The Lists of 2010

A collection of the customary lists for 2010:

The Top Features of the Year 2010 (Nature)
Award-Winning Stories in Science (Science)
Breakthrough of the Year / Insights of the Decade (Science)
Readers’ choices: Top 10 stories of 2010 (Scientific American)
The weirdest of 2010’s Weird Science (Ars Technica)
Top 10 Stories of 2010 (Smithsonian Magazine)
The Top Dinosaur Discoveries of 2010 (Smithsonian Magazine)
Top Ten Evolution Stories of 2010 (NCSE)
‘Project Censored’ lists top stories that go unreported (CSMonitor)
Bad Faith Awards 2010 (New Humanist)
2010’s Worst Disasters in Photos (AOL News)
The Top 10 Everything of 2010 (Time)
Top 10 Windows downloads of 2010 (The Download Blog)
12 Best Internet Memes and Viral Videos of 2010 (Paste)
List of billionaires for 2010 (Forbes)
Hollywood’s Highest-Grossing Actors (Forbes)
Top Movies for 2010 (IMDB, Vanity Fair, Roger Ebert, Newsweek, NPR, NY Times, Carpetbagger)
Top 100 BitTorrent Searches of 2010
Top Music Albums of 2010 (All Music, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Spin, Pitchfork, Paste, NPR)
Top Books of 2010 (Publisher’s Weekly, Gawker)
2010 Notable Books for Children (Smithsonian Magazine)
Word of the Year 2010 (Merriam-Webster)
50 Wonderful Things From 2010 (NPR, Monkey See)
You’re Out: 20 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade (HuffPo, pictures)

Top Lists 2010 (Google)

American Exceptionalism

American ExceptionalismThe Washington Post recently touched on the fascinating topic of American Exceptionalism, since it appears to be increasingly used as a distinction in American politics as to who is a patriot and who isn’t (which of course is hardly a new battle). It certainly is comical to see some people drape themselves in it as if it were a good thing. To wit, the WaPo article starts off with:

Is this a great country or what?

“American exceptionalism” is a phrase that, until recently, was rarely heard outside the confines of think tanks, opinion journals and university history departments.

But with Republicans and tea party activists accusing President Obama and the Democrats of turning the country toward socialism, the idea that the United States is inherently superior to the world’s other nations has become the battle cry from a new front in the ongoing culture wars. Lately, it seems to be on the lips of just about every Republican who is giving any thought to running for president in 2012. (…)

That the average American thinks their country is the greatest country in the world shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has encountered one either in cyberspace or in real life. It’s greatness (or superiority) is extolled remarkably often even in casual conversation, even though, as is claimed in the introduction to the concept in Wikipedia, some would argue that is not meant to express superiority:

American exceptionalism refers to the opinion that the United States is qualitatively different from other nations. Its exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution, becoming “the first new nation”, and developing a unique American ideology, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire”. This observation can be traced to Alexis de Tocqueville, the first writer to describe the United States as “exceptional”. Although the term does not imply superiority, some writers have used it in that sense. To them, the United States is a “shining city on a hill”, and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries.

In the 1960s “postnationalist” scholars rejected American exceptionalism, arguing that the United States had not broken from European history, and had retained class inequities, imperialism and war. Furthermore, they saw every nation as subscribing to some form of exceptionalism. (…)

Certainly some rather notorious examples of other nations with very similar thinking (i.e. that their particular god was on their side and/or had a special purpose for their nation) aren’t very difficult to find in history.

Continue reading American Exceptionalism

EDGE: Richard Thaler’s Question on overturned beliefs/science

Richard ThalerRichard H. Thaler, Director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, is the father of Behavioral Economics. In preparation for a new book he asked EDGE contributors to answer this question:

The flat earth and geocentric world are examples of wrong scientific beliefs that were held for long periods. Can you name your favorite example and for extra credit why it was believed to be true?

As of today, there are 61 responses which make for fascinating reading on how science has corrected itself and our views of nature.

The contributors include Neil Shubin, Garrett Lisi, Peter Schwartz, David Deutsch, Haim Harari, Alun Anderson, Irene Pepperberg, John Holland, Derek Lowe, Charles Simonyi, Nathan Myhrvold, Lawrence Krauss, Steven Strogatz, Cesar Hidalgo, Eric Topol, Christian Keysers, Simona Morini, Ross Anderson, James Croak, Rob Kurzban, Lewis Wolpert, Howard Gardner, Ed Regis, Robert Trivers, Frank Tipler, Joan Chaio, Jeremy Bernstein, Matthew Ritchie, Clay Shirky, Roger Schank, Gary Klein, Gregory Cochran, Eric Weinstein , Geoffrey Carr, James O’Donnell, Lane Greene, Jonathan Haidt, Juan Enriquez, Scott Atran, Rupert Sheldrake, Emanuel Derman, Charles Seife, Milford H. Wolpoff, Robert Shapiro, Judith Harris, Jordan Pollack, Sue Blackmore, Nicholas G. Carr, Lee Smolin, Marti Hearst, Gino Segre, Carl Zimmer, Gregory Paul, Alison Gopnik, George Dyson, Mark Pagel, Timothy Taylor, David Berreby, Zenon Pylyshyn, Michael Shermer, and George Lakoff.

Topics (with comments on both bad and correct science or beliefs) include: plate tectonics, cosmic inflation, prions, quantum entanglement, the force of gravity, the great chain of being, bird intelligence, the four humours of human physiology, luminiferous aether, bad air disease theory, Peripatetic Mechanics of Aristotle, stress theory of ulcers, intelligent design/creationism, the age of the Earth, cell regeneration, spontaneous generation of life, vitalism, unifunctional components of the brain, security by obscurity, whales as fishes, group selection, unilinear cultural evolution, static universe, Lamarckism, nature/nurture, the existence of a vacuum, the human brain vs. the heart, and more…

Bonus: Thaler on his field Behavioural Economics: