Pauline Baynes died on August 1 at the age of 85—one more light gone out from the golden age of children’s book illustration, an age that gave us Arthur Rackham’s fairies, Edmund Dulac’s Cinderella, Beatrix Potter’s spirited rabbits and E. H. Shepard’s Toad and Pooh.
In Transforming Church, Kevin Ford tells the story of a scientific experiment involving four monkeys and some bananas at the top of a pole in their cage. At first the monkeys competed against each other for the bananas, and the strongest ones got the most. The weaker ones had to find strategic times to get their bananas. But all of the monkeys were able to eat regularly.
My husband and I found the WorldWide Telescope a few months ago, and we’ve been staring into the heavens ever since. “Which planet would you like to see first?” he asked me once he'd loaded the program onto his computer. No question: Saturn. I’ve always been fascinated by those rings. A few clicks of the mouse and there they were, circling and circling, a sash of light, a halo, a crown. We looked at Jupiter next, with its great red spot. We looked at Mercury, Venus, Mars and Pluto. Each planet was unique, different from every other. But what they had in common was this: they shone out of utter darkness.
Like everyone else I know, I am feeling the pinch of a straitened economy. I eat out less often, I drive less far and I write fewer checks to my favorite charities. These are all middle-class concerns, I know (does anyone admit to being upper-middle class?), which is why I hesitate to mention them.
The new atheist movement has reached its high-water mark, and there are signs that it is starting to recede. Wishful thinking, you say? Aren’t there more and more antireligious tracts on the bestseller lists? Aren’t these writers terribly clever? Perhaps so, yet somehow they fail to capture the imagination.
In the wake of a deadly shooting in Denmark possibly motivated by anti-Semitism, Muslims in Oslo, Norway, have planned an antiviolence demonstration at the local synagogue. They want to form a “peace ring” around the synagogue as a way of distancing themselves from violence against Jews in Europe and to make a statement about the peaceful intentions of Islam. “If anyone wants to commit violence in the name of Islam, you will have to go through us Muslims first,” one of the organizers said. The leader of the synagogue approved of the plans as long as at least 30 people showed up. More than 630 people agreed on Facebook to be there (Times of Israel, February 18).
There is an 80 percent chance that later in this century a megadrought will plague the American Southwest for decades, according to a study released by researchers at NASA and at Columbia and Cornell universities. The drought will be caused by reduced precipitation and changes in evaporation rates. The researchers say other factors, such as the El Niño weather pattern, could interrupt long periods of severe drought. The researchers say there is time to reduce the factors contributing to climate change (Washington Post, February 12).