Vatican Power, Forecasting, London Taxis, After Katrina


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Will The Pope Change The Vatican?

Robert Draper | National Geographic | 10th August 2015

Or will the Vatican change the Pope? So far Pope Francis is way ahead on points. He has "drastically reduced" the powers of his secretary of secretary of state and taken direct charge of the secular side of the Vatican; which, since he is diffident and capricious in his own use of power, has the perverse effect of making everybody less powerful. “No one knows all of what he’s doing,” says the Pope's own spokesman (5,200 words)

A Short Course In Superforecasting

Daniel Kahneman & Philip Tetlock et al | Edge | 12th August 2015

Expert discussion of forecasting. First case study: The raid which killed Osama Bin Laden. "It's an interesting fact that in very high stakes national security debates people don't think it's possible to make very granular probability estimates. They seem to act as though 'things are going to happen', and there's 'maybe' and 'things aren't going to happen'. They act as though there will be only three levels of uncertainly" (14,000 words)

Inside A London Taxi

John Bull | London Reconnections | 28th May 2015

Elegant and immensely well-informed account of the London taxi trade, and of the challenge from Uber. Taxi drivers have already been forced into a grudging accommodation with licensed mini-cabs. The threat from Uber is much greater. Uber's technology can substitute both for the taxi-meter and for local knowledge. In effect, taxi-drivers must now ask government not merely to regulate their trade, but to preserve it (6,200 words)

Starting Over: The Social Science Of Katrina

Malcolm Gladwell | New Yorker | 17th August 2015

Behind the New Yorker's metered paywall. Lessons learned from the terrible natural experiment of Hurricane Katrina, which displaced tens of thousands of African-American families to new schools and new neighbourhoods in Houston, Salt Lake City and beyond. How do the families that left compare with the families that stayed? "The results aren’t even close". Families that left New Orleans made new and better lives (5,200 words)

The Grandest Art Of The Ancients

Ingrid Rowland | New York Review Of Books | 13th August 2015

The few pieces of bronze statuary surviving from the ancient world are enough to show us why this was considered the greatest of arts. "Carving marble is an art of subtraction. Michelangelo described it as releasing a figure from its sheath of stone. A sculptor in metal performs nearly the opposite action, building up his figure from the inside out, using soft materials like clay and wood, before embedding it in a mold of clay or plaster" (3,800 words)

Video of the day: Noam Chomsky On Language Acquisition

What to expect: Animated clip from Michel Gondry's film, Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? (3'03")

Thought for the day

Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, it’s where all the fruit is
Shirley MacLaine

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