Sport, Saudi Arabia, Jim Thorpe, Stanford, Big Organisms, Cotton


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The Drugs Won

Patrick Hruby | Vice Sports | 1st August 2016

The practical and moral arguments for legalising drugs in sport. “With doping bans, we’re not just comparing effort, we’re comparing luck. Having the good luck to inherit good genes, and to be born into a wealthy, sports-oriented family. Having access to the best coaches. An enormous amount of accomplishment is due to those factors. Doping could be seen as a way of levelling this playing field. Why not let people who are not so lucky in the game of genetic roulette dope?” (7,700 words)

A Deep Dive Into Saudi Culture

Studio D | 1st August 2016

Market research report on Saudi Arabian consumer culture. “The call to prayer, athan, challenges the seamless retail experience. Although the time spent praying is only 3 to 6 minutes (double for someone who is devout), shops close for 15 to 30 minutes before and after prayers”. For the male, the car is the great enabler; for the female, it is the mobile telephone. Skype is “acceptable for mixed communication when you’re about to get married”. (A big PDF, but worth the inconvenience) (7,500 words)

Jim Thorpe: Spirit Of A Legend

Kurt Streeter | ESPN | 28th July 2016

The bones of Jim Thorpe, America’s greatest-ever athlete and a Native American legend, are buried on the edge of a small Pennsylvania town, also called Jim Thorpe, which had no prior connection with the athlete but took his name as part of a deal with his widow to get his remains as a tourist attraction. Thorpe’s sons, now approaching death themselves, want him back in Oklahoma. “His spirit wanders the earth in sorrow because he has never had a proper ceremony for the dead” (2,900 words)

Cognitive Dissonance

Matt Reed | Inside Higher Ed | 1st August 2016

A community college dean visits Stanford, and loves the place — then tries to imagine what his own college could do with a fraction of Stanford’s endowment. “Stanford has about 7,000 undergraduates and about 8,000 grad students. Brookdale has about 13,000 students. We could go to free for every student, for less than a twentieth of Stanford’s annual rentier income. It would affect roughly the same number of people. The key difference is that the Brookdale students have fewer other options” (940 words)

The Paleontological Individual

Leonard Finkelman | Extinct | 1st August 2016

The concept of the “individual” in biology is quite different from our usual sense of the term. For biologists, the individual is the “unit of selection” or “replicator”. Charles Darwin argued that a beehive was an individual because it pursued a unitary interest; Richard Dawkins follows the same logic in The Selfish Gene. By this definition the world’s largest individual organism is not a whale or an elephant, but a complex of fungi in Oregon whose filaments extend three kilometres underground (2,040 words)

How The American Civil War Built Egypt

Peter Schwarzstein | Smithsonian | 1st August 2016

The American Civil War was a catastrophe for the states, and a windfall for their trading rivals. “It took just a couple of weeks for farmers the world over to realize the scope of the bounty that had landed in their lap. From Australia and India to the West Indies they ditched wheat and other food staples and hastily planted up their fields with cotton”. In this new trade war, Egypt won a Pyrrhic victory. As the world’s top cotton exporter it became so prosperous that the British colonised it (1,760 words)

Video of the day: The Well-Tempered Clavier

What to expect:

Alan Warburton’s visual representation of Bach’s score, played here by Pierre-Laurent Aimard (5’12”)

Thought for the day

For many, instead of looking for cause of death when they expire, we should look for cause of life while they are still around
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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