Monday, July 28, 2014
by Grace Boey
When Vladimir Nabokob’s Lolita was first published in 1955, the novel generated an enormous amount of controversy. Narrated by Humbert Humbert, a fictional literature professor in his late thirties, the tragicomedy depicts his obsessive sexual relationship with 12-year-old Dolores Haze—the eponymous Lolita.
60 years down the road, the book remains as controversial as ever. A large part of this seems to be that Lolita, despite our moral condemnation of child sex, somehow manages to elicit the reader’s sympathy for its pedophilic ‘protagonist’ (who is, possibly, more accurately described as a hebephile). Beyond our contempt for Humbert, there is also disgust with ourselves. How dare we even think of sympathizing with such a pervert? Surely by doing so we inch closer to condoning sex with children.
Such confusion reflects unresolved thoughts and feelings about sexual deviation in general. What does it mean to sympathize with perversion? Where, exactly, lies the wrong in what many of us think of as sexual deviance—such as pedophilia, zoophilia, homosexuality, and various other unusual forms of sexuality? What specifically is it that’s so outrageous about the affair between Humbert and Dolores? To answer such questions, we must delve into the field of sexual ethics.
Sex: the moral minefield
Why is the ethics of sex even a thing? For one, sex is a significant act which plays a big part in an individual’s life. How someone practices (or doesn’t practice) sex is intertwined with their emotions, relationships, expression and identity. Moreover, sex is an act involving our own bodies that we either wish to participate in, or don’t. In deontological terms or rights-speak, there are important rights and potential violations surrounding sex. From a consequentialist perspective, there is the potential for both great harm and utility to arise from sex. All this makes sex something we should tread around pretty carefully.
In the early 1980s wanting to be a naturalist — a coleopterist, in particular, that most Darwin-like of naturalists — I spent a couple of summer months in Killarney National Park, in Ireland, making a collection of chrysomelid beetles. This was the first of many such collecting trips, part of a series of increasingly violent engagements with the natural world that served as stepping stones that link my life as an Irish teen to the one I live now in Chicago. All of them involved the killing of animals or plants for the sake of science.
The Chrysomelidae had been offered up to me by Dr Jimmy O’Connor, an entomology curator at Ireland’s Natural History Museum (The Dead Zoo, as it was called in Dublin). Apparently, the Irish representatives of this group were poorly known, not having been taxonomically revised since early in the 20th Century. Chrysomelid beetles include a number of notorious pests such as Leptinotarsa decemlineata, the Colorado Potato beetle, but for the most part these insects go about their business without causing us much bother. They are remarkably pretty though, many of them possessing metallic elytra (the sclerotized outer-wing of the beetle) and when you train your eye to notice them you see them as a marvel of shimmer and vivid color. Some of them, the flea-beetles, have greatly enlarged hind-leg femora, so that when disturbed they erupt into action and spring away from you like a glorious idea that thought you had, but now cannot seem to fully recall.
Collecting them is easy enough. Using a sweep net, I thrashed my way across the grassier spots in the National Park; in other locations I’d search the under-leaves of shrubs and low hanging plants, catching them on the tip of a wetted paintbrush.
The issue of killing them was quite another matter. After all, I wanted to collect them because I had conceived a liking for them, and was concerned that if neglected, we, the scientific community, would not know, ironically, if these animals needed more vigorous protection. I loved them enough, I suppose, to want them dead; a couple of specimens of each species at the very least. I was the Noah of death and my ark was a killing jar.
However, when one sees glamorous creatures such as these looking up at you, as it were, from the bottom of the net, the ethical calculation concerning their dispatch is not an easy one to make. Should these few glimmering Isaacs be sacrificed so that others of their kind might flourish. Or perhaps more proximately, since the question of how data might be used is always somewhat further down the road, should they die so that the storehouse of my knowledge could grow?
by Akim Reinhardt
In February the word came in. My brother in law had a job offer in Orange County. He and my sister would finally be giving up the little apartment in far northern Manhattan and heading for the West coast.
