Sunday, 22 January 2017

Ten nice things to read starting with a white rabbit

Is unpunctuality a moral failing?
via 3 Quarks Daily by Emrys Westacott
Image result for images: white rabbit with watch
We all know people who are routinely late. We may even be one of them. These people aren't necessarily late for everything. They usually manage to catch their trains or planes, get to a concert before it begins, and make it to their job interviews on time. But if it's a matter of rendezvousing for coffee, not holding up dinner, or being packed for a trip by the prearranged departure time, they are systematically hopeless.
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What black hole collisions reveal about the universe
via OUP Blog by Pankaj S. Joshi
The remarkable detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO collaboration recently has drawn much attention to the fundamental and intriguing workings of gravity in our universe. Finding these gravitational waves, inferred to be produced by merger of two stellar mass black holes, has been like listening to the very distant sound of the universe. The natural question that arises is: What do such phenomena tell us about the cosmos, and what new information can they bring on the amazing nature and structure of the universe?
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How to Read Dante in the 21st Century
Breaking the code of “The Divine Comedy” with patient reverence
via Arts & Letters Daily: Joseph Luzzi in The American Scholar

Photo-illustration from Sandro Botticelli's portrait of Dante by Stephanie Bastek (Wikimedia Commons)
già volgeva il mio disio e ’l velle,
sì come rota ch’igualmente è mossa,
l’amor che move ’l sole e l’altre stelle.

now my will and my desire were turned,
like a wheel in perfect motion,
by the love that moves the sun and the other stars.
These breathtaking lines conclude Dante’s Divine Comedy, a 14,000-line epic written in 1321 on the state of the soul after death. T. S. Eliot called such poetry the most beautiful ever written – and yet so few of us have ever read it. Since the poem appeared, and especially in modern times, those readers intrepid enough to take on Dante have tended to focus on the first leg of his journey, through the burning fires of Inferno. As Victor Hugo wrote about The Divine Comedy’s blessed realms, “The human eye was not made to look upon so much light, and when the poem becomes happy, it becomes boring.”

Not so says Luzzi in his intriguing article. We need not just patient reverence but dogged persistence!
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Meat-Eating Among the Earliest Humans
via 3 Quarks Daily: Briana Pobiner in American Scientist
Although the modern “paleodiet” movement often claims that our ancestors ate large amounts of meat, we still don’t know the proportion of meat in the diet of any early human species, nor how frequently meat was eaten. Modern hunter-gatherers have incredibly varied diets, some of which include fairly high amounts of meat, but many of which don’t. Still, we do know that meat-eating was one of the most pivotal changes in our ancestors’ diets and that it led to many of the physical, behavioral, and ecological changes that make us uniquely human.
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Warning: Allow yourself time, lots of time.
What Would The Stuff Your Smartphone Can Do Cost in 1985?
via MakeUseOf by Dave LeClair
Your smartphone can do a lot. It’s easy to take for granted just how many things you can do with the small computer that’s in your pocket.
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Here's how teleportation could actually work (theoretically)
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
You have to look at this!

Legend of love: the life of Alla Osipenko in images
via OUP Blog
At age eighty-three, ex-prima ballerina Alla Osipenko is more renowned than ever. Blunt, courageous, uncompromising: Osipenko’s brushes with Communist and artistic authorities kept her largely quarantined in the Soviet Union during the height of her extraordinary career. But today we can see evidence of her skill and grace – as well as the tremendous personal risk she and her family took – in photographs and on film.
A selection of photographs from Alla Osipenko: Beauty and Resistance in Soviet Ballet, in which Joel Lobenthal examines the life of this sharp-tongued and independent dancer, can be found here.

Picture Perfect
One Velázquez points in a thousand directions.
via Arts & Letters Daily: Henrik Bering in The Weekly Standard Magazine
Paintings are delicate things that don’t much like fire, floods, wars, or general mayhem. Velázquez's masterpiece, Las Meninas, which shows the infanta of Spain with her entourage of ladies-in-waiting, her dwarves, and her calf-size mastiff, certainly has had its share of close calls. To save it from a fire on Christmas Eve 1734 monks had to throw it out of a second-story window of the Royal Alcázar of Madrid. Miraculously, it suffered only light damage in the fall.
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The scale of the universe is amazing – but more astonishing still is the science that lets us understand it
via 3 Quarks Daily: Oliver Morton in More Intelligent Life
In the far reaches of the sky there are sun-bright discs as wide as solar systems, their hearts run through by spears of radiation that outshine galaxies. The energies that feed these quasars beggar all metaphor, and their quantification seems all but meaningless. What does it serve to know that they are converting matter to energy at a rate that equates to the complete annihilation of a planet the size of the Earth ten times a second? Or that all the fires of the sun, from its birth to its death, would be a few weeks’ worth of work to one of them? No human sense can be made from so inhuman a scale. Boggle, and move on. Or stop, and appreciate that for all their grandeur, quasars are actually rather hard to see. Not one of them is close enough for the naked eye to pick out; even through the largest telescopes their mighty discs are but points of light. Again, the numbers are incomprehensibly enormous: billions of light years, when the longest trip taken by humans, to the Moon and back, is just a few light seconds. Yet here is a human connection that makes something wonderful of the spectacle. The billion-year journeys of the quasars’ light end at human telescopes. And there this far-flung light is not merely absorbed, but also understood.
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