Spiders, Jean-Pierre Melville, Morticians, Robert Sapolsky, Astrophysics

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Spider Genes And Stunning Silks

Elizabeth Pennisi | Science | 19th October 2017

All about spiders. “Taxonomists recognize three spider groups. The Mygalomorphae — ground-dwelling creatures with fangs that point straight down — comprise about 2500 species including tarantulas, trap-door and funnel-web spiders. Another group, Liphistiidae, consists of 97 species, many of which also build trap-doors to capture prey. The third group, Araneomorphae, includes 5500 jumping spiders, 4500 dwarf spiders, 2400 wolf spiders, and thousands of web spinners” (2,700 words)

Double Exposure: Jean-Pierre Melville

Adrien Bosc | Tablet | 20th October 2017

Evocative and sprawling profile of the French resistance fighter and film director whose life and work merged into one long film noir, with World War Two at its heart. “The Resistance movement within France, the Italian campaign, the liberation of France marked Melville indelibly. There is not a film of his where, hidden in the features of a gangster, woven into the solitude of a hired gun, or even buried in the uncertainty of a high-rolling gambler, the bitter years of combat are not present” (8,020 words)

A Mortician’s Tale

Cecilia D'Anastasio | Kotaku | 18th October 2017

One of the best video games of 2017 is also one of the most original ever. A Mortician’s Tale is about the life and work of a young mortician called Charlie. “When it’s time to embalm a body, the player selects a sponge, cotton balls, a needle and thread, and other implements of the trade from a menu and drags them across various areas of a body. After you forget that you’re touching a dead body, it feels a little like following any other set of instructions — baking, fixing a bike” (870 words)

Robert Sapolsky’s Tour De Force

Henry Marsh | New Statesman | 21st October 2017

Brain surgeon reviews Robert Sapolsky’s book, Behave, in which Sapolsky considers how the physical characteristics of the human brain seem to determine the broad outlines of our behaviour, reducing if not eliminating the scope for free will. “This is the best scientific book written for non-specialists that I have ever read. You will learn more about human nature than in any other book I can think of, and you will be inspired, even if you find some of it hard to accept” (1,200 words)

Shut Up And Measure

Brian Keating | Edge | 20th October 2017

Astrophysicist Brian Keating talks about current research seeking to reconstruct, from background radiation and gravity waves, exactly what happened in the moment that the Universe was created — and thus to explain why the Universe, or the multiverse, is the way it is. “We want to go back to a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. And that corresponds to an epoch at which it might be possible to say that time can no longer be further subdivided” (6,900 words)

Video of the day The Silent Shredder

What to expect:

An unusual mixture. A minute of monochrome atmospherics followed by three minutes of stunt biking (4’44”)

Thought for the day

We don’t have an easy language for emotional life. That’s why we have writers
Susie Orbach

Podcast of the day Deux Ex Machina | The Economist

The link goes to a page listing all recent Economist podcasts, which is no bad thing. The recommendation goes particularly to Oliver Morton’s discussion of “Blade Runner” and artificial intelligence in the episode “Deus Ex Machina”

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