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Monday, September 5, 2016

How Much More Can We Learn About The Universe?, by Lawrence M. Krauss, Nautilus

The answer, of course, is that we don’t know in advance. We won’t know if there is a limit to knowledge unless we try to get past it. At the moment, we have no sign of one. We may be facing roadblocks, but those give every indication of being temporary. Some people say to me: “We will never know how the universe began.” “We can never know what happened before the Big Bang.” These statements demonstrate a remarkable conceit, by suggesting we can know in advance the locus of all those things that we cannot know. This is not only unsubstantiated, but the history of science so far has demonstrated no such limits. And in my own field, cosmology, our knowledge has increased in ways that no one foresaw even 50 years ago.

This is not to say that nature doesn’t impose limits on what we can observe and how we can observe it. For example, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle constrains what we can know about the motion of a particle at any time, and the speed of light restricts how far we can see or travel in a given interval. But these limits merely tell us what we cannot observe, not what we cannot eventually learn. The uncertainty principle hasn’t gotten in the way of learning the rules of quantum mechanics, understanding the behavior of atoms, or discovering that so-called virtual particles, which we can never see directly, nevertheless exist.

Mark Thompson’s New Book On The Use And Misuse Of Rhetoric, by James Fallows, New York Times

I don’t think this book will change the continuing debates about “bias” and “objectivity,” the separation of the public into distinct fact universes, the disappearing boundary between entertainment and civic life, the imperiled concept of “truth” or the other important topics it addresses. But it offers many instructive allusions, useful judgments and important refinements on these themes — and provides reassurance by its mere existence that someone in the author’s position is grappling so earnestly with such questions.

‘Razor Girl,’ A Tale Of Kidnappers, Reality TV Stars And Dodgy Seafood, by Janet Maslin, New York Times

Carl Hiaasen’s irresistible “Razor Girl” meets his usual sky-high standards for elegance, craziness and mike-drop humor. But this election-year novel is exceptionally timely, too. It illustrates the dog-whistle effects of bigotry that take the form of entertainment, with a plot that revolves around a “Duck Dynasty”-type reality show, the sermons delivered by one of its stars and a crazed fan who decides to follow what he thinks are the star’s teachings. Mr. Hiaasen — and probably only Mr. Hiaasen — could weave this into a book that’s still so funny.

Taking My Father Back To Louisiana One Last Time, by Natalie Baszile, BuzzFeed

My father loved Louisiana’s food-famous Boudin Trail, so it only felt right that my family laid him to rest there.