Humanities

Category archives for Humanities

The Evitability of History

As mentioned earlier in the week, I recently read Charles C. Mann’s 1493 (see also this interview at Razib’s place), which includes a long section about the colony at Jamestown. Like most such operations, the earliest colonists were almost comically incompetent, managing to nearly starve to death several times, despite being in an absurdly fertile…

As many a thoughtless person has observed when learning what I do for a living, physics is really hard. But you may have wondered just how much harder is physics than other subjects? Well, now, we have a quantitative answer: This is a shelf of books at the Burlington, MA Barnes and Noble, clearly showing…

Greatest (Nonscientific) Nonfiction

While I was off at DAMOP last week, the Guardian produced a list purporting to be the 100 greatest non-fiction books of all time. Predictably, this includes a tiny set of science titles– five in the “Science” category, two under “Environment,” and one each under “Mathematics” and “Mind.” And that’s being kind of generous about…

(This post is part of the new round of interviews of non-academic scientists, giving the responses of George Farrants, a freelance translator (and occasional marathon runner, as seen in the picture). The goal is to provide some additional information for science students thinking about their fiuture careers, describing options beyond the assumed default Ph.D.–post-doc–academic-job track.)…

One of the interesting things about reading David Kaiser’s How the Hippies Saved Physics was that it paints a very different picture of physics in the mid-1970’s than what you usually see. Kaiser describes it as a very dark time for young physicists, career-wise. He doesn’t go all that deeply into the facts and figures…

More on Divided by Infinity

I had intended last Wednesday’s post on the Many-Worlds variant in Robert Charles Wilson’s Divided by Infinity to be followed by a post on the other things I said when I did a guest lecture on it for an English class. What with one thing and another, though, I got a little distracted, and I’m…

Calendrical Innovation

Union operates on a trimester calendar, with three ten-week terms (September-November, January-March, April-June), rather than the two 14-15 week semesters used by most other colleges and universities. This has some advantages in terms of flexibility– even science and engineering students get to take terms abroad, which is harder to swing in a semester system– and…

You Will Never Die

If I ever decided to abandon any pretense of integrity or credibility, and just shoot for making a bazillion dollars peddling quantum hokum, the particular brand of quantum philosophy I would peddle has already been laid out, in Robert Charles Wilson’s Divided by Infinity. In the story, the narrator is given a copy of a…

Short Story Club 2: The Locussing

For both of the readers who enjoyed last fall’s Short Story Club, there’s another round starting up soon, this time run by Locus, featuring award-nominated works. I’m busier now than I was in the fall, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to participate in all of these, but then, I’ve already read two of…

One of the perils of book reviewing, or any other form of literary analysis is putting more thought into some aspect of a book than the author did. It’s one of the aspects of the humanities aide of academia that, from time to time, strains my ability to be respectful of the scholarly activities of…