Dacher Keltner, AWE: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life

This is a book about the subjective experience of awe, and how being aware of everyday examples of awe can make your life more meaningful and fulfilling; yet how (in my take) it’s about the emotion, triggered by both the subjective and the objective, and not about science fiction’s “sense of wonder,” something of which the author seems unaware.

(Penguin Press, January 2023, xxvi+309pp, including 59pp of acknowledgements, notes, and index.)

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More About the 747

For decades the Boeing 747 was the largest passenger airliner in the world, and it debuted (in 1968) just a few years before I had occasion to take a plane flight anywhere, or pay attention to different kinds of planes. (Actually, perhaps 10 years; I didn’t fly on a passenger jet until May 1979, when I flew from LA to visit my family in Tullahoma TN.) So when it debuted I took it for granted as being the current pinnacle of a certain kind of technology, just as the landing on the Moon in 1969 was the pinnacle of that era’s space technology, the latest in a long line of ever-impressive pinnacles of technology that kept appearing, two thirds of the way through the 20th century.

What I didn’t understand at the time Continue reading

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What We Learned from This Morning’s Newspaper

Items today concern the US military budget, the Chinese balloon, flooding in Houston, Richard Powers on a real battle for trees, and the passing of the 747. All items from today’s paper (the New York Times).

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Varieties of Fantasy, and Book Notes

Today’s three topics: A conservative’s take on a fantasy novel; A Le Guin fantasy novel; And insights into books by Heinlein and Brockman.

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Real News; Demagogues; Spirituality

Three themes for today: How science is the only news, per Stuart Brand; Demagogues and ideologues on the right; and Ross Douthat’s warning about spiritual experiences that don’t align with his own.

Glancing through that John Brockman book The Third Culture, I came across this ever-pertinent comment from Stuart Brand (of Whole Earth Catalog and CoEvolution Quarterly fame), included on this Stuart Brand Quotes page. About what is real news.

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Suppression, Prejudice, and Misinformation

Three political topics for today. How the Republicans seek to suppress history, concepts, books, even words; Two problems that could be solved simultaneously (were it not for Republicans); How anti-vaxxers and anti-abortionists are searching for new senses of meaning.

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Recent Book Lists

Three items for today: a list of “influential” science fiction works, a list of nonfiction books that changed minds, and Elon Musk’s books he thinks everyone should read.

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Third Culture Books; Perceptions and Reality

Today’s three topics: A new Michael Shermer book I missed when it came out last October; How magenta is a color that doesn’t exist on the spectrum; Public perceptions of the economy.

There are authors I’ve followed for years, both in science fiction (of course) and in general science, alert for when their new books are out, buying to read eventually if not immediately, my shelves filling up with their works. This is easier done with SF than with science; for decades, ever since discovering Locus (in, um, 1973), I’ve followed their reviews and forthcoming books lists (which the magazine compiles from lists sent to them by the publishers, often particular editors, in a field where everybody knows everybody) to know what to anticipate coming on sale in future months. Continue reading

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A Crisp, Sunny January Day

Topics for today: Why China’s decline in population is a good thing; Yuval Noah Harari on identity; Moral panic and the right-wing mind; How climate change has been covered in textbooks since the 1970s.

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Recent Science Matters

What fetal tissue actually looks like; how humans inbreed dogs to the point of their inability to survive in the wild; the discovery of the enormous universe and who did and didn’t get credit.

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