Germany’s election: a primer

POSTERS have gone up around Germany. Angela Merkel is back from her holiday. The chancellor begins her election tour tomorrow, August 12th, with a rally in Dortmund. Next week she travels on to the Rhineland and the north-western city of…

How Social Norms Are Like Chili Peppers

I grew up in Russia and for the first 20 years of my life I never tasted a chili pepper. I still remember my first encounter with this potent condiment in a Thai restaurant after moving to the United States:…

How open data can help the Global South, from disaster relief to voter turnout

The modern era is marked by growing faith in the power of data. “Big data”, “open data”, and “evidence-based decision-making” have become buzzwords, touted as solutions to the world’s most complex and persistent problems, from corruption and famine to the…

An Appeal to the American Elites from One of Their Own

Yesterday Nick Hanauer published an important article on Politico, To My Fellow Plutocrats: You Can Cure Trumpism. I agree with pretty much everything he says there, and I also want to add a few of my thoughts. Nick writes: I…

In space, this is the age of reusability

Big plans are being made in space. Investment banks want to mine asteroids for rare, valuable metals. Japan wants to build a solar power station. Billionaire tycoons want to build hotels in orbit for space tourists. We could be seeing…

Credit card fraud: what you need to know

If you are the owner of a credit or a debit card, there is a non-negligible chance that you may be subject to fraud, like millions of other people around the world. Starting in the 1980s, there has been an…

Teotihuacan: a City-State, or an Empire?

When I visited Vienna for the first time many years ago, I remember experiencing a feeling of “cognitive dissonance.” On one hand, one hardly ever hears about Austria in the news—it’s one of those small, insignificant European countries (this should…

Angela Merkel, the G-Zero chancellor

IT WAS a tableau to sum up an age. Leaders of the world’s 20 main industrial powers, plus a dusting of international institutions and secondary powers, posed for a photo at the Hamburg Congress Centre. In the middle, among the…

Is artificial intelligence a (job) killer?

There’s no shortage of dire warnings about the dangers of artificial intelligence these days. Modern prophets, such as physicist Stephen Hawking and investor Elon Musk, foretell the imminent decline of humanity. With the advent of artificial general intelligence and self-designed…

Can we ditch dark energy by better understanding general relativity?

A renewed suggestion that dark energy may not be real — dispensing with 70% of the stuff in the universe — has reignited a longstanding debate. Dark energy and dark matter are theoretical inventions that explain observations we cannot otherwise…

Gay marriage and the six rules behind Angela Merkel’s political longevity

ON SUNDAY Martin Schulz declared that he would sign no coalition agreement that did not introduce equal marriage in Germany. The Social Democrat (SPD) chancellor candidate was not alone. The Greens and the free-market Free Democrats (FDP) have made similar…

The Free Democrats and Greens weigh the risks of a coalition with Angela Merkel

CHRISTIAN LINDNER can pull a crowd. On a scorching afternoon on June 19th hundreds of students at Frankfurt’s Goethe University crammed into a lecture hall to hear the sharp-suited leader of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) preach the liberal gospel:…
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A Journal for the Cultural Evolution Society?

Earlier this year I was asked to serve on a Cultural Evolution Society committee tasked with developing a strategy for the Society’s publications. The most important issue is whether the Society should publish its own academic journal, and if yes,…

Time For Japan To Ante Up On Casino Legalization

Japan needs public officials to get in the game to keep casino legalization moving forward. (Photo credit: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images) Last month’s Japan Gaming Congress in Tokyo was fantastic in every sense of the word. Ticket sales were cut off…

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