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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Reality Doesn't Enter Into It A new film version of the classic novel, All The King's Men, turns on the classic American storyline of a "man of the people" who beats the odds and achieves political success by playing up his touch with the common voter. But as much as Americans love this kind of story, we've never come close to acting out the fantasy at the polls. So "does a real-life political truth -- the fact that voters generally don't end up pulling the lever for a reflection of themselves -- lessen the achievement of All the King's Men? Can a novel be a work of art -- and still get its field all wrong?" Chicago Tribune 09/28/06

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

String Theory - It Ain't The Only Game In Town "In string theory - an idea that's been around since the late 1970s - the universe is a 10-dimensional place, with six of those dimensions curled up inside themselves like a cat in front of a fireplace. All particles and forces are different resonances and vibrations of these 10-dimensional strings. Strings are far from the only game in town. There are other, potentially equally promising approaches to unifying physics' two seemingly incompatible visions of the cosmos: general relativity and quantum mechanics." Wired 09/26/06

Paul Allen, Brain Cartographer "Experts say the Allen Brain Atlas, which will be formally unveiled today, will boost understanding of brain circuits and chemistry — and what goes wrong in conditions ranging from schizophrenia and autism to Parkinson's disease and drug addiction." Seattle Times 09/26/06

Monday, September 25, 2006

Is The Internet A Counterculture Revolution? "A decade ago the cultural critic Mark Dery suggested in his book 'Escape Velocity' that the PC revolution could well be called 'Counterculture 2.0.' Other writers have also pointed out uncanny overlaps. And some of the anecdotal evidence is familiar." The New York Times 09/25/06

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Talk Wars (Really?) "Over the last 15 years, a series of books and articles have told us that women talk a lot more than men do. According to Dr. Scott Halzman in Psychology Today, women use about 7,000 words a day, and men use about 2,000." But is this really a real, verifiable statistic? Boston Globe 09/24/06

Advertisers - Ready To Fake You Out "Companies are increasingly turning to so-called 'word-of-mouth' advertising, in which products are hawked-sometimes by paid salespeople, sometimes just by volunteers-in ostensibly innocent everyday social interactions rather than traditional print ads or TV spots. In 2002, in a particularly controversial instance, Sony Ericsson dispatched 60 actors to tourist attractions to pose as sightseers and ask people to take their picture with a new camera phone before going on to extol its virtues-all without disclosing their connection to the company." Boston Globe 09/24/06

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Looking For A Right Click In A Left Click World "Our brains work the way our computers work because we made the computers. If the interfaces were at least marginally intuitive, they'd be worthless. Our brains do not crash as often as our computers do; on the other hand, our brains cannot retrieve the primary exports of Albania in .033 seconds... We live in a left-click universe, and what we need is a right-click button. We could figure this whole thing out if we had a right-click button." San Francisco Chronicle 09/21/06

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How Do We Reclaim Real Public Discourse? (And Get Away From Talking Points) "We are witnessing a palpable decline in the public’s appetite for nuance, complexity and critical thinking, which in turn has spawned a virulent secular dogmatism and an alarming devolution in both the substance and style of public discourse." InsideHigherEd 09/20/06

What's All This About Diversity? "The belief that cultural diversity, as such, is a valuable thing has taken hold in American society over the past two or three decades — precisely at the time economic inequality has not just increased, but accelerated its growth." InsideHigherEd 09/19/06

Will Music Give Athletes Unfair Edge? Technology is allowing athletes to tap into the power of music to improve performance. "Technology like running shoes that increase the beat of music in time with a runner's pace and even implantable micro-mp3 players may one day give athletes the winning edge." But "the technology could create a whole new conundrum for sports authorities by making them redefine whether the use of performance enhancing music is cheating." Discovery 09/19/06

Monday, September 18, 2006

Swedish Pirates Get The Plank The Swedish electorate wasn't kind to the country's new "Pirate" party. The party picked up less than one percent of the votes. "The Pirate Party's single-issue platform includes a 5-year limit to commercial copyright, the abolition of patents and stronger privacy protections online." Wired 09/18/06

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Is Radio Losing Its Base? "While more than 9 out of 10 Americans still listen to traditional radio each week, they are listening less. As a result, the prospects of radio companies have dimmed significantly since the late 1990’s, when broadcast barons were tripping over themselves to buy more stations. Radio revenue growth has stagnated and the number of listeners is dropping." The New York Times 09/16/06

Friday, September 15, 2006

Who's To Blame When Students Don't Graduate On Time? "About 50 colleges across the country have a six-year graduation rate below 20 percent. Many of the institutions serve low-income and minority students. Such numbers have prompted a fierce debate... in national education circles about who is to blame for the results, whether they are acceptable for nontraditional students, and how universities should be held accountable if the vast majority of students do not graduate." The New York Times 09/15/06

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Quarter-Century Of Geniuses Next week, the MacArthur "Genius" Grants for 2006 will be revealed, and those of us not lucky enough to have been handed $500,000 out of the blue will wonder at the good fortune of those who have. But beyond the shock of the award and the immediate cash benefit, "how might the credential be cashed long after the checks from Chicago stop arriving? What [is] it like to deal with high expectations? Is it true what they say about 'genius' envy?" An in-depth review of the winners over the last twenty-odd years reveals much... Chicago Tribune 09/14/06

