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French Wines Feel The Heat

Global warming threatens the French wine industry. Regions and vineyards will lose their historic character. “A great, rich period will come to an end, perhaps as soon as 2050, which isn’t far away, or perhaps later, in 2100. Perhaps people will no longer get to know the great names, because it will no longer be necessary. Because Château Pétrus, Cheval Blanc and Yquem will no longer be part of the world’s cultural heritage” (3,560 words)

The Top 100 Papers

Ranking of the 100 most frequently cited scientific papers of all time, from a universe of some 58 million published. “The vast majority describe experimental methods or software that have become essential in their fields”. Truly foundational papers — Einstein’s special theory of relativity, for example — score much lower than one might expect, because their main points quickly become too familiar to require citation (4,260 words)

Can Israel Be Both Jewish And Democratic?

The answer to the question depends partly on whether you think the job of the democratic state is to protect the culture of the majority, or to protect citizens from the culture of the majority, if they should so wish. But when “the majority’s cultural identity is determined first and foremost by blood”, as in Israel, then insisting on the state’s duty to protect the majority culture contradicts liberal democratic values (2,580 words)

What Different Religions Say About Aliens

A cut-out-and-keep reference guide, in case a spaceship arrives and you are wondering what to believe. Catholics are “divided” as to whether aliens would share Original Sin. Judaism is not for Klingons. Islam holds that intelligent beings exist on other worlds and are accountable to Allah. Hindus would need to know where the aliens fitted into the hierarchy of living beings, which has plants at the bottom and gods at the top (505 words)

Deep Blue Played Chess Like a Human

When IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat Garry Kasparov over six games in 1997, Kasparov was unnerved by moments of randomness in Deep Blue’s play which persuaded him he was facing “a machine that could experience human intuition”. In fact, there was a coding bug that sometimes caused Deep Blue to discard what it knew to be the best move. The bug was fixed after game four, but by then “Kasparov’s spirit had been broken” (1,440 words)

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