Whaling, Postcapitalism, Brussels, Randall Munroe, Philosophy, India

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Nantucket: Whaling Capital Of The World

Nathaniel Philbrick | Smithsonian | 19th November 2015

Nantucket settlers turned to whaling in the early 18C, exterminated local whales within thirty years, then grew rich by building factory ships which could stay at sea for two or three years at a time, butchering whales and turning blubber into oil. "There was a savagery about the island, a blood lust and pride that bound every mother, father and child in a clannish commitment to the hunt" (4,870 words)


Paul Mason | London School Of Economics | 18th November 2015

Lecture. Not coherent, but full of interesting thoughts. The price mechanism is collapsing because the marginal cost of digital production is close to zero. The distinction between labour and leisure is collapsing, as the focus of economic activity shifts from the organisation to the individual. Corporations require patents and monopolies to keep plentiful products scarce: How long can that last? (4,350 words)

Belgium Is A Failed State

Tim King | Politico | 19th November 2015

The no-go areas of Molenbeek are geographically tiny — a few blocks of a small part of a medium-sized city. They persist and worsen because the Belgian state is breaking down. The dominant political system of clientelism is permanently fractured by deep linguistic and regional divides. There is almost no functioning national government, only local interests. "The rest of Europe must pay a price for Belgium’s failures" (2,875 words)

The Space Doctor’s Big Idea

Randall Munroe | New Yorker | 18th November 2015

Special and general relativity explained in simple language, by the creator of XKCD. "The first idea is called the special idea, because it covers only a few special parts of space and time. The other one — the big idea — covers all the stuff that is left out by the special idea. The big idea is a lot harder to understand than the special one. You have to know a lot about numbers to do anything with the big idea" (Metered Paywall) (2,100 words)

Introductions To Philosophy

Nigel Warburton | Five Books | 11th September 2012

Interview. Philosopher recommends five books for general readers wanting to develop their knowledge of philosophy. The list includes works by Peter Singer, Thomas Sandel, Jonathan Glover and Bernard Suits. But start with Thomas Nagel's What Does It All Mean? "It's very, very short. It’s written in prose that is completely unpretentious, unpatronising, and clear. It’s the kind of book you could read in an evening" (3,600 words)

Driving In Greater Noida

Deepti Kapoor | Granta | 23rd February 2015

On the birth pangs of a new Indian city, Greater Noida, thirty miles from Delhi. It is "a paranoid, fractured land", planned as an industrial estate, but soon swamped by residents moving From the capital. Farmers were bought out, high-rises built. "I remember bare walls, scaffolding, hats, cranes, JCBs, labourers, stray dogs, stray children, barbed wire and an incredible number of birds" (12,400 words)

Video of the day: Snowtime

What to expect: A microscopic time-lapse of snowflakes (2’02”)

Thought for the day

Old men are dangerous: it doesn’t matter to them what is going to happen to the world
George Bernard Shaw

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