Runic Escapades: The Ribe Cranium

ribecranium_clipping

I wrote the introductory post for a new history blog founded by four colleagues/friends and myself. It’s about the Ribe cranium, an 8th century skull fragment with a runic inscription. The inscripion is (most likely) a healing spell to defeat a dwarven spirit causing illness, possibly a headache. The article is part of an ongoing series “Runic Escapades”, in which I will present runic inscriptions in their cultural and historical context. [...Read more...]

On Norbert Wiener’s ‘God & Golem, Inc.’

wiener_godandgolem

While reading Annalee Newitz’ intriguing blog post on io9 about the history of the word cyber, I came across the name Norbert Wiener (not Weiner — get it straight, you Englishers) who had introduced the term Cybernetics as “the study of control and communication in machines and living beings”. His other works include the book God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points Where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion, and that title immediately caught my eye. Studies of the interaction between science, technology, and religion always interest me a lot, as do Golems and Jewish folklore, so Wiener had sold it to me easily. [...Read more...]

2012: A Year in Books

Lori Nix - 'Library' (2007)

What did I read in 2012? I’ve found looking back at my last year in books helps me chart some themes and developments in my (mental life), so I’ve decided to do it again this year. I read 92 books in 2012, a little fewer than in 2011, but they were bigger books, and my page total ended up higher. This doesn’t count all the articles I’ve read, but we’ve got to draw the reading nerdage line somewhere. It’s all slightly arbitrary anyway. [...Read more...]

Science Stories: The Mythology of Evolution

cover

Most people will be at least passingly familiar with the ‘war’ between ‘science’ and ‘religion’ that has been a central theme in the history of the West in the past few centuries. My quotes are intentional because each of these concepts is far more complicated than common usage would suggest. The problem is: most, if [...Read more...]

Asteroids and the Human Near Future in Space

(Image: ESA)

If news reports from earlier this year are to be believed, asteroids are high on the list of celestial bodies to be explored – and manipulated. On May 13th, The Telegraph revealed that British astronaut Tim Peake was going to be trained by NASA for an asteroid surface mission. Only weeks earlier, on April 24th, the American company Planetary Resources announced its plans to invest in asteroid mining technology. In the background the impressive exploration data from NASA’s Dawn mission to the asteroid belt trickles in, mainly concerning protoplanets Vesta and Ceres. [...Read more...]

The Viewpoint of Eternity

time scale

I came across the schema below in Olaf Stapledon’s book Star Maker. The book in general made a very favourable impression on me, as you can read in the short review I wrote on Goodreads. However, this one bit in particular I wanted to highlight on this blog, as it speaks directly to the title, [...Read more...]

2011 Inspirational Reading

Out of the 100 books I read last year, I wanted to highlight a few that I found particularly rewarding. ~ Brave New World Aldous Huxley - Brave New World One of the classics of utopian/dystopian fiction, of course, and deserving of the status. Many apt analyses of the novel have been written before, so I [...Read more...]

Magic and Technology

Lt. Kaidan Alenko using a biotic ability in Mass Effect

A statement often repeated in discussions of technology, whether within the realm of science fiction (and literary criticism of the genre) or without, is Arthur C. Clarke‘s so-called “Third Law”, which states that Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The reader may refer to Wikipedia for a bit of background surrounding Clarke’s three [...Read more...]

Some possible principles of cultural evolution

Following is a brief essay on some principles of evolution that could be useful in analysing the spread of ideas, concepts, and ideological complexes in human culture. While there will be many practical differences between evolution in biological entities and cultural ones, some general principles of evolution may perhaps apply to both. Exactly what type [...Read more...]

Two recent books on biological, cultural, and spiritual evolution

Over the past few years, I’ve become more and more convinced that the concept of evolution is not only a powerful explanation of changes and patterns in the biological world, but also, by extension, of changes and patterns in human culture, or the world of ideas. If the survival of (species of) organisms ultimately depends [...Read more...]