Einstein and God share the spoils in this issue. As Prospect’s contribution to the world year of physics (2005 marks the 100th anniversary of the special theory of relativity) we offer Michio Kaku’s intriguing story of how humanity might save itself from oblivion when our universe freezes, by slipping into a parallel one. Kaku’s quasi-science-fiction account serves as a useful bluffer’s guide to some of the more bizarre developments in cosmology since the death of Einstein 50 years ago.
God gets plenty of attention too—not all of it welcome. Michael Prowse rehearses Emile Durkheim’s sociological theory of religion, Bartle Bull observes that the winners of Iraq’s 30th January election will be much more pious than the country’s invaders expected, and Keith Ward and AC Grayling battle it out over the question of whether the existence of a benign and omnipotent God is compatible with terrible natural disasters.
Citizens of western democracies are more likely to look to (and blame) their governments than God when a tsunami-type disaster strikes. But, as Sebastian Mallaby and David Rieff report, in recent years both governments and aid agencies have grown humbler about what emergency relief can achieve. Realism need not mean apathy, as many of the hard-headed idealists who work for the aid agencies bear witness. And if the disaster, and subsequent donor response, helps to nudge the rich world closer to a generous trade deal at the next WTO Doha round meeting in December, then at least some good will have come out of it.
Economics could play less of a role in the forthcoming British election than any in living memory. But accounting for how the extra public money has been spent in health and education will still be a big theme. According to Simon Stevens, a former Labour health adviser, NHS queues are now so short that private practice is withering away in some parts of Britain.
Belated thanks to the Political Studies Association for making us political publication of the year. Awards are meaningless baubles, or insider fixes—until you win one.