Figuring out the historical facts from the fakery

There’s a common belief that the work of historians consists of collecting ‘the facts’ from documents and writing them down. And that’s it. I mean, how hard can it be? I can’t even begin to express the issues I have with such thinking. But let’s start with the obvious one – ‘the facts’. It’s something … More Figuring out the historical facts from the fakery

What Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ tells us about authoritarian bullying

A significant hallmark of an authoritarian government is the way it uses the power of the state to bully people. The spectre was raised a century ago by Franz Kafka, whose unfinished novel The Trial summed up the whole problem. In the story, Kafka’s narrator was arrested and put on trial – all without even … More What Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ tells us about authoritarian bullying

Space X’s trans-lunar mission isn’t a new idea – but it’s cool

I don’t know whether to applaud or shudder at Elon Musk’s announcement that Space-X will launch a private ‘moon tourist’ mission late in 2018. I want to applaud because it’s deeply cool, damned bold, and it’s what humanity needs to be doing if we’re to keep any kind of space dream alive. Good stuff. But … More Space X’s trans-lunar mission isn’t a new idea – but it’s cool

Breakfast in space, on an asteroid, in a tin can

The other day I picked up an interesting snippet about the likely breakfast menu on NASA’s upcoming Orion spacecraft. Because the vehicle is weight- and volume-critical, there are going to be problems packing enough food in for the expected 28-30 day duration asteroid investigation missions. The same issue also applies to storing the – er … More Breakfast in space, on an asteroid, in a tin can

How societies get sucked into authoritarianism

I’ve been thinking lately about one of the eye-opening experiences of my university life, and what it tells us about today’s world. In 1981 I arrived at Victoria University of Wellington as a bright-eyed eighteen year old, filled with the idea that university was the place where people could express their intellectual ideas constructively. I … More How societies get sucked into authoritarianism