The Pentagon’s Secret Scream

Sonic devices that can inflict pain–or even permanent deafness–are being deployed. “Marines arriving in Iraq this month as part of a massive troop rotation will bring with them a high-tech weapon never before used in combat — or in peacekeeping. The device is a powerful megaphone the size of a satellite dish that can deliver recorded warnings in Arabic and, on command, emit a piercing tone so excruciating to humans, its boosters say, that it causes crowds to disperse, clears buildings and repels intruders.” —LA Times

How Will the Universe End?

A cosmic detective story about the demise of the world, in three parts. Jim Holt contemplates alternative cosmological notions about the ultimate fate of the universe, a good layman’s roundup. But, more uniquely, he considers the possible ultimate fates of intelligent life at the universe’s demise. These range from Frank Tipler’s seductive notion of “an infinite frolic just before the Big Crunch” to Freeman Dyson’s “vision of a community of increasingly dilute Black Clouds staving off the cold in an eternal Big Chill” to Michio Kaku’s idea of commandeering a cosmic lifeboat through a wormhole to a brand new universe. Kaku, by the way, feels solving superstring theory would be a necessary precursor to this development, and is exhilarated at the impending death of the universe because of the incentives it will provide to do so. Illustrious physicist Steven Weinberg has a more sanguine attitude toward the death of the universe: “For me and you and everyone else around today, the universe will be over in less than 10^2 years.” Holt, ultimately, ponders what if anything is the point of this cosmological speculation at all.

The Perpetual Adolescent

and the triumph of youth culture: “Life in that different day was felt to observe the human equivalent of the Aristotelian unities: to have, like a good drama, a beginning, middle, and end. Each part, it was understood, had its own advantages and detractions, but the middle–adulthood–was the lengthiest and most earnest part, where everything serious happened and much was at stake. To violate the boundaries of any of the three divisions of life was to go against what was natural and thereby to appear unseemly, to put one’s world somehow out of joint, to be, let us face it, a touch, and perhaps more than a touch, grotesque.

Today, of course, all this has been shattered. The ideal almost everywhere is to seem young for as long as possible. The health clubs and endemic workout clothes, the enormous increase in cosmetic surgery (for women and men), the special youth-oriented television programming and moviemaking, all these are merely the more obvious signs of the triumph of youth culture. When I say youth culture, I do not mean merely that the young today are transcendent, the group most admired among the various age groups in American society, but that youth is no longer viewed as a transitory state, through which one passes on the way from childhood to adulthood, but an aspiration, a vaunted condition in which, if one can only arrange it, to settle in perpetuity.” —Joseph Epstein, Weekly Standard