What We Are Reading Today: ‘Why Does the World Exist?’

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Updated 22 June 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Why Does the World Exist?’

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Author: Jim Holt

“Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story” is a nonfiction work by Jim Holt originally published in 2012 that delves into one of the oldest — and most profound — puzzles that mankind faces. He explores various philosophical and scientific theories attempting to explain the existence of the universe and everything in it, raising some thought-provoking questions.

One of the key aspects of Holt’s inquiry is the concept of nothingness. He questions whether there must always be something rather than nothing — that ‘nothingness’ is, in reality, impossible. This leads to a discussion of the nature of existence itself, and whether there is a fundamental reason for the universe’s existence.

Holt also explores the role of religion and theology in answering the question of why the world exists, presenting arguments put forth by theologians and philosophers throughout history, and weighing the merits of various religious and secular explanations.

“Why Does the World Exist?” challenges readers to confront the ultimate existential question and consider the implications of different theories on the nature of reality.

Holt manages to make his examination of complex physics and deep philosophical concepts accessible and easy to read. And his exploration of this profound topic serves as a reminder of the many mysteries that remain unsolved, encouraging readers to contemplate their place in the universe.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Europe’s Sea Mammals

What We Are Reading Today: Europe’s Sea Mammals
Updated 22 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Europe’s Sea Mammals

What We Are Reading Today: Europe’s Sea Mammals

Authors: Robert Still, Hugh Harrop, Luis Dias, & Tim Stenton

This cutting-edge photographic identification guide to Europe’s sea mammals—the only such guide of its kind—covers the 39 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises and 9 species of seals found in the region, which spans the eastern Atlantic from Iceland to Macaronesia, and the Mediterranean, Caspian and Baltic seas.

Written and illustrated by a team of professional tour guides with extensive experience presenting the region’s sea mammals, the guide features more than 180 color photographs, maps and graphics.


What We Are Reading Today: Virtual You

What We Are Reading Today: Virtual You
Updated 21 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Virtual You

What We Are Reading Today: Virtual You

Authors: Peter Coveney & Roger Highfield

In this deeply illuminating book, Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield reveal what it will take to build a virtual, functional copy of a person in five steps. 

Along the way, they take you on a fantastic voyage through the complexity of the human body, describing the latest scientific and technological advances—from multiscale modelingto extraordinary new forms of computing—that will make “virtual you” a reality, while also considering the ethical questions inherent to realizing truly predictive medicine.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Words and Distinctions for the Common Good’

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Updated 20 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Words and Distinctions for the Common Good’

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Author: GABRIEL ABEND

Social scientists do research on a variety of topics—gender, capitalism, populism, and race and ethnicity, among others. They make descriptive and explanatory claims about empathy, intelligence, neoliberalism, and power.

They advise policymakers on diversity, digitalization, work, and religion. And yet, as Gabriel Abend points out in this provocative book, they can’t agree on what these things are and how to identify them.

 

 


What We Are Reading Today: Capitalism in the Colonies: African Merchants in Lagos, 1851–1931

What We Are Reading Today: Capitalism in the Colonies: African Merchants in Lagos, 1851–1931
Updated 19 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Capitalism in the Colonies: African Merchants in Lagos, 1851–1931

What We Are Reading Today: Capitalism in the Colonies: African Merchants in Lagos, 1851–1931

Author: A. G. Hopkins

In Capitalism in the Colonies, A. G. Hopkins provides the first substantial assessment of the fortunes of African entrepreneurs under colonial rule. Examining the lives and careers of 100 merchants in Lagos, Nigeria, between 1850 and 1931, Hopkins challenges conventional views of the contribution made by indigenous entrepreneurs to the long-run economic development of Nigeria. He argues that African merchants in Lagos not only survived, but were also responsible for key innovations in trade, construction, farming, and finance that are essential for understanding the development of Nigeria’s economy.
The book is based on a large, representative sample and covers a time span that traces mercantile fortunes over two and three generations.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, Hopkins shows that indigenous entrepreneurs were far more adventurous than expatriate firms. African merchants in Lagos pioneered motor vehicles, sewing machines, publishing, tanneries, and new types of internal trade.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Raised to Obey’ by Augustina Paglayan

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Raised to Obey’ by Augustina Paglayan
Updated 18 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Raised to Obey’ by Augustina Paglayan

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Raised to Obey’ by Augustina Paglayan

Nearly every country today has universal primary education. But why did governments in the West decide to provide education to all children in the first place? The introduction of broadly accessible primary education was not mainly a response to industrialization, or fueled by democratic ideals, or even aimed at eradicating illiteracy or improving skills. It was motivated instead by elites’ fear of the masses—and the desire to turn the “savage,” “unruly,” and “morally flawed” children of the lower classes into well-behaved future citizens who would obey the state and its laws.