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How did the slime mould cross the maze?

Adrian Woolfson: The Future of Emergence

21 March 2002
Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software 
by Steven Johnson.
Allen Lane, 288 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 7139 9400 2
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The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture 
by Mark Taylor.
Chicago, 340 pp., £20.50, January 2002, 0 226 79117 3
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... life, computer software, architecture, the organisation of cities, artistic creativity and human thought. ‘When I imagine the shape that will hover above the first half of the 21st century,’ Johnson begins, ‘what comes to mind is not the coiled embrace of the genome, or the etched latticework of the silicon chip.’ It is instead the images of computer programs that use the underlying logic of ...

Levittown to Laos

Thomas Sugrue: The Kennedy Assassination

22 July 2010
The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After 
by Steven​ Gillon.
Basic Books, 294 pp., £15.99, November 2009, 978 0 465 01870 3
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... On 22 November 1963, just over two hours after an assassin’s bullet killed President Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, the vice president, took the oath of office in a hastily improvised ceremony aboard Air Force One. The jowly LBJ stood side by side with the grieving widow, her jacket and blouse stained with ...

Across the Tellyverse

Jenny Turner: Daleks v. Cybermen

22 June 2006
Doctor Who 
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Doctor Who: A Critical Reading of the Series 
by Kim Newman.
BFI, 138 pp., £12, December 2005, 1 84457 090 8
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... ways digital is changing television, the most interesting is the ‘new complexity’, noted in American shows such as The Simpsons, The Sopranos, Seinfeld, and discussed, with much enthusiasm, in StevenJohnson’s book Everything Bad Is Good for You: Why Popular Culture Is Making Us Smarter.* As Johnson explains, the key to these new markets is syndication, selling the same thing over and over on ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: David Lean

3 July 2008
... Arabia (1962). More generally, of course, the phrase evokes the director of swirling epics, a sort of Cecil B. DeMille with taste, imperial godfather to the Star Wars movies and much of the work of Steven Spielberg. There is nothing wrong with this evocation except that it invites us to forget Lean’s earlier, quieter or darker films, which notably include Brief Encounter (1945), a black and grey ...

The Fame Game

Alan Brien

6 September 1984
Hype 
by Steven​ Aronson.
Hutchinson, 198 pp., £5.95, May 1984, 0 09 156251 1
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Automatic Vaudeville 
by John Lahr.
Heinemann, 241 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 434 40188 9
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Broadway Babies: The People who made the American Musical 
by Ethan Mordden.
Oxford, 244 pp., £19, August 1984, 0 19 503345 0
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... Steven Aronson’s Hype, a guide to the latest techniques of mass manipulation, may have less impact on British readers than it has had on American. The word is a recent coinage, but since the days of ...

Trust me

Steven​ Shapin: French DNA

27 April 2000
French DNA: Trouble in Purgatory 
by Paul Rabinow.
Chicago, 201 pp., £17.50, October 1999, 0 226 70150 6
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... and the Wall Street Journal. In June 1996, Genset raised more than $100 million in an IPO (Initial Public Offering) on Nasdaq, and in September it entered into a research collaboration with an arm of Johnson and Johnson. The larger politics of nationalism, ideology and economic competition was stimulated by the smaller politics of organisational identity. What kind of place was the CEPH? What was its ...

Fat is a manifest tissue

Steven​ Shapin: George Cheyne

10 August 2000
Obesity and Depression in the Enlightenment: The Life and Times of George Cheyne 
by Anita Guerrini.
Oklahoma, 304 pp., $25.95, February 2000, 0 585 28344 3
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... not a physician) beat him to it in the 1550s – but he was certainly one of the most influential. Everywhere they talked about Cheyne and his diet. He was favourably quoted in Tom Jones; Samuel Johnson commended his books; John Wesley’s Primitive Physick copied out whole sections of Cheyne’s work; and his patients included Pope, Gay, Beau Nash, Richardson, the Methodist Countess of Huntingdon ...

Smarter, Happier, More Productive

Jim Holt: ‘The Shallows’

3 March 2011
The Shallows: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember 
by Nicholas Carr.
Atlantic, 276 pp., £17.99, September 2010, 978 1 84887 225 7
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... CONSEQUENCES,’ Merzenich warns in caps – in a blog post, no less. Many in the neuroscience community scoff at such claims. The brain is not ‘a blob of clay pounded into shape by experience’, Steven Pinker has insisted. Its wiring may change a bit when we learn a new fact or skill, but its basic cognitive architecture remains the same. And where is the evidence that using the internet can ...

