links for 2009-08-02

  • "A team of physicists from the Universities of Cambridge and Birmingham have shown that electrons in narrow wires can divide into two new particles called spinons and a holons.

    The electron is a fundamental building block of nature and is indivisible in isolation, yet a new experiment has shown that electrons, if crowded into narrow wires, are seen to split apart."

  • "In a world where content is everywhere, clarity is key – and clarity is achieved by excellent writing. For your message to impress or your analysis to make sense, people need to be able to read it: quickly, painlessly, and comprehensively.

    Punctuation matters, correct spelling is crucial and waffle will turn off the most committed reader. But while properly-placed apostrophes are important, good editing is about absorbing, refining and clarifying. Punctuate! aims to get under the skin of your material, and make it say what you want it to say."

  • "But a rejection of the idea of the priesthood as a distinct caste mediating between lay people and God (an idea that owed more to feudalism than scripture) would become a defining element of Calvin’s Protestantism. A man did not have to become a priest in order to serve in pastoral office, any more than wine literally has to become Christ’s blood in order to play its role in the Eucharist. Calvin was interested in practical, spiritual function rather than mystical, ‘ontological’ status.

    Calvin’s challenge to feudal church hierarchy would eventually lead to a transformation of church government even more radical than Luther’s."

    "It is an historical irony, then, that Calvin’s thought was in fact instrumental both in modernising the church, and in shaping a world in which humanist ideas would have far more purchase."

  • "spiked is an independent online phenomenon dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity by waging a culture war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms. spiked is endorsed by free-thinkers such as John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx, and hated by the narrow-minded such as Torquemada and Stalin. Or it would be, if they were lucky enough to be around to read it."
  • "'I think philosophy, at its best, is about enlarging a sense of what is possible in the world.' Susan Neiman leans back and takes another sip of coffee. If one accepts such a definition of philosophy, then Neiman’s own book, Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-up Idealists – an effervescent, often inspiring fusion of Kantian ethics and real-world critique – is to be judged a success.

    In person, Neiman, like her writing, is spirited. Her passion for philosophy, indeed for the practical power and importance of ideas, is infectious. That Moral Clarity leaves you with a desire to read Immanuel Kant, that most rebarbative thinker from an era of highly demanding but hugely rewarding thinkers, is itself a testament to the force of her central idealist conviction: ideas matter."