"Lemme know if I can help," I to told my sister.
"You wanna drive the moving truck across the country with Noah?" she asked.
"Sure, I can do that," I said.
Monday, July 21
With luggage, I make the 20 minute walk to the light rail station. Train shows up, and the ride to the airport is uneventful. Not like last time when I had some drunk fool trying to pick a fight with me at 9:00 in the morning cause he thought I was "gay lookin'" at him. Goin' on about how he did a dime in prison and he'd kick my ass, except he's either about 60 years old or a very rough 50, and already lit, drinking tall boys out of paper bags, so no, he can't actually kick my ass. After not engaging, I finally had to tell him to shut the fuck up already, but that didn't help. Didn't make it worse either. Just kept on prattling his belligerent, drunken shit.
Nothing like that this time. To the airport, all good. Until you walk in to find your flight's been delayed two hours.
After what passes for a nice meal at BWI (decent beer, cured olives, mixed salad with goat cheese; actually, that's a nice meal anywhere), I mosey over to the gate. My gate's jammed, so I go to something a bit emptier. I open up Murdering McKinley by Eric Rauchway, a history prof up at UC Davis. He's a good writer, which isn't a given for a historian.
I mean, just look at this pablum.
About thirty pages in, this terribly annoying extended family sits next to me. Not a decent one in the lot.
I move on to a quieter spot. Then the guy behind me starts slurping the straw of his empty Dunkin' Donuts cup. And he won't stop. On and off for 20 minutes. I look behind me. He's about 50 years old
Truly, there is no sense of decorum left in this country.
Jennifer West. Film Quilt, 2013.
Breaking the taboo of divorce in largely conservative India. Conceptual image by Sahil Mane Photography.
A Bit of Background
Last year, I put up this status message on Facebook: "Today, the 15th of February, is the 10th anniversary of my first wedding. It's interesting how far both of us, my ex-husband and I, have come since our divorce in 2006. And how different life—lives—would have been if I had stayed. Oh, thank god!"
People have always asked me why I talk about my divorce, including this article featured in Mirrors across India a few weeks after I got remarried two years ago. I have several reasons.
I got married to Shiv when I was 19 and he was 30, back in 2003, when the world was different, I was different. After one failed attempt in July/August, we got separated in December 2005, when I moved to Mumbai, and divorced 10 months later.
First, a caveat. I spoke casually about being divorced much before I got remarried, much before I found love with Sahil. I spoke about it when I was down, devastated and broke; when I was single; to friends and strangers; and at job interviews. I even spoke about considering one the very first time I met a woman who is now a friend—a young divorcee herself, she said (and I remember this vividly), "Are you sure, Tara*? I find now that I am perpetually ‘<Insert her own name> the Divorcee'." I put that in right upfront, as I realise it could seem convenient to talk about it now, when all has turned out okay. For instance, though there were many years in between, my grandparents didn't tell anyone in Dehradun, the small town in North India in which they live that I was divorced until I got remarried (the veritable ‘happy ending').
[I realised this when I had gone for my granddad's 80th birthday celebrations a few years ago, only to be startled by questions of "Shiv kahan hain, beta?" "Aapke husband Indonesia se nahi aa paye?" ("Where is Shiv?" "Your husband wasn't able to come from Indonesia?") That's when I pieced together the story they had been telling, or letting brew, partly grounded in the truth—my ex-husband is, indeed, currently in Indonesia, just with a different wife.]
Because of this, I've been asked this over and over, from the curious as well as the concerned ‘what is the need to wash dirty linen is public', I'll tell you why I speak about it.
by Eric Byrd
On Facebook I follow a number of the US Department of the Interior's National Battlefield Parks, National Battle Sites, and Military Parks. In the progress of the Civil War's sesquicentennial each of these sites has had their day in the social media sun, their special anniversary posts with pictures of the commemorative ceremonies. In May and June it was the turn of the parks that memorialize the battles of Grant's Overland Campaign.
