Saturday, 31 March 2012

10 stories and links I think are educative, informative, entertaining, or weird

What’s Natural about the Natural?: A Curious 10-Year-Old and a Confused 45-Year Old Want to Know
via Big Think by Pamela Haag
“What’s a ‘natural flavour’?" my 10-year-old asks me from the back seat of our car. He’s munching on a rare treat – a snack that lists about 500 unpronounceable ingredients and boasts of its Natural Flavour.
“It means… Well, it’s a term that advertisers use.“ I wave the white flag of surrender immediately.
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The danger facing America isn't imperial overstretch, it's the idea that decline is inevitable. It isn't. Decline is a choice. Robert Kagan explains... more

Economics, Immigration, and Eugenics via Big Think by Will Wilkinson
In my last post, I mentioned in passing the eugenic dimensions of tax and immigration policy. The genetic quality of the national stock is a taboo subject, and for familiar, excellent reasons. Nazis! That said, the history of eugenics is fascinating, especially if one is also interested in the history of economics as a discipline with deep roots in ideologies of social planning and control.
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Individual dolphins identify themselves to new dolphins they meet via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Here in the BoingBoing newsroom, we are dedicated to keeping you informed on the latest developments in cetacean friendship. You already know that dolphins and whales hang out and, in fact, play together
Now, some more awesome news: Dolphins apparently have a system of identifying themselves to each other similar to the way you and I use names.
The BoingBoing story is here with links to “the rest” at Not Exactly Rocket Science and some earlier stories about these magnificent creatures.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Philip Larkin presented himself as a librarian who liked to dabble in poetry. His private papers tell a different story. Writing was at the core of his identity... more

Danger: massive falling pinecones via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
Mayor Diane Blackwood of Warragul, east of Melbourne, Australia, has issued a warning about massive pine cones falling from a tree in the town centre: “They are the size of a watermelon, falling literally out of the sky from potentially 20 metres high. So you wouldn't want to be under one, I tell you.”
Warning over watermelon-sized pine cones” (, via Fortean Times)

Did the Digital Library of Alexandria Just Go Up in Flames? via Big Think by Daniel Honan
If Julius Caesar hadn’t accidentally burned down the Library of Alexandria, the story goes, we long ago would have colonised Mars. That notion, popularised by Carl Sagan [link to 10-minute video], among others, is that the intellectual adventure that has led us into space began at that library, “the brain and glory of the greatest city on the planet Earth”.
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
A world without war. What a bunch of naive, hippie hogwash, right? Don’t snicker, says John Horgan: The end of violence is possible... more
There were some ads on this when I viewed it that looked, to me, just a bit weird!

Colour Photographs of Kutno, October 1939 via Retronaut by Chris
These photographs had me close to tears.
“The Germans entered Kutno on September 15, 1939 and during the first months of the occupation the synagogue was destroyed, and many Jews were taken for forced labour. A Judenrat was apparently appointed as early as November 1939, but the ghetto was only established officially in June 1940. The ghetto was liquidated at the end of March/beginning of April 1942, with the deportation of all its inhabitants to the Chelmno extermination camp.”
Yad Vashem
This capsule was curated by Liz Elsby
Full set here

Babies’ Innate Sense of Justice via Big Think by Orion Jones
Two experiments involving children under the age of two have led researchers to conclude that fairness is an innate and universal concept. In one experiment, 19-month-old children witnessed a pair of giraffes and a pair of toys.
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