Science

Review: Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel

In 1610, Galileo Galilei, as Bertolt Brecht put it, “abolished Heaven” — by proving the Earth was not the centre of the universe and that the Church’s entire theory of the cosmos, based on Aristotle and Ptolemy, was false. By pointing his telescope at the moons of Jupiter, he proved the celestial spheres were not immutable. Some Church astronomers refused to look. Eventually he was accused of heresy.

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Review: Alas, Poor Darwin: arguments against evolutionary psychology by Steven and Hilary Rose

Alas, Poor Darwin, assembling articles from biologists, sociologists and others, takes exception to the excessive claims of evolutionary theory (EP) — the theory that human behaviour must be understood in terms of adaptations caused by natural selection (so that we are, basically, palaeolithic hunter-gatherers).

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Nuclear power — well, maybe...

By Les Hearn

Opposition to nuclear power has become a shibboleth to some on the left, its birth tainted by the original sin of the atom bomb. But the idea of nuclear power to help cut emissions of “greenhouse” gases has recently gained more support, including from a few environmentalists.

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Einstein, atoms, and energy

Les Hearn marks the centenary of Albert Einstein's confirmation of the existence of atoms

"If, in some cataclysm, all scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis ... that all things are made of atoms".

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Debate: Go nuclear? We may do

Martin Thomas says there are ways to make nuclear power pollute less (Solidarity 3-67). Maybe so. I dare say this might be taken into consideration when the US government starts building new nuclear power stations, as it look sets to do. (And they may be followed in that enterprise by the UK government.) On the other hand it might not.

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Nuclear power? Well, maybe

Nuclear

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Martin Thomas

Solidarity’s recent discussion of the dangers posed by global warming raises the question of how we find alternative energy sources to burning fossil fuels.

That prompts me to ask: should socialists oppose nuclear power out of hand?

I think we should not.

In the 1950s, left-wingers generally argued in favour of the peaceful use of nuclear power while opposing nuclear weapons.

Nuclear power? Maybe. Under the same conditions of workers’ control and safety-vetting that we demand for other technologies — why not?

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The benefits of stem cell research

Hardly a day goes by without news of research involving stem cells. It is also a subject of hot political debate: the Swiss recently voted 2 to 1 in favour of allowing it, while the US forbids the use of government money in some stem cell research.

Proponents include medical scientists and supporters of people with conditions such as spinal injury (such as the late Christopher Reeve) and Alzheimer’s disease (such as the family of Ronald Reagan).

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Debate & discussion: GM is good

Opposition to genetic modification (GM) owes more to superstition than to science and I am sorry to see Solidarity going along with this (Tony Jeffreys, 3/38). So public opinion is against it. Ninety-three per cent believe GM technology is driven by profit, not public interest. How does that differ from any other technology? Why don't we demand that it be applied to problems that affect poor people? In fact, many scientists in this field work in universities and are keen to see their discoveries benefit people. One group has come up with rice genetically modified to contain Vitamin A and is trying to make this available to populations prone to Vitamin A deficiency. The anti-GM lot think this is some insidious conspiracy to... what?

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Nurture 1, Nature 0?

The movie Amadeus sees the precocious Mozart through the eyes of his rival, Salieri. For their first proper meeting, when Mozart arrives at the Court, Salieri has composed a little piece of music. Mozart thanks him, plays back the thing from memory, and then, having commented that a particular chord change “doesn’t really work”, proceeds to improvise on the theme, vastly improving Salieri’s original. Salieri turns to the audience and tells us: “I think it was then that I first decided to kill him.”

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