BBC: The mysterious origins of punctuation.
“For as long as anyone could remember, the Greeks had written their texts so that their letters ran together withnospacesorpunctuation and without any distinction between lowercase and capitals. It was up to the reader to pick their way through this unforgiving mass of letters to discover where each word or sentence ended and the next began.” My eyes cross thinking about it.
SciAm: Will Artificial Intelligence Surpass Our Own?
“He turned to face the machine. ‘Is there a God?’
The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of a single relay.
Archaeology News Network: Scanning technology identifies artifacts in Jamestown graves.
Amazing, what they’ve done here.
Harpers: The Neoliberal Arts.
“This is education in the age of neoliberalism. Call it Reaganism or Thatcherism, economism or market fundamentalism, neoliberalism is an ideology that reduces all values to money values. The worth of a thing is the price of the thing. The worth of a person is the wealth of the person.” Good read. Read ‘o the day.
NPR: Oliver Sacks, Renowned Neurologist And Author, Dies At 82.
Guardian.UK: Black holes have a way out, says Stephen Hawking.
“The existence of alternative histories with black holes suggests this might be possible. The hole would need to be large and if it was rotating it might have a passage to another universe. But you couldn’t come back to our universe. So although I’m keen on space flight, I’m not going to try that.” So, when this Universe turns into a puddle of lukewarm dark goo, we just find a black hole to travel through.
Aeon: Is archaeology better off without religion?
The Atlantic: How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus.
“During the 2014–15 school year, for instance, the deans and department chairs at the 10 University of California system schools were presented by administrators at faculty leader-training sessions with examples of microaggressions. The list of offensive statements included: ‘America is the land of opportunity’ and ‘I believe the most qualified person should get the job.’” Sounds psychotic.
Later: There’s even a website for microaggressions; what one might playfully call a ‘niggardly* view of microaggression’. Then again, even Christopher Hitchens dropped the term ‘niggardly’ because of widespread misunderstanding of the term. It interfered with comprehension by raising too many hackles - even though it was used legitimately.
I have to laugh, Wikipedia on ‘microaggression theory’: Psychologist and Columbia University professor Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership.” I assume that word was pointedly chosen? The term ‘denigrating’ is, of course, built upon ‘niger’, Latin for ‘blacken’. Followup on how others perceive ‘denigrate’ in StackExchange.
I have a difficult time disassociating intent from aggression. Every definition I come across implies intentional harm of another. Yet microaggression is trying to divorce itself from intent, in order to throw a wider net. If we are all microaggressors, as current theory seems to indicate ... do we all just shut up? Institutionalized victimhood and guilt, at the same time? The history that we read, the classical canon, everything is filled with what would be termed ‘microaggressions’ today. Do we close down schools? Do we stop reading the past? All this seems to be doing is guaranteeing ‘microaggression detectives’ employment into perpetuity. Realistic, pragmatic bars must be set. Because someone says something, doesn’t confirm that they mean it. Four years of liberal arts school used to inoculate against this kind of thing, once upon a time.
When my stuttering returns, as it occasionally does, microaggression (as I understand it) occurs. People get impatient and put words in my mouth, I can see some think ‘handicapped’ or ‘mentally challenged’, etc. etc. There were times in the past where I found those microaggressions depressing. I don’t anymore, because without direct experience in being a stutterer, a non-stutterer will never understand the malady. Never. So microaggression for me, is something I will have to live with. And for the most part, I just ignore it. Because someone behaves ‘microaggressively’, it doesn’t preclude empathy. So when my stutter returns, I can be frustrated with myself, but I’m almost never offended by others. I do my best to help them help me communicate clearly. Basically, I grew up and refused the self-definition of ‘victim’ that so many others seem to want to press around my ears. I’m a survivor, and damned proud of it.
*‘Niggard’ is from Old Norse, meaning ‘excessively concerned over small matters’, and has no racial or color connotations, though many find it offensive because it sounds similar to the common epithet. Given that, be careful who’s around when you’re trying to restore data on a dying drive, muttering ‘miserable bits’ under your breath.
PS Mag: Read—Don’t Just Talk—to Your Kids.
