Thomas Levenson on “The Hunt for Vulcan”

It was believed for decades that our Solar System had an extra planet, closer to the Sun than Mercury: the planet Vulcan. The planet doesn’t exist, of course, but it took quite a while to figure that out. Why is that? What does this episode say about science and how it works? Is this a laughable mistake or a blunder in the history of science, or was science doing its job?

Today we’ll be speaking with Thomas Levenson, whose new book, ‘The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe‘, addresses these questions while telling the compelling story of the “discovery” of a false planet.

Thomas Levenson is a professor at MIT and head of its science writing program. He is the author of several books, including ‘Einstein in Berlin’ and ‘Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist.’ He has also made ten feature-length documentaries (including a two-hour Nova program on Einstein) for which he has won numerous awards.

Whiteness, Racism, and The Economics of Cruelty

America is a racialized country. Built in part on chattel slavery predicated on a decidedly European model, the hegemonic power exists under the social construct known as Whiteness. If you are of that hegemony – or dominant group – you have access to many of the privileges this society has to offer. Of course there are other hegemonies in place: Male over Female, Straight or Cisgendered folks over LBGT folks, the Upper Class over the so-called Middle Classes – and both of those over the Working Classes and the Poor – Christians over other religious groups, and indeed religious groups over atheist and agnostic ones, and so on.

Over the course of US history, the tensions between those who dominate and are considered the “norm,” and those who are subordinated, has helped shape the culture and subcultures we now see. And this built in, often considered virtuous, hierarchical nature of our society determines the ways which resources are distributed and lives are lived.

In short, wealth leads to power and power leads to more wealth. We currently live in one of the most economically unequal society on the planet, which some argue is just what we should expect from late-stage Capitalism.

Today we will be speaking about what capitalism has wrought, as concerns the majority of the American population, and how being a highly racialized society is a big part of how we got to our current tragic circumstances. We will be speaking with a longtime friend of Equal Time, Tim Wise, and with someone I only recently discovered, Robin DiAngelo. Robin is the author of What Does it Mean to Be White?: Developing White Racial Literacy. Tim’s new book is Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America.

Part two includes excerpts from Dr. Joseph Graves, author of The Race Myth, Peggy McIntosh, and a special segment on ISIS with excerpts from Noam Chomsky.