“Why is there something rather than nothing?” is a question without meaning.  The term “nothing” relies for its meaning on the absence of “something.”  If there is no Something in existence, then there cannot be Nothing.  Put another way, we arrive at the notion of some primordial Absolute Nothing … [Read more...]

Facebook as Spandrel

Facebook as Spandrel  The roughly triangular space between the tops of two adjacent arches is called a spandrel.  Originating in Roman times, it was a nonfunctional result of the architecture until artists realized that they could fill these small areas with painted designs.  In a 1979 paper, … [Read more...]

The Case for Wonder: A Meditation

Perhaps it had no beginning.  Perhaps, being spacetime itself, it is neither where nor when.  Like the scarlet ribbons of song, it came “I will never know from where.”  Yet here I am, awake in this vast improbability for a nanosecond of cosmic time, a mote of life on a fleck of rock afloat in the … [Read more...]

Goodbye to Gramma Watchie

What happens as we try to come to terms with our past is that we see our lives as a process of continual disenchantment.  We long for the security provided by the comforting illusions of our youth.  We remember the breathless infatuation of first love; we regret the complications imposed by our … [Read more...]

Wyn’s Laws

Law of the arts:  The better your work, the smaller your audience. Law of hindsight: No words will awaken the young to the brevity of their journey. First law of belief:  When you find the truth, you want to get yourself an outfit. Second law of belief:  The greater the ignorance, the greater the … [Read more...]

The Bomb

Leo Szilard had a dream.  As a boy in Budapest, reading H.G. Wells’ novel about a nuclear war that destroys most of Europe’s cities, he concluded that the world should be governed by a group of gifted scientists.  He envisioned the development of atomic energy as both a limitless power source and a … [Read more...]

Thomas Edison in American Mythology

A story has come down concerning one of the famous camping trips which Thomas Edison took with Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and the naturalist, John Burroughs, in the hills of West Virginia shortly after the First World War.  A village mechanic was inspecting the motor of their ailing car when a … [Read more...]

The Best Year

Until the age of eight, I had always lived in the city, in old hotels and second-floor flats.  During the war we had moved around with my father until he was shipped overseas for the invasion of France.  When my mother died in the summer of ’44, my father was allowed to return, just missing the … [Read more...]

Bid Time Return: Time-Travel Romance on Film and TV

We are indebted to H. G. Wells not only for the notion of voluntary time travel but also for the image by which we conceive it: a sunny, Edwardian gentleman perched on an ornate steam-age contraption that moves through time in much the same manner that a streetcar moves across town.  This linear … [Read more...]

Political Half Truth

The current political dilemma lies less in the problems themselves than in the people who appraise them.  As with all living organisms, the ills in social systems are complex, interwoven, and multilayered.  Just as a psychiatrist might prescribe drugs for one patient and therapy for another, one … [Read more...]