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Klinghoffer In Brooklyn Heights

Expert essay on John Adams’s opera, Death Of Klinghoffer, looking back to the 1991 New York première at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the “epicentre of a controversy that continues to this day”. New York audiences showed themselves “uniquely hostile” to Klinghoffer, angered less by the inferred ideological content than by “specific nuances in the satirical portrayal of American Jewish character” (PDF) (15,000 words)

Interview: Atheism And Belief

Francis Spufford defends religious belief. “People think belief means entering a kingdom of fixed answers. It really means living with more and more questions. People imagine that religion must shrink as science grows bigger, but they don’t do the same thing. There is plenty of thinking room for both. Marilynne Robinson says there is nothing like a subscription to Scientific American to fill you with wonder at Creation” (2,000 words)

The Grand Illusion

A short history of time in science and philosophy. Einstein showed that time was subjective, even illusory. The best you could say was that things did or did not happen at the same time — and this judgement would vary with the position of the observer. In effect, Einstein rehabilitated the belief held by pre-Socratic and later religious philosophers, that time belonged to the realm of appearances, not of reality (2,575 words)

The Wikipedia Story

Jimmy Wales was struggling to create an online encyclopaedia written by experts, which he called Nupedia. Ward Cunningham had built an application called WardsWiki, based on Apple’s Hypercard, for quick collaborative writing and editing. With Cunningham’s blessing, Wales adapted WardsWiki as the basis for an open-sourced encyclopaedia. “The result has been the greatest collaborative knowledge project in history” (4,680 words)

Larry Summers On China: Regression Ahead

Larry Summers and Lant Pritchett argue in a new academic paper that China’s 36-year record of “super-rapid” economic growth is probably unique in world history; and that reversion to a more modest rate of long-term growth is both inevitable and imminent. Tyler Cowen calls this “One of the best and most important economics papers I have seen all year”. An ungated PDF draft of the original paper is here (930 words)

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