Romantic Novels, Fishing, Gravitational Waves, Magic, Particles

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Romantic Novels And Love

Alain de Botton | Penguin | 12th February 2016

Short essay contrasting romantic novels (bad) with classical novels (good), as guides to love and marriage. "In the Romantic novel, the drama hinges on how a couple get together: the ‘love story’ is the account of how love begins. The Classical novel knows that the real problem isn’t finding a partner, it is tolerating them, and being tolerated, over time. Relationships are understood to be institutions, not just emotions" (1,450 words)

The Secret Afterlife Of Boats

Anna Badkhen | Granta | 12th February 2016

At sea with the fishermen of Senegal. "It is tremendously addictive. I forget to care about the depleted fisheries, about broken ecosystems and species on the verge of extirpation, languages lost, songs abandoned. Everything screams to a point at the single insatiable fixation: to cast and haul, again and again. The ocean reveals the predator in me. This makes sense. The ocean is where we learned to want" (2,700 words)

Gravitational Waves Exist

Nicola Twilley | New Yorker | 11th February 2016

When two black holes orbit one another, they "stretch and squeeze space-time like children running on a trampoline", sending out waves of gravitational energy. Einstein thought this energy was too weak ever to be captured. But an American lab thinks it has detected reverberations of two black holes colliding a billion years ago — if so, one of the great discoveries of the century. The New Yorker has the scoop (Metered Paywall) (4,900 words)

Magic And The Rise Of Science

Diane Purkiss | Times Literary Supplement | 10th February 2016

Brian Copenhaver's "impressive anthology", The Book Of Magic, documents the shifting frontiers between magic, science and religion from Antiquity to the Enlightenment. Magic, almost by definition, was the most protean. "In the pre-Christian era the primary idea of magic was to summon an entity with astounding power – an angel, a demon, a god. With Christianity came the problem, What did the entities themselves want?" (1,800 words)

People As Particles

Philip Ball | Nautilus | 11th February 2016

We use metaphors and models drawn from physics to describe social interactions: “I was attracted to him”; “You can’t force me”; “I’m repelled by these policies.” The influence of physics is stronger still in the language and thinking of economics. At one level this is helpful. At another it is dangerous, if it leads us to imagine society as "a deterministic Newtonian machine ... that has only one way of working properly" (3,700 words)

Video of the day: OK Go — Upside Down And Inside Out

What to expect: Music video shot in zero-gravity (3'20")

Thought for the day

The present enables us to understand the past, not the other way round
AJP Taylor

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