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January 22, 2013

Sci-fi author Charlie Stross on the futility of space colonization: [I] don’t want to spend much time talking about the unspoken ideological underpinnings of the urge to space colonization, other than to point out that they’re there, that the case for space colonization isn’t usually presented as an economic enterprise so much as a quasi-religious one. “We can’t afford to keep all our eggs in one basket” isn’t so much a justification as an appeal to sentimentality, for in the… Read more

January 22, 2013

Weird fact of the week: Dothraki, the language spoken by a race of pseudo-Mongol nomadic warriors in the HBO series “Game of Thrones”, is now heard by more people each week than Yiddish, Navajo, Inuit, Basque, and Welsh combined. Read more

January 21, 2013

One day, a man approached the famous financier J.P. Morgan, held up an envelope, and said, “Sir, in my hand I hold a guaranteed formula for success, which I will gladly sell to you for $25,000.” “Sir,” Morgan replied, “I do not know what is in the envelope. However, if you show me and I like it, I give you my word as a gentleman that I will pay you what you ask.” The man agreed to the terms and… Read more

January 21, 2013

Bee Wilson, author of Consider the Fork, on how historical changes in the ways we cook and eat have dramatically altered public health—and our teeth: Until around 250 years ago in the West, archaeological evidence suggests that most human beings had an edge-to-edge bite, similar to apes. In other words, our teeth were aligned liked a guillotine, with the top layer clashing against the bottom layer. Then, quite suddenly, this alignment of the jaw changed: We developed an overbite, which… Read more

January 19, 2013

Wendy Shalit on modesty: I first became interested in the subject of modesty for a rather mundane reason—because I didn’t like the bathrooms at Williams College. Like many enlightened colleges and universities these days, Williams houses boys next to girls in its dormitories and then has the students vote by floor on whether their common bathrooms should be coed. It’s all very democratic, but the votes always seem to go in the coed direction because no one wants to be… Read more

January 18, 2013

Apollo Robbins is is widely considered the best in the world at what he does, which is taking things from people’s jackets, pants, purses, wrists, fingers, and necks, then returning them in amusing and mind-boggling ways. In this video he shows reveals the secret of his craft. Read more

January 18, 2013

Which is the greater hero, Batman or Spider-Man? Travis D. Smith considers their merits: Batman seems rather to incarnate the willful modern project to end suffering by using reason to gain mastery over all things. Batman wages war against disorder in the cosmos as represented by the microcosm of Gotham City, a chaotic polis just this side of the state of nature. In Christopher Nolan’s film trilogy, Batman’s monomaniacal impulse is best captured in The Dark Knight, when we learn… Read more

January 18, 2013

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January 17, 2013

From Flavorwire’s list of conspiracy theories about classic literary characters: In 2000, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published an article diagnosing the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood with psychiatric disorders. “On the surface it is an innocent world,” the article begins, “but on closer examination by our group of experts we find a forest where neurodevelopmental and psychosocial problems go unrecognized and untreated.” Here’s what you want to know: supposedly, Pooh has ADHD, Piglet suffers from a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Eeyore… Read more

January 17, 2013

Anna Williams on how ignorance of botany can interfere with the enjoyment of literature: I can easily find out what the named flowers look like: here are tea roses, red and white pelargoniums, Jacobæa lilies. But when I’m reading in bed, I don’t want to get up and Google it. Even when I’m reading with a computer nearby (no e-reader for me), I rarely want to disrupt the experience of reading by pausing to look something up, whether a word… Read more


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