Hooman Majd Considers The Paradox Of Modern Iran

Question: What are some of the contradictions that characterize Iran?

Majd:    I titled my book “The Ayatollah Begs to Differ.”  The subtitle that was something that came up and, you know, as a kind of marketing tool, publishers like subtitles.  I think “The Ayatollah Begs to Differ” itself was a paradoxical title to some people and the reason I chose that title was because I was trying to get across the fact that Iran is not this monolithic system where there’s a dictatorship and all the clerics agree and they kind of run the country in a dictatorial way, they maybe authoritarian but they’re not dictators.  And the paradox I think is the paradox of modern Iran is that almost everything you think of Iran, there’s another side to Iran that we don’t know.  For almost anything you can mention, you know, in terms of the politics, just purely on the political level, you know, what we were talking about earlier, the system for electing a president, whether the people believe that the president has gotten all the power he should have or does… should or maybe he doesn’t have the power, the paradoxes that we… everyday life in Iran is full of paradoxes and there are paradoxes in every society, it’s not just Iran.  But Iran perhaps more so because it is this unknown mysterious place that Americans really don’t have a lot of contact with but I couldn’t put my finger on the one biggest paradox but I think perhaps for Americans, the biggest paradox would be is that the for all its religious fervor that exists in Iran, it’s also a very secular country in many ways.  I’ll give you one example, you could be in a cab in New York City and if it’s prayer time, if it’s 12:00 noon, your cab driver might pull off at the side of the street and take out his prayer rug and pray right on time and that’s in New York City where we have a lot of Muslim cab drivers.  In Tehran, there’s no call to prayer, people go about their business, they’re like… you’re driving around the city at noon and this is a Islamic republic that is avowedly Islamic, there’s no audible call to prayer, people don’t stop their business and rush out and pull out their prayer mats and pray. 

Hooman Majd on the duality of orthodoxy.

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.

Videos
  • 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.

U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

Credit: Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
  • Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
  • While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
Keep reading Show less

There never was a male fertility crisis

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

Sex & Relationships
  • A new review of a famous study on declining sperm counts finds several flaws.
  • The old report makes unfounded assumptions, has faulty data, and tends toward panic.
  • The new report does not rule out that sperm counts are going down, only that this could be quite normal.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast