Age, Carbon, Beirut, Scent, Struggle

What If We Could Live For A Million Years?

Avi Loeb | Scientific American | 16th August 2020

Bacteria live for a hundred million years on the ocean floor. What if humans could live for even a million? What would we do differently? “We could accomplish more ambitious tasks. We could decide to care more about our planetary environment and interpersonal cooperation, since pollution or hostilities carry long-term dangers. Extended life could make us wiser and more risk-averse since there is much more at stake. It would make little sense to send young soldiers to wars, or initiate wars in the first place” (1,100 words)


138,462 Carbon Pyramids

Karen Pinkus & Hans Baumann | Strelka | 14th August 2020

Keynesian thought-experiment in climate change. If we rely on carbon sequestration to get atmospheric carbon concentrations down to a more livable 350ppm, we will recover enough carbon to fill 138,462 pyramids, each the size of the Great Pyramid at Giza; we could build 3.79 great carbon pyramids every day for 100 years. “Beyond providing employment and sequestering carbon, these pyramids would do nothing. In as much as we understand this scheme cannot be built, we suggest that it must be” (2,700 words)


The Politics That Broke Lebanon

Mohamad Bazzi | Foreign Affairs | 14th August 2020

Lebanon’s political system depends on consensus among the “ageing former warlords” who still run the country. Since no decisions can be made without the consent of all, the result is “permanent gridlock, punctuated by periodic acts of violence”. Conflicts that cannot be resolved in “the arena of politics” are “fought out on the streets”. This violent underside of politics “encourages parties and factions to enlist the help of external patrons, a dynamic that has kept Lebanon weak and dependent” (1,950 words)


Research Diary: Scents

algekalipso | Qualia Computing | 14th August 2020

Notes on scents and smelling. Interesting and (highly) varied throughout, from futuristic restaurant food to    the chemistry of pheromones. “If you combine 40 scented molecules that are as different as possible, you get as a result a generic smell with neutral valence that is not distinctive at all.  They call it ‘white noise scent’, or Laurax. Alloys of smell may only really pay off in the range of 5 to 15 different molecules, where (perhaps) we maximise the experiential character of the resulting fragrance” (11,100 words)


The Unbearable

Jon Baskin | New York Review Of Books | 14th August 2020

Discussion of the “emotional wellsprings of Nazi politics”, as treated in Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph Of The Will, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, and Terrence Malick’s Hidden Life. “Riefenstahl communicates the pleasure the people experienced — how ‘good’ it felt to them — at escaping the quotidian chaos of their shabby republic and their trivial private lives, at being liberated from the restrictions of rationality, at being on the brink of achieving something large and lasting, deep and simple” (3,570 words)


Video: Dessine-moi Don Giovanni | Opéra National de Paris. The action of Mozart’s Don Giovanni summarised in a geometric animation (1m 14s)

Audio: Freedom Of Speech | Deep Background. Law professor Eugene Volokh talks about workplace harassment, racial discrimination, and the First Amendment (33m 48s)

Afterthought:
“The lesson of a work of art: It is forbidden to touch a thing of beauty”
— Simone Weil

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