Best of the Moment
Kenneth Pollack | Foreign Affairs | 25th November 2013
The interim nuclear deal with Iran is a step in the right direction. A small step in quantitative terms: Iran will get $7bn over six months; its nuclear programme will be slightly delayed. But it's a much bigger step in terms of confidence-building. "The interim agreement marks a very important, albeit mostly symbolic, step toward the type of deal that, not so long ago, seemed entirely unimaginable" (Free registration required)
Robert Skidelsky | 23rd November 2013
Delightful essay about writing the biography of John Maynard Keynes. The intention was a single volume within two years. The outcome was three volumes over 30 years, and much delicate negotiating with Keynes's circle, notable his brother Geoffrey: "What purpose did I have, he once asked me, other than to tell the world his brother was a bugger? I replied that it was too late to suppress this, even were it desirable to do so"
William Sutherland et al | Nature | 20th November 2013
Intended for policymakers evaluating scientific advice. "Dependencies change the risks. It is possible to calculate the consequences of individual events, such as an extreme tide, heavy rainfall and key workers being absent. However, if the events are interrelated, (for example a storm causes a high tide, or heavy rain prevents workers from accessing the site) then the probability of their co-occurrence is much higher than might be expected"
Simon Winchester | Lapham's Quarterly | 25th November 2013
Wherein the author takes a job in a London mortuary. Decent pay, a bonus of four shillings per body, and the chance to sell on stolen pituitary glands to a research hospital. "I developed a very adequate blanket stitch, which impressed my mother no end. By the end of each procedure, the bodies looked as good as new". All was going well — until a mix-up involving a femur, a crematorium, and a length of zinc piping
Scott Alexander | Slate Star Codex | 26th November 2013
Doctor explains why the FDA is wrong to curtail personal gene-testing. The science is sound. The product is good. The data is useful. "23andMe has raised awareness of genetics among the general population and given them questions and concerns which they can discuss with their doctor. Banning the entire field of personal genomics would eliminate a useful diagnostic tool from everyone except a few very wealthy patients"
Nicholas Lezard | The Guardian | 26th November 2013
Reissue of Simenon's first Inspector Maigret novel, from 1930. "The writing is terrible, bearing all the signs of hackery and haste. I suppose it is a matter of honesty: the books are not trying to be anything other than themselves. There hangs about them a suggestion of something dark and disturbing, profound almost, as if Simenon had, through a technique not very far from automatic writing, discovered something fundamental about the soul"
Thought for the day:
"Anything is okay as long as it's done by people who are sufficiently unlike you" — P.J. O'Rourke