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Posted inTech

Don’t let the Saudi megacity fool you. We’ve been here before

Reading Time: 6 minutes The 2006 documentary Manufactured Landscapes opens with an eight-minute tracking shot of a Chinese factory floor, seemingly endless rows of machinery in a city-sized complex of 17,000 employees. Revisited in Factory City (2012), this industrial zone played into the idea that Asian cultures were more willing than the West to trade humanity for advancement. Yet […]

Posted inPhilosophy

The art of conversion

Reading Time: 5 minutes Like most Afghans, Rahim was born a Muslim. Not that he cared much about religion. What he did care about was flying.  And being a bright adventurous young man, he became a pilot. With Aryana, the Afghan Airlines, that flew, among other routes, from Kabul to London. The line started operating three years before I […]

Posted inSpace

For all of humanity’s failings, we’ve never stopped wondering about the stars

Reading Time: 8 minutes It was an atypically dry English spring when a man in Bath scanned the skies with a 7-inch reflecting telescope he’d designed and built by hand, through painstaking refinements to Isaac Newton’s principles of optics. William Herschel was studying stellar parallax, the phenomenon that makes a nearby star look like it has moved in relation […]

Posted inCulture

Jesus was ‘woke’: Historical figures who have moved humanity forward

Reading Time: 4 minutes When we use the word “woke,” we’re suggesting a sense of wakefulness, alertness, vigilance, and watchfulness. It’s a metaphor of self-designation for those who possess a certain kind of moral acuity. Those on the political Right who oppose what they call “The Woke Left” might embrace numerous other metaphors to signify their own ethical perception, for instance: The Somnolent […]

Posted inHistory

Book burning as ancient practice and modern menace

Reading Time: 7 minutes Since ancient times, people from almost all religions and societies have been burning books. As one scholar put it: “The goals of the book burners have been to extirpate history, to intimidate and stamp out opposition, to create solidarity, and to cleanse society of controversial ideas.”    Not surprisingly, the act of book burning has […]

Posted inArt

Toppling Confederate monuments is only half the job. What replaces them?

Reading Time: 3 minutes Citizens in Charlottesville, Virginia, are giving input on what kind of public art ought to be created at a park where a massive statue once stood. Not just any statue. The monument glorifying Robert E. Lee. Not just any park, but the site of the infamous “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and “alt-right” denizens […]