In the spring of 1864 Ulysses Grant came east, to personally oversee the destruction of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, the veteran force that had in the previous two years baffled and humiliated every Federal drive on the rebel capitol of Richmond. Though baffled and humiliated – but never demoralized or destroyed, a distinction apparently lost on the aristocratic Lee – the eastern armies of the Union came on in early May and fought continuously for six weeks, chewing and choking "with a bulldog grip," as Lincoln would exhort via telegraph.
By the end of June, when the exhausted armies began to dig in for a long siege of the last rail hub supplying Richmond, Grant had lost 55,000 men and Lee 33,000. About half of each army. Lincoln said Grant was the general who could "face the arithmetic." Meaning he could fight all out, lose half his army while costing Lee half of his, replace his losses just when Lee could not, and then resume the offensive and finish the war. Grant, reflected one of his staff officers, "was assigned one of the most appalling tasks ever intrusted to a commander."
Sing Me a Song of Hyperobjects: Starting over with Humans and Other Creatures in the 21st Century CE
by Bill Benzon
Timothy Morton. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. University of Minnesota Press 2013. 229 pp.
This is a strange book, for it is three. There is the book that is easy to praise for its range of topics – quantum mechanics, La Monte Young, global warming, The Matrix, the Prisoner’s Dilemma, for example – and its quasi-virtuoso stylistic versatility. There is, as well, the book that is easy to criticize – though I’m sure some would regard that as too mild a word – for its conceptual instabilities, lapses in logic, and misreading of science.
And there is another book, the one leaking out of the cracks and pores in the first two. That book has the scattered beginnings of a framework in which we can construct a viable approach to the future. That's the book I'm writing about, making this essay as much an interpretation of as a review of Morton's fine Hyperobjects.
Hyperobjects and Objects
Hyperobjects are “things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans” (p. 1). What isn’t a hyperobject is an object. Kumquats, automobiles, palm trees, squids, geosynchronous satellites, Olympic records, a promise, a rooster’s crow, these are all objects in the philosophical sense of the word. In the first paragraph of the book Morton lists these examples: the Lago Agrio oil field, Florida Everglades, the biosphere, the Solar System, “the sum total of all the nuclear materials on Earth; or just the plutonium, or the uranium,” Styrofoam, plastic bags, or “the sum of all the whirring machinery of capitalism.”
The philosophical sense of object is not quite the same as the ordinary sense, which tends toward physical things that are neither very large nor very small. Roughly speaking, for Morton and proponents of other object oriented ontology (OOO) – a recent school of Continental philosophy – anything that can be designated by a noun or a noun phrase is an object. Anything. Including, of course hyperobjects.
by Brooks Riley
I am Jewish by birth. My family wasn’t particularly religious; we went to synagogue at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, but not really any other time. My brother and I went through years of Hebrew school, but we came home and ate bacon sandwiches. As a teenager, I became involved in BBYO, a Jewish teen organization and through it became quite heavily exposed to conversations about Israel, the general evilness of the Palestinians and the righteousness of the concept of a Jewish homeland. When I was 17, a school friend and I went away together to Israel for our first trip without our parents. We chose not to do a tour or a work on a kibbutz but instead to make our own way around Israel staying in youth hostels.
I remember the moment we got off the plane onto the tarmac thinking, “this is it, I’m in Israel, the Jewish homeland.” It was a transcendent moment that made me feel connected to my heritage and to a community that I had only ever skirted around of the edge for the most part. I truly believed that this would be a transformative trip for me.
In the second hostel we stayed in, I fell in love with Abbud, a Palestinian man who was working there for the summer. We spent a few days and nights together and then my friend and I moved to another part of the country. But I promised to come back. When I did, Abbud wanted to show me his village in the West Bank. This was in 1986 just before the first Palestinian Intifada and, apart from the general lack of common sense shown by two young girls agreeing to travel across country with a man they hardly knew, there didn’t seem to be any good reason not to go with him.
