My round-up of the week’s causes for optimism, discussions of optimism/pessimism gap, and debunkings of optimism/pessimism, as noticed in the media.
* Pakistan Today summarises Hans Rosling’s optimistic new book in a short article, “What if the World ain’t half as bad as we think?”.
* “India bans ‘instant divorce’ by Muslim men”. The penalty for using it is now up to three years in prison.
* Scientists in the fledgling field of fracking are rapidly learning how to understand just “Why Real Fractured Rock is So Complex”, with the promise of this understanding leading in time to better extraction and production.
* More whales and dolphins than ever spotted in the UK, albeit with the figures based on a two-week spotting sample during our (for once) glorious summer. Yet actual strandings on British beaches are also way up, which does seem to suggest booming populations of young animals around the coastline.
* Johan Norberg has a new TV documentary, “Sweden: Lessons for America?”. The film celebrates how, in the 1990s, the Swedes traded in their stagnant socialist state for a more market-based approach. Despite the political stereotype, of the nation as a socialist utopia,…
“Americans may be surprised to learn that Sweden’s experiment with socialism was a relatively brief flirtation, lasting about 20 years and ending in disillusionment and reform.”
* “The effect of machine translation on international trade”. As you might expect, easy accurate translation gives a strong boost to personal cross-border importation, if eBay is anything to judge by… “eBay’s Machine Translation increased US exports on eBay to Spanish-speaking Latin American countries by 17.5%”. One wonders if there’s a similar boost happening at the level of small firms in business-to-business trade.
* The Province wonders if “Less apocalyptic science fiction could inspire us”. A fine short article, but sadly the picture editor has chosen to diminish it by heading it with an off-putting picture of some Trekkies in Star Trek costume.
* Written from a U.S. Catholic perspective, “Finding triumph in the world’s vale of tears”…
“The insistence on hope and optimism as a moral stance appeals to me deeply. Our culture is increasingly appropriated by hard-eyed ‘realists’ whose major emotion, having been granted every civil right, privilege and material good known to man, is not gratitude, but rather outrage. [Yet] Twenty years — or 20 centuries — of history reveal that the ‘realists’ have never permanently triumphed. And they never will.”
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