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Science, Fiction, and points in between

Wednesday 18 October 2000

§ The Nobel Prize for Literature went to Gao Xingjian, the first Chinese writer to win the award.

§ Finalists for the National Book Awards include Alan Lightman's The Diagnosis (Pantheon), and do not include, in the Young People's Literature category, anything by J.K. Rowling. Winners will be announced November 15, and will include a special medal for Distinguished Contributions to American Letters to Ray Bradbury, as previously announced.

§ With the Internet, Everybody's a Critic: the influence of reader reviews on

§ Marshall McLuhan Is Back From the Dustbin of History: with mentions of Paul Levinson's Digital McLuhan.

§ This essay by Jonathan Yardley on the passing of bookstores and the inevitability of POD publishing...

...responds to this long Jason Epstein essay in

§ Worry about the ease with which electronic publications can be copied and stolen? Purveyors of porn have been there first.


§ You've heard of letting your home PC do SETI. Now it can fold proteins and fight AIDS too.


§ Why do physicists and mathematicians make breakthroughs mostly when they're young? What does this suggest about our aged brains?


§ Book reviews: Of Almost History (Hyperion), the latest nonfiction treatment of "what-if" scenarios, this one based on actual government documents about things that might have been or almost were -- such as the Richard Nixon speech prepared in the event Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin were stranded on the Moon.


§ And another review of Martin Gardner's Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? (W.W. Norton).


Monday 9 October 2000

§ Nonfiction book reviews:
Jim Holt reviews Dennie Overbye's Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance (Viking) (New York Times Oct. 8), ''a biography of the physicist that focuses on his early life and sets the revisionist record straight''.

And Kathryn Phillips reviews Martin Gardner's collection of Skeptical Inquirer essays, Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? (W.W. Norton) in San Francisco Chronicle October 8:

Life in California can be trying for the rationalist devoted to reason and scientific evidence. This is a state where even computer engineers dabble in astrology and solicit serious medical advice from herbalists. It's dangerous to openly cast doubt on some wacky but very popular ideas here. The person you offend could be your best friend.

This is why Martin Gardner, a veteran science and mathematics writer, and his fellow co-founders of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) are so important...

§ Letter-writer Jeff Patterson advised us of an unflattering portrayal of a science fiction reader in a TV ad to promote voting. You can view the ad here; click on 'Clarence'.

§ A judge in Minnesota thinks Delete should mean Delete.

§ Nominees for the Booker Prize, Britain's top literary award, include Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin and Kazuo Ishiguro's When We Were Orphans. The winner will be announced November 7.


§ Here's a Michael Dirda essay on the 100 books he owned 25 years ago when he came to Washington, and how his library has grown and been winnowed since then.

And I regularly picked up mysteries and science fiction in thrift shops, trading the Heinleins and Christies I'd read for new ones I hadn't. Somewhat priggishly, in those days I kept only what I thought were the important books.

§ The early Olympics included arts competitions!

§ Who's most civilized? A top-ten list of leading cultures.

§ Is cold fusion a religious belief?


§ How to read newspapers efficiently: avoid stories under headlines contained the words 'may', 'vow', 'threat', 'urge', 'undertake', and so on.

§ There are too many books! (By way of reading Harold Bloom.)

§ ''Art should be free. Artists should be paid.''

August Aether Vibrations

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