Taleb, Passing, Kathy Acker, Tectonics, Mushrooms

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The Logic Of Risk-Taking

Nassim Nicholas Taleb | Incerto | 25th August 2017

Here is an ensemble-risk model of a 1% probability: A hundred people go to a casino, and one of them emerges bankrupt. Here is the time-risk version of the same 1% probability: You go to a casino repeatedly, and, on or before your 100th visit, you go bust. Put like that, these seem very different risks. But most of the time, even serious thinkers confuse the two. A risk in general, versus your risk in particular, are very different things. And all the more so if the risk is the risk of your ruin (2,990 words)

Passing For Pakistani

Samir Chopra | 3 Quarks Daily | 28th August 2017

On the outward distinctions, and lack of them, between Indians and Pakistanis. “Tales of friendship between Indians and Pakistanis are legendary in the diaspora, but these tend to be more between North Indians and Pakistanis — those who speak Urdu and Punjabi on ‘this side’ and those who do so on the ‘other’. South Indians, Indians from the North East, Gujaratis, Marathas, or Oriya folk do not tell such tales with as much alacrity or ease; they find it harder to pass as Pakistani” (2,660 words)

After Kathy Acker

Suzanne Moore | New Statesman | 28th August 2017

On the life and death of Kathy Acker, as captured by in a new biography by Chris Kraus. “Being Kathy Acker meant having tattoos, piercings, a motorbike and muscles long before they became a common language. This was a hardcore performance of cool, and yet sometimes she was so lost. She choose a series of relationships that tormented her, but this was the altered state from which she wanted to write. She also treated many people appallingly. She never washed up, either” (1,350 words)

Discovering Earth’s Tectonic Plates

Natalie Wolchover | Quanta | 28th August 2017

Geophysicist Jason Morgan deduced the theory of plate tectonics in 1967 while sitting in his Princeton office reading an article in Science about the mapping of long cracks on the Pacific Ocean floor: “I instantly saw the pattern — that all the fracture zones had a common pole that they were concentric about”. The pattern could be explained as “simple rotations of rigid plates on a sphere”, indicating that “ocean floors also moved as rigid objects — that they were equally strong as continents” (1,040 words)

How Mushrooms Became Magic

Ed Yong | Atlantic | 24th August 2017

Some 200 varieties of mushroom contain psilocybin, which induces hallucinations, for which they are greatly prized by visionaries. Clinical studies show that psilocybin also reduces anxiety and depression. But why do mushrooms produce psilocybin? It cannot be for the benefit of humans: Mushrooms evolved long before we did. The best guess is that the primeval mushrooms fed on decaying wood and dung, where they were rivals of, and prey for, insects. Psilocybin took out the insects (1,100 words)

Video of the day: A Real Circus

What to expect:

Meet the Zoppé Family Circus, in business for 175 years, and still swallowing swords (1’58”)

Thought for the day

Words should be free. Release them from their sentences
Amy King

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