What concerns me about the literary apocalypse that everybody now expects—the at least partial elimination of paper books in favor of digital alternatives—is not chiefly the books themselves, but the bookshelf. My fear is for the eclectic, personal collections that we bookish people assemble over the course of our lives, as well as for their grander, public step-siblings. I fear for our memory theaters. . . .
So far, for all the wonders they offer, the digital alternatives to a bookshelf fail to serve its basic purposes. The space of memory and thinking must not be an essentially controlled, homogenous one. Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad are noxious ruses that must be creatively resisted—not simply because they are electronic but because they propose to commandeer our bookshelves. I will defend the spirit of mine tooth and nail.
(Via: Alan Jacobs)
The jumper colon is a paragraphical Red Bull, a rocket-launch of a punctuator, the Usain Bolt of literature. It’s punchy as hell. To believers of short first sentences–Hemingway?–it couldn’t get any better. To believers of long-winded sentences that leave you gasping and slightly confused–Faulkner?–it also couldn’t get any better. By itself this colon is neither a period nor a non-period… or rather it is a period and it is also a non-period. You choose.
One of the most common observations in psychotherapy of people with depression or anxiety is that they hold themselves to impossibly high standards, although they have a perfectly sensible evaluation of everyone else. Their own failures are catastrophic; other people’s are minor setbacks. Other people’s successes are well-deserved triumphs; their own are never good enough, flukes, they don’t count.
Somalia’s $11 million budget is ….
- 20 times smaller than the 2010 budget of Topeka, Kansas
- A mere 1/2 of Derek Jeter’s 2010 salary
- 890 times smaller than Starbucks’ 2009 annual revenue
- About equal to the budget of “High School Musical 3″
- About equal to the amount that the Scottsdale, Arizona school district had to cut from its budget this year.
- But good news — you could start between two and three franchises of the Hard Rock Cafe with that amount!
6. Weird News of the Week: University of Colorado at Boulder undergraduates piloted a multi-million dollar NASA satellite to its fiery oceanic death. NASA’s response: Thanks guys.
7. Milan Kundera wonders why protagonists of great novels don’t have children:
I was rereading
One Hundred Years of Solitude when a strange idea occurred to me: most protagonists of great novels do not have children. Scarcely 1 percent of the world’s population are childless, but at least 50 percent of the great literary characters exit the book without having reproduced. Neither Pantagruel, nor Panurge, nor Quixote have any progeny. Not Valmont, not the Marquise de Merteuil, nor the virtuous Presidente in Dangerous Liaasons. Not Tom Jones, Fielding’s most famous hero. Not Werther. All Stendhal’s protagonists are childless, as are many of Balzac’s; and Dostoyevsky’s; and in the century just past, Marcel, the narrator of In Search of Lost Time, and of course all of Musil’s major characters…and Kafka’s protagonists, except for the very young Karl Rossmann, who did impregnate a maidservant, but that is the very reason — to erase the infant from his life — that he flees to America and the novel can be born. This infertility is not due to a conscious purpose of the novelists; it is the spirit of the arc of the novel (or its subconscious) that spurns procreation.
(Via: Marginal Revolution)
8. Quote of the Week: “Effective political ideas are those that can still do good in half-baked form.” – Economist Tyler Cowen on politics.
You’d think “Super Earth” would be a place where everybody is beautiful. We all drive fancy cars, date super-models and eat like a pig without getting fat.
NASA scientists are now using that term to describe a planet similar to Earth in some geological ways, but it may be more of a hellhole than a utopia.
Still, the finding is regarded as highly significant.
The dictionary’s owner, Oxford University Press (OUP), said the impact of the internet means OED3 will probably appear only in electronic form.
The most recent OED has existed online for more than a decade, where it receives two million hits a month from subscribers who pay an annual fee of £240.
“The print dictionary market is just disappearing, it is falling away by tens of per cent a year,” Nigel Portwood, the chief executive of OUP, told the Sunday Times. Asked if he thought the third edition would be printed, he said: “I don’t think so.”
12. Image of the Week: The Amazing High Speed Bullet Photography of Alexander Augusteijn
Pauline Bonaparte – Where do we start? She used her servants as footstools (even for the time this was NOT normal) and sold the country Napoleon put her in charge of for a few million francs. Worst of all (in her brother’s eyes) was the fact that Pauline was an unrepentant loose woman. Seriously, she could put most drunk college girls to shame. Her love affairs were so numerous and so obvious that Napoleon finally forced her to get married, hoping to stop this embarrassment to his greatness. When that husband died, he found a new one for her. Pauline was not put off. She had one of the most famous artists of the time do a sculpture of her completely naked, ensuring her “goods” were well advertised across Europe. A steady stream of admirers followed, and Napoleon was mortified.
