String, Behaviour, Avignon, Pirates, First Nations


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The Long, Knotty Story Of String

Ferris Jabr | Hakai | 6th March 2018

In praise of string. Without string our ancestors could not have domesticated horses and cows. The great stone monuments of the world — Stonehenge, the Pyramids at Giza, the moai of Easter Island — would still be recumbent. The age of naval exploration would never have happened. There would be no Golden Gate Bridge, no tennis shoes, no Beethoven’s fifth symphony. “Everybody knows about fire and the wheel, but string is one of the most powerful tools and really the most overlooked” (2,500 words)

Biases And Fallacies

Koen Smets | Behavioural Scientist | 24th July 2018

Behavioural economists think there is a logical and rational way for individuals to behave. They treat deviations from this as “biases” and “fallacies” which can and should be corrected. But “biases” and “fallacies” describe behaviour which we do not yet understand. They are neither as clear-cut nor as uniform as the behaviouralists’ simplified experiments would have us believe. The appropriate question is not how to get rid of them, but rather: What purpose do they serve? (3,200 words)

Papal Indulgences

Jeni Mitchell & Stéphane Hénaut | Lapham's Quarterly | 24th July 2018

The 14C Avignon papacy was a “brief yet pivotal era in the history of the Catholic Church” replete with “fantastic castles, poisonous plots, and antipopes”. Dante condemned Pope Clement to the eighth circle of Hell for abandoning Rome. Pope Clement’s successor, John XXII, built a summer residence in the Rhone Valley at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and brought vintners from Cahors to plant a vineyard there. The popes departed Avignon in 1417; the wine of Châteauneuf-du-Pape flourishes still (2,060 words)

Kidnapped By Pirates

Michael Scott Moore | GQ | 24th July 2018

Diary of an American hostage held for ransom by Somali pirates on a hijacked fishing boat. “We tried to play cards, but during the long afternoon the tropical heat mounted, and we had little to keep us from remembering our status as prisoners, or the tons of rigid tuna in the freezer, or the captain, who had been shot dead when the pirates boarded, now stored in there like a fish. We wondered if he would decompose. A smell rose from the corner grate we used for a latrine” (3,700 words)

The Waiting Room

Christian Allaire | Hazlitt | 24th July 2018

Notes from a detention room at JFK airport arrivals in New York City, where a Canadian passport holder waits, yet again, for immigration officials to recognise that, as a First Nations citizen, he is entitled to live and work in the US. “I wish I could say this is my first time here, but it isn’t. I’ve sat in this exact chair about five times. I brace myself for the long line of questioning. The TSA officer continues to stare at me. I pause and catch his gaze. ‘Sorry’, he says. ‘I’ve never seen an Indian so pale'” (3,500 words)

Video of the day Ethiopia’s Chapel In The Sky

What to expect:

A terrifying visit to the church of Abuna Yemata Gu, perched 650 feet up on an Ethiopian cliff face (3’21”)

Thought for the day

I want to live happily in a world I don’t understand
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Podcast This Is The Way Up | Habitat

Six volunteers spend a year in the lava fields of Hawaii to simulate living conditions on Mars
(26m 50s)

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