The word knife came up in one of the recent comments. I have spent so much time discussing sharp objects (adz, ax, and sword) that one more will fit in quite naturally. The word that interests us today turned up in late Old English (cnīf) and is usually believed to be a borrowing of Old Norse knífr (both ī and í designate a long vowel, as in Modern Engl. knee)
The demonstrations that have spread across the country since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May unavoidably invite comparisons with the massive riots that occurred in more than one hundred cities after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on 4 April 1968. The most serious disturbances broke out in Washington, DC. […]
As we’ve seen over recent weeks, direct action is sometimes necessary in order to exact social change. On June 28, 1969 in Greenwich Village, a bastion for New York City’s gay community, a riot broke out after police raided the popular Stonewall Inn. The demonstration became the catalyst for the modern LGBTQ movement in the United States; it immediately led to organizing and the formation of gay rights groups in New York City, and the first New York Pride march occurred on the anniversary of the riot in 1970. The Stonewall riots truly transformed the United States of America.
Recent events have spotlighted the pervasive and historic problem of racial disparities in criminal justice treatment in the United States. Videos of people seeking to use the police for racial control as well as videos of black people being killed by police have sparked outrage across the nation, and the world. Much of the attention, […]
In Beijing in 1900, as the chaos of the Boxer Uprising raged on, a Buddhist monk arrived at Dafo Monastery, seeking master Datong to make him an offer. The visitor was abbot of Cihui Monastery and wanted to offer Cihui Monastery to Datong. Datong agreed, and he arrived at his new monastery to find it […]
Pretax incomes for the poorest 50% of Americans have stayed mostly unchanged for the past 40 ?years, widening income gaps in the country. We leave the question of why inequality matters for the economy to others. What is of concern to us is whether income inequality matters to our health, and, to the extent that […]
Mechanics is that part of physics concerned with stuff that moves, from cannonballs to tennis balls, cars, rockets, and planets. Quantum mechanics is that part of physics which describes the motions of objects at molecular, atomic, and sub-atomic levels, such as photons and electrons. Although quantum mechanics is an extraordinarily successful scientific theory, on which […]
Approximately 7,000 languages are currently spoken worldwide. The majority of these are spoken by small populations. Approximately 96% of the world’s population speaks around 4% of the world’s languages, leaving the vast majority of tongues vulnerable to extinction and disempowering their speakers. Linguistic diversity reflects many things beyond accidental historical splits. Languages are essential building […]
Pacifism, in its most recognisable form, is an absolute, principled condemnation of war. Military abolitionism is the view that institutions devoted to war are not justified in existing. Most pacifists are also military abolitionists. This is unsurprising. After all, if you think that going to war is always wrong, then you’ll likely think that having […]
In an eerie echo of the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump has denied that the brutal murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin reveals systemic racism and implicit bias in the U.S., instead describing it as a horrible act by a “bad apple.” Tweeting about law and order and vowing that the police […]
In 1962 the Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded jointly to John Kendrew (1917-1997) and Max Perutz (1914-2002). They were the first scientists to accurately describe the three-dimensional structure of proteins. Enzymes, hormones, and antibodies are only a few examples of the many kinds of proteins present in all living organisms and knowledge of their […]
Today’s Sri Lankan young adults grew up during the 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and an insurgent group, the Tamil Tigers, between 1983 and 2009. People living in the Sinhala-majority south were far from battlefields in the north and east of the island, but Tamil minorities everywhere lived under ethnic tension and […]
As we reflect on the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and on the continuation of white supremacy’s enactment through police violence, we might also reflect on the region’s histories of integration and segregation, community building and racism, which in the Twin Cities as elsewhere have long gone hand in hand. Take, for example, the […]
With this post behind me, I’ll finally be able to beat my sword into a workable plowshare. Today, the immediate theme is the history of the word brand and its cognates, but it is also a springboard to an important conclusion.
It is a sad commentary on the state of education in this society that educators hesitate to include a subject in the curriculum?because?students?want?to learn about it. —Armstead Robinson In 1968, Yale University hosted the?Black Studies in the University?symposium. A product of the student activism of Yale’s Black Student Alliance, the symposium would be important for […]
The recent interest in the epidemics of the last century coincides with growing media attention to the emotional ramifications of living with mass death and disease. COVID-19 has wrought an extended encounter with acute powerlessness and human frailty—a confrontation with mortality that is perhaps especially unmooring for those of us who live privileged lives. We […]