Best of the Moment
Christian Lorentzen | London Review Of Books | 7th November 2013
Action-packed review of The Life and Times of Charles Manson, by Jeff Guinn — "a cradle-to-grave treatment, though the graves belong to other people". Before turning to mass murder Manson was a shoplifter, car-thief, rapist and pimp. He was clever, if crazy. To strengthen his skills as a cult leader he studied How to Win Friends and Influence People whilst in jail. There was "a logic of cause and effect" to his madness
Leon Neyfakh | Boston Globe | 3rd November 2013
Russia has a colossal drinking problem. Alcoholics Anonymous has shown the power of mutual support groups to combat alcoholism. Yet AA has made almost no headway in Russia: there are four times as many AA groups in Boston as in the whole of Russia. Why? Because Russians don't think drinking is wrong, and they have low levels of trust. “The idea that another drunk can help you is asinine to most Russians”
James Fenske | Vox | 9th November 2013
Summary of academic paper. "I find no evidence that educating women in the present reduces polygamy. Pre-colonial inequality, the slave trade, and colonial education all predict polygamy rates in the present. The largest elasticities are in response to changes in child health. This is consistent with theories that see polygamy as a strategy for men to increase fertility, making wives and surviving births per wife substitutes"
Ellen Chase | New York Times | 8th November 2013
Short, sweet blogpost about lessons learned from keeping backyard chickens. "Never assume chickens are stupid. They may be baffled initially by a sudden downpour, or by a short length of fence, but once these problems are figured out, they know what to do. They know the difference between a crow and a hawk overhead, they can tell if a fox watching them from 100 feet away is hungry or just taking stock" (Metered paywall)
Paul Ford | Business Week | 7th November 2013
Twitter thrives for two main reasons. First, it's cunningly engineered: The visible Tweet contains up to 140 characters, but each message also has 31 hidden data fields which allow Twitter to analyse and monetise network activity. Second, it has uncovered hidden value in "a latent aspect of human life", something that humans produce freely and plentifully, but which was previously seen as worthless: trivial chatter
Morgan Meis | Smart Set | 6th November 2013
Why René Magritte's paintings disturb. "Many of Magritte’s paintings from the 1920s are attempts to put Surrealist ideas into images. There is a dreamlike quality, the vague sense that we are being shown scenes both impossible and meaningful. This is painting that begs to be interpreted the way that a dream might be interpreted in Freudian analysis. The only problem is that we do not possess any information by which to interpret the dream"
Emily Bazelon | Slate | 6th November 2013
Remarkable — and often repugnant — piece of writing and reporting on the legacies of Nazi medical research. Anatomists accepted the bodies of thousands killed by Hitler’s regime; German, Austrian, Polish universities still hold remains in their collections. Nazi theories recur even now in America's abortion debate. Half of Germany’s doctors joined the Nazi Party; almost all continued practising after the war.
Thought for the day:
"Mathematics is the only subject where, once you have proved something, it is true for ever"— Marcus du Sautoy