Essays

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Essay/Politics & Government

American dreaming 3.0

Embrace dreams as a counter to the naive realism of politics today, and they could become a potent democratic force

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen

Essay/Stories & Literature

The truth about tarot

Whether divining ancient wisdoms or elevating the art of cold reading, tarot is a form of therapy, much like psychoanalysis

James McConnachie

Essay/Epidemiology

Who names diseases?

Swine Flu, Naples Soldier, Ebola. Disease names express fear, create stigma and distract attention. Can they be improved?

Laura Spinney

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Essay/History

Resist or collaborate?

The Nazis have occupied France. It’s easy to condemn the collaborators. But be honest: what would you really do?

Robert Gildea

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Essay/Consciousness & Altered States

The mathematics of mind-time

The special trick of consciousness is being able to project action and time into a range of possible futures

Karl Friston

Essay/Stories & Literature

Sands of time

The North Sea is rich in signs of what made the modern world. It's also a monument to what awaits us in the Anthropocene

David Farrier

Essay/Politics & Government

Democracy needs politeness

Autocrats shouted, cursed, and bullied, while American revolutionaries used politeness as a tool of radical politics

Steven Bullock

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Essay/Economics

Platonically irrational

How much did Plato know about behavioural economics and cognitive biases? Pretty much everything, it turns out

Nick Romeo

Essay/Art

Has art ended again?

Ever since Hegel, artists and critics alike have been claiming that art is finished. But what could that actually mean?

Owen Hulatt

Essay/Economics

What is human capital?

Human capital theory was invented as an ideological weapon in the Cold War. Now it is helping to Uberise the world of work

Peter Fleming

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Essay/Internet & Communication

What’s so new about news?

The interesting thing about news has never been its truth or falsehood but how it explodes our sense of onrushing time

Arthur Asseraf

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Essay/Sports & Games

Rules of ascent

For mountaineers, it’s not enough to get to the top – it must be done a certain way. But why is the harder way better?

Paul Sagar

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Essay/History of Science

The cosmology of Poe

Drawing on intuition, Edgar Allan Poe offered some remarkably prescient ideas about the universe in his poem 'Eureka'

Paul Halpern

Essay/Cognition & Intelligence

Our world outsmarts us

Social problems are fantastically complex, while human minds are severely under-engineered. Is democracy doomed?

Robert Burton

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Essay/History

The taboo of menstruation

All around the world, and throughout history, women have been shamed, sequestered, and medicalised for bleeding regularly

Janie Hampton

Essay/Beauty & Aesthetics

Against flow

In the myth of flow, the performer soars when the music starts. But it's grit and self-analysis until the very last bar

Barbara Gail Montero

Essay/Religion

Monks with guns

Westerners think that Buddhism is about peace and non-violence. So how come Buddhist monks are in arms against Islam?

Michael Jerryson

Essay/Music

Now THAT was music

One grim day (when youth is over) you find that new music gets on your nerves. But why do our musical tastes freeze over?

Lary Wallace

Essay/Political Philosophy

Join the party of love

Love is not just a feeling given or received, it is an action too. It could be a radical force in politics

Max Harris

Essay/Human Rights

Caste lives on, and on

Indian society deludes itself that caste discrimination is a thing of the past, yet it suffuses the nation, top to bottom

Prayaag Akbar

Essay/Consciousness & Altered States

What lurks beneath

The grand drama of Freud’s ideas has obscured the reality: every school of psychology needs a theory of the unconscious

Antonio Melechi

Essay/Computing & Artificial Intelligence

Raising good robots

We already have a way to teach morals to alien intelligences: it's called parenting. Can we apply the same methods to robots?

Regina Rini

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Essay/Politics & Government

Age of sincerity

In politics, as in militant religion, the performance of sincerity is everything, no matter whether right or wrong

Faisal Devji

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Essay/Stories & Literature

Watchers of the earth

Indigenous peoples around the world tell myths which contain warning signs for natural disasters. Scientists are now listening

Carrie Arnold

Essay/Stories & Literature

Walk the lines

Can walking the city streets still be liberating, when every path is paved with literary quotations and artistic prefiguring?

Will Wiles

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Essay/History of Ideas

What is good rhetoric?

Plato said we ought to be suspicious of persuasive speakers and the appeal to emotions. But rhetoric can be a civic good

Tushar Irani

Essay/War & Conflict

The legend of the Legion

His cap is bleached as white as the bones of a Saharan camel. Is the romance of the French Foreign Legion a cult of death?

Robert Twigger

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Essay/Medical Ethics

Intersex rights

Children born with in-between sex development are subject to surgeries that many believe violate their human rights

Alice Dreger

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Essay/History

A much-maligned Mughal

The great king Aurangzeb is among the most hated men in Indian history. A historian claims he’s been unjustly demonised

Audrey Truschke

Essay/Neuroscience

Touched

We ride a stream of naked neurons, stripped of their sheaths, to the most blissful moments and deepest intimacies of life

Steven M Phelps