Five Best Friday Columns

Michio Kaku on Higgs boson, Joshua Green on Romney's risk aversion, Mark Lubell on the Colorado fire, Colin Dayan on solitary confinement, and Jody Freeman on regulating fracking.

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Michio Kaku in The Wall Street Journal on the Higgs boson discovery Kaku describes the long hunt for the elusive Higgs boson particle that ended successfully this week. "[W]hat was the match that set off the initial cosmic explosion? What put the 'bang' in the Big Bang?" he asks. "In quantum physics, it was a Higgs-like particle that sparked the cosmic explosion. In other words, everything we see around us, including galaxies, stars, planets and us, owes its existence to the Higgs boson." He describes the process by which physicists recorded its existence. Next, "CERN's collider could lead to the discovery of unseen dimensions, parallel universes, and possibly the 'strings' in string theory."

Joshua Green in The Boston Globe on Romney's risk aversion Responding to the Supreme Court's decision on health care, Romney reemphasized that he'd repeal the law without explaining how he would replace it. "This has become a familiar pattern: a ringing affirmation of some major policy difference with President Obama, followed by a lot of vagueness about what he would do instead," Green writes. "He seems to be making two assumptions: The country is in such dire shape that simply being against Obama is enough, and his background at Bain Capital is a sufficient qualification to get him elected. His campaign is a sustained exercise in avoiding risk." The trouble is that this strategy opens a vacuum into which his opponent can define him. Romney's likeability is already on the decline in swing states where Obama's negative ads are airing most often.

Mark Lubell in the Los Angeles Times on the Colorado fire and climate change Lubell hedges that it's difficult to blame climate change alone for the Colorado wildfires that displaced thousands and destroyed hundreds of homes, but the disaster holds lessons as we look at future climate models. "Individual people can't solve climate change, but they can take steps to adapt to some of its devastating effects. Whether the danger is wildfire or other extreme events, communities must adapt to our emerging climate reality," he writes. Out west, this means creating barriers between residences and wooded areas, for instance. "I worry that skepticism about climate change is part of the problem: People who believe it is myth are less likely to change their behavior," he writes. "Disasters like the one in Colorado this summer have the potential to shift people's views of climate change."

Colin Dayan in The Washington Post on solitary confinement Several organizations have taken action in recent months to protest or challenge legally the practice of keeping prisoners in solitary confinement, and Dayan, a Vanderbilt professor, makes their case. "Once, solitary confinement affected few prisoners for relatively short periods. Today, most prisoners can expect to face solitary, for longer periods and under conditions that make old-time solitary seem almost attractive," he writes. "These are locales for perpetual incapacitation, where obligations to society, the duties of husband, father or lover are no longer recognized."

Jody Freeman in The New York Times on regulating fracking Several states have already made attempts to regulate the hydraulic fracturing method of extracting natural gas from the earth, which if done poorly, can contaminate drinking water and pollute the air. "But what we really need is a system of federal oversight that will promote confidence in this technique and provide the industry with uniform standards without overregulating it," Freeman writes. "The uneven approach is bad not only for the environment but also for industry, because under the current system, mistakes by a few bad apples could lead to overregulation or even outright bans on drilling." Congress has banned the federal government from certain regulation, but they could set guidelines or standards and encourage states to comply or exceed them. "Such a regulatory system — with minimum federal standards as well as state plans — has been in place for coal mining since 1977."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.