College, Han China, Mary Beard, Health Care, Freeman Dyson


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A World Without College

Bryan Caplan | Atlantic | 29th January 2018

The main purpose of higher education is not to teach useful skills. It provides a means for students with resources and determination to signal that they are dedicated, disciplined, productive workers. “Studying irrelevancies for four years will impress future employers and raise income potential … As a society, we continue to push ever larger numbers of students into ever higher levels of education. The effect is not better jobs or greater skill levels, but a credentialist arms race” (2,560 words)

Was Ancient Rome More Advanced Than Han China?

Hoang Nghiem | Quora | 25th January 2018

Informative and interesting throughout. But long, and if you would rather skip to the conclusion, it is that the ancient Romans were more advanced in metallurgy, medicine, military technology and civil and military engineering, whereas the Han Chinese were more advanced in agriculture, astronomy, aeronautics and mathematics. So, academically, a dead heat between the two empires. But in the event of all-out war, assuming equal generalship, the Romans would have won (18,900 words)

The Cult Of Mary Beard

Charlotte Higgins | Guardian | 30th January 2018

Profile of Mary Beard, classical scholar and feminist hero. “Her interventions in public life – whether one agrees with her or not – offer an alternative mode of discourse, one that people are hungry for: a position that is serious and tough in argument, but friendly and humorous in manner, and one that, at a time when disagreements quickly become shrill or abusive, insists on dialogue. Still, it is these precise qualities that can, equally, land her in deep water” (6,300 words)

What If Amazon Ran Hospitals?

Bertalan Mesko | Medical Futurist | 29th January 2018

Arguably naive, but worth bearing in mind as a thought-experiment, even a best-case scenario. In the Amazon model all your pharma is cheap and arrives quickly by drone. Doctors get rated, but so do customers. “Patients would have a profile on Amazon with their entire medical documentation, genetic information – and the evaluation they received from their doctors. If someone has bad reviews, treatment might become more expensive for them. Very scary prospects there!” (1,900 words)

A Rebel Without A PhD

Thomas Lin | Quanta | 26th March 2014

Interview with Freeman Dyson, our greatest living scientist, a few days after his 90th birthday. “I started out as a pure mathematician and found problems that just arise out of the very nature of numbers, which are amazingly subtle and difficult and beautiful. I had this skill with mathematical tools, and I played these tools as well as I could, rather in the way a musician plays the violin, not expecting to change the world but just because he loves the instrument” (2,895 words)

Video of the day Photographers In Focus: Wim Wenders

What to expect:

Wenders talks about the “elusive joy” of Polaroid photography as a means for capturing ideas that become films (2’59”)

Thought for the day

A theory is declared invalid only if an alternate candidate is available to take its place
Thomas Kuhn

Podcast of the day Therapy For The Strange | The Bright Sessions

Science fiction. A psychiatrist deals with patients who exceed usual human limits
(12'56")

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