Random Facts, tDCS, Brain Surgery, Donald Trump, Foxtons, American Drought

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Rafil Kroll-Zaidi | Harper's | 16th June 2015

A monthly potpourri of scientific miscellania. Amongst which: "Researchers correlated exceptional activation of the presupplementary motor area and the midcingulate cortex with the extemporizing of British comedians. Prominent composers in the nineteenth century died 2.2 years earlier if another major composer lived in the same city. Middle initials are overrepresented among lead authors of psychology articles" (630 words)

Zapping The Brain For Self-Improvement

Lucy Jones | Long+Short | 17th June 2015

Should you run an electric current through your brain? Yes, say amateurs of transcranial direct current stimulation. Do the wiring yourself, or buy a box for £60. A zappee says: "Everything went empty in a good way. I felt chilled inside. It was a mad sensation and an out-of-body experience." A doctor says: "What we can say about tDCS is that it does change how our brain works. We can say that with certainty" (3,300 words)


Henry Marsh | Literary Hub | 16th June 2015

Brain surgeon's gripping account of an operation that goes suddenly wrong. The clip won't open. "I cannot move my hand for fear of tearing the minute, fragile aneurysm off the middle cerebral artery and causing a catastrophic haemorrhage. I sit there motionless, with my hand frozen in space. If an aneurysm is torn off its parent artery you can usually only stop the bleeding by sacrificing the artery, which will result in a major stroke" (7,365 words)

Witless Ape Rides Escalator

Kevin Williamson | National Review | 16th June 2015

On Donald Trump's announcement that he will run for president: "Who could witness that scene — a reality-television grotesque grunting about his own vast wealth — and not see the peerless sign of our times?" Trump is "barely out of his latest bankruptcy and possibly headed for another one as the casino/jiggle-joint bearing his name sinks into the filthy mire of the one U.S. city that makes Las Vegas look respectable" (820 words)

Is Foxtons The Estate Agent London Deserves?

Andy Beckett | Guardian | 17th June 2015

The "swaggering success" of "brash and aggressive" Foxtons reflects the "double standards" that Londoners apply to house prices. Everyone complains prices are too high, but in the end everyone wants the money, and Foxtons has the reputation for getting it. "If you have a name as a really ruthless, sharky bastard estate agent, a lot of people, when they come to selling their house, will think: I want that ruthless, sharky bastard” (5,500 words)

End Of The Miracle Machines

Abrahm Lustgarten | Pro Publica | 16th June 2015

The coal-fired Navajo Generating Station in Arizona lifts trillions of gallons of water from the Colorado River to supply distant Tucson and Phoenix. But Navajo is "more a caution than a marvel, showing how much energy it takes to move water through an artificial river system, and the unforeseen damage produced by doing so". A hundred dams and reservoirs drain the Colorado. The river has been engineered to death (4,800 words)

Video of the day: Announcing An Announcement

What to expect: Humour. Stephen Colbert celebrates Donald Trump's presidential candidacy (6'29")

Thought for the day

Freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure
Bertrand Russell

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