Britannica Blog is a place for smart, lively conversations about a broad range of topics. Art, science, history, current events – it’s all grist for the mill. We’ve given our writers encouragement and a lot of freedom, so the opinions here are theirs, not the company’s. Please jump in and add your own thoughts.
on The Democratic Dream Ticket: Obama / Clinton
on Remembering the Soldiers Who (Literally) Can’t Remember
on Romanticizing the Spartan: 300 (Movie Review)
on Abortion and the Founding Fathers on the Campaign Trail
on Why Math Geeks (Especially Immigrant Geeks) Rule
The discovery of extinct life on Mars would furnish evidence for what some pessimistic cosmologists call the “Great Filter”–a theorized congeries of conditions obtaining throughout the universe, under which the chances of life anywhere developing civilizations capable of interstellar travel are impossibly small.
This doesn’t mean that life never arises elsewhere; it only means that the chance of it arriving at the stage at which it can voyage among the stars is effectively zero.
We’ve had some folks ask whether the Michael Wesch who did this highly popular video is the same Michael Wesch who sits on Britannica’s Editorial Board of Advisors
, and the answer is yes. In case you’ve never seen this, enjoy the video.
Information, Please! was one of the most popular, and literate, shows on American radio, airing from 1938-1948 and running briefly as a TV show in the early 1950s. Its format was novel: instead of quizzing contestants from the general public, listeners submitted questions to quiz the experts, and if they stumped the resident eggheads, they won money and (for many years) a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Its master of ceremonies was the warm and witty Clifton Fadiman, literary editor of the New Yorker magazine and a longtime member of Britannica’s Board of Editors.
The Britannica Blog is proud to highlight one of these broadcasts each Friday. So, “Wake Up!”—as the show’s announcer would say at the start of each broadcast. “It’s Time to Stump the Experts!”
“Greenwash,” “rack rate,” and “premorbid”—just a sampling of the creative new words and expressions recently submitted by the public to Merriam-Webster’s Open Dictionary.
Read on for their definitions…
In an entry on his New York Times blog, Stanley Fish wonders whether autism is just another “difference” like race or sexual orientation. But to say that autism is just a difference is like saying lung cancer is just a different form of cell growth and that painful wheezing is just a different form of respiration.
Many forces are at work in the dumbing-down of the world: censorship, historical amnesia, the collapse of general education, doctrinaire domination of the airwaves and other media outlets, the spread of religious fundamentalism, creationism, and other forms of ignorance.
And then there’s PowerPoint …
Senator Hillary Clinton, in her speech on Tuesday night after winning the primary in South Dakota, but while the polls were still open in Montana, went through many of the themes she has been running on during the entire primary campaign. What was different on Tuesday night is the visualization that we, as Americans, now have of the presidency.
Hillary Clinton may not have shattered the glass ceiling that continues to surround the White House with regard to women being elected U.S. president, but she has effectively and permanently weakened the foundation that supports some very thin glass.
In addition to the more than 4000 American soldiers who have died in combat during the five years of fighting in Iraq, a recent Rand Corporation report estimates that an additional 300,000 soldiers have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s), including brief losses of consciousness, disorientation, impairments in memory and lapses in cognitive and intellectual functioning.
The writer Michael Crichton is quoted in an interview in Slate on the state of the media:
“The truth is, we live in an age of astonishing conformity. I grew up in the 1950s, supposedly the heyday of conformity, but there was much more freedom of opinion back then. And as a result, you knew that your neighbors might hold different views from you on politics or religion. Today, the notion that men of good will can disagree has disappeared. Can you imagine! Today, if I disagree with you, you conclude there is something wrong with me. This is a childish, parochial view. And of course stupefyingly intolerant….”
Chicago’s legendary Chess Records, whose reign ended 40 years ago, was one of the great shapers of the rock ‘n’ roll landscapes—even if the label’s artists did not always appreciate the methods used to do so.