Weekend Reading

  • I wore men’s clothes for a month – and it changed my life
    It’s 9am and I’m having breakfast at the House of Commons. I’m wearing a three-piece pinstriped suit, matching tie and pocket square, and the confidence of a mediocre white man. To my left, a man is pouring me coffee; to my right, another is listening respectfully. How did I get here?
    This is my – if you only read one post, read this one – entry this week.
  • Five Documentaries Worth Watching — Tools and Toys
    Rather than make a super-extensive list of my all-time favorite ones, I figured I’d put together a short list of documentaries from recent years that I heartily recommend. Enjoy! Warning: This documentary contains graphic material not suitable for children.
    I binged on documentaries over the holiday season, there is some fascinating stuff out there, and these five were all good (note: it’s not MY list, that’ll come later).
  • The Idea That Eats Smart People
    In 1945, as American physicists were preparing to test the atomic bomb, it occurred to someone to ask if such a test could set the atmosphere on fire. This was a legitimate concern. Nitrogen, which makes up most of the atmosphere, is not energetically stable.
    A.I., Asimov, the Matrix, Terminator… should we be scared?
  • In Search of Post-Brexit England, and Swans
    In the days after the Brexit vote last year, I became obsessed with an oil painting called “Swan Upping at Cookham,” which portrays a scene from an ancient and colorful English tradition.
    Learn something new and all that, only linking because I’d never heard of ‘Swan Upping’.
  • How to keep a reading journal
    In August 2014, my husband gave me a black Moleskine that launched a continuous habit of notebook-keeping.
    Aspirational, but a lot more work for something that should be enjoyable? Mind you, I’d love to be able to quote books but I can’t. Aspirational.
  • Sleep tech is flooding the market. Here’s how it works
    At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, fake beds abound. Companies from across the globe are clamoring to give attendees a chance to kick off their shoes and test out the latest in sleep technology.
    File under ‘lifestyle tech’ or ‘home automation’ (and ponder if this stuff is actually good for us?)
  • Cognitive bias cheat sheet, simplified
    Four months ago I attempted to synthesize Wikipedia’s crazy list of cognitive biases, and after banging my head against the wall for weeks, came up with this Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet which John Manoogian III beautifully organized into the above poster.
    I have a sense this will be very handy in the coming 4 years.
  • The science of Westworld
    The final part of Westworld’s story worth comparing to real research is about control. Robots that rebel against their makers are a sci-fi staple and Westworld is no different. Maeve learns to override the “big red button” that’s supposed to stop her in her tracks.
    More on A.I. which seems to be a bit of a theme at the moment (I have a robot that writes these comments now, did you notice?)
  • He Fixes the Cracked Spines of Books, Without an Understudy
    Sometimes a book just gets loved to death. A Bible, or a copy of “Charlotte’s Web,” for that matter, can be opened only so many times, even by the gentlest reader, before its spine weakens and surrenders.
    My name is Gordon, I crack the spines of books. (I KNOW, I’M A MONSTER!!)
  • “Close to tears, he left at the intermission”: how Stanley Kubrick upset Arthur C Clarke
    The clash of wills behind 2001: a Space Odyssey reminds me that scientific education, not mystery, was always closest to my friend’s heart. People were frequently surprised to learn that Arthur Clarke and I were good friends.
    GEEKGASM POST ALERT: The first sci-fi book I read, and one of my favourite directors.
  • The Food Lab: 3-Ingredient, 10-Minute Macaroni and Cheese
    This macaroni and cheese—this pot of creamy, gooey, cheesy, glorious macaroni and cheese—was made with three ingredients in about 10 minutes. Seriously. That’s one fewer ingredient than you need to add to the pot to make a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese.
    I have not tried this yet. I will try this soon.
  • Tim Wu: ‘The internet is like the classic story of the party that went sour’
    The influential tech thinker has charted the history of the attention industry: enterprises that harvest our attention to sell to advertisers. The internet, he argues, is the latest communications tool to have fallen under its spell Tim Wu is a law professor at Columbia University.
