From ants to people, an instinct to swarm: Researchers are discovering simple rules that allow thousands of animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism. An article on stress, pain, and Paris Hilton: A cardboard cutout of the reality show star reveals a curious gender difference in mice. Facts prove no match for gossip: Why do we gossip? Evolution may hold some surprising answers. A review of Evolution (in Action): Natural History Through Spectacular Skeletons by Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu and Patrick Gries. The evolution of creationism: After their notorious legal defeat, intelligent design proponents are resurfacing with insidious new assaults on science. Here are five bad evolutionary designs. The real culture war in science isn't about science at all — it's about language. And to fight this war, we need to change the way we talk about scientific knowledge. A review of Scientific Irrationalism: Origins of a Postmodern Cult by David Stove. Mad science: Some experiments are crazy, some downright disgusting — Alex Boese reveals his favourite examples of wacky research. From Discover, an article on the 5 best and worst science based movies of all time.
This is your brain on politics: Researchers from the fields of neuroscience and public policy watched the brains of a group of swing voters as they responded to the leading 2008 presidential candidates (and more). Are Americans' entertainment tastes as polarized as our political views? Tell me what you watch (and listen to, and read), and I'll tell you how you vote. America must learn to love consensus: Pursuing consensus for its own sake is wrong, as pointed debate over principled differences is healthy. But you need some measure of bipartisanship – at least, a suspension of the view that people who disagree with you are evil – to have even that. From CJR, an article on the Don King-ification of a Democratic presidential debate. A review of The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma by David Paul Kuhn. A review of Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire by Matt Taibbi. An interview with Kinky Friedman, author of You Can Lead a Politician to Water, But You Can't Make Him Think: Ten Commandments for Texas Politics (and part 2 and another interview). When considering presidential candidates, how much weight should be given to a messy personal life (Hillary, Rudy) versus an exemplary one (Barack, Mitt)? The Presidential Circus: Nothing typifies the Iowa primaries more than an ambitious politician discussing the intricacies of the Central American Free Trade Agreement while munhcing on a deep-fried twinky. America's next top spouse: A guide to the brassy, opinionated, loud, difficult and plum-crazy partners on the arms of their president-running partners — who says the campaign season is dull? Don't trust anyone over 50: The 2008 campaign offers the sixties generation a shot at redemption.
From Crooked Timber, a seminar on Dani Rodrik’s One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions and Economic Growth. The costs of doing business: A World Bank report ranks the world's most business-friendly countries. A look at what economists sometimes refer to as an "expert service problem": The same expert who is diagnosing the flaw is the one who will be paid to fix it. Scion of a Swedish dynasty: The chairman of the Wallenbergs’ investment company relishes telling the colourful story of the non-profit behemoth, which stretches back to 1856. The economics textbook of the 21st century: A review of Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications by Joshua Farley and Herman E. Daly. A review of King of the Club: Richard Grasso and the Survival of the New York Stock Exchange by Charles Gasparino. Fiscal foolishness: Government and the markets have forgotten the lessons of the '20s, and we're all paying. From The Economist, maybe management theory is not hocus pocus after all. Kenneth Rogoff has been trying to explain to his eleven-year-old the astronomical differences between people’s income. From The Mises Institute, an article on solving the "problem" of free riding. All they are saying is give happiness a chance: Despite all the wealth we have accumulated, true happiness has lagged our prosperity.
From The Liberal, a cover story on The Spectre of Jihad; TF Lane on the Islamist as ironist; a review of Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden, ed. Bruce Lawrence; Peter Tatchell writes in praise of Somaliland; and why have almost no African countries managed to achieve the sustained economic development which has lifted billions of people out of extreme poverty in east Asia? From New English Review, Ibn Warraq on the significance of non-Muslim evidence for Koranic studies; an article on Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, an antidote for Islamic fundamentalism; and to suggest that all forms of religion are equal, that they are all murderous and dangerous, is not to serve the cause of freedom and tolerance. An article on the strange journey of Ayaan Hirsi Ali: From devout Muslim to outspoken "feminist" critic of Islam. An interview with Gina Khan on breaking the silence. A article on the surprising truth about Rage Boy, America's hated poster-boy of Islamic radicalism. With cartoon controversies reverberating across the world, Tzvetan Todorov considers the after-effects of the Danish images. On the strange world of Eurabia: A review of While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within by Bruce Bawer; The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent by Walter Laqueur; Londonistan: How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within by Melanie Phillips; and Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis by Bat Ye'or.
Talking to Himself: The oral historian Studs Terkel now tells his life’s story. Scott McLemee listens to a puzzling silence in the tale. What a fearless journalist looks like: An interview with Studs Terkel. Be a better journalist by unlearning what you know: Three misconceptions about the news audience are leading journalists toward producing vapid reports. A junk-free journal: The London Review of Books is a bulwark against the sloppy journalism used to discredit it. The New York Times Op-Ed page hasn’t been this hot in a long time. Now we are experiencing Columnist Wars, largely over an incident involving Ronald Reagan at a local fair over 27 years ago. The Daily Show: Save newspapers by letting them own local TV stations. In a lawsuit, Judith Regan says that a News Corporation executive encouraged her to lie to federal investigators about her past affair with Bernard B. Kerik (and more). Full Court Press: Radar's media critic Charles Kaiser on George W. Bush and Pakistan. An article on Tsuneo Watanabe, Japan's media don, and the most powerful publisher you’ve never heard of.
