Throughout his career, Carl worked as a science popularizer and as a professor of astronomy and critical thinking. He stayed true to his understanding of the world even in tough times—like when his little girl asked him if he would ever get to see his dead parents again:
He considered his answer carefully. Finally, he said that there was nothing he would like more in the world than to see his mother and father again, but that he had no reason—and no evidence—to support the idea of an afterlife, so he couldn’t give in to the temptation.
Then he told me, very tenderly, that it can be dangerous to believe things just because you want them to be true. You can get tricked if you don’t question yourself and others, especially people in a position of authority. He told me that anything that’s truly real can stand up to scrutiny.
One of [World War II-era] Japan’s fancy new aircraft-carrying submarines was supposed to surface off the coast of San Diego one night and launch three planes. The aircraft would release special ceramic bombs that shattered as they fell, unleashing hordes of Ishii’s plague-minions over the city and devastating the area. Out of other, saner options, Japanese higher-ups gave their blessings and dubbed it Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night. Hey, in wartime, you have to create beauty whenever you can — if only to balance out the horror (of plague-infected flea bombs, for example).
At TEDxYouth@Manchester, genetics researcher Dan Davis introduces the audience to compatibility genes — key players in our immune system’s functioning, and the reason why it’s so difficult to transplant organs from person to person: one’s compatibility genes must match another’s for a transplant to take.
Israel broke off peace talks with the Palestinians on Thursday, a day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced a reconciliation between his majority Fatah party and the militant Hamas faction, which does not recognize Israel as a legitimate country.
Israel’s announcement of the rupture effectively ends more than a year of U.S.-backed efforts to negotiate a deal that would establish an independent Palestine alongside Israel. Neither Israel nor the United States has declared the process dead, but the talks are due to expire next week unless both sides agree to an extension.
We should be honest about a few things here:
These were “peace talks” in name only; they hadn’t been leading anywhere and they weren’t going to lead anywhere. It’s easy for both sides to claim they’re working toward a peaceful resolutions to this conflict, but what they say and what they do line up about 1% of the time.
This reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas could actually be a good thing for Israel and for the peace process if it forces Hamas to actually work on politics rather than militancy for a little while. Negotiating with Hamas as a political party puts the ball in their court; ignoring Hamas or pretending it’s impossible to negotiate with them (despite having done so already) is just bluster for its own sake or for the sake of delaying. This was, I think, the very opportunity that Israel and the U.S. missed back when Hamas was first elected in Gaza … but, unfortunately, there’s no reason to believe it won’t be another missed opportunity now.
Israel’s policy of expanding settlements while the peace process stagnates is a long-term loser for the country, though the Netanyahu government either doesn’t understand this or is pretending not to. Acquiring additional territory today means less territory for a Palestinian state in the future, which means it’s less and less likely that any Palestinian government (reconciled with Hamas or not) will be able to reach a peace deal that satisfies its constituency. And it’s hard to imagine that Israel wants to keep taking territory and leaving Palestinians with less ground to stand on, especially since the prospect of a resolution other than a two-state solution is completely anathema to Israel.