Readers of this “series” know that I only keep my New York Times subscription for the archives access, so here is the historical interest piece: there was actually a moment, in 1979, when the then-chairman of the Federal Reserve, said quite frankly in an interview:
“The standard of living of the average American has to decline,” he said. “I don’t think you can escape that.”
It’s now possible to create a stable plasma ring without all the magnets
“We were told by some colleagues this wasn’t even possible. But we can create a stable ring and maintain it for as long as we want, no vacuum or magnetic field or anything,” says co-author Francisco Pereira of the Marine Technology Research Institute in Italy, a visiting scholar at Caltech.
The stream of water is an 85-micron-diameter jet blasting from a specially designed nozzle at 9,000 pounds per square inch that strikes the crystal plate with an impact velocity of around 1,000 feet per second. For reference, that’s a stream narrower than a human hair moving about as fast as a bullet fired from a handgun.
“Racket-on-Chez” (for those who care) is moving along nicely
My “long read” pick of the month: Lapham’s Quarterly has an article called The Ghost and the Princess, discussion Descartian origins of the mind-body split-view, the “princess” being Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, with whole Descartes corresponded on this subject (!)
The New Yorker found one of its fiction pieces was interpreted as journalism
When we look to our texts to teach us not how to think, but what to think, we suffer for it — as artists and consumers of art, but also as citizens. We further collapse the distinction between truth and lies, fact and fiction …
Shout out to one of my frequently used productivity tools: DevonThink
“Let me furnish the amusements of the nation and there will be need of very few laws,” P. T. Barnum, the great impresario of the circus, told the New York Sun in 1880. In his essay “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” Norman Mailer noted a strange depression at the 1960 Democratic convention, which didn’t make any sense until he saw John F. Kennedy in the flesh:
“I understood the mood of depression which had lain over the convention, because finally it was simple: the Democrats were going to nominate a man who, no matter how serious his political dedication might be, was indisputably and willy-nilly going to be seen as a great box-office actor, and the consequences of that were staggering and not at all easy to calculate.”
We are now living in the world Barnum and Mailer predicted. The United States has become a histriocracy. We are ruled by celebrity. Whether or not Trump himself is in power will not change this fact.
I’m going to keep plugging Inherent Vice as something you should watch, this time through a Youtube montage.
Fun to hear Frank Herbert talk (!) about the “origins of Dune” (original recording, from Feb 1969)
If you still aren’t persuaded of the extra-ordinary intelligence of octopuses, read this
If you’re up for a long-form article on liberty, individuals etc. try this piece
For us, too, bearing the duties and responsibilities of freedom without being prepared for them poses great dangers, especially the danger of abandoning our liberty in return for security or the passing pleasures and distractions of our abundant age. This danger is avoidable only if we take the long way to liberty, the way that prepares us through the practice of responsibility and through the formation and refinement of our souls.
Max Tegmark (he of the “Our Mathematical Universe” book) weighs in further on the need to stop asking about the meaning of things, and to just ”Shut up and calculate” (somehow, I don’t think people are going to stop asking about the meaning of things …)
On the “old tech nostalgia” theme, if you first encountered the internet in the early-to-mid 90s, you might recall Gopher: “Remembering the web that wasn’t” (I was nostalgic enough to push a related pic as the cover image for this blog post).
Since I’ve only now started watching “Stranger Things” (yeah, I watch everything late these days, I’m now okay with that), a couple of links to recent New Yorker articles on on (1) Dungeons and Dragons, and (2) how Lovecraft endures.