Accidental voyeurs: E-mail has created a new social possibility: immersion, against your will, in the life of a complete stranger. The Death of E-Mail: Teenagers are abandoning their Yahoo! and Hotmail accounts — do the rest of us have to? We are leaving ourselves open to fraud online because of the passwords we use, says a campaign group — so what makes a good password? Sick of spam in your in-box? How will you cope with spam on your cell phone? From Discover, John Doyle wants to control the Internet — and you should let him. A review of Daniel Solove's The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet. The Internet is making us stupid: A review of Cass Sunstein's Republic.com 2.0.
From Dissent, Mohammed Abed and Murray Hausknecht respond to Martha Nussbaum on the legitimacy—and political utility—of academic boycotts. The path of respectful engagement: The Iranian president’s Columbia visit created the impression that universities have two choices with such figures: keep them away or justify their visits by being rude — there’s another possibility. Professors and Politics (Again): Research coming out today finds (surprise) that faculty members lean to the left — and charges that “groupthink” limits hiring and other decisions. Stuart Taylor Jr. on academia's pervasive PC rot. A review of The State of the University: Academic Knowledges and the Knowledge of God by Stanley Hauerwas. From CT, a review of The Baylor Project: Taking Christian Higher Education to the Next Level. A new report exposes the influence of Christianity in British schools and universities and the consequent religious skew in education. One more chance to get into Eton: The two years leading up to university are critical and so is your choice of sixth form. From The Economist, from broken windows to broken schools, bringing accountability and competition to New York City's struggling schools, imperfect though it is, New York's attempt to improve its schools deserves applause, while elsewhere in America, school reform is slower and messier, but the pressure for change is coming from parents, which bodes well. Research suggests early academic skills, not behavior, best predict school success. Where students can't hug: Draconian bans on public displays of affection in a growing number of schools have parents and students up in arms. Has the concern about harassment gone too far? A review of The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics by David L. Kirp.
From TLS, an article on the poet who could smell vowels: Ferdinand de Saussure, the father of structuralism, owed much to Hobbes and Mill, and numbered Henry VII among his ancestors; a review of Descents of Memory: The life of John Cowper Powys by Morine Krissdottir; and a review of Conan Doyle: The man who created Sherlock Holmes by Andrew Lycett and Arthur Conan Doyle: A life in letters. From The Liberal, Poetry and the English imagination: No nation has produced better essayists than France, none has produced better composers than the Germans, better painters than the Italians, nor better novelists than the Russians. And the English? The English do poetry. From The New Yorker, Louis Menand on the slugger who swung at everything. From Counterpunch, Jeffrey St. Clair on the writer as fighter. Not-So-Macho Mailer: Fred Siegel on his showdown with the literary tough guy, and more on a boxing life and more on the pugilist at rest and more on the tough guy. Norman Mailer was a leftwinger from an era when it was possible to be left wing and still love red meat, liquor, tobacco and sex - - without apology. Joan Smith bids farewell to Norman Mailer, a sexist, homophobic reactionary. Arianna says heaven just got a lot more interesting. How to deal with Norman Mailer? William F. Buckley investigates. From The New York Observer, a special section on remembrances.
Emergency talk: Some people think the rhetoric of climate change is too emotive. But faced with a global catastrophe it would be unwise to tone down our language. Many leading development institutions and policy-makers fail to understand that the ruthless exploitation for short-term profits could trigger an Enron-like collapse of "Earth, Inc". The more children we have, the more stress we put on an already overburdened planet, say campaigners: Meet the modern Malthusians who, for the sake of the planet, are choosing to "stop at two". How not to repeat the mistakes of the Kyoto Protocol: The world has to build on the model of a successful climate treaty — the Montreal Protocol on Ozone. A review of A Light History of Hot Air by Peter Doherty. An interview with Al Gore and Bill Joy on a green economy powered by Silicon Valley. A review of A Contract With the Earth (and more) and William Saletan on Newt Gingrich, environmentalist. A review of Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming by Bjorn Lomborg; and Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger. A review of Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy by Gwyneth Cravens. The Onion puts its spin on the globe: From Tbilisi to Toronto to Timbuktu, no target escapes unscathed.
From The New Yorker, William Dalrymple on the challenges for Pakistan's future — and cue the helicopter warming up its rotors on the President’s back lawn. From Monthly Review, here's a view from the Left. Benazir Bhutto on Musharraf's electoral farce. Fatima Bhutto on her aunt Benazir's false promises: Bhutto's return bodes poorly for Pakistan — and for democracy there. Bhutto the new Chalabi? There's much in common between smooth-talking Benazir Bhutto and the man once favoured by the White House to succeed Saddam Hussein, so the U.S. can't depend on her in the long-term. An interview with Imran Khan, the Pakistani cricket legend and now vociferous opposition politician. Living in a Po-Co World: Expats in post-colonial Dhaka have their hearts in the right places, if their generosity at fund-raising events is anything to go by, although the end result is haphazard, like a game of "Pin the Conscience on the Public Servant" that has been played their tipsy spouses. Indira and the Islamists: India's example shows that a vacation from democracy can be a huge setback for secularism. Allah's ambassadors: Edna Fernandes gains unique access to the ultra-orthodox Deoband madrassa in rural India. A review of An American Witness to India's Partition by Phillips Talbot. An interview with Lal Khan, author of Crisis in the Indian Subcontinent: Partition, can it be undone? The View From Jantar Mantar: A review of India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha and The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future by Martha C. Nussbaum. Thomas Friedman on the dawn of E2K in India.