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Climate Change Is A People’s Shock

We would do more about climate change if we understood it as a political challenge rather than a scientific one. The rich will shield themselves; the poor will pay the human cost. “We know how the system will deal with serial climate-related disasters: with profiteering and escalating barbarism to segregate the losers from the winners. To arrive at that dystopia, all we need to do is keep barreling down the road we are on” (4,850 words)

Random Noise In Biology

Research into the relative importance of nature versus nurture in shaping human beings takes an unexpected turn. Genetics and environment do play a big part in making us who we are; but so does a third factor — “random noise”. Identical genes react to the same environment in different ways. If this is variation is indeed random, as opposed to not-yet-understood, it may be an evolutionary strategy to promote diversity (1,017 words)

We Are A Camera

The Brownie of the YouTube era is a tiny, robust camera called GoPro, invented by a California surfer. “The short video synonymous with GoPro is a kind of post-literate diary, a stop on the way to a future in which everything will be filmed from every point of view. GoPro, like Google Glass, has the insidious effect of making the pervasiveness of cameras seem playful and benign when it may one day be anything but” (6,530 words)

The Scottish Independence Bill

The first chapter of this document is the draft constitution for an independent Scotland. The people of Scotland will be “sovereign”, but the Queen (as in, Queen of England) will be head of state. Anyone “habitually resident” in Scotland on independence day, or born in Scotland, will automatically receive Scottish citizenship; others with “a prescribed connection to Scotland” may apply for it (Big PDF) (20,000 words)

Death, Justice, And The Talmud

Is death a punishment? If so, why is it handed out to everybody? Perhaps because we all deserve it. The Talmud says that “even those who seem most innocent of sin have done something to deserve punishment”. Where there is error, there is remedy: “If Miriam was supposed to live until 70 and she died at 40, what becomes of those 30 missing years? They are donated as a reward to Torah scholars for meritorious behaviour” (1,400 words)

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