why do electorates divide nearly 50:50?

Have you ever wondered why so many recent political votes divide their electorate almost 50:50? This is my attempt at a simple—perhaps obvious—explanation. The results of the referendum for Scottish Independence (No 55.3%: Yes 44.7%) and the Brexit Referendum in the UK (Leave 51.89%: Remain 48.11%) seem to me remarkably close—especially given that in one case you had 3.6 million people voting, and in the other 33.6 million. Why were these not 60:40, or even […]

a limit on human creativity?

With our creativity, we explore a space of art and culture, of science and technology, that expands outwards in all directions. By perceiving reality more clearly, we develop more sophisticated skills and tools that, in turn, deepen our perception of reality. It seems natural to believe that this virtuous circle is accelerating us towards an infinite horizon. But is this true and, if so, in what way? The further back we look, the less has […]

a bonfire of the vanities?

The Internet could be the ultimate liberation of human creativity: into the hands of anyone with access to it, it puts a printing press and a recording and film studio—all connected to a world-spanning distribution system. By volume of output, by its breadth and quality, it has brought us a New Renaissance. But this revolution casts a shadow. When one of these dotcom colossi offers social spaces where people can meet and discuss and share, […]

youth as an uncollapsed wave function

Youth is like an uncollapsed wave function. Much that is alluring in a youthful thing—a child, a young woman, the bud of a rose, even a fresh morning—is that each has the potential to become so many forms of itself; that, in a way, all those possibilities exist at that moment in superposition. We can imagine any number of futures for a young man: he can become all sorts of people, have all sorts of […]

life in an ivory tower

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an ivory tower as “a state of privileged seclusion or separation from the facts and practicalities of the real world”; the Merriam-Webster as “a secluded place that affords the means of treating practical issues with an impractical often escapist attitude.” These definitions also describe the apex of a Maslow hierarchy of needs. If the occupants of an ivory tower lacked for water, food, clothing or shelter, they would not be […]

cutting off the hydra’s heads

In an ironic throwback to the Islamic medieval Cult of the Assassins, it is the West that seeks to suppress the enemies it terms terrorists by decapitating their organisations with drones. But what if killing the people at the top of a terrorist organisation – or anyone you’re fighting with – is like cutting the heads off a hydra: that every time you take one off, another two grow in its place? Perhaps a more […]

digital versus analog photography

I was talking to a photographer friend about the post production he was carrying out on his “digital negatives”. It had not occurred to me that something similar goes on, with the application of Photoshop to a raw digital image, as with the chemical processing in a dark room of a traditional ‘chemical’ photograph. Thinking about this, I was surprised by how profoundly different these forms of photography are from each other. The image on […]

LEGO and the digital mind

In a previous post, I argued that LEGO, when it consisted mostly of simple bricks, was a superior creative tool for a child than more modern LEGO with its complex pieces. I have come to a more nuanced conclusion: that though classical LEGO promotes one kind of creativity, it may do so at the expense of other kinds. I still believe that simple, classical LEGO is an instantiation in the physical world of an aspect […]

giving up our first prize

Eating meat adjusts how we think about other animals, could that in turn carry over to how we treat each other? Meat eating is playing a part in the various ecological crises that we are intensifying. We became major predators when we first brought down a large animal and devoured it. A prey species, we have become the greatest predators of all. Is it time that we should give up being predators altogether? A lion […]

Galactic Vertigo

When I gaze up at a starry night sky, struggle as I might, I am unable to see it as other than a great dome patterned with stars. In spite of the knowledge that I have that what I am looking at is a large portion of the universe, and that each prick of light is a sun or a nebula or a galaxy a vast distance away, I still see the same curving ceiling […]