Let’s Hear It For Cowardice

cowardice

The word coward is one of the most contemptuous insults one can hurl at a person. And yet, argues Chris Walsh, cowardice serves more than one important social function.

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Websites Are Doomed

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“A bunch of publications will go out of business and a bunch of others will survive the transition and a few will become app content GIANTS with news teams filing to Facebook and their very own Vine stars and thriving Snapchat channels and a Viber bureau and embedded Yakkers and hundreds of people uploading videos in every direction and brands and brands and brands and brands and brands, the end.”

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How To Be A Stoic

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“As much as I love the Star Trek character of Mr. Spock (which Gene Roddenberry actually modeled after his – mistaken – understanding of Stoicism), those are two of a number of misconceptions about what it means to be a Stoic. In reality, practicing Stoicism is not really that different from, say, practicing Buddhism (or even certain forms of modern Christianity).”

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The Peculiar History Of The Unicorn

The Maiden and the Unicorn by Domenichino

“Today, the unicorn is a decidedly more magical, gentle creature, running around on rainbows and inspiring millions with regular appearances in My Little Pony and the occasional acid trip and in North Korea, apparently. I’d recommend against heading over to Pyongyang to find one, though. Maybe just stick to the acid.”

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When People Say ‘Think Of The Children,’ They’re Not Being (Purposefully) Manipulative

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“The notion of ‘harmless wrongs’ or ‘victimless crimes’ is more complicated that you might think. Although logically possible, victimless crimes are psychologically rare. Perceptually speaking, if you see something as wrong, you almost certainly see it as harmful. The absence of victims occurs only in the absence of immorality.”

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Why Debates About Today’s Big Issues Have So Little Historical Context

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“In contrast to earlier centuries, when the historian’s craft had been the preserve of amateurs such as Gibbon and Macaulay, the 20th century was the era when history professionals emerged – men and women who earned their living from teaching and writing history as employees of universities. Like other professionals, they sought advancement by becoming unquestioned masters of a small terrain, fenced off by their command of specialist archives. The explosion since the 1970s of new subdisciplines – including social history, women’s history and cultural history – encouraged further balkanisation of the subject. Academic historians seemed to be saying more and more about less and less. In consequence, the big debates of our day lack the benefit of historical perspective.”

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The Psychology Of Wearing Glasses

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When constant-use glasses were first introduced at the start of the 18th century—before, eye assistance was relegated to occasional-use monocles and, presumably, power-squinting—spectacle wearers were mysterious folk. “What were these secret weapons they had on their face? What is this person doing with this device on? Are they trying to capture my soul or something?”

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Humans’ Age-Old Fantasy Of Animals That Can Talk

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We’ve had the fantasy for thousands of years – from Aesop and Plato, through the Roman de Fauvel and Montaigne and Lewis Carroll and Orwell and Disney, right through to Mr. Ed and Dogbert and LOLcats and Doge. “We polish an animal mirror to look for ourselves. But perhaps that mirror is more suited for a funhouse.”

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It’s Okay To Be An Overbearing Pet Parent (Thank God)

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“Neurotic people probably make pretty great pet owners, concludes the author of a new study … In an online survey of about 1,000 pet owners, people who scored higher in neuroticism and conscientiousness also reported higher levels of affection for their dog or cat, which most likely means a better life for the animals.”

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One Of The Most Infamous Behavioral Experiments, Rethought 50 Years Later

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Under the watch of the experimenter, the volunteer—dubbed “the teacher”—would read out strings of words to his partner, “the learner,” who was hooked up to an electric-shock machine in the other room. Each time the learner made a mistake in repeating the words, the teacher was to deliver a shock of increasing intensity, starting at 15 volts (labeled “slight shock” on the machine) and going all the way up to 450 volts (“Danger: severe shock”).

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A Struggle Over The Very Nature Of Science (Seriously)

battle for the soul of science

“There’s a battle going on at the edge of the universe, but it’s getting fought right here on Earth. With roots stretching back as far as the ancient Greeks, in the eyes of champions on either side, this fight is a contest over nothing less than the future of science. It’s a conflict over the biggest cosmic questions humans can ask and the methods we use – or can use – to get answers for those questions.” It’s a conflict over … string theory.

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Why The Idea Of Machines That Can Think Creeps Some Of Us Out

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Tania Lombrozo: “My sense is that the valley of ‘uncanny thinking’ is real, but elicits a more existential than visceral response. And if that’s so, perhaps it’s because we’re threatened by the idea that human thinking isn’t unique, and that maybe human thinking isn’t so special.”

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Learning How To Sound Like A Woman After You’ve Become One

learning how to sound like a woman after you have beomce one

‘The hormones used in male-to-female transitions have no effect on the vocal cords, meaning that even after a cosmetic and surgical transition into women, the male-sounding voice often keeps transgender people tied to their old identities.” So a small group of voice specialists have developed techniques to teach transgender women how to make their speech patterns match their gender expression.

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50 Years Ago: Did This Sci Fi Writer Predict Today’s Approach To Studying Humanities?

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“The general trend to introduce mathematical thinking into various sciences (including disciplines that did not previously use any math tools, such as biology, psychology, and medicine), is slowly extending to the humanities. For now, we have had some rare efforts in language studies (theoretical linguistics) and literary theory (the application of information theory to the study of literary texts, especially poetry).”

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Notes On Grumbling

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Joshua Rothman: “Given its omnipresence, it’s tempting to say that grumbling may be the quintessential modern speech act. … Susan Sontag dedicated Notes on Camp to camp’s patron saint, Oscar Wilde. These far humbler notes are dedicated to that great grumbler Oscar the Grouch.”

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