Martha Nussbaum, Dinosaurs, Plants, Palantir, Holocaust


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Martha Nussbaum: Anger, Disgust, Love

Andrea Scarantino | Emotion Researcher | 21st February 2017

Wide-ranging interview about Nussbaum’s life, career, and philosophical views. Impossible to summarise, but here is one fragment: “Disgust at spoiled milk and other decaying foods is not harmful, and may even be useful. It isn’t a good proxy for danger, nonetheless, it is close enough to be a good heuristic for what might be discarded. When the word is used precisely it always involves a thought of contamination, and always involves a desire to separate oneself from the object” (18,000 words)

Extinction In The Badlands

Edward McPherson | Literary Hub | 22nd February 2017

Digging for dinosaur bones in the Badlands of North Dakota. “Through the cracked windshield I see a moonscape eroded out of the prairie: a mottled topography of red, brown, black, yellow, green, and gray studded with naked buttes — the sediments of the sea, silt and clay deposited and then worn down, epochs later, by water and wind. A landscape of hard eternity, home to rattlers, bull snakes, prairie dogs, pheasants, foxes, coyotes, pronghorns, bobcats, mule deer, minks, and ever-thirsty toads” (7,060 words)

Remembering Plants

Chauncey Maher | Brains Blog | 22nd February 2017

Notes on recent scientific research into plant life. A Venus flytrap closes only when two of its hairs have been touched in quick succession: Requiring two touches increases the probability that whatever is in the trap is alive. Researchers in Australia “claim to have evidence of associative learning in garden peas”. Plants which follow the sun during the day return to their starting position overnight to await the sun in the morning, suggesting a capacity to store and retrieve information (657 words)

Palantir Spies On The Whole World

Sam Biddle | Intercept | 22nd February 2017

Much interesting detail on Peter Thiel’s private big-data company Palantir, founded with CIA backing, which “excels at making connections between enormous, separate databases and visualising them coherently”. Spy agencies such as America’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ can “vacuum personal metadata from the entire internet”, but they need Palantir’s tools to analyse it. “Imagine trying to search your Gmail account, only the results are pulled from every Gmail inbox in the world” (4,200 words)

The Holocaust’s Great Escape

Matthew Shaer | Smithsonian | 21st February 2017

Late in the war the Nazis marched a last group of 80 Lithuanian Jews out into the forests beyond Vilnius where 90,000 had already been shot and dumped in mass graves. But these last prisoners had a stay of execution: First they were ordered to cut wood, build pyres, open the burial pits and burn the bodies, destroying the evidence of the Nazis’ crimes. Legend held that this “Burning Brigade” somehow escaped their own execution. Now archaeologists have discovered how they did it (4,700 words)

Video of the day: Pixar In Translation

What to expect:

Side-by-side comparisons showing how Pixar films are tweaked for foreign audiences (2’52”)

Thought for the day

If life had any positive intrinsic value, there would be no such thing as boredom
Arthur Schopenhauer

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