Gestation, Electrons, Banlieues, Mongolia, Robert McCrum


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Bun Or Bump

Suki Finn | Aeon | 27th July 2017

What is the relationship between the maternal organism and the foetus, and does it change with time? One possible answer is that the foetus is part of the maternal organism, just like the organism’s organs and limbs. Another possible answer is that the maternal organism carries, or contains, the foetus, which is an entity in its own right. The distinction, however philosophical, can have “wide-reaching implications for our moral and legal practices regarding pregnancy” (3,200 words)

Are Electrons Conscious?

Philip Goff | OUP | 13th August 2017

Discussion of theories of mind running counter to the prevailing view that we know much about the brain but nothing about consciousness. We know nothing except consciousness, since we live in it. Matter, the stuff of the brain, is the mystery. “Only by supposing that there is consciousness all the way down to electrons we can render the emergence of human and animal consciousness intelligible. Experience cannot emerge from the utterly non-experiential, so it must be there all along” (1,200 words)

Notes On A Suicide

Rana Dasgupta | Granta | 3rd August 2017

Portrait of what passes for life in the squalid outer suburbs of Paris, where the main occupations of the young are drugs and vandalism. Grigny, once a rural village, is now a wasteland of 1970s housing blocks which “evokes nothing so much as an open-plan prison, since no space is wasted on pleasure or whim, and no amenities exist save those required to keep inmates docile and alive: the clinic, the sports centre, the fortified police station”. Extract from a longer gated article, but of value in itself (3,040 words)

My Mongolian Spot

Jennifer Hope Choi | Longreads | 1st August 2017

Engaging account of the physical characteristics associated with Mongolian ancestry, and of scientific attempts to classify races. “After my aunt gave birth to a boy, my mother and I visited to coo over the baby. When it was time to change his diaper, my aunt plucked him up by his ankles, folded his little naked body, and there it was: a bona fide blue butt in the flesh. I felt oddly proud at the sight of it. We were all part of the same club, our secret selves hidden from the rest of world” (4,250 words)

Words Against Ageing

Robert McCrum | Guardian | 13th August 2017

Memoir of surviving a near-fatal stroke. “My left leg was paralysed, and my left arm hung from its socket like a dead rabbit; the left side of my face felt frozen, as if my dentist had just given it a massive novocaine injection. That was the day I should have died, but didn’t. Thankfully, within a year, I was on the road to some kind of physical recovery. I lived from day to day as if nothing had changed. Call it carpe diem, or call it denial. In the back of my mind, I always knew there had to be a reckoning” (4,700 words)

Video of the day: More Covers

What to expect:

Sixty classic book covers, animated (3’00”)

Thought for the day

Familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth
Daniel Kahneman

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