Train Songs edited by Sean O'Brien and Don Paterson02 Nov 2013 17:44:16
British poetry has always been a network of overstretched intercity routes and quaintly mouldering branch lines. Wordsworth scowls at Lake District tourists in a late sonnet, Tony Harrison changes at York and Philip Larkin hopes the American academics contemplating the departures board in King's Cross "go to Newcastle and bother Basil Bunting instead". Speaking of Larkin, consider the following lines:
way stations in the form of bigsheds
that house their promises of goods ... Read Full Story
Gravity's Engines: The Other Side of Black Holes Caleb Scharf02 Nov 2013 17:42:45
Wise words from Douglas Adams, but there are even more mind-boggling things in the universe than its distances (although I grant that its distances are truly brain-melting).
Black holes were first publicly postulated on 27 November, 1783, when a gifted scientist, John Michell, addressed the Royal Society and proposed the idea of a star so massive that "corpuscles" of light would not be able to escape its gravity. If that were the case, therefore, they would be invisible. It would also mean that... Read Full Story
The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler by Philip Ball02 Nov 2013 17:40:51
Then, on 6 August, the group heard the news that a nuclear device had destroyed Hiroshima. The physicists were stunned. "This was the first inkling for the German scientists that they had not been ahead of the Allies but had lagged behind pitifully," notes Philip Ball in Serving the Reich.
Hahn was particularly outraged. "You're just second-raters," he shouted at his fellow inmates. For his part, Heisenberg – leader of the Nazi bomb project – refused to believe the report. Only later would he c... Read Full Story
The Ancient Paths by Graham Robb 29 Oct 2013 04:43:57
The implications, in case your knowledge of Celtic culture goes no further than Asterix or Caesar's Gallic War, are that there was an advanced culture in Europe long before the Romans, that they understood the movement of the sun (and presumably the stars) and produced accurate maps of sacred geography. What's more, as Robb now realised, thanks to computers, the achievements of druidical science could be charted. The implications, he admitted, might also be too extraordinary to be believed.
The... Read Full Story
Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope 29 Oct 2013 04:43:09
Trollope knows Sense and Sensibility inside out, faithfully follows the plot and retains all the most important scenes, which are ingeniously reworked. Her contemporary parallels are fresh and funny. The Dashwood women are expelled from their family home, not because of entailed property devolving to the male heir but because the second Mrs Dashwood and her husband never got around to getting married, and so their three daughters (Ellie, M and Mags) have no legal rights. Rather than arch-villain... Read Full Story
Letters from the heart written by Simon Garfield29 Oct 2013 04:42:14
As Simon Garfield says in his chatty history of what he calls "epistolarity", no such emotional drama attaches to electronic communications. Tweets are telegraphic, and have no individual recipient in mind; texts are usually as blunt and clumsy as the thumbs that punch them out; even emails are "a poke, whereas letters are a caress". But such is the lingering appeal of the outmoded medium of the letter that the icons on our screens are postal metaphors: a symbolic pillar box, paperclips for atta... Read Full Story
Breakfast with Lucian Geordie Greig15 Oct 2013 00:43:05
The subtext of this posthumous, gossipy biography is the tale of Greig's shameless pursuit of that mission. Lucian Freud was never a man afraid to say no. He said no to the Krays, among many others, when they asked him to repay gambling debts. He often said no to wives and lovers and children when they asked him for money or fidelity or loyalty. He said no to anyone who asked to be painted by him (with the exception of Kate Moss). He said no to potential biographers – paying one off having read ... Read Full Story
New York Comic Con 2013: Felicia Day13 Oct 2013 04:10:00
If the costumed hoards at New York Comic Con this weekend were to elect an unofficial geek culture ambassador, Felicia Day would be a top contender for the role. A few years ago, Day was best known for her role as Vi on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it is her work on the web that has propelled her to geek stardom.
Day's resumé now includes recurring roles on TV shows including Supernatural and Eureka, an empire of geek-themed web series including the YouTube channel Geek & Sundry and more than ... Read Full Story
Peter Kosminsky and Mark Rylance team 13 Oct 2013 04:06:32
The actor Mark Rylance is to be reunited with the director of the television drama about the death of the weapons inspector Dr David Kelly for an "intensely political" £7m BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Booker prize-winning Wolf Hall novels.
Peter Kosminsky, the award-winning director of a string of docu-dramas based on contemporary events – including Channel 4's The Government Inspector, which starred Rylance as Kelly – may at first glance appear an unlikely choice for a historical costume ... Read Full Story
Eyes Wide Open Noreena Hertz13 Oct 2013 03:57:40
The economist Noreena Hertz's latest book was inspired by a bout of ill health six years ago, during which she was offered a variety of contradictory advice by a range of medical professionals. Her disillusionment at being presented with a wide but unfiltered range of information was mirrored by the ever-present drip feed of emails, tweets, texts and news feeds that permeate daily life. Her new book, subtitled "How to Make Smart Decisions in a Confusing World", attempts to take issue with the ri... Read Full Story
The Circle by Dave Eggers 11 Oct 2013 03:59:46
In a recent essay published in these pages, Jonathan Franzen inveighed against what he sees as the glibness and superficiality of the new online culture. "With technoconsumerism," he wrote, "a humanist rhetoric of 'empowerment' and 'creativity' and 'freedom' and 'connection' and 'democracy' abets the frank monopolism of the techno-titans; the new infernal machine seems increasingly to obey nothing but its own developmental logic, and it's far more enslavingly addictive, and far more pandering to... Read Full Story
Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson 11 Oct 2013 03:57:47
Modern kids have it easy. Thirty thousand years ago, your average adolescent would have had a child or two, killed a few of animals and survived several winters on not much more than a handful of mouldy nuts. Loon, the hero of Kim Stanley Robinson's new novel, has to endure more than most: an orphan, he has been chosen as his tribe's shaman. On the eve of his 12th birthday, he is stripped naked and sent into the wilderness for a fortnight alone. He must make new clothes for himself, then light a... Read Full Story