Birds, Aristotle, Time, Gin, Probability

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Ducks And Human Nature

Johann Grolle | Der Spiegel | 13th June 2017

PG-13 for analogies. Conversation about the courting and reproductive habits of birds, with Richard Prum, ornithologist and author of The Evolution Of Beauty. “Copulation in most birds is achieved by a cloacal kiss, just an apposition of orifices. This is the essential reason why birds are so beautiful. Since they have the freedom of choice, females exhibit aesthetic preferences. And, as a result of these preferences, males developed amazingly elaborate ornaments” (2,300 words)

Arcadian Wisdom

Richard Marshall | 3AM | 10th June 2017

David Roodchik, scholar of classical philosophy, explains why modern scientists should read Aristotle. “If you want to explain how a human heart pumps blood, study cardiology. If you want to explain why our hearts beat faster when we are scared, study the mechanics of the nervous system. But if you want to understand what it means to be afraid, then your focus must shift. This inquiry will require you to observe closely what human beings feel, sing, think, write and say to one another” (2,900 words)

Language And Time

Panos Athanasopoulos | Conversation | 13th June 2017

How different languages conceptualise time. It isn’t just front and back. “Mandarin Chinese employs a vertical time axis alongside a horizontal one. The word xià (down) is used to talk about future events, so when referring to ‘next week’ a Mandarin Chinese speaker would literally say ‘down week’. The word shàng (up) is used to talk about the past – so ‘last week’ becomes “up one week”. This affects the way observers perceive the spatial unfolding of the ageing process” (1,245 words)

Best Books On Gin

Sophie Roell | Five Books | 10th June 2017

Gin expert Oliver Ward talks about the place of gin in British history and culture. “What people don’t really talk about with ‘Gin Lane’, this illustration of a debauched, broken society, is the fact that it was commissioned by the beer industry. It was part of a twin set: ‘Gin Lane’ and ‘Beer Street’. In ‘Beer Street’ there’s prosperous industry and everyone’s getting along, the streets are clean and everyone is looking a bit portly and well-fed. Whereas ‘Gin Lane’ has a baby being skewered in the corner” (5,700 words)

Paradoxes Of Probability

Stephen Woodcock | Quillette | 26th May 2017

Introducing Simpson’s paradox, the base rate fallacy, the Will Rogers paradox, Berkson’s paradox, and the multiple comparisons fallacy; which explain, inter alia, why a music-lover is more likely to be an accountant than a musician, and why in a group of just 23 people you are more likely than not to find two people with a shared birthday. “With 23 people there are 253 pairs of people who might have a common birthday, each of which independently has a 0.3% chance of coinciding” (1,623 words)

Video of the day: Eighty Years Of New York City

What to expect:

Split-screen tour of the same New York streets in the 1930s and today (8’30”)

Thought for the day

I write a book so that other books are possible
Michel Foucault

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