Weekend Reading

  • Robot says: Whatever
    In Henry James’s intriguing novella The Beast in the Jungle (1903), a young man called John Marcher believes that he is marked out from everyone else in some prodigious way. The problem is that he can’t pinpoint the nature of this difference.
    Next week: We’ve made a robot that cares!

  • From Death Traps to Disneyland: The 600-Year History of the Roller Coaster
    The resounding click-clack muffles the murmur of anticipation as the train inches up the wooden structure. When the riders reach the apex, the bright blue summer sky swallows everything. Then, with a lurch, gravity takes over. Everybody screams.
    I have not been on a rollercoaster in years. Already making plans to rectify that!

  • Do Nothing for 2 Minutes
    Take 2 minutes out and sit quietly. One to bookmark.

  • Why Can’t Europe Do Tech?
    The heyday of Nokia Corp. and Ericsson AB is a distant memory, and Europe doesn’t have anything remotely comparable to Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, or Facebook, or Alibaba or Tencent, companies with market values ranging from $400 billion to $1 trillion and counting.
    Flip it. Why can’t American Tech do anything that considers Europe properly?

  • How to read freely
    It’s mid-August, which for season-blessed Northern Hemispherers, means a heap of summer guilt: Guilt that you only made it to the beach twice this summer, that you haven’t eaten enough watermelon, that your kid’s farmer’s tan is barely noticeable.
    YES TO THIS. (and has inspired a blog post)

  • We’re in a new age of obesity. How did it happen? You’d be surprised
    When I saw the photograph I could scarcely believe it was the same country. A picture of Brighton beach in 1976, featured in the Guardian a few weeks ago, appeared to show an alien race. Almost everyone was slim. I mentioned it on social media, then went on holiday.
    Clean eating, anyone?

  • The Art of the Late Bloomer
    The 18th century was a golden era for finding stuff in England: Roman coins in the garden soil, plesiosaur bones in the Dorset cliffs, passions buried under the crust of social expectations.
    Can’t wait until I start to bloom. OK, that sounds weird.

  • Coconut oil is ‘pure poison’, says Harvard professor
    For certain health food shops and wellbeing sites it is the panacea that helps everything from bad hair and mental grogginess to obesity and haemorrhoids. But the carefully-crafted image of coconut oil as a cure for many ills has been roundly rejected by a Harvard professor.
    I’m always wary of things that are oddly popular. It’s good to question these things, I was right!

  • It’s time to ditch the penny
    If you see a penny on the floor, do you even bother to pick it up? Low-denomination coins are increasingly useless and costly to produce. According to staff at the Bank of England, the economic reason for keeping them—fear of inflation—has been thoroughly debunked.

  • PV Sindhu: How India’s Olympic badminton star became a sponsors’ dream on £126,000 a week
    It was no surprise when Serena Williams topped the Forbes list of highest-earning female athletes released earlier this week, but you may have not recognised the name of the woman in seventh place.
    This doesn’t sit right. Good in many ways, but is she being rewarded for (currently) small successes? Serena is the best tennis player in the world, ever.

  • Femicide – an all too familiar story.
    So. Here’s the deal. I am what some people could call ‘feisty’. Basically I have a big mouth and I’m not very good at keeping it shut if I think someone needs to know that I know what they are up to. I call cat callers out. A. Lot.
    Hard read. Must read. We must do better.

  • New research suggests evolution might favor ‘survival of the laziest’
    If you’ve got an unemployed, 30-year-old adult child still living in the basement, fear not. A new large-data study of fossil and extant bivalves and gastropods in the Atlantic Ocean suggests laziness might be a fruitful strategy for survival of individuals, species and even communities of species.
    FINALLY! I’ve been saying this for years! *heads back to sofa*