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Ada Palmer and the Weird Hand of Progress

WIRED

They have too much moral clarity for her taste: Times are bad, the badness is well defined, and in fighting it people can delude themselves into thinking they know the right way to act. Palmer, who recently published the fourth and final book in her Terra Ignota series--a brilliant, ambitious, exhausting 25th-century epic--does not believe that the future will be bad or good. It will be "weird," she says. Global peace has reigned for 300 years. Climate change has been solved.


How the Man of Reason Got Radicalized

The New Yorker

The Enlightenment is under very bad weather right now. The French eighteenth-century movement that once was seen to have bathed Europe in the light of reason--fighting for science against superstition, and for liberty against bondage--has become the villain of many a postmodern seminar and of even more revisionist histories, from left and right alike. The Enlightenment's supposed faith in reason--its desire to be sure that every "passion'll / soon be rational," to adapt the enlightened Ira Gershwin--is held responsible for racism, colonialism, and most of the other really bad isms. Enlightenment order is now understood as overlord violence pursued through other means. Its true symbol is not some peaceful Temple of Reason but the Panopticon--the all-surveying, single-eye system of Jeremy Bentham's ideal prison.


Frankenstein in the Age of CRISPR-Cas9 - Facts So Romantic

Nautilus

The so-called "year without a summer," 1816, was bleak, if not strangely gothic. Mount Tambora in Indonesia had erupted the year before, pitching volcanic ash into the atmosphere and obscuring the sun. Torrential rains pressed deep into the year, resulting in global crop failures. The birds quieted down by midday, as darkness descended, and for days at a time, a group of writers huddled by candlelight in a rented mansion on Lake Geneva. The dashing 23-year-old poet Percy Shelley and his 18-year-old companion, Mary, who had already taken to calling herself "Mrs. Shelley," traveled to the lake to spend the summer with the poet Lord Byron. On the night of June 15, 1816, they read ghost stories aloud. And then, Byron suggested they each try their hand to write one.


We'll Take One Microwave-Powered Starship, Please

WIRED

Author Allen Steele is best known for his Coyote series, which describes mankind's first interstellar voyage. He returns to that theme in his new novel Arkwright, about a famous science fiction writer who establishes a generation-spanning project to build the world's first starship. The story was inspired by the Starship Century conference, which discussed plans to achieve interstellar travel by the end of the century. "They basically threw away the idea that interstellar travel is something where we have to wait until some exotic technology becomes available to us in the 23rd century," Steele says in Episode 194 of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. "The conference was talking about near-term prospects for this."


Martin Luther Rewired Your Brain - Issue 96: Rewired

Nautilus

Your brain has been altered, neurologically rewired as you acquired a particular skill. This renovation has left you with a specialized area in your left ventral occipital temporal region, shifted facial recognition into your right hemisphere, reduced your inclination toward holistic visual processing, increased your verbal memory, and thickened your corpus callosum, which is the information highway that connects the left and right hemispheres of your brain. You are likely highly literate. As you learned to read, probably as a child, your brain reorganized itself to better accommodate your efforts, which had both functional and inadvertent consequences for your mind. So, to account for these changes to your brain--e.g,