Metafilter: Naturalis Historia.
A classical link for our Monday morning.
Slate: College papers - Students hate writing them. Professors hate grading them.
“Students hate writing them so much that they buy, borrow, or steal them instead. Plagiarism is now so commonplace that if we flunked every kid who did it, we’d have a worse attrition rate than a MOOC. And on those rare occasions undergrads do deign to compose their own essays, said exegetic masterpieces usually take them all of half an hour at 4 a.m. to write, and consist accordingly of ‘arguments’ that are at best tangentially related to the coursework, font-manipulated to meet the minimum required page-count.” For subjects I hated, the essays were a chore. For subjects I adored, it was a joy to be able to stretch my textual wings a bit. I’d hate to lose them all.
FT: Artist-run art schools.
[Applause.] But. This makes it sound like existing art institutions don’t hire artists to teach. They do. But art schools are more and more overlooking the important things for mere profit. For instance, kids are graduating art school without ever being exposed to one-, two-, three- or four-point perspective. One must verify a grounding in the basics, before advanced techniques are introduced. Some schools say the old techniques are ‘limiting’ … did they limit the greats of the past? No. This idea that modern art doesn’t stand on the shoulders of the past is part of the reason we’re ‘enjoying’ more and more artistic dreck. Picasso started as a very conventional artist before beginning his experimentation. You have to understand the rule, before you can break it. Perhaps smaller class sizes, more ‘mentorship’, will cure today’s art education.
The New Yorker: Out Loud - The Roots of Our Tragedies.
Slate: What it was like to read literature’s ‘midcentury misogynists.’
“Young women are often barred from feeling the easy pleasure that comes with reading and identifying with the classics. But we also benefit from a critical perspective on these books that many of our male peers don’t have. We don’t see ourselves in them, so we grow up challenging them.” When you realize the language of misogyny is even being perpetuated in ‘young adult’ literature, you begin to realize the magnitude of the problem.
NY Review of Books: Literature and Bureaucracy.
Having grown up next to Princeton University, I have to say bureaucracy cracks at the seams, and those seams can be very colorful and entertaining. In a utopian view, things could always be better. But a university is far from utopia.
NPR: Why Chaucer Said ‘Ax’ Instead Of ‘Ask,’ And Why Some Still Do.
“Linguistic versatility is ideal, says Rickford, interchanging ‘ax’ and ‘ask’ depending on the setting: code switching. But, he adds, there’s nothing technically wrong with saying ‘ax’ — it’s just no longer considered mainstream English.” Some of us just done be axing for trouble.
Simons Foundation: Physicists Discover Geometry Underlying Particle Physics.
I found a source mentioning an “amplituhedron”, but a paywall stopped me short. Couldn’t let it rest, I had to dig further.
Guardian.UK: Black women should have the right to wear an afro.
Crazy people. Afros are great, perfectly acceptable anywhere.
OpenCulture: Alain de Botton Shows How 6 Philosophers Can Change Your Life.
Backdoor Broadcasting: Ben O’Loughlin - Has the Image Killed the Imagination?
Guardian.UK: How can we end the male domination of philosophy?
On board until that last paragraph.
NY Times: Looking Into the Black Box.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that we do not naturally find statistics in the least pleasurable. It is explanation by way of causation, rather than correlation, that gives us a mental rush.” Good article.
New Republic: The Period, Our Simplest Punctuation Mark, Has Become a Sign of Anger.
The unpunctuated, un-ended sentence is incredibly addicting. I find it horrific; like those people wearing house-slippers and slept-in sweatpants in public. It betrays no philosophy other than the laconic. It explains a mystery, however - I try to use correct punctuation, even in IM’ing. Perhaps this article’s observation is why many conversations languish. I’ll have to start asking if people believe me to be angry.
Publishers Weekly: 5 Writing Tips - Paul Harding.
Wired: Sudden Progress on Prime Number Problem Has Mathematicians Buzzing.
“This simplification of the proof is, if anything, more exciting to mathematicians than the final number the project came up with, since mathematicians care not only about whether a proof is correct but also about how much new insight it gives them.”
Dissent: Privacy and the Public Interest.
“In the absence of a bright-line principle of demarcation between private and public, our only recourse is discussion that is ultimately political—aimed at deciding what kind of a world—in terms of who can know what about whom – we want to inhabit. For most of human history, such choices have been given by default, dictated by contingencies of population density, government powers, family custom and the like. Now things are much different. With the steady stream of innovation in social roles and uses of personal information, the need for searching public conversations on these matters grows ever more acute.” Review of two books.
Slate: Conspiracy theory psychology.
“The answer is that people who suspect conspiracies aren’t really skeptics. Like the rest of us, they’re selective doubters. They favor a worldview, which they uncritically defend. But their worldview isn’t about God, values, freedom, or equality. It’s about the omnipotence of elites.” That goes into the DM! lexicon for future use: “omnipotent elites”. On the lookout for the generic omnipotent “them” in articles.
Civil War Memory: President Obama Edits Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
“Of course, what these news outlets and bloggers missed entirely was that Ken Burns asked the president to read the first draft or “Nicolay version” of the speech, which does not include the phrase, ‘under God.’ In fact, it’s not even clear that Lincoln uttered those words at Gettysburg. Perhaps these people should be inquiring as to why Lincoln left the phrase out of his first draft.” Consider this inoculation against online harangues.
NY Times: Don’t Mess With My ‘Sacred Values’.
Pacific Standard: Who Wants a Christian America?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” If I were a high school teacher today, I’d have kids reflect upon the life of Savonarola.
Discovery Magazine: Do We Live in the Matrix?
LRB: James C. Scott reviews ‘The World until Yesterday’.
“It’s a good bet a culture is in trouble when its best-known intellectuals start ransacking the cultural inventory of its ancestors and its contemporary inferiors for tips on how to live. The malaise is all the more remarkable when the culture in question is the modern American variant of Enlightenment rationalism and progress, a creed not known for self-doubt or failures of nerve.” I’m reminded of my own recent mistakes over GMO … and dinosaurs. Much of my education took place in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s; the world has come a very - very - long distance from there. As reader Jeremiah said to me, “There’s so much to be learned from picking up some used modern college textbooks.” The past is a tool for leveraging today, certainly. But grab an antiquated tool, and you may be doing yourself (and others) a disservice. [I’m working on becoming a less antiquated tool.]
New Statesman: Traditional skills are being lost by designers relying on computers.
‘Tis true, ‘tis true. This isn’t just retro-love; printers are having a terrible time with digital-only nobs who can’t wrap their heads around how to send files for proper reproduction. Printing houses need to give tours of their physical facilities, explain their challenges.
OpenCulture: Chomsky schools a “9/11 Truther,” explains how to make a credible claim.
“There happen to be a lot of people around who spend an hour on the internet and think they know a lot physics, but it doesn’t work like that. There’s a reason there are graduate schools in these departments.” Such an easy mistake to make these days, when there’s an epidemic of “we don’t know what we don’t know.”