Anatolievich Navalny, John Holt, and John Edward Huth


Putin not the Main Problem

From, TNR, July 18, The Most Dangerous Blogger in the World

But this wasn’t Navalny’s main asset. (Alexei Anatolievich Navalny, Russian lawyer, blogger, and political activist, rival to Putin). Unlike every other person in opposition politics during the Putin era, Navalny understood that Putin was not Russia’s main problem. Rather, the problem was the post-Soviet culture of greed, fear and cynicism that Putin encouraged and exploited. Navalny carefully distanced himself from the shrill, old-guard Western-friendly liberals—“hellish, insane, crazy mass of the leftovers and bread crusts of the democracy movement of the eighties,” he called them—who simply participated in Putin’s cult of personality in reverse, for it is also cultish to believe that one man is responsible for all the evil in your country.

That makes reality seem almost a piece of light verse

The words are John Updike’s while replying to Holt’s question about what he meant by “God’s boredom.” From Holt’s 2012 book Why Does the World Exist.

Some scientists who are believers, like Freeman Dyson, have actually tackled the ultimate end of the universe. They’ve tried to describe a universe where entropy is almost total and individual particles are separated by distances that are greater than the dimensions of the present observable universe… an unthinkably dreary and pointless vacuum. I admire their scientific imagination, but I just can’t make myself go there. And a space like that is the space in which God existed and could God then have suffered boredom to the point that he made the universe? That makes reality seem almost a piece of light verse.

How we Misperceive the World Around Us

From an op-ed in today’s NYTimes Losing Our Way in the World, by John Edward Huth, professor of Physics at Harvard.

A number of years ago, the documentary “A Private Universe,” about how we misperceive the world around us, was filmed at Harvard’s commencement. Twenty-three faculty members, alumni and graduating seniors were asked, “Why is it warm in the summer and cold in the winter?” All but two answered incorrectly, saying the Earth was closer to the sun in the summer than in the winter…One “correct” answer has to do with the tilt of Earth’s rotational axis with respect to its orbit. But a Neolithic farmer might cast his arm in an arc across the sky and explain that the sun was low in the winter and high in the summer. The farmer’s explanation would be perfectly correct, rooted in experience.

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