David Pilling | Financial Times | 31st January 2014
Notes from a lecture by Hans Rosling, expert on demographics and public health. Global population will peak around 2100 at 11bn, with 4bn in Africa — four times the current level — and 5bn in Asia. World's main maritime thoroughfare will be the Indian Ocean. "If you are looking far enough ahead, you should be buying prime beach property on the east coast of Africa. Prof Rosling suggests Somalia"
Angela Serratore | Paris Review | 28th January 2014
Euphoria-inducing sedative much abused as a party drug in 1970s New York; favourite of Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese's Wolf Of Wall Street. First sold as a sleeping pill for 1960s housewives: "It’s the pill in the 'take a pill and lie down' directive thousands of Don Drapers gave their Bettys". But nobody under 30 has seen one. Production halted 1983. Nearest modern equivalent is proably Ambien, made famous by Tiger Woods
The Economist | 1st February 2014
The Sochi Winter Olympics is "a celebration of Russia’s resurgence". But if Vladimir Putin's Russia has a lot more cash in hand than its Soviet predecessor did, the structure of the economy is too little changed. Oil and gas make up 75% of exports; the state is the biggest employer; state-owned corporations dominate industry. The private sector "is trapped between bad institutions and expensive labour" (Metered paywall)
Robert Booth | The Guardian | 31st January 2014
Bishop's Avenue in Hampstead, London, may be reckoned the "second most expensive street in Britain", but so many of the houses are owned by overseas tycoons that it feels more like "one of the most expensive wastelands in the world". A row of ten mansions owned by the Saudi royal family has stood empty and rotting for twenty years. "The water authorities said they had no records of any water being used"
Laura Swift | Conversation | 30th January 2014
In a "kind of literary miracle", two works by the Ancient Greek poet Sappho have been re-discovered on a papyrus belonging to an anonymous collector. The "best preserved" of them, written in the seventh century BC, tells of two men who were apparently Sappho's brothers. Little is known of Sappho's life; most of her work has been lost; "her poetry stands out for its vivid images, and in particular its descriptions of erotic desire"
Michael Grothaus | Fast Company | 30th January 2014
Conversation with Joel Eriksson, who solved last year's Cicada 3301 puzzle thanks to steganography, cryptography, ancient Mayan numerology and familiarity with cyberpunk fiction. But when he got to the end, an address on Tor, he found a message telling him he was too late; the winners had already been admitted, the door was closed. The winners aren't talking. The mystery endures
Thought for the day:
"Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that's where it should stay" — Christopher Hitchens
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