We arrived in Abbud’s village in time for dinner and he took us to his cousin’s home. My friend and I were both vegetarian and so unable to eat much of what was put before us and I was wearing quite a prominent Star of David around my neck, regardless we were treated as honored guests. We stayed in his parent’s home that night. I woke up early the next morning and padded through the house in bare feet. I came across Abbud’s elderly father who spoke no English. He took off his sandals and gave them to me to wear. The gesture was so gracious and generous that I couldn’t say no and spent the rest of the morning flopping around in sandals that were much too big for me. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of reception my family would give Abbud if he visited me in London.
by Leanne Ogasawara
The race was on: for whoever discovered a way to accurately measure longitude aboard a ship would be able to control the seas --and thereby control the riches of the world!
The search for longitude at sea was one of the great quests starting in the late Renaissance. And, it was how it came to be that a 17th century nobleman named Roberto della Griva found himself aboard a ship sailing southward toward Australia in search of the Prime Meridian, in Umberto Eco’s novel Island of the Day Before.
Being obsessed by longitude, the characters in the book are also obsessed by notions of time. For to calculate longitude is, of course, to calculate time.
But to do this at sea is no easy feat, because while one only requires to know the local time at the ship's current meridian as well as what the current time is would be back at the meridian of departure (or at some fixed meridian, like, say at the Solomon Islands), this remained very difficult to accurately determine aboard ship. And inaccuracies in time would result in inaccuracies of place--as is well known.
You can see where this is going...
Strained Analogies Between Recently Released Films and Current Events: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the Microsoft Layoff
by Matt McKenna
Back in 2000, chances were that if you were using a computer, it was running a Microsoft operating system. In 2014, those chances have diminished considerably, and you are now more likely to be using a device running Apple's iOS or Google's Android software. Microsoft's stock price has responded accordingly, and its inflation adjusted market cap is now less than half of what it was at its peak in 1999. How appropriate it is then that Matt Reeve's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was released this month just as Microsoft announced plans to lay off 18,000 employees in what looks to be the dawn of the trivialization of Microsoft's standing as a technology leader in the same way that the rebooted Apes series chronicles the trivialization of the human species as a planetary leader. While there are many tempting social readings crawling along the surface of the Planet of the Apes series, the most coherent one invites viewers to imagine the story's fictional planet Earth as a metaphor for the consumer electronics industry, a metaphor in which the humans represent Microsoft and the various species of apes represent the various technology companies usurping Microsoft's dominance.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up immediately where its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, takes off. In Rise, the first film in the second reboot of the Planet of the Apes series, James Franco's character creates a supposedly benign virus that regenerates brain cells, resulting in the reversal of diseases such as Alzheimer's. Unfortunately, the virus has the annoying side effect of afflicting humans with flu-like symptoms (you can see where this is going). The apes on which the virus was tested, however, receive all the positive effects to their cognitive abilities without any of the negative effects to the rest of their bodies. At the end of Rise, the brainy apes storm the Golden Gate Bridge en route to Muir Woods where they plan to live the peaceful simian life. The humans, on the other hand, are impotent to stop their zoological Frankenstein's monsters and can only look on while engaging in some ominous sneezing.
by Josh Yarden
from every tree of the garden eat
but from the tree of knowledge of good and bad
don't eat from it
because on the day you eat from it
you will die
What fruit grows on the Tree of Knowledge?
I posed that question to a class of intelligent high school students. A few were quick to provide the garden variety answer: "Apples."
Of course. Who doesn't know that, after all? Those mediaeval, illuminated texts do show a woman holding an apple, and it's just… well, common knowledge. Right?
"Hmmm… But I think apples only grow on apple trees," I replied.
"Figs!" one of them called, as if he had a winning lottery number. "I think I read that somewhere. They figured out it was a fig, because Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves."
I could see I wasn't getting very far. "Well, I don't know who ‘they' are—the ones who figured that out—but I've only seen figs grow on fig trees," I said, with a generous hint of ‘Get it?' in my voice. "If apples grow on apple trees, and figs grow on fig trees, what kind of fruit grows on a knowledge tree?"
"We don't really know," another thoughtful student suggested. "The Bible just says ‘fruit.' Maybe we're not supposed to know."
