Nature review of Martians

by Eszter Hargittai on November 30, 2006

Following up on my earlier post about the difference in the marketing and subsequent sales of two similar books, here is a bit of an update. The current (Nov 30, 2006) issue of Nature has a review* of my father István Hargittai’s book The Martians of Science. Likely as a result, the book is now ranked #87,665 on Amazon.com and #33,109 on Amazon UK. Earlier today it was even higher (#56,649 in the US, #16,279 in the UK), but I didn’t have time to blog until now. This is a much better figure than over one million, which it was at some point recently. Of course, the change could well be due to no more than one or two purchases. I’m not sure why it is always higher on Amazon UK, perhaps Amazon lists fewer books on that site.

[*] Nature requires subscription. Here is a screenshot of the review.

Old Stalingrad — I mean, Old Nassau

by Kieran Healy on November 30, 2006

Just to piggyback on “Henry’s post”:https://crookedtimber.org/2006/11/30/starship-stormtroopers-how-are-ya/ about Orson Scott Card’s “new novel”:http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2006/11/today-in-aesthetic-stalinism.html, I was pleased to learn from the excerpt Scott Lemiuex “posted”:http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2006/11/today-in-aesthetic-stalinism.html that, like me, the hero spent his grad student years at “Princeton”:http://www.princeton.edu.

bq. Princeton University was just what Reuben expected it to be — hostile to everything he valued, smug and superior and utterly closed-minded. … Yes, a doctorate in history would be useful. But he was really getting a doctorate in self-doubt and skepticism, a Ph.D. in the rhetoric and beliefs of the insane Left. … In other words, he was being embedded with the enemy as surely as when he was on a deep Special Ops assignment inside a foreign country that did not (officially at least) know that he was there.

Fantastic! Princeton’s a great university, though in the past I’ve said myself that it can be a bit closed minded and smug. _I_ had thought this might grow out of its role as the “Southernmost Ivy”, its culture of selective Eating Clubs, its astonishingly loyal, cranky and tradition-worshipping undergraduate alumni, its “historically”:http://www.cia-on-campus.org/princeton.edu/consult.html “close”:http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pwb/00/0110/p/espionage.shtml connections with the CIA, stuff like that. But now I know better. “All together now”:http://tigernet.princeton.edu/~ptoniana/oldnassau.asp, “Tune every heart and every voice …”

Starship Stormtroopers, How Are Ya?

by Henry on November 30, 2006

Orson Scott Card’s new ‘American libruls start a new Civil War’ novel has been provoking well deserved hilarity. “Scott Lemiuex”:http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2006/11/today-in-aesthetic-stalinism.html quotes one of the choicer descriptions of the Evils of Leftist Professors.

He kept thinking, the first couple of semesters, that maybe his attitude toward them was just as short-sighted and bigoted and wrong as theirs was of him. But in class after class, seminar after seminar, he learned that far too many students were determined to remain ignorant of any real-world data that didn’t fit their preconceived notions. And even those who tried to remain genuinely open-minded simply did not realize the magnitude of the lies they had been told about history, about values, about religion, about everything. So they took the facts of history and averaged them with the dogmas of the leftist university professors and thought that the truth lay somewhere in the middle.

But for my money, John Ringo and Tom Kratman’s forthcoming current Watch on the Rhine (die Wacht am Rhein), billed by Baen Books as “The Most Un-PC Book of the Year,” sounds even juicier.

A man-eating Posleen horde invades Earth and Germany is forced to rejuvenate its most reviled warrior caste: the Waffen SS. With peacenik and under-prepared modern Europe reeling, it’s up to these old soldiers to reforge the steel of hard regimen and redeem their honor as warriors. It’s a chance for Europe’s fighting spirit to reawaken, weed out the lingering rot, and fight for the survival of humanity itself. Politically correct? No way! Thoughtful and action-packed? Absolutely!

Und so weiter” to use what I suppose is the appropriate phrase under the circumstances. All the book needs is a “blurb”:http://sadlyno.com/archives/4424.html from Glenn “flat out racist”:https://crookedtimber.org/2006/11/06/compare-and-contrast-2/ Reynolds. “Is Europe going to revive the Waffen-SS to stiffen up its drooping manliness in the face of invasion by cannibalistic aliens? Not immediately, perhaps, but famed science fiction writer John Ringo thinks that we’re in enough danger that he’s co-authored a cautionary tale that’s set in more-or-less present times.”

I suspect these two books are the first blossoms of a sub-sub-genre of revanchist sf warporn that will develop over the next couple of years to console warblogger-types and to tell them that they will be justified by history when the cyber-empowered Islamo-Nazis/man-eating aliens/liberal-comsymp-guerillas come marching over the horizon. There’s sure to be a dissertation in here somewhere for some hard-working grad student.

Over at Econolog, TCS writer and right-wing hack Arnold Kling reports, under the headline “The Stern Swindle”:http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2006/11/the_stern_swind.html , that Cambridge economist Partha Dasgupta “criticizes the Stern report”:http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/faculty/dasgupta/Stern.pdf for applying a very low discount rate to the interests of future generations. Kling writes:

bq. What Dasgupta is saying is that the approach Stern uses to evaluate intertemporal trade-offs would, if applied generally, suggest that our consumption should drop from over 80 percent of GDP to 2.5 percent, in order to leave the target legacy to our children. What Dasgupta’s comment does is crystallize for me the magnitude of the intellectual swindle that Stern is attempting to pull off. Any time you assign a far-from-plausible interest rate to a long-term intertemporal problem, you get distorted results.

What Dasgupta _actually says_ :

bq. I have little problem with the figure of 0.1% a year the authors have chosen for the rate of pure time/risk discount….(p. 6)

Dasgupta’s real argument is that Stern shouldn’t adopt the egalitarian approach it does to intergenerational well-being whilst being _at the same time_ indifferent to inequality among members of the present generation. Dasgupta thinks the well-being of the actual poor should take priority over climate change abatement. Of course, we’ve heard arguments along these lines before, but Dasgupta, as someone with a record of concern for development and the well-being of the global poor, is someone who should be taken seriously when voices them and might be expected to devise and support policies that benefit the worst off. Right-wing hacks, are, needless to say, a different matter.

(Dasgupta’s critique seems to me to support the idea that economies like China and India shouldn’t be pressured into climate change abatement because the value of the benefits their growth brings to the poorest outweighs the harms to future generations. It doesn’t look anything like so plausible to claim that the least advantaged would be similarly harmed by the wealthier countries cutting back their carbon emissions.)