Altruism, Sports Nutrition, Science, New Yorker, Development Economics

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The Beauty And Costs Of Extreme Altruism

Samuel Moyn | The Nation | 5th November 2015

Larissa MacFarquhar's "brilliant" new book, Strangers Drowning, looks at "extreme altruists" who give up their lives and possessions to help others, treating strangers equally with family and friends. Their example ought to be inspiring; in fact it is troubling. "If a person is at every moment required to be attending to his moral duty, then much of what makes life worth living, and people worth loving, will have to be abandoned" (4,096 words)

Achilles Heel

Stephen Squibb | n+1 | 6th November 2015

Another problem with American football, besides concussion: Players are getting too big. "Bodies that once required anabolic steroids to build can now be constructed from ingredients available at your local drugstore". Bones and tendons break and tear more easily under the increased weight of muscle. "Perhaps in the future men will simply become too large to play games like football without killing each other" (1,632 words)

When Was Modern Science Invented?

David Wootton & Samira Shackle | New Humanist | 9th November 2015

The discovery of America launched modern science by showing that existing knowledge was "seriously incomplete". Knowledge of the natural world "became a progressive enterprise for the first time, and it became clear that debates amongst the philosophers could be settled by the acquisition of new information". Which seems obvious to us, "but that is only because we live in a post-Columbus world" (2,230 words)

The Birth Of The New Yorker Story

Jonathan Franzen | New Yorker | 27th October 2015

"What made a story New Yorker was its long passages of physical description; its well-educated white characters; and, above all, its signature style of ending, which was either elegantly oblique or frustratingly coy, depending on your taste. Outside the offices of the New Yorker, its fiction editors were rumored to routinely delete the final paragraph of any story accepted for publication" (Metered Paywall) (1,530 words)

New Ideas In Development Economics

David Evans | Development Impact | 9th November 2015

Findings from recent papers in development economics. "Opening a mine in South Africa doesn't increase crime, but closing one does." "Splitting states in India leads to better economic outcomes on the new-state side of the border." "Men who hide money from their wives do worse in business". "Higher food prices reduce conflicts over control of land but increase conflicts over appropriation of surplus" (4,450 words)

Video of the day: Decoy

What to expect: A portrait session with a twist. Six photographers, one subject (3'16")

Thought for the day

The doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards
Bertrand Russell (

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