Buckminster Fuller, Clocks, Greek Sea Power, Dwarfism, Britain

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The Life Of Buckminster Fuller

W. Patrick McCray | LA Review Of Books | 21st June 2016

He was a hero to rebellious American students, and to Pentagon procurement officers. He was everything to everyone. Fuller’s geodesic domes hid American radar stations from Russian bombers long before they became an icon of the counter-culture. Jonathon Keates’s biography portrays Fuller as genius of sorts — but in self-promotion, not science. His life was “a sprawling TED talk lasting for hours with dozens of ideas, concepts, and neologisms projected in a manic torrent of words” (3,500 words)

Grandfather Clocks And The Big Bang

Sean M. Carroll | Undark | 14th June 2016

Time’s arrow dictates that time and the universe move in one direction only. Yet at the heart of mechanical clock, the keeper of time, there swings a pendulum which goes back and forth. It is perfectly reversible. Why is the whole mechanism of the clock — indeed, the whole mechanism of the universe — not also perfectly reversible? Because the pendulum is also dissipating energy as heat, and this is the irreversible part of its existence. The tick of the clock is the sound of Time’s arrow (1,550 words)

Jason Daley | Smithsonian | 17th June 2016

Excavation of Ancient Greek naval bases in Piraeus yields an astonishing view of Athenian sea power. Some 80,000 sailors and soldiers maintained and manned the fleet of 400 triremes. The sheds used to store the ships in time of peace covered one million square feet, the size of 17 football fields. The bases were built between 520 BC and 480 BC, in time for the Battle of Salamis at which the Greeks defeated a much larger Persian fleet, a decisive moment in European history (700 words)

Island Dwarfism

Caitlin Schrein | Sapiens | 17th June 2016

Humans and other big animals get smaller — very quickly by evolutionary standards — when confined to islands. Body size can reduce significantly within 3,000 years. Remains of a “tiny human relative” from 700,000 years ago have been found on the Indonesian island of Flores. There are two main theories, not necessarily exclusive, as to why islands encourage dwarfism: One is that species optimise for fewer resources, the other that they optimise for fewer predators (2,100 words)

Post-Imperial Stress Disorder

Andrew Brown | Boston Globe | 21st June 2016

Most Britons think their country “has got worse in 70 years of peace and prosperity since the war”. They are nostalgic for empire and victory. They blame relative decline “not on globalization, but on ‘Brussels’, which stands for the unfairness of a world which no longer operates to the benefit of the English people.” Brexit supporters are a populist movement with an easier task than most. “The coalition does not have to hold together. All it has to do is to win this one referendum” (1,950 words)

Video of the day: Airplane Black Boxes

What to expect:

Vox explainer. Planes have two flight recorders; one for cockpit audio recordings, the other for instrument data (5’30”)

Thought for the day

The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected
Robert Frost

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