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Devil take the hindmost

John Sutherland, 14 December 1995

Shadows of the Future: H.G. Wells, Science Fiction and Prophecy 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Liverpool, 170 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 85323 439 6
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The History of Mr Wells 
by Michael Foot.
Doubleday, 318 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 385 40366 6
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A Modern Utopia 
by H.G. Wells, edited by Krishan Kumar.
Everyman, 271 pp., £5.99, November 1994, 0 460 87498 5
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... are indistinguishable from the current hypotheses of theoretical physicists like Kip Thorne and Stephen Hawking. Parrinder’s chapters take the form of free-wheeling meditations on Wellsian topoi – ‘Possibilities of Space and Time’, ‘The Fall of Empires’, ‘Utopia and Meta-Utopia’. In Part Two of Shadows of the Future, he branches out ...

When Eyesight is Fully Industrialised

John Kerrigan, 16 October 1997

Open Sky 
by Paul Virilio, translated by Julie Rose.
Verso, 152 pp., £35, August 1997, 9781859848807
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... can produce perverse results, not least when disability is discussed. Oddly for a book which cites Stephen Hawking as an authority on space, Open Sky discounts the good that motorised aids can do and presses the theory that smart-buildings and computers are making the able-bodied no better than cripples. Soon, Virilio grumbles, the ...

Muldoon – A Mystery

Michael Hofmann, 20 December 1990

Madoc – A Mystery 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 261 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 571 14489 6
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... consists of two unequal chronological sequences: the philosophers in the titles go from Thales to Stephen Hawking, while the poems below cover the ground from 1795 to 1834, Pantisocracy, Madoc and the Welsh Indians, early pioneers, Lewis and Clark, stray Irishmen, the Satanic School of Byron and Moore. The two disciplines are pretty arbitrarily related ...


Richard Lloyd Parry: Alex Garland, 15 October 1998

The Beach 
by Alex Garland.
Penguin, 439 pp., £5.99, June 1997, 0 14 025841 8
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The Tesseract 
by Alex Garland.
Viking, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 670 87016 1
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... the size and impersonal complexity of the universe are familiar from other works of fiction post-Stephen Hawking – Martin Amis’s Night Train, for example. ‘Imagine an atom of hydrogen,’ Alfredo says. ‘Then imagine that you have enlarged the nucleus by five million million, bringing it up to about the size of a one peso coin. To scale, the ...

Nobel Savage

Steven Shapin: Kary Mullis, 1 July 1999

Dancing Naked in the Mind Field 
by Kary Mullis.
Bloomsbury, 209 pp., £12.99, March 1999, 0 7475 4376 3
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... Even now, the cover of A Brief History of Time sets a tiny, and almost literally disembodied, Stephen Hawking against a vast backdrop of the starry heavens. But already by the Sixties and Seventies a new presentation of scientific self began to circulate. James Watson radically confessed that his thoughts strayed to ‘popsies’ even while working ...

The Superhuman Upgrade

Steven Shapin: The Book That Explains It All, 13 July 2017

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow 
by Yuval Noah Harari.
Vintage, 528 pp., £9.99, March 2017, 978 1 78470 393 6
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... Joy’s anxieties have been echoed since by Bill Gates and the Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, and Stephen Hawking too has warned that ‘the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.’ So to the degree that Harari’s vision of the future seems plausible, it’s perhaps because it’s familiar: we’ve been well ...

That Wilting Flower

Hilary Mantel: The Lure of the Unexplained, 24 January 2008

Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained 
edited by Una McGovern.
Chambers, 760 pp., £35, October 2007, 978 0 550 10215 7
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... chemistry you missed. It’s the people cringing from their scientific illiteracy who buy Stephen Hawking books they can’t read, as if having them on the shelf will make the knowledge rub off; they snap up tracts on atheism, too, to show that if they’re ignorant they’re at least rational. But still, our understanding of the mechanisms of ...

The Concept of ‘Cat Face’

Paul Taylor: Machine Learning, 11 August 2016

... examining the risks associated with uncontrolled artificial intelligence. Stephen Hawking has suggested that building machines more intelligent than we are could lead to the end of the human race. Elon Musk has said much the same. But such dystopian fantasies aren’t worth worrying about yet. If there is something to be worried ...

His Fucking Referendum

David Runciman: What Struck Cameron, 10 October 2019

For the Record 
by David Cameron.
William Collins, 732 pp., £25, September 2019, 978 0 00 823928 2
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... The former heads of MI5 and MI6. The head of the Church of England. Nine out of ten economists. Stephen Hawking, Tim Berners-Lee and Richard Branson – truly great Britons who so many people admire and respect. ‘Maybe it’s a conspiracy,’ I would say. ‘Or maybe all these people are right.’This is disingenuous. First, the case being made was ...

