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Friday, June 9, 2017

The Crisis Of The Multiverse, by Ben Freivogel, Nautilus

Has the theory lost its mooring to observation? If the multiverse is large and diverse enough to contain some regions where dark matter is made out of light particles and other regions where dark matter is made out of heavy particles, how could we possibly predict which one we should see in our own region? And indeed many people have criticized the multiverse concept on just these grounds. If a theory makes no predictions, it ceases to be physics.

But an important issue tends to go unnoticed in debates over the multiverse. Cosmology has always faced a problem of making predictions. The reason is that all our theories in physics are dynamical: The fundamental physical laws describe what will happen, given what already is. So, whenever we make a prediction in physics, we need to specify what the initial conditions are. How do we do that for the entire universe? What sets the initial initial conditions? This is science’s version of the old philosophical question of First Cause.

Fearless Girl, Charging Bull, And The Problem Of Authorial Intent, by Janey Tracey, Ploughshares

Putting aside the arguments about Fearless Girl’s effectiveness as a feminist symbol for the time being, there’s still a lot to unpack about the role of capitalism in art, authorial intent, and artistic appropriation. First, the fact that Fearless Girl was commissioned by a corporation does not invalidate its status as a work of art. Capitalism is inextricable from art, since all art is produced in a capitalist society. Most of the revered paintings from the Renaissance were commissioned by rich families. Louisa May Alcott primarily wrote for money, to put food on the table, but that doesn’t change the fact that Little Women is a perennial American classic.

The question of authorial intent is a little bit trickier.

How To Ease Travel Anxiety In An Era Of Terror: Travel More, by David Shaftel, New York Times

The more I travel in today’s security climate, and refuse to alter my behavior, the better I feel about travel — and the sillier I feel afterward for worrying. I would deeply regret hunkering down in our hotel this summer instead of taking my daughter to see Big Ben and London Bridge, sites she recognizes from children’s literature. True, the old London Bridge of the nursery rhyme came down centuries ago, but I would never bother trying to explain that to a 3-year-old who also calls the Pulaski Skyway in New Jersey “London Bridge.” Neither should I have to explain to her why there are so many police officers wielding large guns there.

Anthony Horowitz’s Whodunit Within The Whodunit, by Roslyn Sulcas, New York Times

In the book, “Magpie Murders” is the name of the latest novel by the fictional mystery writer Alan Conway. (The title also alludes to Christie’s love of nursery rhyme structures, with chapters based on “One for Sorrow,” about magpies.) Conway’s editor, Susan Ryeland, sets up the Russian nesting doll structure of the novel: “You can’t beat a good whodunit: the twists and turns, the clues and red herrings and then, finally, the satisfaction of having everything explained to you in a way that makes you kick yourself because you hadn’t seen it from the start,” she observes. “But ‘Magpie Murders’ wasn’t like that,” she adds, finishing with an ominous caveat: “Unlike me, you have been warned.”

The Outcasts Of Time By Ian Mortimer Review – A Joyous Romp Around England’s Dark Past, by Suzi Feay, The Guardian

As well as writing weightier books, historian Ian Mortimer is the author of witty “Time Traveller’s Guides” to medieval, Elizabethan and Restoration England. If you want to know how much things cost or how you went to the toilet, he has the answers. For his first historical novel published under his own name he has created two time travellers, narrator John of Wrayment and his rapscallion brother, William Beard.

Gail Godwin Has Penned A New Type Of Ghost Story, by The Economist

Out with the clichés of cold draughts and creaking doors. Contemporary novelists are refocusing the ghost story, revelling in its potential for psychological drama. “Grief Cottage” by Gail Godwin, a prolific American writer, is a quiet, hopeful ghost story—a wistful reflection on loss, loneliness, coming of age and coming to terms with the past.

Hysteria Over Hyphens, by The Economist

“If hyou take hyphens seriously, you will surely go mad,” warns the style manual of the Oxford University Press. This maxim is quoted in The Economist’s own style book, which goes on about the punctuation mark for eight pages.