via 3 Quarks Daily: Amy Fleming in More Intelligent Life
The reward system exists to ensure we seek out what we need. If having sex, eating nutritious food or being smiled at brings us pleasure, we will strive to obtain more of these stimuli and go on to procreate, grow bigger and find strength in numbers.
Only it’s not as simple in the modern world, where people can also watch porn, camp out in the street for the latest iPhone or binge on KitKats, and become addicted, indebted or overweight.
As Aristotle once wrote: “It is of the nature of desire not to be satisfied, and most men live only for the gratification of it.” Buddhists, meanwhile, have endeavoured for 2,500 years to overcome the suffering caused by our propensity for longing. Now, it seems, Berridge has found the neuro-anatomical basis for this facet of the human condition – that we are hardwired to be insatiable wanting machines.
Every night when I take three-year-old Benjy up to bed, we go through the same bedtime routine.
Life Lessons From Beloved Children’s Characters
via MakeUseOf by Dave LeClair
Children’s characters are actually smarter than you might think. As grown ups we like to think that we’re above learning life lessons from characters made for kids, but the truth is, the lessons these characters teach children are really applicable to us in our daily life.
Why we’re still up in arms about the mystery of the Venus de Milo
via The Guardian by Jonathan Jones
There are multiple theories about the Venus de Milo, the ancient Greek statue famous for its immaculate beauty and lack of arms. Many suggestions about how those missing limbs were once positioned and what Venus was doing with them have been advanced since this elegant antiquity was discovered in 1820 on the Aegean island of Milos.
Was she holding a spear? Or looking in a handheld mirror? Archeaology professor and textiles expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber suggested that Venus was spinning, and suggests the statue may represent a prostitute, as spinning was an activity associated with ancient Greek sex workers.
The trouble with “modernity”
via Arts and Letters Daily: Christopher Nealon at Public Books
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that capitalism is the engine behind the environmental crises of the early 21st century. It doesn’t even take a Marxist: as the French environmental journalist Hervé Kempf put it in a recent book, it’s not so much Homo sapiens as the rich who are destroying the earth – rich people, rich nations. His claim is backed up by reams of data, and he’s not the only one who’s making it (see, for instance, the latest volume by Naomi Klein). So why do we cling to the idea that it’s “humanity” – humanity in some essential sense, not just the accidents of particular human societies – that’s brought the planet to the brink of disaster? Mark Greif’s probing new book, The Age of the Crisis of Man, offers a kind of prehistory of this humanity’s-to-blame discourse, and therefore the beginnings of an explanation for its resilience.
I don’t pretend to be an academic or an intellectual which means that I will often increase my skimpy knowledge of a subject area simply by reading in-depth reviews such as this one.
Fibonacci clock: can you tell the time on the world’s most stylish nerd timepiece?
via The Guardian by Alex Bellos
Hipster chronometer uses squares inside a golden rectangle to tell the time, and even doubles as a lava lamp.
Don’t you find clock faces quite aggressive, their hands and numbers constantly reminding you of the passing of the time?
If so, this beautiful invention is for you.
The Fibonacci clock lets you know the time more subtly, by changing colours and requiring you do some adding up.
The School for Scandal on the Georgian stage
via OUP Blog by Robert W. Jones
Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comic masterpiece The School for Scandal premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in May 1777. The play was an immediate success earning Drury Lane, which Sheridan owned and managed, an enormous amount of money. The School for Scandal explores a fashionable society at once addicted to gossip and yet fearful of exposure. Jokes are had at the expense of aging husbands, the socially inexpert, and, most of all, the falsely sentimental. There are over a dozen surviving manuscripts of The School for Scandal, each different in some particular way. There are two reasons for this plethora. First, Sheridan’s inveterate tinkering, which led him to revise his play without ever committing to a final version. Secondly, manuscripts were required by theatre professionals who worked to make the play work as live theatre, and made adjustments and innovations. These professional efforts left their mark on the manuscripts revealing, almost inevitably, a great deal about how theatres used texts as tools.
How long does it take to write a book?
via An Awfully Big Blog Adventure by Sheena Wilkinson
One of the most-frequently asked questions at school visits is, How long does it take to write a book? Or, How long does it take you to write a book?
My standard answer is that it depends on the book and the circumstances.
When kids ask this they probably imagine that the time taken means the time from when you write the first word until you write the last word – they don’t think about editing, the time taken between edits, the time spent planning and thinking and working out character and story problems. And of course, the time when you don’t seem to be writing but are actually very much involved in the making of your book.
Continue reading and find out how long it took this author to write this book from start to finish.
The Science of Scarcity
via 3 Quarks Daily: Cara Feinberg in Harvard Magazine
Toward the end of World War II, while thousands of Europeans were dying of hunger, 36 men at the University of Minnesota volunteered for a study that would send them to the brink of starvation. Allied troops advancing into German-occupied territories with supplies and food were encountering droves of skeletal people they had no idea how to safely renourish, and researchers at the university had designed a study they hoped might reveal the best methods of doing so. But first, their volunteers had to agree to starve.
Continue reading fascinating but terrifying at the same time.
In the olden days, creepy men would give “acquaintance cards” to women
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
... and the women who received these cards probably didn’t like them or the men who handed them out. From Alan Mays’ wonderful collection of old timey ephemera on Flickr.
More on Boing Boing here or go straight to Flickr