Consciousness, Murder, Left-Handedness, Psephology, Jawbones

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To Be A Bee

Natasha Frost | Atlas Obscura | 6th December 2017

Where is the threshold of consciousness? A human brain has 86 billion neurons and, almost always, consciousness. A roundworm brain has 302 neurons and — scientists assume — no consciousness. What of a bee brain, with 960,000 neurons? Perhaps the bee is conscious, but not self-conscious, if that is a possible state. “We think that bees have experiences that feel like something to the bee. We don’t think the bees are aware of having experiences that feel like something to them” (2,300 words)

Murder At The Vatican

Catherine Fletcher | History Today | 10th October 2017

Cardinal Alfonso Petrucci was strangled in his cell in the Castel Sant’Angelo on 4 July 1517. He was 26. He had been a prisoner in the papal fortress for six weeks, one of five cardinals accused of plotting to poison Pope Leo X. His execution was judicially sanctioned, but in the most dubious of circumstances. Was there really a plot? Or were Petrucci and his colleagues framed by Leo in the interests of his family, the Medici? “The Cardinals’ Conspiracy is one of the great Renaissance mysteries” (3,700 words)

Southpaw Supremacy

Ed Smith | New Statesman | 17th December 2017

Left-handers tend to have an advantage in sports that require quick reaction times, such as baseball, cricket, table tennis; but only when playing against right-handers, obviously. “To retain the maximum benefit of being left-handed, in other words, lefties must hope the extent of their advantages never becomes common knowledge. They ought to seek high attainment with as little fanfare as possible. A winning strategy would be to exploit age-old prejudices by preserving them” (870 words)

19 Things We Learned From The 2016 Election

Andrew Gelman & Julia Azari | Statistics And Public Policy | 23rd December 2017

Statistician and political scientist sift through lessons learned from the Trump-Clinton election. Among their conclusions: The party didn’t decide. The ground game was overrated. Overconfident pundits get attention. Survey nonresponse bias is a thing. Public opinion does not follow elite opinion. Swings are national. Red state blue state is over. Third parties are still treading water. Goldman Sachs rules the world. The Electoral College was a ticking time bomb (10,700 words)

Death Rattle

John Jeremiah Sullivan | Oxford American | 21st November 2017

A celebration of the quijada, or jawbone — usually the entire lower jaw of an ass — as a percussion instrument. “When you bash the side of the jawbone with your closed fist, all of the teeth rattle at once. Inside the bone. It is literally a death rattle. It does something to the rhythm of a song that can’t be accounted for with any musical term, sends it into not a different tempo, necessarily, but a different imaginative sphere. The feeling is of being seized, sent into spasms” (4,300 words)

Video of the day Hexaflexaflakes

What to expect:

Vi Hart explains how to make paper snowflakes with six-fold symmetry (6’08”)

Thought for the day

Science is cumulative, and we live later
Richard Dawkins

Podcast of the day Fear No Fall | Outside

Survival skills. What to do when you find yourself stuck at the bottom of a canyon with a broken leg

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