Newsletter 990


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Best of the Moment

The Debt To Pleasure

Anonymous | The Economist | 26th April 2013

Discussion of a paper from Nobel-prize-winning economist Daniel McFadden, arguing that, to understand consumer choice, we need a "new science of pleasure" incorporating psychology, neuroscience and anthropology. Economics has taken too narrow a view: Human decision-making isn't all about self-interest and revealed preferences. It is shaped by memory, experience, mood, trust, and brain chemistry

The Best Philosophy Is Hume’s Scepticism

Anthony Gottlieb | Intelligent Life | 24th April 2013

"In theory, we have all learned Hume’s lesson, because a modest scepticism is the official philosophy of the modern sciences. In fact, we have not learned his lesson. Nobody has time to wait and see whether yesterday’s experiment will still stand several decades from now. Life is short and writers have deadlines. So scepticism is a philosophy that is not easy to live up to. But who would want a philosophy that was?"

Despair Drives Guantánamo Detainees To Revolt

Charlie Savage | New York Times | 24th April 2013

Unrest grows at Guantanamo Bay prison, where most of the 166 remaining inmates are on hunger strike. They thought President Obama would move quickly to close the prison. Instead, he has not only kept Guantanamo open, but placed further restrictions on those detained there, apparently for life. "It has become a place where no new prisoners arrive and no one can leave, and it makes little sense" (Metered paywall)

What If We Never Run Out Of Oil?

Charles Mann | The Atlantic | 24th April 2013

Fracking and shale gas have transformed America's energy balance. In another decade, led by Japan, we may well be recovering natural gas — methane hydrate — from beneath the oceans, tapping reserves perhaps twice as big as all other fossil fuels combined. In short, humanity may well have all the fossil fuels it can possibly use for lifetimes to come. Which would be great news — if not for climate change

George Saunders: My Desktop

Ben Johncock | Guardian | 22nd April 2013

One of those formulaic features: "me and my computer". But with George Saunders in charge, it bursts out of the formula and turns into a captivating conversation. "I'd get online and look up and 40 minutes would have gone by, and my reading time for the night would have been pissed away, and all I would have learned was that, you know, a certain celebrity had lived in her car awhile, or that a cat had dialled 911"

Week In Culture: Sophie Pinkham, Slavicist

Sophie Pinkham | Paris Review | 25th April 2013

Literary diary. Pot-pourri of language classes, poetry readings, book parties, funny stories and writing seminars. With guest appearances from Keith Gessen, Kirill Medvedev, Mikhail Shishkin. Many good lines about the problems of translating Russian poetry: "It’s brave, even foolhardy, to try to translate poets who undermined the very foundations of language. So when it turns out well, it’s like Sully Sullenberger landing on the Hudson"

Video of the day: "Beth", By Kiss

Thought for the day:

"Translating a poem is like bringing a plane in for a crash landing. The question is, how much damage will be done, and whether there will be any survivors"— Peter Scotto

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