"Maybe…" I accepted that possibility, "Or, maybe we're not supposed to know until we can figure it out for ourselves, and then we are supposed to know."
"Yeah, but it doesn't say that they are supposed to think for themselves. It says they are supposed to follow the rules. That's why it's a stupid story," offered up one of my more unruly students.
"Oh, I don't know… It doesn't seem too stupid to me. Read between the lines." There was still a blank look on many of their faces.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Jeanne Guillemin in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:
Last week, six vials of smallpox virus were discovered in a disused closet at the National Institutes of Health, where they had lain, forgotten and misplaced, for over 30 years. Some of them were found to contain live specimens, meaning that this dangerous virus—once considered to have been eradicated from the face of the planet—had the capacity to infect and spread.
At nearly the same time, on July 16, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thomas Frieden, admitted to a Congressional committee that he was advised of a somewhat similar blunder at the CDC, more than two months after its discovery. (Members of the CDC had accidentally contaminated an innocuous strain of avian influenza with the dangerous H5N1 strain and shipped this unknown hazard to a less secure laboratory.) And not long before, dozens of CDC lab employees had been exposed to virulent anthrax bacteria.
These incidents raise doubts about government vigilance, with the case of the misplaced smallpox vials being arguably the most shocking, because the 1979 global eradication of smallpox is rightly celebrated as one of the most important public health achievements in history.
Once you know what plankton can do, you’ll understand why fertilising the ocean with iron is not such a crazy idea
David Biello in Aeon:
Call me Victor,’ says the mustachioed scientist as he picks me up from the airport on a brisk, fall afternoon in Germany. Victor Smetacek is an esteemed marine biologist, but he’s decided to spend his golden years on an ambitious new pursuit. He has devised a plan to alter the mix of gases in Earth’s atmosphere, in order to ward off climate change. He is, in other words, an aspiring geoengineer.
I came to the ancient city of Bremen to ask Smetacek about an extraordinary experiment he performed more than half the world away, in a forbidding sea seldom visited by humans. This sea surrounds the vast, white continent of Antarctica with a chilly current, locking it in a deep freeze. This encircling moat reaches from the surface waters to the ocean bottom, spanning thousands of kilometres. It is known as the Southern Ocean and it is famously dangerous on account of icebergs that hide in the gloom that hovers above its surface. The churn of its swells sometimes serves up freak waves that tower so high they can flip ships over in a single go. It is in this violent, lashing place that Smetacek hopes to transform Earth’s atmosphere.
Sean Carroll in Preposterous Universe:
One of the most profound and mysterious principles in all of physics is the Born Rule, named after Max Born. In quantum mechanics, particles don’t have classical properties like “position” or “momentum”; rather, there is a wave function that assigns a (complex) number, called the “amplitude,” to each possible measurement outcome. The Born Rule is then very simple: it says that the probability of obtaining any possible measurement outcome is equal to the square of the corresponding amplitude. (The wave function is just the set of all the amplitudes.)
The Born Rule is certainly correct, as far as all of our experimental efforts have been able to discern. But why? Born himself kind of stumbled onto his Rule.
Patrick Cockburn in The Independent:
Israeli spokesmen have their work cut out explaining how they have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, compared with just three civilians killed in Israel by Hamas rocket and mortar fire. But on television and radio and in newspapers, Israeli government spokesmen such as Mark Regev appear slicker and less aggressive than their predecessors, who were often visibly indifferent to how many Palestinians were killed.
There is a reason for this enhancement of the PR skills of Israeli spokesmen. Going by what they say, the playbook they are using is a professional, well-researched and confidential study on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe. Written by the expert Republican pollster and political strategist Dr Frank Luntz, the study was commissioned five years ago by a group called The Israel Project, with offices in the US and Israel, for use by those "who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel".
Every one of the 112 pages in the booklet is marked "not for distribution or publication" and it is easy to see why.
