The Dirty Bathroom Theory of Schools

In a famous article in a 1982 issue of Atlantic Monthly, James Q. Wilson and George Kelling proposed the “broken window theory” of crime prevention: [D]isorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence. Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left [Read More…]

The Three Pigs and the Ancient Greek Philosopher

Disney’s Three Little Pigs may appear to be a simple story. But as Ellen Handler Spitz notes, it’s a model of Aristotelian aesthetics: The earliest versions of the Three Pigs story are buried in time, although we do have nineteenth-century English renderings of it. I want, as a foil, to consider Disney’s Silly Symphony animation, from 1932, with [Read More…]

How To Avoid Being Killed By a Black Swan

Black Swan is a term and theory coined by Nassim Taleb that describes an unpredictable event whose effect is greatly disproportionate to its cause. Taleb outlines three criteria for such events: The event is a surprise (to the observer), the event has a major impact, and after the fact, the event is rationalized by hindsight, as [Read More…]

The New Yorker‘s 7 Greatest Covers of the Century

Over 10,000 different magazines will be published this year in the U.S. Of those, approximately 8,372 will have Lady Gaga and/or Barack Obama on the cover. Despite having an almost unlimited number of options to choose from, magazine publishers tend to recycle the same visual cliches for their cover art. Beautiful celebrities and not-so-pretty politicians [Read More…]

Why Liberal Arts Majors Wouldn’t Want to Live on a Space Colony

Think about what life in a space colony would be like: a hermetically sealed, climate-controlled little nothing of a place. Refrigerated air, synthetic materials, and no exit. It would be like living in an airport. An airport in Antarctica. Forever. When I hear someone talking about space colonies, I think, that’s a person who has [Read More…]

Tallis’s Daily Hallucinating Delusional Syndrome

If I told you that I had a neurological disease which meant that for eight or more hours a day I lost control of my faculties, bade farewell to the outside world, and was subject to complex hallucinations and delusions – such as being chased by a grizzly bear at Stockport Railway Station – you [Read More…]

Why We Cannot Be the Source of Our Own Existential Meaning

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all,” said writer Anaïs Nin, expressing an absurd but frequently touted idea, “there is only the meaning we each give to our life.” Philosopher Bill Vallicella explains why such claims are nonsense: Note that if I must first give my life meaning, if it is to have [Read More…]

Racial Segregation’s Lasting Influence on Sign Language

Black American sign language and American sign language are different languages: Some differences result from a familiar history of privation in black education. Schools for black deaf children — the first of them opened some 50 years after the Hartford school was founded, and most resisted integration until well after the Brown v. Board of Education decision [Read More…]

The First Popular Psychoactive Drug for People Who Were Basically Fine

Robin Marantz Henig explains the significance of Valium: It as one of the first psychoactive drugs to be used on a large scale on people who were basically fine. Taking a pill to feel normal, even a pill sanctioned by the medical profession, led to a strange situation: it made people wonder what “normal” really [Read More…]