Cicadas, Morality, Loot, Medicine, Italian Noir

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The Cicadas Are Back

Juliet Lamb | JSTOR Daily | 7th July 2016

After seventeen years “quietly developing under the soil”, three species of periodical cicadas have surfaced this summer south of Lake Erie. Periodical cicadas “appear in coordinated bursts every thirteen or seventeen years — always a prime number”. Their life-cycle presents “a sort of evolutionary puzzle” for biologists. Most cicadas “emerge in staggered batches year by year”. What makes periodical cicadas coordinate across entire geographic regions? And why the prime numbers? (1,060 words)

The Moral Economy Of Technology

Kieran Healey | 28th June 2016

Most critics of technology are not nearly critical enough. They assume that the technology will work. They take the manufacturer’s side, in effect, and disagree only about the results. Yet we know from personal experience that things often break down. Caveat emptor. “We may face some version of Oscar Wilde’s dilemma, where the only thing worse than the moral economy of technology working as advertised is the moral economy of it not working as advertised” (2,200 words)

Nazis Have Loot, Empires Have Treasure

Erin Thompson | Aeon | 5th July 2016

Should Nazi loot be returned to the families of its original owners? Of course. Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to the Greeks? There’s a bit of an argument about that. But what about the Benin Bronzes? Or the priceless porcelains looted from the Chinese Emperor’s Summer Palace? Why does their presence in the British Museum provoke so little controversy? “The farther we get from Western Europe, the less morally compelling we seem to find the claims of those whose art Europeans looted” (1,200 words)

The Body As Machine

Frank Bures | Undark | 6th July 2016

Americans talk about the human body as a machine — often a military machine. Illness “invades”. The body “fights back”. The “war on cancer” is won or lost. These metaphors have a powerful effect on real-life behaviour. They encourage an aggressive approach to medical treatment on the part of doctors and patients, an ethic that something must be seen to be done even when nothing useful can be done. “Our military mindset causes us to treat death as defeat and life as victory” (1,700 words)

Massimo Carlotti On Italian Crime Fiction

Thea Lenarduzzi | Five Books | 7th July 2016

Gripping, often unsettling discussion of Italian noir. “Traditionally, the police novel has worked towards a resolution in which good triumphs over evil, the state triumphs over criminality. We don’t believe in this any more. Our analysis of society is different: we say that in this moment it’s the criminal cultures that are winning in Italy. We’ve arrived at a system in which there’s no need to murder people and commit the other acts that the mafia used to because criminality has legitimized itself” (3,100 words)

Video of the day: Charles Spence On Sensploration

What to expect:

Real life appeals to all of our senses at once. Can we tell stories that also appeal to all of our senses? (4’38”)

Thought for the day

Never speak ill of yourself — your friends will always say enough on that subject

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