Best of the Moment
Jennifer Raff | Violent Metaphors | 25th August 2013
A guide for non-scientists. Tips include: Read the introduction first, and the abstract last. Write down every word that you don't understand, so you can look them up later. Be ready to spend a lot of time on the Methods section. "You don’t need to understand the methods in enough detail to replicate the experiment, but you’re not ready to move on to the results until you can explain the basics of the methods to someone else"
Balkanist | 27th August 2013
Inspired by the Granta classic, How To Write About Africa (http://www.granta.com/Archive/92/How-to-Write-about-Africa/Page-1) , and just as enjoyable. "Detail the sheer terror you feel in the company of your wild-eyed driver, who careens recklessly around the blind curves of deadly mountain roads. Admit that you find yourself uneasily calculating the age of every local male you meet, nervously wondering if he ever carried a weapon in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, or Kosovo"
Simon Jenkins | Guardian | 27th August 2013
"Terrorism and national security are wholly distinct concepts. Terrorism involves a violent incident. It merely kills people and wrecks buildings. It acquires power only by generating an exaggerated response, and is countered by good policing and not overreacting. Not even IRA terror, more systematic than anything spawned by al-Qaida, threatened national security – that is, the integrity of the British state or its institutions"
Harper's | 26th August 2013
Vollmann's account of being a suspect in the Unabomber manhunt is paywalled, but these pages from his FBI profile make compelling reading. "Vollmann has experienced much in his brief life. He reportedly owns many guns and a flame-thrower. He advocates the elimination of television and automobiles. How many challenges remain for William T. Vollmann? Serial bombing, perhaps? As a means to change the world?"
George Packer | New Yorker | 27th August 2013
Imagined dialogue rehearsing the arguments for and against American bombing of Syria. "What do we do if Assad retaliates against Israel or Turkey? Or if he uses nerve gas somewhere else?" Nicely argued, finely balanced, persuasively resolved
Izabella Kaminska | FT Alphaville | 27th August 2013
Bold, esoteric think-piece about the role played by scarcity in the production and perception of value, and what happens to value judgements if 3D printing enables perfect reproductions of, say, the Mona Lisa. "Functionally speaking, a molecularly perfect substitute provides exactly the same utility. The easier it becomes to replicate anything scarce for the masses, the more value will be directed to non-replenishable source material"
Thought for the day:
"Moral philosophy is very largely a branch of fiction. Despite this, a philosopher has yet to write a great novel" — John Gray