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Richard Hughes Gibson | Hedgehog Review | 14th September 2021 | U
In praise of very close reading. Books about writing are worthy of study in the same way that a guide to birdwatching can help the reader identify the plumage and song of an unfamiliar species when encountered in the wild. It is not possible to pay too much attention to the shape and configuration of carefully chosen words. You will know a good sentence when you see one (2,524 words)
Utterly charming animated collage complementing the music of Dean Martin
Francis Hallé | MIT Press Reader | 15th September 2021 | U
Wonders of the rainforest, captured in the illustrated notebooks of French botanist Francis Hallé. "One finds two kinds of mangrove in a forest. There are those with a trunk that rises up from the soil; these specimens are sprung from a seed and don’t move. Then there are mangroves whose trunk flattens out at the base; these trees stem from a branch at a low elevation — and they walk!" (3,200 words)
Josh Dzieza | Verge | 13th September 2021 | U
Action-packed account of the difficult lives of food-delivery workers in New York. "Delivery workers now move faster than just about anything else in the city. They keep pace with cars and weave between them when traffic slows, ever vigilant for opening taxi doors and merging trucks. They know they go too fast, but it’s a calculated risk. Slowing down means being punished by the apps" (7,800 words)
David S. Richeson | Quanta | 13th September 2021 | U
Lucid account, with diagrams, of the current state of mathematical thinking about dimensions. Finding an adequate definition of dimension has been a preoccupation of the field for centuries and is "exceptionally difficult". Yet it's also a pleasant problem upon which to work. "Luckily, dimensions don’t need to be fully understood to be enjoyed, by bird and mathematician alike" (2,143 words)
Amos Zeeberg | Aeon | 6th September 2021 | U
For most of history, humans have been focused on having enough to eat. Today, in places where food is abundant, it is no longer mere sustenance. We want to eat healthily; our meals must now also solve our problems. The problem is that science has no definitive recommendation as to the best way to eat. Food is now a vehicle for ideology and morality; it imparts meaning as well as nutrition (6,200 words)
Susan Tomes | Lapham's Quarterly | 1st September 2021 | U
Notes on Franz Liszt as pianist and composer. He was "handsome and charismatic, played magnificently, and performed his own pieces so theatrically that some listeners would faint with emotion". His "personality cult and bravura style of performance", inspired by Paganini, left rival 19C virtuosi in the shade. He "invented the model of a concert played by a single performer" (1,900 words)
Browser Publisher Uri Bram talks to three Stanford professors – philosopher Rob Reich, political scientist Jeremy Weinstein and computer scientist Mehran Sahami – about their brand new book System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot, discussing sensible regulation, democratic values and the future of technology in under ten words each (video: 26m 39s, podcast: 26m 34s, transcript: 4,136 words)
John Vincler | Paris Review | 30th July 2021 | U
Artist's account of seeing a portrait up close now that he has become accustomed to strangers' faces being obscured by masks. Study for Bird by Michaël Borreman was painted during the pandemic but draws on the "early Netherlandish" tradition that bridged the late medieval and early modern eras. Arresting. "Isn’t this a paradox, to be made to remember the faces of strangers?"
Chatty film podcast. On each episode the hosts pick their top five films in an obscure or niche category of their choosing (58m 38s)
Pointed polemic that busts myths that cow's milk was always the "default" milk in Western diets. "Almond milk dates back to at least 1226, when it was mentioned in A Baghdad Cookery Book. Soy milk came onto the documented scene in 1365, and almond milk had made it to Europe by 1390, when it became popular during Lent. The first written mention in English of soy milk was in 1704" (1,252 words)
On moral luck, financial markets, and timing. Person A was born in 1930. Person B was born in 2000. Both apply the Graham value-investing strategy at age 15. Person A becomes Warren Buffett, one of the richest people on earth. Person B loses half of their money because value stocks are out of favor in the 2010s. "Same strategy, same actions, different times, different outcomes" (1,100 words)
Have you seen our interview with children’s author Sylvia Bishop (@sylvialining) yet? Find out why you should always kill the parents, and how to tap into the mind of a child...