What We Are Reading Today: The Cosmic Web — Mysterious Architecture of the Universe

Updated 17 July 2018

What We Are Reading Today: The Cosmic Web — Mysterious Architecture of the Universe

J. Richard Gott was among the first cosmologists to propose that the structure of our universe is like a sponge made up of clusters of galaxies intricately connected by filaments of galaxies — a magnificent structure now called the “cosmic web” and mapped extensively by teams of astronomers. 

The Cosmic Web begins with modern pioneers of extragalactic astronomy, such as Edwin Hubble and Fritz Zwicky, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

It goes on to describe how, during the Cold War, the American school of cosmology favored a model of the universe where galaxies resided in isolated clusters, whereas the Soviet school favored a honeycomb pattern of galaxies punctuated by giant, isolated voids. 

Gott tells the stories of how his own path to a solution began with a high-school science project when he was 18, and how he and astronomer Mario Jurič measured the Sloan Great Wall of Galaxies, a filament of galaxies that, at 1.37 billion light-years in length, is one of the largest structures in the universe.


What We Are Reading Today: Systemic Corruption by Camila Vergara

Updated 29 September 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Systemic Corruption by Camila Vergara

This provocative book reveals how the majority of modern liberal democracies have become increasingly oligarchic, suffering from a form of structural political decay first conceptualized by ancient philosophers. Systemic Corruption argues that the problem cannot be blamed on the actions of corrupt politicians but is built into the very fabric of our representative systems.

Camila Vergara provides a compelling and original genealogy of political corruption from ancient to modern thought, and shows how representative democracy was designed to protect the interests of the already rich and powerful to the detriment of the majority. Unable to contain the unrelenting force of oligarchy, especially after experimenting with neoliberal policies, most democracies have been corrupted into oligarchic democracies. Vergara explains how to reverse this corrupting trajectory by establishing a new counterpower strong enough to control the ruling elites. Building on the anti-oligarchic institutional innovations proposed by plebeian philosophers, she rethinks the republic as a mixed order in which popular power is institutionalized to check the power of oligarchy. Vergara demonstrates how a plebeian republic would establish a network of local assemblies with the power to push for reform from the grassroots, independent of political parties and representative government.

Drawing on neglected insights from Niccolò Machiavelli, Nicolas de Condorcet, Rosa Luxemburg, and Hannah Arendt, Systemic Corruption proposes to reverse the decay of democracy with the establishment of anti-oligarchic institutions through which common people can collectively resist the domination of the few.