Best Of The Web
“How did life begin? Two common answers come to mind. One is that, at some point, a deity decided to suspend the laws of physics and will a slew of slimy creatures into being. A second is that a one-in-a-trillion collision of just the right atoms billions of years ago happened to produce a molecular blob with the unprecedented capacity to reproduce itself.
If the first answer fails to convince atheists and agnostics, the second answer feels a like a bit of a letdown. Life on earth was dumb luck, or—depending on how you look at it—a cruel accident. Life might not exist on any other planet, but even if it does—even if there is, say, some creature vaguely resembling a paramecium swimming in a pond on some moon halfway across the galaxy—then there, too, it’s just a freak accident. Or as the great molecular biologist Jacques Monod dourly noted in 1971, “The universe was not pregnant with life, nor the biosphere with man.”
But there is a third possibility. In his new book Universe in Creation: A New Understanding of the Big Bang and the Emergence of Life, Roy Gould, an education researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, argues that life is neither a miracle nor an aberration, but an inevitability whose emergence is dictated by the laws of nature. He frames his book around a question posed by the physicist John Archibald Wheeler in 1983. “Is the machinery of the universe so set up, and from the very beginning,” Wheeler asked, “that it is guaranteed to produce intelligent life at some long-distant point in its history-to-be?””
JJ Best Of The Web
"With the weakest of hands, an economy not much larger than that of Spain, and a GDP per capita several thousand dollars smaller than Malaysia, he has asserted massive negative influence over the globalized world."
"Scarcely hours after the titanic drubbing Democrats delivered to President Trump's GOP in the 2018 midterm elections, the 2020 presidential campaign began in deeply unwelcome earnest."
"US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital exactly one year ago, breaking with decades of international consensus in the process. What was the historic move and what impact has it had?"
"With a decade’s worth of hits under her belt, Gaga is definitively one of the biggest stars in the world. Rolling Stone dubbed her the “Queen of Pop” in 2011."
"Have the scars of the housing bust turned us away from the American dream of homeownership? Survey data suggest otherwise.... We simply can’t afford to pursue that dream right now.'
"Even as phones and tablets extend their reach into daily life, a bigger screen remains supreme... the average American household watches nearly eight hours of television a day."
"Parties, private jets, and multimillion-dollar paintings: Art Basel Miami is part of a global network of art fairs that have transformed the worldwide art market."
"Dutton Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House, is releasing a series of tiny books that give the act of reading a studied whimsy."
"The presence was so disruptive, she added, that some children had a hard time when their parents left. Others were disappointed that their parents did not come for lunch."
"The kitchen — named after the Hebrew phrase “L’Chaim,” which means, “To Life!” — features a menu of Americanized Jewish food items such as pastrami on rye, potato knish with herb sour cream..."
"Life on the sprawling grasslands precipitated a shift from individualistic ways of living to more cooperative ways. This was the birth of what you might call “social intelligence,” and it changed the way our minds work."
"When you have headlines about “white privilege” and “evil white men,” Jews become the epitome of whiteness—except, of course, for neo-Nazis, who see Jews as hyper-integrationists."