Ageing, Charlie Sexton, Chickens, Monarchy, Modernism, Microwaves


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Will 90 Be The New 60?

David Steinsaltz | Nautilus | 16th March 2017

Average human life expectancy has been increasing at the rate of three months per year for the past 175 years. We have no idea what the maximum possible human lifespan might be. Pessimists talk as though the years we gain will inevitably be lost to dementia and disability. Not so. The same factors that are helping us live longer — nutrition, mainly — are also making us healthier, even in old age. Dementia is retreating. The spry 90 year old will soon be the rule, not the exception (2,400 words)

Live At The Continental Club

Bill Bentley | Oxford American | 16th March 2017

Profile of Charlie Sexton, pride of Austin and three times lead guitar in Bob Dylan’s touring band. “Sexton made his onstage debut in 1978 at the Continental Club the day before he turned ten years old. Bizarros bassist Speedy Sparks was dating Charlie’s mom at the time, and he took the boy under his wing and indoctrinated him into early Elvis Presley and Little Richard records. Charlie had a guitar but he didn’t really know about song keys. He just had a feeling for his instrument” (2,500 words)

Bill Gates, Chickens, And Cash

Chris Blattman | Vox | 14th March 2017

An open letter to Bill Gates, questioning Gates’s enthusiasm for giving livestock as development aid. “You’ve said that a family that receives five hens could eventually earn $1,000 annually, assuming a per-bird price of $5. But would that still be true when a third of your neighbours are in the same business? As supply goes up, I’d expect the price and profits to come down. And moving to an economy in which 30 percent of rural Africans sell chickens is a humongous increase in supply” (1,600 words)

Operation London Bridge

Sam Knight | Guardian | 16th March 2017

The plan for when Queen Elizabeth II dies. The prime minister will be woken, if needs be, by a coded message from the Queen’s private secretary: “London Bridge is down”. The news will go next to foreign heads of state and British embassies. A footman in mourning clothes will pin a black-edged notice to the gates of Buckingham Palace. TV announcers will wear black suits and black ties. King Charles will make his first address as head of state on the evening of his mother’s death (8,100 words)

Seeing Like A State

Scott Alexander | Slate Star Codex | 16th March 2017

Extended discussion of James Scott’s book, Seeing Like A State, about attempts by rulers and technocrats to impose rational models on society, culminating in the economics of Stalinism and the architecture of Le Corbusier. “High Modernists” such as Le Corbusier “claimed to be figuring out the most efficient and high-tech way of doing things, but most of them knew little relevant math or science and were basically just LARPing being rational by placing things in evenly-spaced rectangular grids” (11,000 words)

The Home Microwave Turns 50

Timothy Jorgensen | Smithsonian | 16th March 2017

A WW2 Raytheon engineer called Percy Spencer was charged with mass-producing magnetrons, the vacuum tubes used in early radar devices. He noticed that a candy bar in his pocket had started to melt. “Suspecting that the magnetron was the cause, he took a raw egg and pointed the radar beam at it”. The egg exploded. He tried the rays on corn kernels, and ended up a few minutes later with popcorn. “Raytheon soon filed for a patent on the use of radar technology for cooking” (930 words)

Video of the day: Why Planes Don’t Fly Faster

What to expect:

Explainer. Why aeroplane journeys take longer now than they did 50 years ago (11’32”)

Thought for the day

Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not
Flannery O'Connor

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