When we transform our notion of “the future” into visions of alternative futures, we transform our relationship to the very idea of change. We move from thinking we are heading toward an inevitable destination to seeing the world as a dependent, contingent, and therefore actionable, possibility space for us to design. Pluralizing “the future” makes us both more empowered and more responsible for our ultimate outcomes. It may seem like a semantic triviality, but it represents an important shift in thinking.
16. Infographic of the Week: The Map of Modern Science
If you enjoy margarine, tip your cap to Emperor Napoleon III. Napoleon III saw that both his poorer subjects and his navy would benefit from having easy access to a cheap butter substitute, so he offered a prize for anyone who could create an adequate replacement.
Enter French chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès. In 1869, Mège-Mouriès perfected and patented a process for churning beef tallow with milk to create an acceptable butter substitute, thereby winning the Emperor’s prize.
How do we motivate kids — especially kids in rough situations — to want education? Researchers at the University of Michigan studied middle school students in Detroit and found that, while almost 90 percent expected to go to college, only half wanted a career that actually required education. And this difference was critical. Students whose career goals did not require education (e.g., sports star, movie star) spent less time on homework and got lower grades. The good news is that the researchers found it was easy to make education more salient, and thereby motivate kids. When students were shown a graph depicting the link between education and earnings, they were much more likely to hand in an extra-credit homework assignment the next day than if they were shown a graph depicting the earnings of superstars.
Research into grammar by academics at Northumbria University suggests that a significant proportion of native English speakers are unable to understand some basic sentences.
The findings — which undermine the assumption that all speakers have a core ability to use grammatical cues — could have significant implications for education, communication and linguistic theory.
22. HistoricalLOL of the Week
[W]hen I talked to my former home ec teacher recently, her raspy 75-year-old voice conflating the three decades since she taught me how to make soup, she wondered aloud where home economics had gone. It’s a common question.
But home ec has not disappeared, it’s changed, evolving into classes focusing on child development, nutrition, family health, food service and hospitality. It hasn’t been lost as much as translated. In 1994, the name of the course in most of the country was officially changed from Home Economics to Family and Consumer Sciences, or FCS, in an effort to dispel the impression that home ec was about teaching girls how to be housewives.
The number of secondary school students who take FSC classes has not substantially changed since the late 1950s, according to a 2004 national survey conducted by the National Coalition for Family and Consumer Sciences Education.
More than 5 million students were enrolled in secondary FCS education programs in the 2002-03 academic year, the study found, or about 25% of all students, almost the same percentage cited in a 1959 Department of Health, Education and Welfare study.
27. How-To of the Week: Give a perfect handshake
Last week Grisafi started receiving tweets from European farmers saying the weather was hotter and drier than weather reports indicated. He’d been short the wheat market on the assumption that prices would fall. After reading the tweets, however, he realized the commodity might be in shorter supply than the market expected and got out of his position, avoiding a loss as prices rose.
When I first came to the United States, I was sort of a gopher for Hans Moravec, who has been part of the robotics institute here at Carnegie Mellon for many years. Back then he was out at Stanford. In 1979 I remember working late at night with him when no one else was using the mainframe, and his robot would go autonomously through a crowded room. It took the robot six hours to go 20 meters. Ian Horswell, one of my graduate students at MIT, built a robot named Polly in 1992. It would give tours of the lab. It could operate for about six hours and go 2,000 meters. In the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005, robots went 200 kilometers in six hours. So over a 26-year span, there were 13 doublings in capability, if you measure it as the distance a robot can go autonomously without human intervention in six hours. We have seen Moore’s law in action.
Martial arts breaking is filled with practices that, depending on your point of view, are either tricks for fooling observers or techniques for maximizing a strike’s visible effect. You don’t just strike with the power in your arm or leg: you organize the movement of your strike to bring in as much power from your legs, hips and upper body as possible, too. When breaking wooden boards, you use pine (not oak, not mahogany) that isn’t marred by dense knots, cut ¾ inch thick and about 12 inches on the diagonal; you hit them to break along the wood’s natural grain. (It’s not playing by Hoyle but some breakers have been known to bake their boards in ovens before demonstrations to make them more brittle.) One good board, if held securely so that it won’t move on impact, is so easy to break that even those with no training at all can be taught to do it in under five minutes.
(Via: Boing Boing)
32. Another 33 Things
33. Ode To Quantum Mechanics
(Via: The Presurfer)