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Writing Worth Reading

Growing Old Disgracefully

Brain surgeon reviews Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, about death and medicine. “My juniors ring me at night about emergency cases. A decision is needed on whether to operate and possibly save the patient’s life – though if the patient survives he will be left profoundly disabled. If I tell them to operate I get back to sleep, but if I tell them to let the patient die I lie awake for a long time. It is so much easier to treat than not to treat” (2,100 words)

I Don’t Know. What Do You Think?

Google can make us feel omniscient. But it’s the feeling of not knowing which inspires us to learn. Young children ask tens of thousands of questions as they build up their knowledge of the world. Great works of art and great scientific breakthroughs are voyages into the unknown. The job of machines is to give us answers, and they do it almost too well — but our job as humans is to keep finding new questions (1,830 words)

For $100,000 You Can Clone Your Dog

The person to do it for you is Hwang Woo Suk, the South Korean scientist disgraced ten years ago for claiming falsely to have cloned a human embryo. But his dog-cloning is for real. He did the first in 2005 and now sells 150 to 200 duplicated canines a year. His likely next move will be a lab in China, where trophy dogs sell for fine-art prices — $2.6m for a Tibetan mastiff puppy. Can pandas be far behind? (5,900 words)

Our Militant Resources

From the archives. The Spectator argues in 1914 that the British should not fear air-raids by German Zeppelins. “The Londoners who will be killed will be almost all non-combatants, and thus from the military point of view quite negligible. To put the matter quite frankly, five hundred non-combatants killed in London will deplete our military strength very much less than five soldiers or one officer killed at the front” (1,480 words)

The Origins Of The Shroud Of Turin

It isn’t the burial shroud of Christ. It was probably painted only a few years before it was first exhibited in a chapel near Troyes, France, in 1355. The Bishop of Troyes said he had “actually tracked down the painter”. Popular belief that the image on the cloth might be an original imprint of Christ’s body began to spread a century later, after the Savoy family bought the Shroud in 1453 and exposed it annually in Turin (8,400 words)

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