ArtDaily: A year after discovery, no answers to a possible resting place of Alexander the Great.
‘Twas exciting, but no serious researcher ever thought it was the resting place of Alexander. He’s somewhere under Alexandria, in a forgotten tomb complex ... a long way away from this location.
History: Archaeologists Find New Clues to “Lost Colony” Mystery.
“Now, two independent teams have found archaeological remains suggesting that at least some of the Roanoke colonists might have survived and split into two groups, each of which assimilated itself into a different Native American community.” Could DNA solve the rest, I wonder? Are there enough remaining natives of the shore communities to test?
Archaeology News Network: ‘Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt’ at the Arab World Institute, Paris.
A Clerk of Oxford: ‘Thou wandrest in this fals world.’
DHA: Four times larger than Troy, Bronze Age site to be unearthed in Manisa.
“We also predict the site forms the capital of Lydian ancestors - first people to have used coinages in the history ...” Perhaps they’ll discover the missing link between Lydians and Etruscans.
NY Times: The Flip Side of Optimism About Life on Other Planets.
“The big question for Professor Bostrom is whether the Great Filter is in our past or our future, and for the answer he looks to the stars. If there is nothing else out there, then maybe we have survived whatever it is. As bizarre as it sounds, we are the first ones in the neighborhood to have run the cosmic obstacle course. If there is company out there, it means the Great Filter is ahead of us. We are doomed.”
The Conversation: Building blocks of life found among organic compounds on Comet 67P.
“They both detected compounds which are important in the pathway to producing sugars – which go on to form the ‘backbone’ of DNA. They also both note the very low number of sulphur-bearing species, which is interesting given the abundance of sulphur in the solar system, and the ease with which it can become integrated into organic compounds.”
SciAm: How the Brain Purges Bad Memories.
“Drugs that alter the cannabinoid system could provide a way to modify the fear circuit, thereby—possibly—alleviating anxiety. Neurostimulation technologies, including transcranial magnetic stimulation and even optogenetics, could also potentially be used therapeutically to augment standard anxiety treatments.” A lot of people could see relief.
The Point: Forward with Fukuyama.
Hmmm. The internet age has seen history expand and contract in myriad ways. Poor education gifts contextless young journalists with near-zero historical perspective, whereas the internet itself is deepening the sheer volume of historical text. History seems to get interpreted and reinterpreted, sliding off current events like eggs off a teflon pan.
Discovery News: Antiquities Found on Shipwreck That Carried Elgin Marbles.
Well, if they find more, they ain’t leavin’ Greece this time around.
The Economist: Daily chart - Unlikely results in scientific studies.
Watch this; it might even break me of posting the latest science study news.
The Toast: Visible Faith - On Grad School and Ageism.
“... I was surprised by the degree to which the more mature male professors seemed unnerved by my presence, and they became the main source of my day-to-day anxiety. One of them, a jeans-wearing survivor of the pseudo-hippie revival of the ’80s, once announced to our class that Thomas Hardy only began writing poetry after he reached his sixties. ‘Just when the brain is atrophying for most people,’ he said, staring at me, ‘the man became a world-class poet. Imagine! You’ve got to be some kind of brilliant to defy those odds.’” The more fool he.
One reader noticed.
On July 19, one of my photographs got in the NY Times. Elana Resnick and Will Nomikos were resident scholars here in Santa Fe, at the School for Advanced Research. I offered to take their engagement portrait while they were here. Will and Elana are both sweethearts; smart as whips, fantastic to brainstorm with. They restore my faith in the next generation shepherding our world to a better plane. Congratulations, E and W!!! Best wishes for a fantastic future.
Later: Irony. I can’t see it, because I’ve overstayed my non-paying outside-of-paywall status. Readers, let me know if it looks good.
New Yorker: Kacey Musgraves, Harper Lee, and the Home-Town Dilemma.
History: Iron Age Graves in Britain Yield Hybrid Animals and Human Sacrifice.
“Special FX” ... even in the past.
Guernica: Stars in My Pocket Like Bits of Data.
“... the average American encounters a total of 34 gigabytes of information daily.” No wonder I just tried to shelve the milk in my vitamin cabinet ...