Brazil, Hangul, Intellectuals, Appalachia, Biligualism, Frank Ramsey


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Can Brazil Be Saved?

Franklin Foer | Slate | 7th August 2016

The Olympic Games were meant to show Brazil to the world as a great nation. Instead, “everything in Brazil feels broken now”. The president is being impeached; the economy is suffering its worst recession in at least 80 years. Even so, “there’s no talk of returning to dictatorship, no real fear of a Hugo Chávez–like figure clouding the sky.” The crisis in Brazil is a salutary shock. Corruption is being exposed, democracy is holding firm. There’s a good chance Brazil will come out the winnner (6,500 words)

The King’s Letters

Christine Ro & Marisa Brook | Damn Interesting | 8th August 2016

King Sejong invented Korea’s Hangul alphabet “almost single-handedly” in the early 15th century; his successors spurned it in favour of continued use of Chinese characters; Hangul prevailed only 500 years later, as a symbol of modern Korean nationalism. Strictly, Hangul is “neither alphabet nor syllabary, but something of a chimera. Each written component stands for a single sound, but the components are compressed into blocks that correspond to individual syllables” (2,800 words)

Intellectuals Are Freaks

Michael Lind | Smart Set | 4th August 2016

“People who specialise in the life of ideas tend to be extremely atypical of their societies. They — we — are freaks in a statistical sense. For generations, populists of various kinds have argued that intellectuals are unworldly individuals out of touch with the experiences and values of most of their fellow citizens. While anti-intellectual populists have often been wrong about the gold standard or the single tax or other issues, by and large they have been right about intellectuals” (1,400 words)

Hiking The Appalachian Trail

Robert Moor | Buzzfeed | 2nd August 2016

The Appalachian Trail runs 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. Hiking the length of it — a five or six month adventure — changes the mind and the body. Not always for the better. “Naturally, most hiking injuries center around the feet. Blisters bubble up. Toenails blacken and fall off. Joints swell. During the course of my hike, my feet grew a half shoe size. The easiest way to spot a thru-hiker is to catch them barefoot. Without boots, the super-hiker is reduced to a limping old crone” (3,040 words)

The Bilingual Brain

Gaia Vince | Mosaic | 7th August 2016

Most people in the world speak more than one language. Perhaps multilingualism is the natural condition of the highly-evolved human brain, since it seems to bring other cognitive benefits with it — and those who speak only one language are regressing. “If you look at modern hunter-gatherers, they are almost all multilingual. The rule is that one mustn’t marry anyone in the same tribe or clan to have a child – it’s taboo. So every single child’s mum and dad speak a different language” (4,300 words)

Cambridge Philosophers: F.P. Ramsey

D.H. Mellor | Cambridge University | 20th January 2004

Frank Ramsey learned German in ten days, then, at the age of 19, translated Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, befriending Wittgenstein in the process. He made fundamental advances in two areas of economics — taxation and national savings. His philosophical work on utility anticipated game theory by 20 years. He refuted Keynes’s work on probability. He invented Ramsey theory, a field of pure mathematics concerned with order in complex systems. All this before he died at 26 (7,600 words)

Video of the day: Z

What to expect:

Haunting journey through a smogbound post-apocalyptic world, by Alan Warburton for Channel 4 (3’00”)

Thought for the day

Many things are not believed because their current explanation is not believed
Friedrich Nietzsche

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