Category Archives: Science

Science, history & philosophy

Gehlen’s Moral & Hypermoral

Moral und Hypermoral (1969) is the final work of German philosopher Arnold Gehlen (1904–1976), today somewhat forgotten except among German philosophy students and niche conservatives. I confess that I started reading him myself only recently, obviously far too late. He’s well worth a recommendation, and in this spirit I append a translation of the beginning […]

Duhem’s Aim and Structure of Physical Theory

Aside from his work as an eminent physicist, Pierre Duhem (1861–1916) produced “massive groundbreaking” publications on medieval science (which I have yet to read) and a classic book on the theory of science, La théorie physique, son objet et sa structure. The original (1906) is available on, and so is the excellent German translation […]

Religion & Life Strategy

The nature and dynamics of world religions by Nicolas Baumard & Coralie Chevallier (2015, also as PDF) examines archaic religions, current world religions, and the ongoing decline of religiosity in rich countries by the light of life history theory, here applied to the varying circumstances of human societies rather than the evolution of different species. […]

Robert Ardrey’s Hunting Hypothesis

Robert Ardrey (1908–1980) was not only a noted playwright but also the author of four influential books on evolutionary anthropology. If you’ve never heard of him that’s because he was an outsider of the academic establishment, both as an amateur and as an early critic of the ludicrous Marxist propaganda known as the “blank slate” […]

Sarah Perry’s Cooperative Ignorance

Sarah Perry’s monumental essay on Cooperative Ignorance makes a compelling point that when interacting with other human beings (as opposed to indifferent nature), it is often beneficial to be deliberately ignorant or otherwise constrained in one’s options. In this overview I’ve compiled a few highlights; read the whole thing when you can make the time. […]

Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies

The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge University Press 1988; paperback 1990, 250 pages, ISBN 978-0-521-38673-9) is Joseph A. Tainter’s magnum opus and deservedly considered a classic. Tainter packs an overview of explanations of collapse, analyses of historical cases, and his own overarching theory into one slim book, soberly argued from quantifiable data yet quite readable. […]

Stellarators & Qubits in Garching

The Garching Research Center near Munich yesterday staged one of its infrequent open door nights, with all the various institutes showing off their work in lectures and demonstrations. The campus is big and I arrived rather late, but I did make it to the two most interesting places: the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics […]

Statistical (In-)Significance

In 2005 John Ioannidis famously declared that Most Published Research Findings Are False. How can this be? Ioannidis refers to studies employing statistical significance testing which has become the norm in many fields, especially medicine – Ioannidis himself is an epidemiologist. Research involving only abstract reasoning (e.g. mathematics) or reliably repeatable mechanisms (e.g. engineering) is […]

Tales from the Roman Republic

Rome’s messy transition from republic to principate has been well-documented by ancient authors and often revisited by modern ones. Since 1990 there has been a veritable explosion of historical fiction set in this era. I’ve devoured a good part of it, so here are some recommendations for your reading pleasure. The authors generally keep to […]

How Great Was Alexander?

Following his observations on Napoleon, sociologist Randall Collins has posted another insightful article on one of history’s greatest warlords: What Made Alexander Great? Once again, I recommend you take an hour or two to read the whole thing. Below follows a summary with noteworthy excerpts. Philip’s Groundwork Alexander’s father Philip laid the groundwork to his […]