Best of the Moment
Michael Graziano | Aeon | 21st August 2013
On the problem of consciousness. I'm not going to pretend you will find the explanation here, but you will encounter a worthwhile quantity of ideas and anecdotes on which to reflect. Including the case of the man who believed he had a squirrel in his head. "When told that a cranial rodent was illogical and incompatible with physics, he agreed, but then went on to note that logic and physics cannot account for everything in the universe"
Patty Waldmeir | Financial Times | 20th August 2013
How Ikea charms customers in China. "The world's largest furniture retailer invites consumers to nap on its beds and snack on its dinnerware; it lets pensioners hold matchmaking sessions over free coffee in its canteens, and provides day care for the grandchild. The only displays not meant to be interactive, apparently, are the loos: they are closed off with Plexiglas lids that helpfully point out the location of proper toilets" (Metered paywall)
Simon Jenkins | The Guardian | 20th August 2013
Apologies if you think I am overdoing the Snowden/NSA stuff, but (i) this is a defining story of our times and (ii) some thrilling pieces are being written. Including this magnificent polemic, which captures the big moral and political issues from a liberal perspective: "We hear today so many phrases we have heard before. The innocent have nothing to fear. Our critics merely comfort the enemy. You cannot be too safe. Loyalty is all"
Anonymous | Ex Urbe | 15th August 2013
As Rome grew from a hamlet on the Capitoline into a sprawling city, the new was piled on top of the old — and our Rome is the chaotic sum of those piles. "Freud had a fear of Rome’s layers. He was terrified of the idea of all the layers and layers and layers of destroyed structures hidden under the surface, at the same time present and absent, visible and invisible. He was, in a very deep way, absolutely right"
M.Y. | The Economist | 15th August 2013
Review of Confessions of a Sociopath, by M.E. Thomas, said to be "the pseudonym of a female law professor who is also a confirmed sociopath". Her potentially useful tips include: always hire a sociopathic lawyer. "They are excellent at reading people (useful during jury selection), immune to performance anxiety (useful during trial) and craftily seductive (useful for persuading juror and judge alike)"
Thomas Fanshawe | Significance | 9th August 2013
If you look at the history of Wimbledon singles finals, you find a counter-intuitive trend in the results. "Even though we might expect many finals to be contested by two strong players of approximately equal ability, we can immediately see that the straight set scoreline is by far the most common in both the men’s and women’s competitions. Why should this be the case?" In brief, because if you win one set, you will probably win the next
Thought for the day:
"Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby" — Anonymous