A brief gallivant about the marketplace of ideas.

Month: August, 2016

Math — 2016/08/24

Topics I intersected nontrivially today:

  1. Closed smooth manifolds can always be given a CW structure via Morse functions. See the motivating post (Stack Exchange), this explanation of the construction of the CW complex (Math Overflow), spicing both to taste with dashes of Wikipedia (Morse theory, etc.).

Read — 2016/08/23

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Why ‘practice makes perfect’ might be a lie“, by Melissa Pandika (OZY). Recently published research suggests that “practice…stopped predicting performance” among elite athletes. Still, “[a]cross all skill levels, deliberate practice explained 18 percent of differences in performance” — so don’t throw in the towel just yet.
  2. The power of negative thinking“, by Oliver Burkeman (Wall Street Journal).
  3. Why you need negative feelings“, by Elizabeth Bernstein (Wall Street Journal).
  4. 50 amazing puns from past pun competitions“, by Alvin Ward (Mental Floss).

Read — 2016/08/21

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Conquering the freshman fear of failure“, by David L. Kirp (NY Times). Put young students in contact with upperclassmen, and convince them to adopt a growth mindset.
  2. Why aren’t any bankers in prison for causing the financial crisis?“, by Joe Pinsker (The Atlantic).
  3. I ran away from my [abusive] husband and became a stuntwoman“, by Lucy Hancock (BBC News). And now I’m challenging gender stereotypes and bringing hope to women in abusive relationships.
  4. He convinced 2.8 million people to give him one penny each“, by Sean Braswell (OZY). OK, not quite, but the title captures the spirit of this 1987 Horatio Alger tale. It doesn’t capture the confused nature of this world, as appears in the life of one of its main characters, Bob Greene.
  5. Malcolm Gladwell: Get angry at America’s best colleges“, by Malcolm Gladwell (OZY). The insightful author contends that élite American universities are failing to realize their potential helping individuals realize their potential (what Gladwell calls “capitalization”).

Read — 2016/08/20

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. 5 things you didn’t know about Natalie Portman“, by Maria Ward (Vogue). The article comes across a bit differently than her SNL interview sketch. It also led me to her Harvard Class Day address (2015) and the trailer for the film Tiny Furniture.

More mundanely, five references about car depreciation:

  1. Car depreciation” (Contract Hire and Leasing).
  2. New car depreciation myths and facts” (CarsDirect) (2012-01-27).
  3. The scary truth about new cars” (MSN) (2016-02-24).
  4. Depreciation infographic: how fast does my new car lose value?” ( (2010-09-24).
  5. New car depreciation…truth or myth?” (Yahoo! Answers) (2008).

Read — 2016/08/18

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. The maths behind the fastest person on Earth (and no it’s not Usain Bolt)“, by Christian Yates (The Conversation). On tail winds, reaction times, and baton hand-offs.
  2. Cayley’s nodal cubic surface“, by John Baez (American Mathematical Society). Got four ordinary double points?

Read — 2016/08/17

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Why some economists want to get rid of cash“, by S.N. (The Economist). In his new book “The curse of cash”, Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff advocates a world free of paper currency. This article explains why.
  2. Turks are convinced that the West was behind the attempted coup” (The Economist). And why this belief spells trouble for international relations.
  3. Runners Abbey D’Agostino, Nikki Hamblin are the real winners in Rio“, by Helene Elliott (Los Angeles Times).
  4. Will immigrants today assimilate like those of 100 years ago?“, by Alexia Fernández Campbell (The Atlantic).
  5. Tech giants gobble start-ups in an antitrust blind spot“, by Steven Davidoff Solomon (NY Times). The astronomical sums that established tech juggernauts pay for start-ups seems crazy. Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.

Read — 2016/08/12

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Meet Simone Biles, who is about to turn Olympic gymnastics upside down“, by Liz Clarke (Washington Post). (2016-07-01)
  2. The Simone Biles-Zac Efron story is like a rom-com unfolding before our eyes” (Vogue). One of those cute, feel-good celebrity stories that restores a little faith in humanity and the power of love.

Science — 2016/08/12

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. NIH plans to fund human-animal chimera research“, by Jocelyn Kaiser (Science).
  2. Particle no-show at LHC prompts anxiety“, by Adrian Cho (Science). Scientists hope that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will directly reveal new particles. But if these hopes continue to be disappointed despite increasing amounts of data (measured in inverse femtobarns), research ath LHC will shift to making more-precise measurements of known particles.
  3. The impact of homelessness prevention programs on homelessness“, by William N. Evans, James X. Sullivan, & Melanie Wallskog (Science). For $10,300 per person, you can avert homelessness, yielding an estimated benefit of more than $20,000. Do you buy it?
  4. Local modulation of human brain responses by circadian rhythmicity and sleep debt“, by Pierre Maquet et al. (Science). A fMRI sleep-deprivation study to better understand “the mechanisms involved in maintaining cognition”.

Read — 2016/08/11

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Cheating death” (The Economist). A robust, active lifestyle at 100? The possibility may be closer than you think.
  2. A harvest of lead” (The Economist). President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is using “[w]holesale extrajudicial killing” to address the Philippines’s crime problems. The Economist claims that “the bloodletting is popular with Filipinos”, but “[t]hat satisfaction will not last”.
  3. Amid crackdown, China’s last liberal magazine fights for survival“, by Anthony Kuhn (NPR).
  4. Let’s talk about (married) sex: 9 tips for keeping the spark alive“, by Molly Guy (Vogue). Could the disappointment and exasperation expressed be summed up in the single word “complacency”?

Read — 2016/08/09

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. GOP senator Susan Collins: Why I cannot support Trump“, by Susan Collins (Washington Post). Senator Collins explains why she will not support Trump’s presidential bid, citing his “lack of self-restraint” and his refusal to “sa[y] he was wrong” as dangerous traits that would escalate conflict.
  2. The poop scientist of Japan — and his dream toilet“, by Sanjena Sathian (OZY). The John and the microbiome.

Today (9 August 2016) marks the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. In light of nationalistic bravado, sabre-rattling, and bigotry, then as now, the stern message of forgiveness spoken by delegate J.R. Jayewardene of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) at the conference for the Treaty of San Francisco (signed 8 September 1951) lingers hauntingly in the air. (Here is the full text of J.R. Jayewardene’s speech.)