Archive for June, 2019

Starting From Scratch


(Cross Examined) – Bob Seidensticker:

Suppose a catastrophic World War III happened and civilization was destroyed. After a thousand years, civilization returns to roughly our level of scientific awareness.

Obviously, these post-apocalyptic humans would have different terms and ways of representing things—consider how mathematical symbols, numbers, punctuation, paragraph breaks, and even spaces have evolved over the centuries. But whatever notation they invented would be synonymous with our own since they would simply be descriptions of the same natural phenomena.

By contrast, imagine that all knowledge of Christianity were lost. A new generation might make up something to replace it, since humans seem determined to find supernatural agency in the world, but they wouldn’t recreate the same thing. There is no specific evidence of the Christian God around us today. The only evidence of God in our world are tradition and the Bible. Eliminate that, and Christianity would be lost forever. …

crossexamined cant-be-deduced

Science needs no gods

Is Koine Greek a Pidgin?


(Vridar) – Tim Widowfield:

First, I would never call Koinepidgin. It is a lingua franca. Koine Greek is simplified Attic Greek, where a great deal of case collapse, pronunciation collapse, smoothing, etc., has occurred, which makes it easier for foreign speakers to learn. (The process is often referred to as “dialect leveling.”)

The key point here is that Koine actually was a primary and a complete language, often used as a trade language.

The reason for the roughness of Mark’s gospel and for the dumpster fire of John’s Revelation is not an intrinsic problem with Koine Greek, but with the abilities of those writers for whom Greek may have been a second (or even a third) language. …

vridar koine pidgin

Papyrus 46 folio

Megan Rapinoe Is On to Him


(Atlantic Ideas) – Jemele Hill:

In his rambling screed against the soccer star, the president revealed a lot about his worldview. …

theatlantic 2019/06 megan-rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe

The Warren Wing


(The Intercept) – Ryan Grim:

Elizabeth Warren’s political obituary was written in a thousand hot takes, each one burning hotter than the last. She seemed to be the latest challenger who President Donald Trump had trolled into oblivion, deftly exploiting identity fractures on the left. But standing center stage at the first Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday night, Warren was back.

And she lays out a Theory of Change. …

theintercept warren-profile

Elizabeth Warren

The Uncivilised USA


(FTB) – Mano Singham:

In an earlier post, I described how Department of Justice lawyer Sarah Fabian tried to defend the awful conditions that detained migrant children were being kept in, being denied soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, showers, beds, and cloth blankets tin very cold rooms with the lights permanently on, to an incredulous panel of three justice in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

As Mark Frauenfelder writes, reactions to Fabian’s arguments came from all over. Jason Rezaian, a writer for Washinton Post Global, who was held in custody in Iran for a year and a half, tweeted he was given toothpaste and a toothbrush from the very first day and allowed to shower every couple of days. New Yorker editor David Rohde, who was held hostage by the Taliban for seven months, tweeted that “The Taliban gave me toothpaste & soap”. Michael Scott Moore, who had been held captive by Somali pirates, also tweeted that “Somali pirates gave me toothpaste & soap.”

So there we are, even pirates treat their captives better than the US treats the children it detains.

The fault lies not with any one administration or politician, but with the culture: the ICE and CBP culture that encourages the abuse, the culture of the legal apologists who defend it, and our culture — a largely indifferent America that hasn’t done a damn thing about it. This stain on America’s soul will not wash out with an election cycle. It will only change when Americans demand that the government treat the least of us as both the law and our values require — and firmly maintain that demand no matter how we feel about the party in power. …

singham 2019/06/27 fabians-performance

Sarah Fabian testifies

Giant Cosmic Cookie Monsters


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

A vacuum cleaner is the wrong picture for black holes. It’s time to bust that myth. …

starts-with-a-bang black-holes-dont-suck

Cookie Monster

The Most Massive Star In The Universe


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

At the core of the largest star-forming region of the Local Group sits the biggest star we know of. …

starts-with-a-bang most-massive-star

R136 cluster centre

A Civil War of Words over American English


(Aeon Ideas) – Peter Martin:

In the United States, the name Noah Webster (1758-1843) is synonymous with the word ‘dictionary’. But it is also synonymous with the idea of America, since his first unabridged American Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1828 when Webster was 70, blatantly stirred the young nation’s thirst for cultural independence from Britain.

Webster saw himself as a saviour of the American language who would rescue it from the corrupting influence of British English and prevent it from fragmenting into a multitude of dialects. But as a linguist and lexicographer, he quickly ran into trouble with critics, educators, the literati, legislators and much of the common reading public over the bizarre nature of his proposed language reforms. These spelling reforms – for example, wimmen for ‘women’, greeve for ‘grieve’, meen for ‘mean’ and bred for ‘bread’ – were all intended to simplify spelling by making it read the way that words were pronounced, yet they brought him the pain of ridicule for decades to come. …

aeon noah-websters

1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

The Empty Promise of Boris Johnson


(New Yorker::A Critic at Large) – Sam Knight:

The man expected to be Britain’s next Prime Minister makes people in power, including himself, appear ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean he’d dream of handing power to anybody else. …

Of course, he could still fail to become Prime Minister. His self-belief is matched only by his capacity for self-sabotage. Until this moment, Johnson’s life and career have been a kind of monument to wishful thinking—of ridiculous expectations shockingly fulfilled. Brexit is much the same. “I’ve got nothing,” Johnson said. Britain is about to find out what nothing means. …

newyorker 2019/06/24 boris-johnson

Bendik Kaltenborn: Boris Johnson

Rapid Melting of Arctic Permafrost


(EcoWatch) – Jordan Davidson:

The Canadian Arctic is raising alarm bells for climate scientists. The permafrost there is thawing 70 years earlier than expected, a research team discovered, according to Reuters. It is the latest indication that the global climate crisis is ramping up faster than expected. …

ecowatch arctic melting

Mould Bay on Prince Patrick Island, NWT, Canada