Galileo, Eggs, Sebald, India, Calendars


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When The Heavens Stopped Being Perfect

Alan Lightman | Nautilus | 29th March 2018

By turning his newly-built telescope towards the heavens, Galileo could see craters on the moon and spots on the sun — findings which had “dramatic implications for all of the stars”. Heavenly bodies “could no longer be considered perfect things, composed of some eternal and indestructible substance”. They were just stuff. The result was “a revolution in thinking about the separation between heaven and earth, a mind-bending expansion of the territory of the material world” (3,100 words)

The Doctor Is A Woman

Sloane Crosley | The Cut | 26th March 2018

In which the writer prepares for parenthood by harvesting and freezing her eggs. Lots of them. “Sixty-seven is not within the range of numbers listed in pamphlets. It’s a gaudy amount of eggs for a human to produce. On some core level, I was thrilled. But I was also disturbed. I felt disconnected from my body, as if it had been trying to tell me something for years and I hadn’t been listening. Or I had been listening but had heard the wrong thing. I am not a woman — I am a fish” (8,300 words)

Malthusian Tragic

Kris Bartkus | Millions | 29th March 2018

Malthus created a “new species of despair” with his argument that all human flourishing carried within it the seeds of its own destruction through over-population. A similar despair suffuses W.G. Sebald’s writing: Every small thing is part of a greater tragedy — for Sebald, the Holocaust. Sebald’s “submerged paranoia” speaks now to our fears for global warming. “We know that our end is composed almost entirely of small contributions — every flight, every cooked fish, every humming appliance” (3,700 words)

A Mighty Wind

Max Rodenbeck | New York Review Of Books | 1st April 2018

Prime minister Narendra Modi and his Indian People’s Party (BJP) have built a near-monopoly over power in India, the world’s biggest democracy. Modi’s “benign fatherly image” softens his edge when viewed from a distance, but his Hindu nationalist agenda carries echoes of fascism. “He acknowledges the pain, but taps into the sense of righteousness, the sense of sacrifice, and makes citizens feel they are participants in a great national mission, distinct from the prosaic and the banal” (4,000 words)

Anno Domini

Sarah Bond | History From Below | 31st March 2018

The year 1AD was invented in the 6th century AD by a Scythian monk called Dionysius Exiguus, who proposed re-starting the Christian calendar from the birth of Christ. Before Dionysius, the Christian calendar was based on the “era of the martyrs”, starting with the 3rd century persecutor Diocletian. Anno Diocletiani 248 became Anno Domini 532. Dionysius’s speciality was predicting the date of Easter, a field of ecclesiastical study known as “computus”, from which the word “computing” (1,100 words)

Video of the day Dakotalapse

What to expect:

Breathtaking views of the skies over South Dakota and Wyoming, by Randy Halverson (3’30”)

Thought for the day

Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Podcast of the day Benedict Evans | Danny In The Valley

Benedict Evans, partner at Andreessen Horowitz, talks about cars, cryptocurrencies, big tech
(45'56")

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