In this link roundup: books, crime prediction, OxyContin for kids, Zizek on toilets and ideology, Surowiecki on the history of money, an interview with Errol Morris, an animated feature explaining the Higgs Boson, a new report on the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Critchley explains Heidegger’s being-towards-death, and finally a FAQ explaining snake fighting as part of a thesis defense.

• • •

  • The Guardian: “Julian Barnes: my life as a bibliophile” by Julian Barnes, June 29, 2012

    I became a bit less of a book-collector (or, perhaps, book-fetishist) after I published my first novel. Perhaps, at some subconscious level, I decided that since I was now producing my own first editions, I needed other people’s less. I even started to sell books, which once would have seemed inconceivable. Not that this slowed my rate of acquisition: I still buy books faster than I can read them. But again, this feels completely normal: how weird it would be to have around you only as many books as you have time to read in the rest of your life. And I remain deeply attached to the physical book and the physical bookshop.

    Second hand bookshop 008

  • MIT’s Technology Review: “L.A. Cops Embrace Crime-Predicting Algorithm” by David Talbot, July 2, 2012.

    Software tested in Los Angeles was twice as good as human analysts at predicting where burglaries and car break-ins might happen, according to a company deploying the technology.When police in an L.A. precinct called Foothill division followed the computer’s advice—and focused their patrols within the areas identified—those areas experienced a 25 percent drop in reported burglaries, an anomaly compared to neighboring areas.

    Predictive policingx616

  • The Daily: “OxyContin maker wants FDA backing to label addictive drug for 6-year-olds” by Karen Keller, July 2, 2012.

    Many of the nation’s top pediatric pain experts say Purdue’s children’s trial is, all in all, a good thing. But critics, citing Purdue’s history of criminal marketing practices, worry that use of the drug by children could expand and lead to greater addiction and abuse woes.

    “There’s good medical evidence that suggests a brain that’s not fully mature is at greater risk at developing the disease of addiction,” said Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and the head of psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City. The pediatric community underestimates those risks, he said, because they have given too much credence to drugmakers, who have systematically downplayed the dangers.

    See also previously here: Pharmaceutical Drugs Ad


  • YouTube: “Slavoj Žižek on toilets and ideology” I couldn’t find an adequate reference for this video. Aside from the humor, Zizek’s main point is that we do not live, as some would like us to believe, in a post-ideological world. On the contrary, ideology is pervasive in our daily lives and in the most mundane of our activities.

  • IEEE Spectrum: “A Brief History of Money. Or, how we learned to stop worrying and embrace the abstraction” by James Surowiecki, June 2012. Surowiecki is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of The Wisdom of Crowds (2004).

    Today, many people long for simpler times. It’s a natural reaction to a world in which money is becoming not just more abstract but more digital and virtual as well, in which sophisticated computer algorithms execute microsecond market transactions with no human intervention at all, in which below-the-radar economies are springing up around their own alternative currencies, and in which global financial crises are brought on for reasons difficult to parse without a Ph.D. Back in the day, the thinking goes, money stood for something: Gold doubloons and cowrie shells had real value, and so they didn’t need a government to stand behind them.

    In fact, though, money has never been that simple. And while its uses and meanings have shifted and evolved throughout history, the fact that it is no longer anchored to any one substance is actually a good thing. Here’s why.


  • Public Books: “Errol Morris, Forensic Epistemologist” an interview with Lawrence Weschler, June 18, 2012.

    LW: What actually happened. But the question remains, why do you care? Or rather, why do you care so much? Because I think you really do care.

    EM: Ultimately, why do people care about reference? Because… let’s put it this way. If you care what our connection is to the world around us, then you care about basic questions. Questions of truth. Questions of reference. Questions of identity. Basic philosophical questions.


  • Open Culture: “The Higgs Boson and Its Discovery Explained with Animation” by Dan Colman, July 4, 2012. Colman introduces the reader to a rather interesting animated video explaining the now notorious Higgs Boson. The short film “The Higgs Boson Explained” was created by PhD Comic and originally uploaded on April 25, 2012. One can watch the video below.

  • The New York Times: “Inquiry Declares Fukushima Crisis a Man-Made Disaster” by Hiroko Tabuchi, July 5, 2012.

    The nuclear accident at Fukushima was a preventable disaster rooted in government-industry collusion and the worst conformist conventions of Japanese culture, a parliamentary inquiry concluded Thursday.

    The report, released by the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, challenged some of the main story lines that the government and the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant have put forward. Most notably, the report said the plant’s crucial cooling systems might have been damaged in the earthquake on March 11, 2011, not only in the ensuing tsunami. That possibility raises doubts about the safety of all the quake-prone country’s nuclear plants just as they begin to restart after a pause ordered in the wake of the Fukushima crisis.

    See here all entries related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.


  • The Guardian: “Being and Time part 6: Death” by Simon Critchley, July 13, 2009.

    So, there is nothing morbid about being-towards-death. Heidegger’s thought is that being-towards-death pulls Dasein out of its immersion in inauthentic everyday life and allows it come into its own. It is only in relation to being-towards-death that I become passionately aware of my freedom.

  • McSweeney’s: “FAQ: The “Snake Fight” Portion of Your Thesis Defense” by Luke Burns, November 19, 2010.

    Q: Why do I have to do this?

    A: Snake fighting is one of the great traditions of higher education. It may seem somewhat antiquated and silly, like the robes we wear at graduation, but fighting a snake is an important part of the history and culture of every reputable university. Almost everyone with an advanced degree has gone through this process. Notable figures such as John Foster Dulles, Philip Roth, and Doris Kearns Goodwin (to name but a few) have all had to defeat at least one snake in single combat.


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