Noise, Poetry, Livers, Rolex, Health

Nature, Nurture, Noise

Jordana Cepelewicz | Quanta | 23rd March 2020

We think of the passage from genotype to phenotype as being determined by two rival forces, Nature and Nurture. But a third force, Noise (which is to say, randomisation), may be more influential than either. Embryos exhibit seemingly random variations from their earliest days. A study of armadillos — which reproduce in litters of genetically identical quadruplets, making them ideal for controlled tests — show that “arbitrary coin flips” start to occur when an embryo consists of a mere 25 cells (3,200 words)


What The Virus Said

Robert Hurley | Lundi Matin | 27th March 2020

A poem, of sorts. As if Nietzsche did the first draft with T.S. Eliot on rewrite. “Thank me: I place you in front of the bifurcation that was tacitly structuring your existences: the economy or life. It’s your move, your turn to play. Either you go with the truths that are coming to light, or you put your head on the chopping block. Either you use the time I’m giving you to envision the world of the aftermath in light of what you’ve learned from the collapse that’s underway, or the latter will go extreme” (1,720 words)


Transplant Organs Missing In Transit

JoNel Aleccia | Reveal | 8th February 2020

Surgeons will personally collect and transport hearts, which survive only four to six hours out of the body. But kidneys and pancreases – which have longer shelf lives – rely for shipment within the US on packing and dispatching by a network of non-profits. They often travel as cargo, with no special status. Some miss connecting flights or end up as lost luggage. “If an airline forgets to put a kidney on a plane or a courier misses a flight because he got lost or stuck in traffic, there is no consequence” (2,800 words)


Gem Fatale

Clancy Martin | Bookforum | 30th March 2020

Tales from the pawnbroking trade, spurred by watching the Safdie Brothers’ Uncut Gems. “You bought a used Rolex at a pawnshop for $1,000 from the kid who just paid $500 for it, hurried it over to your watch guy to hit it on the wheel and make it look new, replaced the old worn buckle with a $50 counterfeit, and resold it to your friend who owned the jewellery store a few blocks over for $2,200 — or $2,275 if she wanted a counterfeit leather box. She could retail it the same day for $3,500” (1,850 words)


The Next Steps

Benjamin Bidder et al | Spiegel | 27th March 2020

The crisis viewed from Germany; a plain-worded exploration of the trade-offs between public health and productivity. Governments have handed authority to scientists who understand the mathematics and biology of epidemics but not necessarily the social and political fundamentals. By locking down cities and countries we can reduce the spread of disease; but we also encourage “fear, isolation, depression and domestic violence”. Should one paper — from Imperial College — change a billion lives? (7,100 words)


Video: Concatenation | Donato Sansone. Heterogeneous images yoked together by violence (1m 01s)

Audio: What Flat Earthers Believe | Scientific American. Steve Mirsky and Michael Marshall discuss whether, and on what basis, a reasonable person can believe that the Earth is flat (33m 52s)

Afterthought:
”All logical arguments can be defeated by the simple refusal to reason logically”
— Steven Weinberg