    1. Is the internet broken?
  • My So-Called Life In The Beautiful Bubble Of The Not-Quite Internet
    There was a guy who occupied most of my thoughts through the first semester of college. He lived upstairs, in the only single in the entire dorm. He had chestnut hair and the muscled arms of a rock climber. He was the first person I saw, really saw and locked eyes with, when I arrived on campus.
    2. The internet was so innnocent.
  • This Is Why You Hate Me
    This is the last thing I thought I’d be saying at this point. But it’s true. In fact, it could be the only story that both you and I can agree is not fake news: I hate you. And you hate me.
    3. The internet has a lot of explaining to do.
  • Iconic California Tunnel Tree Toppled During Powerful Storm
    An iconic giant sequoia tree in California’s Sierra Nevada that was hollowed out for cars to drive through was toppled Sunday by a powerful winter storm slamming the state.
    I remember reading about this tree in an encyclopedia (yeah I was one of those kids), kinda sad I won’t get to drive through it!
  • Was 2016 especially dangerous for celebrities? An empirical analysis.
    It’s become cliché that unusually many prominent people died in 2016. Is this true? To answer this we need to know: For their analysis, the BBC defined celebrities as those with a pre-prepared obituary. That is, a pre-written ready-to-run obituary.
    tl;dr – YES
  • A new study linking profanity to honesty shows people who curse are more authentic
    The next time someone tells you to watch your language, feel free to tell them to fuck off. Sure, swearing is considered poor form in certain settings—like courts, classrooms, and most offices.
    Fuck yeah, science!
  • How much does it hurt?
    One night in May, my wife sat up in bed and said, “I’ve got this awful pain just here.” She prodded her abdomen and made a face. “It feels like something’s really wrong.” Woozily noting that it was 2am, I asked what kind of pain it was.
    Our health professionals are at once amazing and terrifying in equal measure. We know so much and so little all at the same time.
  • LinkedIn and eBay founders donate $20m to AI safety research fund
    Reid Hoffman and Pierre Omidyar are donating $10m each to Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund, to help tackle ethical problems of AI The founders of LinkedIn and eBay are donating a combined $20m (£16m).
    There is no reason to presume A.I. is bad, you humans need to… bbzzzkpprrt… Sorry, had to unplug the comment robot there.
  • The greatest chess game ever played
    Garry Kasparov, who is one of the top chess players ever, said that his 1999 match against Veselin Topalov was the greatest game of chess he ever played. In this video, MatoJelic goes through the game, move by move.
    Documentary alert: I watched one on Bobby Fischer (sad, fascinating) and this is way more interesting than you might expect.
  • Understanding the Diderot Effect (and How To Overcome It)
    I am not a psychologist, nor am I philosopher. But I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the goals we pursue, the things we own, and the items we buy. I find it to be a fascinating study into the human spirit. There are countless reasons we buy more stuff than we need.
    Oh god. This is me. I didn’t realise it had a name!
  • Adjusting to lamotrigine: 25mg
    Those who follow me on Twitter will probably be aware that recently I made the decision to start taking lamotrigine, an anti-epilepsy medication which is also a mood stabiliser.
    Signal boost for this article, written up specifically to share as there is little info available.
  • To-do list for Mark Zuckerberg’s 2020 presidential run
    Hi Mr. Zuckerberg, this is Bradley from Campaign Associates, the firm your team hired to help you look into a presidential run. We’ve been working hard on making Zuckerberg 2020 a reality.
    Come on. He couldn’t be worse than Trump… could he?
  • Captivating GIFs Reveal the Magical Special Effects in Classic Silent Films
    The early silent comedians were daredevils and masters of physical comedy, but they weren’t *that* crazy. In a series of gifs that show the secrets of silent filmmaking, the trickery behind some of silent cinema’s most impressive shots are revealed.
    Movie geek alert, this is awesome.
  • The Hermit Who Inadvertently Shaped Climate-Change Science
    Billy Barr Moved to the Rocky Mountains four decades ago, got bored one winter, and decided to keep a notebook that has become the stuff of legend. It was a year into his life alone in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains when Billy Barr began his recordings.
    I like some time to myself, but this is ridiculous.