Lightning, Counting, Spiders, Billie Holiday, Wayne Hall, Energy

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What It’s Like To Be Struck By Lightning

Charlotte Huff | Mosaic | 23rd May 2017

“Of every ten people hit by lightning, nine will survive to tell the tale. But they could suffer a variety of short- and long-term effects. The list is lengthy and daunting: cardiac arrest, confusion, seizures, dizziness, distractibility, personality changes and chronic pain, among others. Lightning can also knock out the region of the brain that controls breathing. This doesn’t have a built-in reset, meaning a person’s oxygen supply can become dangerously depleted” (4,900 words)

How Do You Count Without Numbers?

Caleb Everett | Sapiens | 23rd May 2017

You don’t, apparently; or not much. A few of the world’s languages lack words to represent numbers; and it seems that, without number-words, the mechanics of counting are hard to grasp. “When people do not have number-words, they struggle to make quantitative distinctions that probably seem natural to someone like you or me. While only a small portion of the world’s languages are anumeric or nearly anumeric, they demonstrate that number words are not a human universal” (1,200 words)

The Thoughts Of A Spiderweb

Joshua Sokol | Quanta | 23rd May 2017

Studies of spiders and octopuses suggest that thinking need not happen in the brain — nor even in the body. At least some of the ideas central to being a spider seem somehow to be encoded in the spider’s web. “The suggestion that some of a spider’s thoughts happen in its web fits into a small but growing trend in discussions of animal cognition. Many animals interact with the world in certain complicated ways that don’t rely on their brains. In some cases, they don’t even use neurons” (2,800 words)

Billie Holiday

Elizabeth Hardwick | New York Review Of Books | 4th March 1976

“In her presence on these tranquil nights it was possible to experience the depths of her disbelief, to feel sometimes the mean, horrible freedom of a thorough suspicion of destiny. And yet the heart always drew back from the power of her will and its engagement with disaster. An inclination bred upon punishing experiences compelled her to live gregariously and without affections. Her talents and the brilliance of her mind contended with the strength of the emptiness” (3,100 words)

Wayne Hall 0.1

David Searcy | Oxford American | 23rd May 2017

Visiting with an outsider artist. “Wayne is a deacon of the Samaria Baptist Church. There is about all this a sense of resurrection. Plastic frozen-food containers, toilet paper rolls, sticks, pebbles, bits of tin, little googly doll eyes here and there, and always macaroni, little tubes of macaroni everywhere, and all glued up into these unresolvable wonders sprayed with gold and silver, sometimes other bright metallic colors, like that glorifying foil applied to images of saints” (1,800 words)

The Energy Expansions Of Evolution

Olivia Judson | Nature | 28th April 2017

Accessible scientific paper arguing that the history of the Earth can be organised into epochs defined by energy sources. “These sources are: geochemical energy, sunlight, oxygen, flesh and fire. The first two were present at the start, but oxygen, flesh and fire are all consequences of evolutionary events. Using energy expansions as the lens reveals a fundamental, recursive interplay between events in the evolution of life and the development of the planetary environment” (10,900 words)

Video of the day: Should Speech That Offends Be Prohibited?

What to expect:

Animated explainer: Speech that attempts to persuade is broadly protected, even if some people find it offensive (1’19”)

Thought for the day

The mere has always been a useful category
Donald Barthelme

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