what his story has to say about the responsibilities of science.
The figure of Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard loomed large in our house when I was a child. He was held up to me as an exemplary figure in science – a man who had made fundamental breakthroughs in nuclear physics, but whose acute sense of moral probity led him in the end to denounce the very advances he had helped make. Only later did I learn an alternative version of his story.
Almost exactly 80 years ago, in early October 1933, Szilard was in London, in transit from Nazi Germany, when an idea came to him that would lead directly to the ultimate weapon of war – the atomic bomb. [Read the full article]
It happens every autumn. I’m walking down the street and it wells up fast, triggered by a first chill in the air, some foliage, maybe a doorstep pumpkin. In that instant returns the knotted stomach and debilitating dread of the apocalyptic autumn of 1983.
That was the season my slice of generation, on the younger side of X, learned about things worse than death. Things like flash burns and thermal radiation and stillborn mutants. It was the season we acquired some of the habits of the wartime mind. We wondered if lights in the night sky were planes or missiles, and whether the school fallout shelter stood a chance. The autumn of ’83 was also a semester of children’s thermonuclear ethics. If it happens in the afternoon, do we run toward home, or away from the city and the blast? If it happens at night, do we let our parents huddle over us in the basement, or do we stand on the rooftop, chests forward, praying the first shock wave dematerializes our family without pain?
In my nightmares, I always ran, and the blast always overtook me. I could never get out beyond the red circle drawn on the maps left on our doorstep by Boston’s Freeze activists. Still I studied them. I kept my collection of maps and pamphlets hidden like a stash of pornography. Attempts by adults to calm us only deepened the terror. It was obvious their reassurances were hollow. It was for them, not us, that the American Broadcasting Corporation set up 1-800 panic hotlines for the Thanksgiving week airing of “The Day After.” Grownups were as scared numb as we were that autumn, which seemed to be replaying the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion. [Read the full article]
Sometimes it really does suck to be gay. In addition to the usual hard work – the recruiting of innocents, the destruction of the institution of marriage, compulsory brunch – there’s been an unusually high volume of international bigotry and bad news to put up with this week.
Take the recent diss from Guido Barilla, the chairman of his family’s famous pasta company. He announced on air that he would never feature a gay family in one of Barilla’s ads. Clearly unaware that gay people can actually hear what he says on the radio, Barilla added that he had “no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose.” He then encouraged those of us who found his statements offensive to eat another brand. [Read the full article]
Last week Rudolf Voderholzer, 54, the bishop of the Bavarian city of Regensburg and one of Germany’s younger church leaders, was taken to task at the Vatican by the pope himself. In an admonishment to the German bishop and others attending a seminar for new bishops in Rome, Francis said: “Be close to the people and live as you preach. Always be with your flock, do not succumb to careerism and ask yourselves whether you are truly living as you preach.”
This is a new message for German princes of the church. Many of them have long cultivated a lifestyle oriented toward strict dogmas, prestige and a career within the church, much like former Pope Benedict XVI. But now that his successor arrives at meetings in an old car, there has been a fundamental shift. Loyalty to the pope is being completely redefined, and not just in Regensburg, where Voderholzer’s predecessor Gerhard Ludwig Müller, a fervent devotee of former Pope Benedict, alienated many Roman Catholics. [Read the full article]
Five years ago this week, the investment firm Lehman Brothers imploded, setting off the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history and the fall of financial dominoes that produced the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Only concerted and concentrated work by financial authorities around the world staved off a second Great Depression. Instead, the world economy “only” suffered the Great Recession.
Five years later, stability has returned to the global financial system but it remains fragile. There have been efforts to ensure that the meltdown of 2007-2008 will not be repeated, but they remain a work in progress, with many projects stymied by finance industry resistance to measures that might reduce their ability to turn a profit. [Read the full article]
It’s hard to contemplate, but it wasn’t too long ago that beating, berating, or leaving a child to fend for himself might be considered acceptable behavior. As Cris Beam explains in her new book on the foster care system, To the End of June, the U.S. only began defining the “battered child syndrome” in the early 1960s, thanks to the advent of X-ray technology.
X-rays allowed radiologists to see unexplained bone fractures. Sometimes there were several. One enterprising pediatrician, C. Henry Kempe, surveyed emergency rooms and discovered shocking patterns of non-accidental injuries like burns and brain damage. [Read the full article]