Milk and Lemon

Steven​ Shapin: The Excesses of Richard Feynman

7 July 2005
Don’t You Have Time to Think? The Letters of Richard Feynman 
edited by Michelle Feynman.
Allen Lane, 486 pp., £20, June 2005, 0 7139 9847 4
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... to have answered them all. He had been notorious for not answering letters, but the occasion appears to have got the better of him. Most writers received a formulaic response. Feynman told Lyndon Johnson that the presidential telegram made his day; he gave his former senior colleagues a version of an Oscar speech, saying how he couldn’t have done it without them; he thanked his school and ...

Pretence for Prattle

Steven​ Shapin: Tea

29 July 2015
Empire of Tea: The Asian Leaf that Conquered the World 
by Markman Ellis, Richard Coulton and Matthew Mauger.
Reaktion, 326 pp., £25, May 2015, 978 1 78023 440 3
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... masculine critics a soft target. The tea table was attacked as ‘the seat of female empire, as the source of gossip, the place that manufactures scandal, slander, falsehoods and lies’. Even Dr Johnson – who enjoyed his tea very much – acknowledged that sociable tea-taking might be ‘a pretence for assembling to prattle’. Women were prone to prattling and gossip, but ‘effeminate’ men ...

Pissing in the Snow

Steven​ Rose: Dissidents and Scientists

18 July 2019
Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science 
by Audra J. Wolfe.
Johns Hopkins, 302 pp., £22, January 2019, 978 1 4214 2673 0
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... West Coast magazine Ramparts exposed its funding of the National Student Association just as the wave of campus activism against the Vietnam War was building. In damage-limitation mode, President Johnson declared a deadline for the CIA to end its secret subsidies to private US organisations, leaving a clutch of ‘orphan’ charities, several of which ended up being openly funded through the State ...
5 June 1997
Last Dinner on the ‘Titanic’: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner 
by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley.
Weidenfeld, 128 pp., £9.99, April 1997, 1 86448 250 8
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The ‘Titanic’ Complex 
by John Wilson Foster.
Belcouver, 92 pp., £5.99, April 1997, 0 9699464 1 4
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Down with the Old Canoe 
by Steven​ Biel.
Norton, 300 pp., £18.95, April 1997, 9780393039658
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... It confirmed not just the idea of the difference between the sexes, but also the innate nobility of the upper classes, for a world on the brink of the Great War. The survivor statistics offered by Steven Biel tell something of the gender story: 94 per cent of first-cabin women and children survived compared to 31 per cent of first-cabin men; 81 per cent of second-cabin and 47 per cent of steerage ...

Hedonistic Fruit Bombs

Steven​ Shapin: How good is Château Pavie?

3 February 2005
Bordeaux 
by Robert Parker.
Dorling Kindersley, 1244 pp., £45, December 2003, 1 4053 0566 5
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The Wine Buyer’s Guide 
by Robert Parker and Pierre-Antoine Rovani.
Dorling Kindersley, two volumes, £50, December 2002, 0 7513 4979 8
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Mondovino 
directed by Jonathan Nossiter.
November 2004
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... business has got out of hand: ‘It tends to make people forget that the appreciation of wine is personal and temperamental … Nothing is more subjective and individual as personal taste.’ Hugh Johnson sticks with the crudity of stars (one star = ‘plain, everyday quality’; four stars = ‘grand, prestigious, expensive’) and tries to persuade himself that ‘the whole unreal business’ may ...
21 September 1995
Secret Affairs: Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull and Sumner Welles 
by Irwin Gellman.
Johns Hopkins, 499 pp., $29.95, April 1995, 0 8018 5083 5
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Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley 
edited by Geoffrey Ward.
Houghton Mifflin, 444 pp., $24.95, April 1995, 0 395 66080 7
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No Ordinary Time. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War Two 
by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Simon and Schuster, 759 pp., £18, June 1995, 0 671 64240 5
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The End of Reform 
by Alan Brinkley.
Knopf, 371 pp., $27.50, March 1995, 0 394 53573 1
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... action against the extermination of European Jewry thought they had a more sympathetic ear in Welles. But although Welles believed the stories of death camps circulating by late 1942, he told Rabbi Steven Wise: ‘For obvious reasons you will understand, I cannot give these [facts] to the press.’ Welles may have been silenced on the genocide out of loyalty to FDR’s priorities, Hull out of his own ...

Expendabilia

Hal Foster: Reyner Banham

9 May 2002
Reyner Banham: Historian of the Immediate Future 
by Nigel Whiteley.
MIT, 494 pp., £27.50, January 2002, 0 262 23216 2
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... Russell Hitchcock (Pevsner published Pioneers of the Modern Movement in 1936; Giedion Space, Time and Architecture in 1941; and Hitchcock The International Style: Architecture since 1922, with Philip Johnson, in 1932). Banham was distant enough in time and in temperament to challenge this edited version of architectural Modernism, but he did so according to its own criterion of how best to express the ...

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