Work, Nations, Iron, Insomnia, Reality Winner

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Is Work Worth Living?

Andrew Taggart | Aeon | 20th December 2017

Reality as a thought experiment. “Imagine that work had taken over the world. All else would come to be subservient to work. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, anything else – the games once played, the loves fulfilled, the festivals celebrated – would come to resemble, and ultimately become, work. Everywhere one looked one would see the pre-employed, employed, post-employed, underemployed and unemployed, and there would be no one uncounted in this census” (1,200 words)

Before And After The Nation State

Chris Anderson | Medium | 27th December 2017

Reflections on the optimal size of a modern polity, spurred by Bitcoin, Brexit, and Catalonia. “Rather than mourn the decline of the nation state, consider this period a search for a new level of abstraction to help us understand ourselves. Perhaps we will go back to something more tribal, perhaps we will invent new systems to run affairs not controlled by national institutions. We are large and contain multitudes — perhaps too many to define with 19th century lines on a map” (666 words)

When Iron Came From Space

Vittoria Traverso | Atlas Obscura | 22nd December 2017

The Iron Age began around 1200 BC. So how could a ceremonial iron-bladed dagger from 2500 BC have been unearthed in Turkey? How could Tutankhamun have been buried with an iron headrest? Spectrum analysis provides an answer to this mystery: Hittites and Ancient Egyptians hunted falling meteorites to harvest their iron content. “Iron was 10 times the price of gold back then. It was like diamonds are today, a highly valuable material used only for jewels or tools for the king” (1,390 words)

An Algorithmic Solution To Insomnia

Ilya Sukhar | 23rd December 2017

Algorithms aside, the advice here is to regularly deprive yourself of sleep until you regularly want to sleep more. “Insomnia is largely a form of performance anxiety that accrues over years of episodic poor sleep. Drastically restricting your sleep with this regimen wrestles control away from your mind and puts it back into the rightful hands of your body and its circadian rhythms. If you stick to the rules, you’re effectively running a search algorithm to find your body’s optimal schedule” (1,300 words)

Who Is Reality Winner?

Kerry Howley | New York | 22nd December 2017

Profile of a model American citizen and loyal soldier — until the day she decided, in an excess of naivety, to leak an NSA report on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. “This is perhaps the most surprising thing about the story of Airman Reality Winner, linguist, intelligence specialist, who spent years of her life dropping in on conversations among people this country considers potential enemies: It did not occur to her, in a moment of crisis, that someone might be listening” (7,200 words)

Video of the day Why Do Birds Sing?

What to expect:

How to analyse evolutionary traits — in this case, birdsong (4’48”)

Thought for the day

Riches should come as the reward for hard work, preferably by one’s forebears
Steven Runciman

Podcast of the day Rethinking Medicine | TED

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Atul Gawande and others discuss new approaches to treating disease

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