Rare Earth Metals, Boko Haram, Love Poetry, Stagnation, Free Money, Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Michael Burleigh | Literary Review | 4th February 2016

Review of David Abraham's Elements Of Power, about the strategic importance of rare earth metals. "When Gustave Eiffel built the tower that bears his name, he needed 7,000 tons of steel. With the addition of a pinch of niobium to each ton of steel, a modern replica could be built using 5,000 tons fewer ... The F-35 Fighter is like a flying periodic table, containing 920 pounds of beryllium, gallium, lithium and tantalum" (1,200 words)

Join Us Or Die: The Birth Of Boko Haram

Andrew Walker | Guardian | 4th February 2016

Book extract. Gripping. In the 1990s Mohammed Yusuf was an itinerant preacher calling for the destruction of Nigeria's Westernised education system. In 2003 he left for Saudi Arabia. On his return in 2005 he built a mosque in Borno province and organised a "state within a state" around it. Police killed him in 2009 after a massacre and a siege. Bent on revenge, his cult evolved into "a fully fledged terrorist group" (4,700 words)

Immortal Beloved

Austin Allen | Poetry Foundation | 26th January 2016

Immortalising the beloved is one of the great themes of poetry down the ages. But why is the beloved almost always elusive? "If I started listing novels that plumb the depths of their authors’ marriages, I could fill this whole essay. Yet when you look at the great sequences of English love poetry, you find that they overwhelmingly portray wanting or missing, not shared experience. In other words, they thrive on isolation" (2,900 words)

Will Our Children Know Growth?

Larry Summers | Prospect | 21st January 2016

Robert Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth is "an extraordinary work of economic scholarship". It is a "pleasure to read". But the conclusions are dismaying. Gordon believes that America is exiting an era of exceptional growth and entering one of stagnation, mainly because it has ceased to produce transformative new technologies. There is "virtually no room for growth over the next 25 years" (1,900 words)

Free Money

Sarah Perry | Ribbonfarm | 4th February 2016

Universal basic income is likely to make recipients feel happier, and to turn two-earner households into one-earner households. But the real returns will come from the freedom to experiment: "Even if universal basic income does result in less workforce participation, and even though most recipients are unlikely to become entrepreneurs, we may see society-wide benefits from a few more geniuses having more free time" (2,400 words)

The Epic Uncool Of Philip Seymour Hoffman

Nathan Rabin | Dissolve | 25th January 2016

Film-by-film critique of Hoffman's career — 47 films by his death at the age of 46. In his early years Hoffman "all but lunged for the camera with wild-eyed abandon". In his mid-period — Boogie Nights until Capote — he was "still stuck in the realm of supporting roles, but the roles and the films mattered in a way his early dues-paying work never did". After the Capote Oscar, no more bit parts. He is "all guile and control" (7,600 words)

Video of the day: Philosopher Kings

What to expect: Animated explainer of Plato's argument that philosophers should rule the world (1'30")

Thought for the day

Time spent arguing is almost never wasted
Christopher Hitchens

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