Windows, Wisdom, Wildfires, Food, Science

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Returns To Scale In Broken Windows

Alvaro de Menard | Fantastic Anachronism | 25th May 2021

Bastiat's "broken window fallacy" holds that breaking and then replacing a window might seem to generate economic activity, but sums to a net loss when opportunity cost is taken into account. But what if destruction shows positive returns to scale? Wars and natural disasters enable the rethinking and redesign of cities, systems and institutions. Might such events yield net gains in the long term? (2,900 words)


Merlin’s Owl

Lewis H. Lapham | Lapham's Quarterly | 18th May 2021

Text of a commencement speech delivered in 2003, advising perpetual curiosity. "The future turns out to be something that you make instead of find. It isn’t waiting for your arrival, either with an arrest warrant or a band, nor is it any further away than the next sentence, the next best guess, the next sketch for the painting of a life portrait that might become a masterpiece" (3,673 words)


Objects Of Fire

Tessa Love | The Believer | 1st June 2021

Collection of oral histories about treasured objects lost in the Californian wildfires. Some are substantial, such as the barn housing 12 horses set loose to take their chance when the flames swept in. Others are small and easily left behind, like a set of cutlery or a single photograph of a long dead relative. All are regretted for what they represented and for the memories they held (4,722 words)


Audio of the Week: Origin Story

Episode: "The Curious Curator Of Culinary History" | Podcast: Proof | 35m 03s

Ever wondered what Roman soldiers ate? Ask Lynn Olver, founder of the Food Timeline, a food-history website that has attracted 35 million readers and answered 25,000 questions since launch in 1999, leading with a timeline that shows when particular foods first appeared for consumption, ranging from almonds in 10,000 BCE to Kool-Aid pickles in 2007 (35m 03s)


Book of the Week: When We Cease To Understand The World

by Benjamin Labatut | Courtesy of Five Books

A series of linked pieces, part essay, part story, and part biography, about great thinkers of the 20th century on the verge of collapsing into madness as they unlock the secrets of the universe. The book offers a perspective on mathematics and physics as symbolic systems. Expressive though they may be, they are incapable of truly containing the strangeness of reality (192 pages)


Afterthought:
"To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else"
Emily Dickinson


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