Grawlix, Protozoa, Consistency, Caligula, Taxes
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Keith Houston | Shady Characters | 29th April 2021
Brief lexicon of comic-book art. Briffits are "little clouds that show where a fast-moving object (such as a fist) started its arc". Hites, dites and vites are "lines showing the direction (horizontal, diagonal or vertical) in which an object moved". Squeans are starbursts around a person's head signalling intoxication. A grawlix is a "pile of non-alphanumeric characters representing a profanity" (950 words)
Can Single Cells Learn?
Catherine Offord | The Scientist | 1st May 2021
In the 1960s, psychologist Beatrice Gelber conducted experiments that seemed to show single celled microorganisms like protozoa forming associations after training, or "learning" to expect rewards from certain scenarios. Her findings were highly controversial and largely buried, but are now being revisited as scientific interest in artificial intelligence expands the concept of memory (3,774 words)
The Dangers Of Consistency
Charles Moore | Claremont Review Of Books | 27th April 2021
Critique of a biography of Adolf Hitler. This review offers great insight into the chronicler's art. Repellant as the exercise may be in this case, it is necessary to sympathise with one's subject. "Without such sympathy, there can be no full understanding. The biographer must enter his subject’s mind — the darker, the harder — and try to travel with him on his life’s journey" (2,209 words)
Audio of the Week: Heir Apparent
Episode: "Part One" | Podcast: Little Boots | 50m 37s
Drama set in 37 CE, in the dying days of the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. This first episode is concerned with the murky succession of 24 year old Gaius, better known to history as Caligula. This podcast has been written and recorded much like a play, with minimal sound effects, so listening gives the pleasing sensation of being in the audience at the theatre (50m 37s)
Book of the Week: Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue
by Michael Keen and Joel Slemrod | Courtesy of Five Books
The seemingly impossible has been achieved: a book about taxes that’s funny. The authors are economists (one in academia, one at the IMF) who truly delight in fiscal history. “The intellectual case for using carbon taxes to save the planet from climate risk," they say, "is much the same as that for the tax on beards introduced in Russia by Peter the Great in order to save Russia from the boyars” (398 pages)
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