Designing Around A Population Crunch What is the architectural future of the 21st century city? A new show in Venice attempts to get a grip on a diverse and wide-ranging collection of design ideas, "painting a picture of emerging megacities in which poverty is as stunning a feature as density or scale." The New York Times 09/14/06

So, People Who Like Musicals Aren't High? What does your taste in music say about your taste in illegal drugs? Quite a lot, if you believe the researchers behind a new study at the UK's University of Leicester. "Researchers were trying to find out what people's taste in music revealed about their lifestyles. They discovered that fans of every style of music had taken drugs, with those who preferred DJ-based club music topping the list." Other findings include that more than 25% of classical buffs smoke pot, that blues fans are the most likely to have a driving violation, and that fans of Broadway musicals are the least likely to have tried drugs. BBC 09/14/06

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Are America's Great Universities Failing? Education is suffering at America's elite universities. "Many seniors graduate without being able to write well enough to satisfy their employers. Many cannot reason clearly or perform competently in analyzing complex, non-technical problems, even though faculties rank critical thinking as the primary goal of a college education. Few undergraduates receiving a degree are able to speak or read a foreign language. Most have never taken a course in quantitative reasoning or acquired the knowledge needed to be a reasonably informed citizen in a democracy. And those are only some of the problems." Commentary 09/06

What, Will These Hands Ne'er Be Clean? Moral transgression eating away at your conscience? Try an antiseptic wipe. "Liars, cheats, philanderers and murderers ... are human beings, after all, and if a study published last week is any guide, they feel a strong urge to wash their hands — literally — after a despicable act in an unconscious effort to ease their consciences. And it works, at least for minor guilt stains." What are researchers calling this impulse? The "Macbeth effect," after her ladyship. The New York Times 09/12/06

Breaking News: Celebrities More Narcissistic Than The Rest Of Us Scientific evidence finally proves it: According to a new study, celebrities score higher on the narcissism scale than the general population. "The study — soon to be published in the Journal of Research and Personality — confirmed that celebrities are more narcissistic than average Americans. And — surprisingly — they seem to start out that way, leading [the researchers] to surmise that narcissistic people seek out careers in the limelight, rather than becoming narcissistic when they earn fame." Los Angeles Times 09/12/06

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Man Who Saved Geometry "Geometry was, for much of the 20th century, a discipline very much in jeopardy. It was deemed by a generation of mathematicians to be old-fashioned, a fine recreation for idling away a lazy afternoon, but in essence little more than a trivial tinkering with toys." But the enemies of geometry didn't figure on Donald Coxeter... Boston Globe 09/10/06

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Recalling The Pain The fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks will be inescapable this weekend, but how many tributes can we stomach? It's a question that artists and musicians have been facing since the first days after the attacks, and the answer seems to be that it all depends. "Some genres are inherently more concrete and visceral than others. A television show or film might punch viewers in the stomach, while a novel or song taps them on the shoulder. The answer also has to do with the type of story that the artworks choose to tell, and whether the way that story is told makes us more anxious and afraid or offers some hard-won comfort." Baltimore Sun 09/10/06

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Battle For The Internet About To Enter Crucial Phase "Telecommunications firms salivate at the prospect of eliminating Net Neutrality requirements and setting up systems where websites that pay for the service will be more easily reached than sites that cannot afford the toll. And U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who has for many years been a dominant figure in communications debates on Capitol Hill, is determined to change the rules so that Internet gatekeepers such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner, can create an 'information superhighway' for those who pay and a dirt road for those who fail to do so." The Nation 09/05/06

When Collective Memory Goes Into Overdrive Amid the nonstop anniversary commemorations of Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 attacks, are nuance and the perspective of time being jettisoned in favor of instant history? "There are still 60 minutes in an hour, still 365 days in a year, but time gallops today. The cement of history cures fast. Maybe too fast. ... The hopped-up environment generates its own vicious cycle of compressed-time demands: to cover an event, to analyze it, to memorialize it, to understand it, to produce the first feature film about it. It's a daisy chain of rushed judgments." Baltimore Sun 09/05/06

Monday, September 4, 2006

The New Critics (Or What Passes For Them) "But they are tuning in to more than a musicologist’s online toy: services like Pandora have become the latest example of how technology is shaking up the hierarchy of tastemakers across popular culture. In music the shift began when unauthorized file-sharing networks like the original Napster allowed fans to snatch up the songs they wanted, instantly and free." The New York Times 09/04/06

  • Previously: Someone To Tell You What To Like As we have more access to more music, movies, books, etc, it becomes more difficult to sort your way through it all. Thus the rise of internet curators who recommend culture... Denver Post 08/29/06

Writing New Vivaldi David Cope has written a computer program that can analyze composers' music and compose new music that sounds like them. "Some classical music geeks enjoy listening for a composer's signature tendencies and picking out the flaws in Emmy's fakes. Others see the algorithms as an insult to the composer and the music. Once, at a conference in Germany where Cope presented some virtual Bach, a professor seated beside him bellowed his disapproval, declared music dead, and jabbed an accusatory finger in Cope's face." Wired 09/04/06

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