Christopher Hitchens: How To Demystify With The Best Of 'Em

Christopher Hitchens, Demystifier Extraordinaire.

Christopher Hitchens: How To Demystify With The Best Of 'Em

When discussing Christopher Hitchens, nearly everybody feels the need to use more than one word ("Author, journalist, thinker, and polemicist...").


He himself struggled to find one word for the theme in all of his work but found "contrarian," "malcontent,"radical" and the like to be condescending, and others like "dissident" and "freethinker" to be undignified if self-appointed.

I humbly suggest that "demystifier" fits the bill.

His problems with Bill Clinton and with The British Monarchy, and with the modern Left's anti-interventionism foreign policy, and with religion and superstition in general was that they clouded the truth (or, rather, excused untruth through duplicitous over-complication). The same explanation justifies his lionization of figures like Emile Zola and Thomas Paine and Bertrand Russell and George Orwell. 

Thus we can see that the fundamental motivating factor for Christopher Hitchens, and the reason that we have seen him so often vindicated, is that he never lost his sense of contempt for mystery, much less his tolerance for the complacency behind intentional mystification. Not being content to live in a fog, he mustered all of his formidable breath to try to clear it away.

While his style cannot and will not ever be imitated, his drive is perfectly replicable and actionable universally. To follow Hitch in his Big Idea, one must simply detest vagary, insist on explanation and proof, and maintain a healthy mistrust for authority.

It is a compelling definition of genius that he who is a genius is he who shatters even his own aspirations. Christopher Hitchens's closing quotation in his methodological manual of dissent Letters to a Young Contrarian (the last word of which title he did not pick, by the way) is this passage from the writings of George Konrad:

"Have a life lived instead of a career. Put yourself in the safekeeping of good taste. Lived freedom will compensate you for a few losses... If you don't like the style of others, cultivate your own. Get to know the tricks of reproduction, be a self-publisher even in conversation, and then the joy of working can fill your days."

Hitch managed to follow this advice, rather beyond expectation, because his lifestyle followed from his distaste for mystification. Watch the video below for a touching and worthwhile tribute to his life and his work as an atheist.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

What is the rarest blood type?

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Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
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China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession

The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.

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  • How love makes us feel can only be defined on an individual basis, but what it does to the body, specifically the brain, is now less abstract thanks to science.
  • One of the problems with early-stage attraction, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, is that it activates parts of the brain that are linked to drive, craving, obsession, and motivation, while other regions that deal with decision-making shut down.
  • Dr. Fisher, professor Ted Fischer, and psychiatrist Gail Saltz explain the different types of love, explore the neuroscience of love and attraction, and share tips for sustaining relationships that are healthy and mutually beneficial.

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There never was a male fertility crisis

A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.

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