Welcome back to Tikkunista, (which may be a bit more infrequent over the next couple of months, as the writers of the Writers’ Croft steal my time away.) But we still need news, as the world keeps changing. The Guardian notes that climate change is here now (and it could lead to global conflict.) Juan Cole finds optimism in looking at the spread of green energy in Africa and Asia, though he offers a terrifying series of charts from crime sentencing to income on racial inequality in America. When Tom Geisen adds this all up, he has with a depressingly defensible list of 8 unsustainable delusions of the American way of life. His number four delusion is that markets produce the best results, and two stories that show they don’t are Truth-Out’s powerful expose of America’s For-Profit prison industry, and “15 Months in Virtual Charter Hell: A Teacher’s Tale”, which looks at what happens when the market takes over education. The fish market just sells images of less and smaller, as shown in this intriguing piece using tourist photos of their fish catches to illustrate “shifting baseline syndrome” (Tnx, Dennis)
But some change is positive: through a week’s worth of work, 101 women artists got Wikipedia pages (tnx, Diana). A response to a weight-loss ad goes viral, and is hugely entertaining: Mermaid or Whale? In the midst of the polar vortex, a Muslim woman notices that when her hijab is hidden under a knitted hat, the world responds very differently to her. And, if you’ve been curious, life as a gay imam isn’t as bad as it sounds. (Tnx, Q!) Some restrictions are loosening: Facebook went from 2 to 52 gender options (in the US. In Canada it’s M or F or “custom”). How wonderful that we’re recognizing that individuals are individual, not fitted into some binary scale. Here are a few individuals, some of whom you know; some you’ll see for the first time. Known? Last week on Reddit we got, “Hello Reddit – I’m Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation & Microsoft founder. Ask me anything.” Lots of interesting Q & A! Two photos of people you don’t know are artist Samuel Fosso, of the Central African Republic, seen in this selfie; and Mongolian hunter Ardak, posing with his golden eagle. A lovely animation of a speech by Ira Glass illustrates how to fight past our awareness of our creative inadequacy, while if your ego needs deflating, you can read about MIT’s “Mr. Everything”, who finished two degrees and competed in 2 winter Olympic Games in a 5 year period (while being ranked 9th in men’s singles in tennis in the US.)
Now that you feel humiliated, we’ll look at some of what’s happening in psychology to rebuild people. Here’s a wonderful commercial about what’s being done to help people with PTSD. In the Netherlands, an entire village with fake shops and restaurants is actually a care home for elderly dementia patients. A Reddit comment looks at how one might conclude that there is reason to believe that mobile hunter-gatherer societies are ‘more free’ than others. An interesting analysis looks at how people view risks along the two dimensions of hierarchy-egalitarianism and communitarian-individualism, while the risk of GMO foods and why some people find them more frightening than others do is explored here. (It’s not information that makes the difference!) Do you know the Edge, the site that every year asks one Big Question, and gets a lot of experts to answer it. This year the question was “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?” One excellent answer: Race.
Learning and testing… here’s a surprisingly fun game. You listen to someone speak for 10 seconds in a non-English language and select language it is. It can be very easy…Chinese or Spanish? Gradually more choices are added, and they get tougher. Try it (my score: 500) A crow amazed pretty much everyone by solving a problem that took eight steps (tnx, Dave!) Here’s a possibly useful website with free lessons on computer basics (Mac, Excel, Word) and general life skills, and another free learning site, focussed on high school maths and sciences largely. And (mostly for the great pictures), look at HuffPo’s 41 Things You Need To Know Right Now, For No Reason In Particular. Learn from Brainpickings what famous scientists, from Galileo to Sagan, said about the art of wonder, the mystery of the universe, and the heart of science. A Canadian astrophysicist believes there are even more super habitable worlds than once thought, while it turns out there’s a high potential for life circling Alpha Centauri B, our nearest neighbour.
And now it’s time for the arts! Starting with music, where we have something new, then a pair of seriously golden oldies. The new is Storyboard P, who performs in this video in a street dance style called Flex, or Mutant. (The New Yorker just ran a feature, “The Impossible Body”, on him, if you’re curious to know more.) The first oldie is a stellar performance of Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages”, featuring George Harrison, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, and Roger McGuinn. And older than that is a recording of the classic Miles Davis album, “Bitches Brew”. On into a very mixed bag of video, starting with an animated self-portrait, using just a woman’s face and makeup, exploring the idea of rebirth and transfer of energy from one incarnation to another. Then an utterly convincing film showing why no outdoor travel is permitted during category 1 storms in Antarctica. A videocam falls off a plane, lands in a pig pen, and is discovered by the pigs. Watch this one to the end!(Tnx. Gabe!) And we end with a very well done looping gif of a ski jump and a magical collection of chemical/ physical reaction gifs.
And some wonderful collections of stunning pictures. Browse the 33 most amazing science images of 2013; the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards (33 photos); 20 great National Geographic photos taken in the perfect moment; and 23 photos of the amazing and gruesome world under a microscope (tnx Gabe!) And to round it all off, here’s some very cool 3D tattoos (tnx, Diana) and the work of a snowplow driver with anger management issues.