What Darwin and Turing Missed

In a recent article for The Atlantic, the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett compares the work of computer pioneer Alan Turing to Darwin’s theories of evolution and natural selection. What both Darwin and Turing realized, argues Dennett, was that the operations of any complex system can be reduced to the apparently mindless repetition of its individual […]


The Austere Option

Matt Taibbi, blogging for Rolling Stone, recently posted a thoughtful critique of European and American calls for “austerity” in response to the global economic crisis. His basic point is that the burden of proposed austerity measures — cuts to welfare, public services, and government spending in general — falls disproportionately on the shoulders of the […]


ChronoZoom: Do Technology and the Natural Sciences Make History Easier?

Scholars of history and of the humanities in general take umbrage when scientists lay claim to what they think of as their own territory. ChronoZoom, a project conceived of by a former student at UC Berkeley, Roland Saekow, is the latest attempt by scientists to fit human history inside the natural history of the earth […]


The Politics of Anniversary (and a Remark on the Fives Fetish)

Important historical dates, such as a revered leader’s birthday or a noteworthy battle, often become ingrained in the public consciousness through celebration or commemoration of their anniversaries. But it is not always so clear why we choose to “anniversarize” certain dates and not others. The world religions place a great deal of emphasis on historical […]


“Inside Job,” or, Our Financial Institutions and the Immoral People Who Run Them

Charles Ferguson’s documentary film Inside Job (2010) tells the story of the 2007/08 financial collapse, its causes, and its consequences. Through a series of interviews with key players and commentators (including Nouriel Roubini, George Soros, Barney Frank, Christine Lagarde, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Paul Volcker, and Eliot Spitzer) and a careful analysis of publicly available records, Ferguson […]


Soviet Russia’s “New Generation”

The American Scholar has published an English translation of “The New Generation,” a short story by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn that is part of a new collection of the author’s works, Apricot Jam, and Other Stories (Counterpoint, 2011). Set in the 1920s and early 30s, the story recounts the parallel experiences of Anatoly Pavlovich Vozdvizhensky, an engineer […]


West Berlin Was Nearly Sold Out, 1961/62

Based on recently declassified documents, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reports that West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer secretly suggested to U. S. President John F. Kennedy that they offer to give up West Berlin to East Germany in exchange for territories in Thuringia, Mecklenburg, and Saxony. The French magazine Le Point elaborates on the […]