Flowery Regions of Algebra

Simon Schaffer: Pierre Simon Laplace, 14 December 2006

Pierre Simon Laplace 1749-1827: A Determined Scientist 
by Roger Hahn.
Harvard, 310 pp., £21.95, November 2005, 0 674 01892 3
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... given a French accent. This is the comfortingly Newtonian Laplace who figures, for example, in Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time, as the celebrated author of a version of determinism which nevertheless left open the choice of physical laws and of initial configuration, and whose optimism about the possibility of deducing all future states of ...

The Darwin Show

Steven Shapin, 7 January 2010

... featuring the ‘African-American Atheist Rapper Greydon Square’, the ‘self-styled “Walking Stephen Hawking”’. In Manhattan, the Ensemble Theater produced Darwin’s Challenge (‘On his trip aboard the HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin wanders into a cave on Galapagos and finds himself on the set of a 21st-century reality TV show … He gets kicked ...

At the British Museum

Julia Smith: ‘Thomas Becket: Murder and the Making of a Saint’, 15 July 2021

... letters (the 12th-century equivalent of texting), of which 189 survive. He preferred hunting, hawking and fine clothes to the discipline and asceticism of religious life, all of which left him heavily in debt. He didn’t direct his energies to grand episcopal projects like his contemporary Henry of Blois, the wealthy bishop of Winchester, who oversaw the ...

Pretoria gets ready

Heribert Adam, 9 July 1987

Black and Gold: Tycoons, Revolutionaries and Apartheid 
by Anthony Sampson.
Hodder, 280 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 340 39524 9
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The Crisis in South Africa 
by John Saul and Stephen Gelb.
Zed, 245 pp., £6.95, December 1986, 0 86232 692 3
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... policy of the capital-orientated PFP and its former leader van Zyl Slabbert by accusing them of ‘hawking confederal constitutional models’ and of fearing ‘majority domination’. In fact, the PFP stands unequivocally for universal franchise in a non-racial, federal (not confederal) South Africa and only wants the rights of self-chosen cultural groups ...

Rough Trade

Steven Shapin: Robert Hooke, 6 March 2003

The Man Who Knew Too Much: The Strange and Inventive Life of Robert Hooke 1635-1703 
by Stephen Inwood.
Macmillan, 497 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 0 333 78286 0
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... to any government agency that funded the research – which usually declines – they will start hawking the IP about to see if any entrepreneurs or companies want to license it. Priority in your IP is protected at this stage, and you can now go ahead and publish if you wish, but eventually you may proceed to a full (or utility) patent, where property rights ...


Patrick Wright, 21 May 1987

Creating excellence: Managing corporate culture, strategy and change in the New Age 
by Craig Hickman and Michael Silva.
Allen and Unwin, 305 pp., £12.50, April 1985, 0 04 658252 5
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Intrapreneuring: Why you don’t have to leave the corporation to become an entrepreneur 
by Gifford Pinchot.
Harper and Row, 368 pp., £15.95, August 1985, 0 06 015305 9
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The IBM Way: Insights into the World’s Most Successful Marketing Organisation 
by Buck Rodgers.
Harper and Row, 224 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 06 015522 1
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Innovation: The Attacker’s Advantage 
by Richard Foster.
Macmillan, 316 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 333 43511 7
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by Robert Lacey.
Heinemann, 778 pp., £15, July 1986, 0 434 40192 7
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Company of Adventurers: The Story of the Hudson’s Bay Company 
by Peter Newman.
Viking, 413 pp., £14.95, March 1986, 0 670 80379 0
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Augustine’s Laws 
by Norman Augustine.
Viking, 380 pp., £12.95, July 1986, 9780670809424
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Peak Performers: The New Heroes in Business 
by Charles Garfield.
Hutchinson, 333 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 09 167391 7
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Going for it: How to Succeed as an Entrepreneur 
by Victor Kiam.
Collins, 223 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 00 217603 3
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Take a chance to be first: The Secrets of Entrepreneurial Success 
by Warren Avis.
Macmillan, 222 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 02 504410 9
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The Winning Streak 
by Walter Goldsmith and David Clutterbuck.
Weidenfeld/Penguin, 224 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 297 78469 2
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The Roots of Excellence 
by Ronnie Lessem.
Fontana, 318 pp., £3.95, December 1985, 0 00 636874 3
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The New Management of Local Government 
by John Stewart.
Allen and Unwin, 208 pp., £20, October 1986, 0 00 435232 7
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... new entrepreneurs like Victor Kiam, Lee Iacocca, Donald Burr of People Express, Steven Jobs and Stephen Wozniak of Apple Computers, Stuart Brand of the Whole Earth Catalogue. Record-breaking athletes like Roger Bannister find their way onto the roll of honour, as does the Salieri of Amadeus: a peak performer deflected from his mission by hopeless envy of ...

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