There’s plenty of room at the everywhere

Feynman was excited by nanotechnology before it was cool, and way before it stopped being cool. In 1959 he gave a lecture that’s come to be known by it’s main argument – “there’s plenty of room at the bottom”. He wanted to exploit the disorienting fact that things get smaller faster than you zoom in…
Read more

Nuclear policy is evil not irrational

Hey we’re all gonna die one day but did you know the US government has a plan for how we can all die together? Literally everyone should read Daniel Ellsberg’s book, The Doomsday Machine. He’s the Pantagon Papers dude but the book is about his time as a US nuclear war planner in the 1960s….
Read more

Human exceptionalism with a human face

This is me on human exceptionalism for Areo, a rather good up and coming digital magazine. I point out the irony of using super-advanced scientific tools to do studies on crows to prove that they can use tools and that therefore humans are no different to animals. This mirrors the irony of the Anthropocene: it’s supposed to get…
Read more

# 66 On scientific customs

Dear Jamie,  As agreed on the phone this letter will be the last for a while because we’ve agreed to start a new letter series on a friend’s new platform. You can’t respond to this letter any time soon so I don’t want to spend it arguing counterpoints, that would be unsportsmanly. Instead I’ll propose…
Read more

#65 On the orthodoxy

Dear Mat, I think skyhook is a good name for a particular kind of bad explanation. Namely, one that doesn’t attempt to ground the phenomena it describes in things that we already think exist, having them free-floating instead. Hence the opposite of a skyhook is a crane. Allegedly I “condemn all skyhooks” (#64) and have a “fear” or…
Read more

#64 On the degrees of skyhookery

Dear Jamie, Your letter reminded me of one of the most mind-boggling experiences I had. I watched Derren Brown’s show Miracle. In Miracle, before the segment started, he told the audience that he will use the tricks of religious healers to heal them and that there was nothing magic going on. He then conjured something…
Read more

#63 On magic tricks

Dear Mat, First off, we’re accusing one another of “essentialism” and “foundationalism”. I think we’re both against those things and think that science should be done accordingly. Truce? More importantly, I feel we’ve lost sight of what these skyhooks are, the ones for which I have a “hatred”. I don’t think we’re talking about discredited skyhooks from the past like…
Read more

#62 On Foundations

Dear Jamie, Congratulations for drafting the final chapter of your thesis! You’ve already managed the whole thing with much more grace than I did. I’m writing this bit before I read your letter in order to explain what my original assumption was about your policy. I did say you’re dismissing skyhooks because of “human, political…
Read more