Clockwise, Cities, Supertasters, Philosophy, Protestantism, Eugenics


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Why Clocks Run Clockwise

Jack Forster | Hodinkee | 31st October 2017

Why do clock hands turn clockwise? What was that direction called before the invention of clocks? The answer to the first is probably that “clockwise” follows the movement of a sundial’s shadow in the northern hemisphere, where the first clocks were made, but there is no evidence of this causality. As to the second: “The idea that one would need to specify motion one way or the other around a circle doesn’t seem to have been widespread prior to the development of clocks” (1,500 words)

The Pnyx And The Agora

Richard Sennett | Reading Design | 3rd November 2017

The Greeks believed that public spaces shaped politics, and organised their cities accordingly. “A democracy supposes people can consider views other than their own. Aristotle thought awareness of difference occurs only in cities, since every city is formed by a drawing together of families and tribes. Aristotle’s hope was that when a person becomes accustomed to a diverse, complex milieu he or she will cease reacting violently when challenged by something strange or contrary” (1,225 words)

How To Tell If You Are A Supertaster

Rob Desalle | Nautilus | 2nd November 2017

One person in four is a “supertaster”, able to discriminate more finely between flavours and taste them more intensely thanks to a greater density of tastebuds in the papillae on the tongue. Here’s how to tell if you are one such: “Swirl red wine over the tongue. The little lumps of tissue on the tongue are the papillae. Take a piece of three-hole notebook paper. Place it over the tongue and count the number of papillae you see through one hole. Over 30 indicates that you are a supertaster” (1,400 words)

Philosophy And Science

Tim Crane | TLS | 1st November 2017

Roger Scruton and Timothy Williamson debate the nature of philosophy. Scruton argues that the content of philosophy must be subjective, tending towards aesthetics. Williamson argues that it can be objective, tending towards mathematics. Scruton: “Consider the concept of melody. Science tells us a lot about the properties of pitched sounds; it tells us nothing about melodies. A melody is not an acoustical but a musical object. Musical objects belong to the purely intentional realm” (4,800 words)

Mapping The Reformation

Lyman Stone | In A State Of Migration | 31st October 2017

The legacy of Luther in America. By the time the settlement of the United States was well underway, the longevity of Protestantism was essentially assured. Many of the early American settlers were religious dissidents calling for reformation. Protestant churches are strongest now in the midwest and great plains, Pennsylvania, upland south, and central Texas. They correlate loosely with Northern European ancestry, pro-Trump voting, family stability, economic mobility, farming and heavy industry (1,900 words)

Eugenics 2.0

Antonio Regalado | MIT Technology Review | 1st November 2017

On the science and ethics of modern eugenics. “As statistical models known as predictors gobble up DNA and health information about hundreds of thousands of people, they’re getting more accurate at spotting the genetic patterns that foreshadow disease risk. But the same techniques can be used to project the eventual height, weight, skin tone, and even intelligence of an IVF embryo”. Inevitably, parents will want to make such choices. Should the law permit them? (2,900 words)

Video of the day Time Travel In Fiction

What to expect:

How time travel is depicted in fiction, with reference to Ender’s Game, Harry Potter, Looper and much besides (7’59”)

Thought for the day

A stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything
Friedrich Nietzsche

Podcast of the day My Week With Emmanuel Macron | Guardian

Andrew McGregor reads Emmanuel Carrère’s profile of the French president, which tries to get beyond the charm
(37'39")

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