Jon Holbrook in Spiked:
Although the word ‘rights’ appears in ‘natural rights’ and ‘human rights’, the two concepts are profoundly different. One seeks to restrict the power of government and the other seeks to expand it. Whereas natural rights seek freedom from the state, human rights seek the state’s protection and assistance. More importantly, and this is the point rarely appreciated by today’s human-rights industry, whereas natural rights made democracy possible, the human-rights discourse is securing democracy’s emasculation. Democracy can only thrive if three conditions are satisfied: (a) man is treated as rational, (b) the state is restrained and (c) politics is freed of legal constraints. Whereas the natural-rights advocate champions each condition, the human-rights advocate assumes the first condition is impossible and the next two are undesirable.
Tom Paine, an English radical who participated in the American Revolution, wrote Rights of Man in defence of the French Revolution of 1789. His celebration of natural rights was premised on his belief in human rationality. He noted that ignorance, once dispelled, could not be re-established – ‘[it] is only the absence of knowledge’ that could keep a man ignorant. He observed that while man ‘may be kept ignorant, he cannot be made ignorant’. Truth, said Paine, is so irresistible ‘that all it asks – and all it wants – is the liberty of appearing’. Paine’s recognition of man’s rationality led to his celebration of natural rights. For if truth needed only to be revealed in order to be supported, then man needed freedom to seek it, discuss it, promote it and act on it. Left to his own devices, man would find truth and cooperate with his fellow citizens to create a mutually beneficial society. With a human-rights approach, however, man is seen as less than rational. From this perspective, if man is left to his own devices, then all sorts of negative consequences follow: minorities tend to be oppressed by majorities; the weak tend to fall prey to the powerful; the vulnerable tend to suffer at the hands of the strong; and the poor tend to be exploited by the rich.
Kevin Telfer in The Telegraph:
Pakistani cricket: what a subject. What players – and what characters: the regal Imran, the street-fighter Javed, the mesmerising Qadir. Controversy and drama seems to surround the Pakistani Test team wherever and whenever it plays, be it in terms of spot-fixing, umpires, ball-tampering, on-field confrontations, sporting brilliance or terrorism.
Of all the world’s cricket teams, they are the least antiseptic and the most mercurial. Such, at least, is the conventional wisdom. But this encyclopedic work by Peter Oborne avoids these tabloid stereotypes – both in terms of the country’s most famous individuals who are the stuff of cricketing legend – as well as Pakistani cricket in general. It makes for a rich, fascinating and sometimes surprising read. Since its birth in 1947, the country of Pakistan has had an exceptionally turbulent and violent history. This forms the backdrop to Oborne’s carefully researched and meticulously constructed narrative, starting with the bloodshed of partition, all the way through to a modern Pakistan that is considered so unsafe following the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team and umpires in Lahore in 2009 that the national side must play its matches in exile.
No More Clichés
That like a daisy opens its petals to the sun
So do you
Open your face to me as I turn the page.
Any man would be under your spell,
Oh, beauty of a magazine.
How many poems have been written to you?
How many Dantes have written to you, Beatrice?
To your obsessive illusion
To you manufacture fantasy.
But today I won't make one more Cliché
And write this poem to you.
No, no more clichés.
This poem is dedicated to those women
Whose beauty is in their charm,
In their intelligence,
In their character,
Not on their fabricated looks.
This poem is to you women,
That like a Shahrazade wake up
Everyday with a new story to tell,
A story that sings for change
That hopes for battles:
Battles for the love of the united flesh
Battles for passions aroused by a new day
Battle for the neglected rights
Or just battles to survive one more night.
Yes, to you women in a world of pain
To you, bright star in this ever-spending universe
To you, fighter of a thousand-and-one fights
To you, friend of my heart.
From now on, my head won't look down to a magazine
Rather, it will contemplate the night
And its bright stars,
And so, no more clichés.
by Octavio Paz
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Congratulations, Sean! Jason Socrates Bardi at the American Institute of Physics website:
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) today announced that Sean Carroll, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, is the winner of the 2014 Andrew Gemant Award, an annual prize recognizing significant contributions to the cultural, artistic or humanistic dimension of physics.
