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Cecily Cecily

Writing Worth Reading

Is String Theory About To Unravel?

According to string theory there is a “vibrating string-like filament” at the heart of each subatomic particle, and the vibrations of the filament give the particle its mass and charge. But 30 years after the theory was first advanced there is no experimental evidence to support it, and perhaps we should not expect any. The strings would be so tiny that one would need a particle-collider the size of a galaxy to detect them (2,800 words)

You Really, Really Shouldn’t Have

On the psychology of giving and receiving gifts; also known as the deadweight cost of Christmas. “Givers thought that gifts they’d chosen themselves were more appreciated, but recipients preferred the gifts that they’d specifically asked for. The lesson: you might feel that it’s awkward and unnecessary to ask what gift would be welcome but the recipient of the gift would prefer that you asked rather than guessed” (820 words)

The Spartan Monarchs

Queen Victoria enjoyed sex, modern art, and self-indulgence. What we think of as Victorian values — stuffiness and priggishness — were much more the province of her grandson George V (1910-36) and his son George VI (1936-52). “They were our two Spartan monarchs, duty-bound, sexually repressed, emotionally disciplined, wanting everyone kept in place and convinced that material discomfort improved people’s characters” (1,290 words)

The Worst Refugee Crisis Since World War II

Conversations with migrants from Africa and the Middle East seeking new lives in Europe. Thousands wait in Calais hoping to reach Britain – where they will be arrested and deported. “All of the people I interviewed for this story made their first journey to Europe in a smuggler boat across the Mediterranean. Our government believes that, had any of them drowned, it would have been a useful deterrent to others” (5,600 words)

Americans In North Korean Films

North Korea understands well the propaganda value of films. For decades its own film industry has demonised America. It treats foreign films as a serious threat, and rightly so; even the most innocent of them challenges the regime merely by showing how much better people live in other countries. A film such as The Interview, which mocks, deflates, and finally annihilates Kim Jong Un, “just couldn’t be allowed” (1,150 words)

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