Best of the Week
Charles Mann | The Atlantic | 24th April 2013
Fracking and shale gas have transformed America's energy balance. In another decade, led by Japan, we may well be recovering natural gas — methane hydrate — from beneath the oceans, tapping reserves perhaps twice as big as all other fossil fuels combined. In short, humanity may well have all the fossil fuels it can possibly use for lifetimes to come. Which would be great news — if not for climate change
Henry Farrell | Aeon | 25th April 2013
Reflections on Western government inspired by Colin Crouch's book, Post-Democracy. Political parties and business have fused into a self-serving ruling class. "People still vote. Political parties vie in elections, circulate in and out of government. Yet these acts of apparent choice have had their meaning hollowed out. The real decisions are taken elsewhere. We have become squatters in the ruins of the great democratic societies of the past"
Michael Pollan | Medium | 17th April 2013
Book extract. Why we should take the trouble to cook, at least occasionally, at home. It keeps us alert, independent, informed; in touch with our food and the way it is produced. "In a world where so few of us are obliged to cook at all anymore, to choose to do so is to lodge a protest against specialization — against the total rationalization of life. Against the infiltration of commercial interests into every last cranny of our lives"
Anne Curzan | Lingua Franca | 24th April 2013
The punctuation mark " / " has morphed into the word "slash", meaning "and/or". Now the word "slash" is evolving into a conjunction, indicating an afterthought, particularly one that is also a topic shift. "The emergence of a new conjunction/conjunctive adverb is like a rare-bird sighting in the world of linguistics". And this one may have staying power, to judge from its common usage among young people
Kenneth Cukier | Foreign Affairs | 23rd April 2013
Essay. How big data will change the way we think about the world. Scientists will "no longer have to settle for small amounts or samples, as statisticians have done for well over a century". We will have to "shed our preference for highly curated and pristine data and instead accept messiness". And, most profoundly, we will "need to give up our quest to discover the cause of things, in return for accepting correlations"
Adam Gopnik | BBC | 19th April 2013
Thoughts on love, and especially parental love, provoked by the departure of an 18-year-old son for college: "What I wonder about is why we love our children so asymmetrically, so entirely, knowing that the very best we can hope for is that they will feel about us as we feel about our own parents: that slightly aggrieved mixture of affection, pity, tolerance and forgiveness, with a final soupcon - if we live long enough - of sorrow"
John Glionna | LA Times | 18th April 2013
Classic local reporting. Dirty work in Las Vegas. "With a satisfied grin, farmer Bob Combs watches the big truck slowly dump its greasy load, a Niagara Falls of yesterday's kitchen leftovers that sends off a sickening spray. Just 24 hours earlier, these food scraps, albeit in more appetizing form, were served up to customers at all-you-can-eat buffets on and off the Strip. Now a new, less finicky clientele awaits: 2,500 pigs on Combs' hog farm"
Joel Johnson | 18th April 2013
Motorcycling. "Wind sucks when you're riding in the rain, but on dry pavement with the sun shining it was like I could feel every part of the landscape telegraphed to me through the variance in the wind. It could have made me feel like the country was trying to throw me off the bike — and it was, I guess — but it also was like the terrain itself was able to send a literal push instead of just hanging out there over on either side of the road looking pretty"
Thought for the week:
"The trouble with history is that there are too many people involved" — Nick Hornby