York Corpus Christi Play Simulator Screencast (PSim 2.1; D.G. Jerz)

Another digital artifact lives. The York Corpus Christi Pageant Simulator was my first serious accomplishment in digital humanities. After I learned all the medieval drama content from a class with Andrea Johnston at the University of Toronto, I made the computer program as part of a humanities computing course with Willard McCarthy in 1994, and published a poster paper and an updated version over the next few years. This simulation…

How “Hail Mary” Became Inextricably Linked to American Football

I am revamping an existing “News Writing” course so that it becomes “News, Arts and Sports Reporting,” and am thus trying to educate myself about sports writing. Good writing is engaging no matter what the subject is. This is a great example. The headline is written for an international audience. Without assuming that the reader already knows what a “Hail Mary pass” is, and without assuming that the reader knows…

Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve racked up prizes — and completely misled you about the Middle Ages

Recently on Facebook I made some of my friends go “hmm” when I corrected a meme that suggested the medieval church burned Copernicus at the stake for teaching that the sun is the center of the solar system. (“Contrary to popular belief, the Church accepted Copernicus’ heliocentric theory before a wave of Protestant opposition led the Church to ban Copernican views in the 17th century.” CS Monitor). The label “The…

Neuroscientist Explores the Ethical Quandries of a Digital Afterlife

Now imagine the resources required to simulate the brains of millions or billions of dead people. It’s possible that some future technology will allow for unlimited RAM and we’ll all get free service. The same way we’re arguing about health care now, future activists will chant, “The afterlife is a right, not a privilege!” But it’s more likely that a digital afterlife will be a gated community and somebody will…

Ex-Pope Benedict says the Selfish Gene is science fiction. He’s half right

The Selfish Gene is a brilliant phrase. It’s also accurate, so long as you realise that “selfish” doesn’t mean selfish, “gene” doesn’t mean gene, and the definite article is a bit of an abstraction. But taken as the literal truth, it’s about as much use as “In the beginning was the word”. Given Dawkins’s hostility to everyone else’s metaphysics, this is an unfortunate weakness. “Science fiction” may not be the…