What are you thankful for this year? I’d like to offer some suggestions for those who might have trouble coming up with an answer.
Here, in no particular order, are a baker’s dozen of reasons to be grateful:
1. We can be grateful that over the past three decades, the proportion of people on the planet who live in extreme poverty has fallen from 42 percent to a bit less than 11 percent. We aren’t where we should be, but it’s important to give thanks for such progress.
2. We can be grateful for music, and for art.
3. We can be grateful for the announcement this year that researchers have created metallic hydrogen. If the substance proves to be as powerful a superconductor as scientists predict, it could revolutionize the delivery of electricity to homes (essentially no loss from heat) and transportation (imagine — no joke! — high-speed levitated trains) and more.
Omg…omg…Omg we did it ! The best rocket fuel we currently have is #liquidhydrogen and liquid #oxygen, burned for propellant. The efficacy of such substances is characterized by “specific impulse,” the measure of impulse fuel can give a #rocket to propel it forward. “People at #NASA or the #AirForce have told me that if they could get an increase from 450 seconds [of specific impulse] to 500 seconds, that would have a huge impact on #rocketry,” Isaac Silvera, the Thomas D. Cabot Professor of the Natural #Sciences at #Harvard University, told Inverse by phone. “If you can trigger #metallichydrogen to recover to the #molecular phase, [the energy release] calculated for that is 1700 seconds.” Metallic hydrogen could potentially enable rockets to get into #orbit in a single stage, even allowing humans to #explore the outer #planets.
4. We can be grateful that although publishers moan about the dying fiction market, the existence of high school keeps young people reading serious literature. An appreciation of literature is crucial to democracy’s success.
5. We can be grateful that those who run soccer are finally being forced to take seriously the problem of concussions, especially among young players. (Granted, the professionals do not yet take it quite seriously enough.)
6. We can be grateful for the wisdom of the great philosophers. I enjoy perusing their works in my spare time and lately have been rereading Judith Shklar’s fine 1984 book “Ordinary Vices,” a defence of the importance to the genuine liberalism of good character. (Very timely!) Although Shklar offers lovely insights into such personal failings as hypocrisy, betrayal, misanthropy and snobbery — her skewering of campus snobs is a gem — she identifies cruelty as the most dangerous vice and warns how easily we stumble into it in everyday discourse. There’s this beautiful line, nicely supported by her historical account: “Snobbery and racism … belong to the same family: cousins.”
7. We can be grateful that at a time when so much of what’s available at the multiplex focuses on superheroes and sci-fi sequels, there is a golden age of wonderful work being produced month after month for the small screen, including such greats as “The Night Of” and “The Americans.” (Not that I’m against superheroes and sci-fi sequels.)
8. We can be grateful (speaking of sci-fi) that medical tricorders may soon be a reality.
9. We can be grateful that our species has never stopped contemplating its place in this remarkable universe — and, God willing, never will.
10. We can be grateful for the faces around the Christmas table — each one of them a flawed, magnificent human being, just like us — and for the lives of those who are with us no longer. So, most of all, let’s be grateful for one another.
[Carter is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park” and “Back Channel,” and his nonfiction includes “Civility” and “Integrity.”]