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.: May 2008 --> May 2008

May 2008

» Reader's Advisor Under the Radar: Great Historical Mysteries You May Have Missed.  [ 05.01.08 ]

» Cooking for One: I'm Happy When It's Crunch Time

[S]o I'm on a mini salad crusade. I'm tired of cooks, especially restaurant chefs, failing to give salads their due. Too often, menus offer skimpy green salads designed as punishment for dieters, or bucket-size Caesars with so much fat that you might as well go ahead and order that burger. Even the priciest salads often fail to impress. I can hardly remember the last time I saw something on a menu besides a mozzarella-and-tomato, a beet-and-goat-cheese or mixed greens. Salads deserve more.
So what makes a good dinner salad?

Wow, there are some great ideas in this little article. (via mamr)  [ 05.05.08 ]

» It's a new world: is asking readers inside Myanmar to help report on the disaster by sending in photographs, video or written accounts of the storm and its aftermath.  [ 05.06.08 ]

» Don't miss Slate's fascinating review of Daniel Radosh's new book, Rapture Ready!, an exploration of the strange contradictions of the world of Christian pop culture.

The entertainers in Radosh's book complain about watchdog groups that count the number of times a song mentions Jesus or about the lockstep political agenda a Christian audience expects. They complain about promoting an "adolescent theology" of Christian rock, as one calls it, where they "just can't get over how darned cool it was that Jesus sacrificed himself." In his interview with Radosh, [Mark Allan Powell, a professor who teaches a class on contemporary Christian music at Trinity Lutheran Seminary,] pulled out an imitation of a 1982 New Wave pop song with the lyrics; "You'll have to excuse us/ We're in love with Jesus." This, he explained, was the equivalent of a black-velvet painting of Elvis. Only it's more offensive, because it's asking the listener to base his whole life around an insipid message and terrible quality music.

Bonus factoid: a Christian version of Punk'd, called Prank 3:16.  [ 05.07.08 ]

» Maybe the most wonderful art installation ever: Telephone Sheep. I want one.  [ 05.08.08 ]

» A Little Weekend Thinking: Nick Bostrom's article Where Are They? Why I hope the search for extraterrestrial life finds nothing is a meditation on the implications of The Fermi Paradox: if there is extra-terrestrial life in the universe, where is it? Bostrum starts with two seemingly contradictory facts: "Humans have, to date, seen no sign of any extraterrestrial civilization" and "The observable universe contains vast numbers of solar systems, including many with planets that are Earth-like, at least in the sense of having masses and temperatures similar to those of our own orb. We also know that many of these solar systems are older than ours".

From these two facts it follows that the evolutionary path to life-forms capable of space colonization leads through a "Great Filter," which can be thought of as a probability barrier. (I borrow this term from Robin Hanson, an economist at George Mason University.) The filter consists of one or more evolutionary transitions or steps that must be traversed at great odds in order for an Earth-like planet to produce a civilization capable of exploring distant solar systems. You start with billions and billions of potential germination points for life, and you end up with a sum total of zero extraterrestrial civilizations that we can observe. The Great Filter must therefore be sufficiently powerful--which is to say, passing the critical points must be sufficiently improbable--that even with many billions of rolls of the dice, one ends up with nothing: no aliens, no spacecraft, no signals. At least, none that we can detect in our neck of the woods.

The article prompted some thoughtful responses, first from Jamais Cascio who posits several scenarios in which intelligent life could be out there, but invisible to us; or in which they would not be motivated to colonize the entire universe in the way that humans were motivated to colonize the whole Earth.

Tim O'Reilly posed his idea about the Great Filter:

If indeed cheap oil is a prerequisite to the first flowering of technological civilization, might a Roman-Empire-style collapse due to some future disaster make it difficult to rebuild to spaceflight-capable levels due to lack of said resource the next time around? Many of the large scale energy technologies that we imagine replacing oil are energy intensive to build. They are, in a sense, themselves dependent on oil.

Good thinkers, both, and I agree with Tim that - for us, anyway - further development of alternative energy is dependent on oil. With regard to that point, it seems to me that a more basic question would be to wonder if our massive oil fields are unusual, and whether civilizations emerging on other planets would have to rely on other resources (wood, water, and wind) that simply aren't sufficient to propel a civilization into a Space Age?

As for Jamais' proposition that they may be out there, but we may not be able to hear them, I've wondered for a long time whether we'd even recognize an alien life-form. It seems like there are so many assumptions underlying our search for extra-terrestial life - which is not the same as a search for intelligence. What if we discovered a planet made of cognitive minerals? Would we even be able to figure that out? And even if we did, would they be able to recognize us?  [ 05.09.08 ]

» The NYTimes Lede has an interesting overview of just what the Red Cross does every day of every year. Your donation of any amount will help.  [ 05.13.08 ]

» Brookings Institution: A Look at the Pentagon's Five Step Plan For Making Iron Man Real. (via tl)  [ 05.14.08 ]

» Marie Cocco on things she won't miss about the Democratic primary race.

I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item. [...]
I won't miss Citizens United Not Timid (no acronym, please), an anti-Clinton group founded by Republican guru Roger Stone.
Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one, told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?"

It really has been appalling. We've come a long way, baby.  [ 05.15.08 ]

» Sue Halpern on what the latest medical research can tell us about "normal" memory, and how to avoid Alzheimer's.  [ 05.16.08 ]

» Even I was surprised by the differences: Portion Sizes, Then and Now. (via se)  [ 05.20.08 ]

» Book suggestions for readers who enjoy the television series "House". Especially intriguing: A historical thriller series set in the 12th century about a cynical, smart female physician/coroner, Adelia Aguilar, who is brought to England to solve murder mysteries for King Henry II.  [ 05.27.08 ]

» Worth Reading marks the beginning of summer reading season with the first list of lists for 2008. Because of my injury, I won't be able to maintain a master list of summer reading lists this year - perhaps they can take up the mantle?

Update: They have! This list is growing every day. Keep checking back for additional summer reading ideas.  [ 05.28.08 ]

» Scientific American: Does Time Run Backward in Other Universes?  [ 05.29.08 ]

» Is Generation Y really The Dumbest Generation?

[T]here is no empirical evidence that being immersed in instant messaging, texting, iPods, videogames and all things online impairs thinking ability. "The jury is still out on whether these technologies are positive or negative" for cognition, says Ken Kosik of the University of California, Santa Barbara, codirector of the Neuroscience Research Institute there. "But they're definitely changing how people's brains process information."

 [ 05.30.08 ]



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