Even the ancient Greeks thought their best days were history | Aeon Ideas


.. was there ever such a Greek Golden Age? When, exactly, was Greece great?

In fact, nostalgia for a lost greatness can be found in the so-called Golden Age itself. Even in the mid-fifth century BCE, Athenians were already looking back with longing.

his is one lesson from classical Athens that often goes overlooked: once a society has proclaimed its own decline, compelling new chapters of greatness become all the more difficult to write.

Source: Even the ancient Greeks thought their best days were history | Aeon Ideas

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy Retirement Rumors Has Washington on Edge For Next Term


The justice, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, recently declined requests to comment on his retirement plans nor would he address questions pertaining to private meetings with President Donald Trump or members of his administration, according to a a CNN report released in May.

Source: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy Retirement Rumors Has Washington on Edge For Next Term

Amazon Buying Whole Foods: An Industry Shudders | Fortune.com


Most Amazon watchers are focused on the some 450 stores the e-commerce behemoth scoops up in the deal. These brick-and-mortar locations instantly give it a national ­physical presence, as well as a network of mini distribution centers for fresh produce—by far the most challenging part of the grocery delivery business because of spoilage and the fragility of fruits and vegetables. (Upon news of the bid, grocery stocks took a nosedive accordingly.)

The overlooked asset Amazon gets in the deal is Whole Foods’ 365 house brand—one of the most coveted in the organic and natural space, private label and otherwise.

The 365 brand is virtually unavailable online, but that will change if Amazon is smart about it. “The opportunity to use the 365 brand as a mainstay of their online offering is really profound,” says Bernstein analyst Alexia Howard. “It puts a huge amount of pressure on branded food sales.”

Source: Amazon Buying Whole Foods: An Industry Shudders | Fortune.com

Partisanship Drowns Out Bipartisan Oversight | US News


“Waste and Abuse –the Refuse of the Federal Spending Binge,” was the title of a February 2011 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The approach is typical, good-government groups say, of what has happened to oversight on Capitol Hill. Instead of focusing on matters like government contracting and the basic efficiency of federal programs, lawmakers have used the legislative branch’s oversight authority to play politics, either by touting their own agendas or criticizing those of the opposing party.

That trend has critics worried about how – and even whether – Congress can conduct a genuinely bipartisan inquiry into Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. elections, a matter that has the unifying theme of national security but the divisive complication of domestic politics.

“The average congressman wouldn’t know oversight if he or she tripped over it in the bathtub,” bemoans Frank Silbey.

Source: Partisanship Drowns Out Bipartisan Oversight | The Report | US News

DARPA Black Swift seeks to capitalize on lessons learned from NASP | Military & Aerospace Electronics


Black Swift is a new joint effort by the DARPA and U.S. Air Force to develop a hypersonic aerospace vehicle capable of speeds as fast as Mach 6 while cruising at 100,000 feet or punching through the atmosphere to function as a low-Earth-orbit spacecraft. It will build on decades of research by DARPA, the Air Force, NASA and others, including Australia, which has become a world leader in hypersonics.

Source: DARPA Black Swift seeks to capitalize on lessons learned from NASP – Military & Aerospace Electronics

Space Isn’t What You Think It Is


Is space just an infinite emptiness that underlies everything?

Or is it the emptiness between things?

What if space is neither of these but is a physical thing that can slosh around, like a bathtub full of water?

It turns out that the nature of space itself is one of the biggest and strangest mysteries in the universe.

Like many deep questions, the question of what space is sounds like a simple one at first. But if you challenge your intuition and reexamine the question, you discover that a clear answer is hard to find.

Source: Space Isn’t What You Think It Is

How Chaos Cures Metaphysics


The universe is so structured and orderly that we compare it to the most complicated and exact contraptions of the age. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the universe was compared to a perfectly working clock or watch. Philosophers then discussed the Watchmaker.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the most complicated object is a computer. The universe is compared to a perfectly working supercomputer. Researchers ask how this computer got its programming.

How does one explain all this structure?

Why do the laws seem so perfect for producing life and why are they expressed in such exact mathematical language?

Is the universe really as structured as it seems?

Source: How Chaos Cures Metaphysics

Consciousness is not a thing, but a process of inference | Aeon Essays


.. in physics, it’s dangerous to assume that things ‘exist’ in any conventional sense. Instead, the deeper question is: what sorts of processes give rise to the notion (or illusion) that something exists?

For example, Isaac Newton explained the physical world in terms of massive bodies that respond to forces. However, with the advent of quantum physics, the real question turned out to be the very nature and meaning of the measurements upon which the notions of mass and force depend – a question that’s still debated today.

As a consequence, I’m compelled to treat consciousness as a process to be understood, not as a thing to be defined.

Simply put, my argument is that consciousness is nothing more and nothing less than a natural process such as evolution or the weather.

Source: Consciousness is not a thing, but a process of inference | Aeon Essays

The quantum view of reality might not be so weird after all | Aeon Essays


.. Except that much of the popular picture is wrong. Quantum theory doesn’t actually say that particles can become waves or communicate in spooky ways, and it certainly does not say that classical objects don’t exist.

Not only does it not deny the existence of classical objects, it gives a meaningful account of why they do exist.

In some important respects, the modern formulation of the theory reveals why common sense looks the way it does. You could say that the classical world is simply what quantum mechanics looks like if you are six feet tall. Our world, and our intuition, are quantum all the way up.

Why, then, is it still so common to find talk of quantum mechanics defying logic and generally messing with reality?

We might have to put some of the blame on the Danish physicist Niels Bohr.

Source: The quantum view of reality might not be so weird after all | Aeon Essays

Democracy Must Prevail, Always

In 1848, the US was still the world’s sole democracy.

Then, after Europe was swept by revolution, democracy gradually began to gain ground. After 1945, structures were put in place to preserve and to spread democracy, with good results.

The number of democracies has remained unchanged, however, since 2002.

Moreover, the US was recently downgraded by Freedom House to a democracy grade that is lower than that given most countries in Western Europe.

The Guardian newspaper in the UK recently designated the Chancellor of Germany as the new “leader of the free world.”

Within the EU, Hungary and Poland show signs of disrespect for democracy and human rights.

This is why now is a particularly unfortunate time for Iceland’s Parliament to show similar disregard for democracy and human rights by failing to ratify a new constitution accepted by 67% of the voters in a national referendum called by Parliament in 2012.

Source: Democracy Must Prevail, Always