Briefly noted: Know This: Today’s Most Interesting and Important Scientific Ideas, Discoveries, and Developments

Edge.org’s annual question book, Know This: Today’s Most Interesting and Important Scientific Ideas, Discoveries, and Developments, is out in paper—and it’s available in its entirety online. Many responses discuss global climate change, like this one:

There is no real difficulty in identifying the most important news of 2015. Global warming is the news that will remain news for the foreseeable future, because our world will continue to warm at a rate that has never been seen before, at least at the moment without a foreseeable end.

The choice is a good and important though depressing one, but one should note that some progress is being made in terms of decarbonization of energy, the spread of electric vehicles, and the like. It may also be that we need or want less stuff than we once did:

Chris Goodall and a number of other commentators have documented this decoupling extensively: UK government data also shows a reduction in material use from about 12 tons a year per person to around 9 tons from 2000 to 2013. Japan shows a similar pattern.

Maybe the most obvious avatar of this change is the smartphone.

The other big groupings are particle physics and genetic engineering. In the former group, for example, Sarah Demers writes:

The terrifying possibility floating through these “Higgs and nothing else” conversations is that we might reach the end of exploration at the energy frontier. Without better clues of our undiscovered physics, we might not have sufficient motivation to build a higher energy machine. Even if we convince ourselves, could we convince the world and marshal the necessary resources to break the energy frontier again and continue to probe nature under the extreme conditions that teach us about nature’s building blocks?

The particle physicists seem about split between optimism that we’ll get breakthroughs and the terror described here that we’ll reach the end of effective measurement and breakthroughs. Yet many of the writers enumerate the many unresolved problems in physics, which could be read as a rebuke to people who say or imply that there’s nothing left to do, no blank spaces left on the map, and nothing left to discover.

Links: College and speech, subways, textbooks, the manipulated citizen, and more!

* “Don’t Blame Politics for the Crisis at American Colleges: Campus life has been increasingly riled by controversies over perceived offenses. An administrative culture is partly responsible.” Still, one has to ask: is there a crisis? If so, what is it, and for whom is it a crisis?

* All aboard: the Second Avenue Subway is here. See also: Why does infrastructure cost so damn much in the U.S.?

* In keeping with the above: “Considerations on cost disease.” A much more vital essay than its title, maybe, suggests.

* A useful reminder: “Ordinary Americans Carried Out Inhumane Acts For Trump.”

* I Helped Create the Milo Trolling Playbook. You Should Stop Playing Right Into It. From Ryan Holiday of Trust Me, I’m Lying fame. We are easily manipulated, myself likely included.

* To Live Your Best Life, Do Mathematics.

* “Garry Kasparov, a top Putin critic, on how to oppose Trump: ‘making him look like a loser is crucial.'”

* Stan Smith knows you think he’s just a sneaker, a very weird and fascinating story.

* “Love is like cocaine.”

* Why great critics make disastrous judgments.

* “Top Hat Raises $22.5 Million to Go After Pearson, McGraw-Hill.” Good.

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