In recognizing Carroll, the AIP prize committee cited him “for extraordinary public outreach on particle physics and cosmology, as an educator, author, public lecturer, and consultant for TV and radio programs, and for his pioneering work communicating with a variety of international audiences using social networking.”
“Few people can make complicated topics like the nature of space and time as accessible as Sean Carroll does,” said Catherine O'Riordan, AIP vice president of Physics Resources. “He doesn't just inspire the public’s scientific imagination -- he provides the tools for his readers and viewers to answer some of life’s biggest, most fundamental questions themselves.”
Carroll (on Twitter: @seanmcarroll) followed his own curiosity to a career in theoretical physics and cosmology, focusing especially on the origin and constituents of the universe. He received his Ph.D. in 1993 from Harvard University, and has worked at MIT, the Institute for Theoretical Physics at UC Santa Barbara and the University of Chicago. He has made significant contributions to models of interactions between dark matter, dark energy, and ordinary matter; alternative theories of gravity; violations of fundamental symmetries; and the theory of time.
Mohammed Hanif at the BBC:
The life of a liberal journalist in Pakistan is not an easy one. Write about someone fighting a blasphemy case, or someone whose faith is considered heresy, and you may very soon find yourself in deep trouble.
Shoaib Adil, a 49-year-old magazine editor and publisher in Lahore, has many well-wishers and they all want him to disappear from public life or, even better, leave the country.
Since blasphemy charges were filed against him last month, the police have told him that he can't return home, he can't even be seen in the city where he grew up and worked all his life. It wouldn't be safe.
As a journalist, Adil has been a vocal critic of religious militarism. But the threat to his life doesn't come from the Taliban.
He is the victim of an everyday witch hunt by Pakistan's powerful religious groups - the kind of witch hunt that's so common and yet so scary that it never makes headlines.
For the past 14 years, Adil has been editing and publishing a monthly current affairs magazine, a rare liberal voice in Pakistan's Urdu media. Back issues of Nia Zamana read like a catalogue of human rights abuses.
The June issue's cover story, for example, reports on the murder of a human rights lawyer, Rashid Rehman in the city of Multan in central Pakistan. Rehman, defending a literature professor accused of blasphemy, was told in the court by the prosecuting lawyers that if he didn't drop the case he would not live to see the next hearing.
Sure enough, Rehman was gunned down in his office before the next hearing.
William Saletan in Slate:
After two weeks of protests and denunciations, it’s time to acknowledge that outrage won’t end the war in Gaza. The most plausible way to stop this cycle of violence is through internationally supervised demilitarization. Amid so much death and destruction that may seem utterly hopeless. But in fact, many of the tools we need are already in place. Here’s an analysis of the problem and how to fix it.
1. Gazans have no government to protect them. Every day, more civilians die in Gaza. Israel, the country that’s killing them, has agreed to cease-fire proposals. But Hamas, which controls Gaza (though many of its political leaders don’t even live there), rejects these proposals and continues to fire rockets into Israel. You can argue that the rockets justify Israel’s attacks or that they serve merely as a pretext. Either way, they get more Gazans killed.
The only way to make sense of Hamas’ behavior is to recognize that its goal is not to stop the killing but to exploit it. That explains why Hamas encouraged Gazans to stand atop targeted buildings and ordered them to stay in areas where Israel had issued pre-invasion evacuation warnings. It also explains why Hamas insists that Israel grant concessions in exchange for a cease-fire. Hamas thinks a cease-fire is a favor to Israel. Given the gross imbalance in casualties, that’s a pretty clear statement that Hamas thinks Gazan deaths should bother Israel more than they bother Hamas.
That is just the latest display of Hamas’ warped priorities. Another illustration is its tunnels. It has diverted hundreds of thousands of tons of building materials from civilian projects to tunnel construction. The tunnels to Egypt, which are largely for commerce, are rudimentary. The tunnels to Israel, which are for military attacks, are elaborate. Hamas cares more about hurting Israelis than about helping Gazans.