Archive for the ‘The Browser’ tag

#  A Visit with Alain de Botton →

June 2nd, 2014 at 11:02 // In Worth Reading 

I think Alain de Botton is one of the most interesting and valuable thinkers and writers alive today. I really enjoyed this piece:

De Botton talked about some of the writers he loves – Montaigne, and the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott – and then he told me about a service, known as “bibliotherapy”, offered by the School of Life, which (I think) he thought I would hate. The idea is that someone suggests enriching books for you to read. “What a load of wank!” he exclaimed, gleefully taking the role of his detractors. “What do I want to say? Just calm down … ” It occurred to me, as it has long occurred to him, that our reactions to him might say more about ourselves than they do about him. “Is this the enemy?” He asked. “Is this really the enemy?”

(via The Browser)

#  In Praise of Sudden, Unexpected Death →

May 27th, 2014 at 10:53 // In Worth Considering 

I recognize talking about death makes some squeamish, but I really enjoyed this thoughtful essay from Jacob M. Appel about what it means that so few people die suddenly and unexpectedly today:

Rather, my disquiet is principally for lost human dignity. Canadian right-to-die activist Gloria Taylor, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, recently wrote: “I can accept death because I recognize it as a part of life. What I fear is a death that negates, as opposed to concludes, my life.” Sudden death is a conclusion. Too often, I fear, the long goodbye devolves into a negation.

(via The Browser)

#  Tips for Healthy Science Skepticism →

November 27th, 2013 at 10:25 // In Worth Reading 

It’s a bit of an old saw here by now, but I think there’s a lot of “science”, especially as reported to popular culture that’s utterly bogus. In the guise of helping politicians, the Nature blog has a good piece about how to be intelligently skeptical of scientific claims. This is “publication bias” looms large in my mind:

Because studies that report ‘statistically significant’ results are more likely to be written up and published, the scientific literature tends to give an exaggerated picture of the magnitude of problems or the effectiveness of solutions.

The list does go much deeper, too. Here’s a harder issue I’d nearly forgotten about (my last experience with sample size significance is nearing a decade ago):

Effect size matters. Small responses are less likely to be detected. A study with many replicates might result in a statistically significant result but have a small effect size (and so, perhaps, be unimportant). The importance of an effect size is a biological, physical or social question, and not a statistical one. In the 1990s, the editor of the US journal Epidemiology asked authors to stop using statistical significance in submitted manuscripts because authors were routinely misinterpreting the meaning of significance tests, resulting in ineffective or misguided recommendations for public-health policy.

(via The Browser)

#  Gladwell’s Fairy Tales →

November 23rd, 2013 at 17:20 // In Worth Reading 

Malcolm Gladwell seems to have ever more detractors, but his success and appeal is undeniable. I appreciated John Gray’s explanation of that appeal, most strongly manifest in his latest book:

Pretending to present daringly counterintuitive views to his readers, he actually strengthens the hold on them of a view of things that they have long taken for granted. This is, perhaps, the essence of the genre that Gladwell has pioneered: while reinforcing beliefs that everyone avows, he evokes in the reader a satisfying sensation of intellectual non-conformity.

(via The Browser)

#  Object Lessons →

September 14th, 2013 at 16:25 // In Worth Knowing 

I was rather charmed with this piece about jet bridges, a small piece of everyday technology I’d never given a second thought. (Found it via The Browser, which you shouldn’t ignore.) But I was even more charmed to realize that it was part of a project from that The Atlantic, a book publisher, and a few educational institutions.

#  How to Change Cultures →

July 24th, 2013 at 15:46 // In Worth Reading 

The always-worth-reading Atul Gawande has a new piece in the New Yorker about his role in working to improve practices around childbirth world wide and what it (and some more historical anecdotes) have to tell us about how you really change the world. The whole piece is good, but this part felt most notable to me:

Besides, neither penalties nor incentives achieve what we’re really after: a system and a culture where X is what people do, day in and day out, even when no one is watching. “You must” rewards mere compliance. Getting to “X is what we do” means establishing X as the norm. And that’s what we want: for skin-to-skin warming, hand washing, and all the other lifesaving practices of childbirth to be, quite simply, the norm.

(via The Browser)

#  Principles for Responsible Media Moguls →

July 21st, 2013 at 18:29 // In Worth Considering 

As I’ve been publishing more consistently, mostly on Frozen Toothpaste and the Press Up blog, I’ve been giving more thought to how and what I want to publish. So this very relevant collection of questions about these very choices from Seth Godin caught my attention. The one I like most:

Who, precisely, are you trying to please? They don’t offer a Pulitzer for most of what we do, so if not the judges, then who?

(via The Browser, who in March broke my hard-won ability to link to their posting of any piece of media)

#  Shackleton’s Medical Kit →

October 23rd, 2012 at 11:44 // In Worth Reading 

Gavin Francis’s piece on his experience being the only doctor in all of Antartica touches elegantly on the increasingly specialization and safety that have become so crucial and prominent to progress in the last hundred years that frequently forget about them.

I asked around Halley, trying to understand how scientists there were unravelling the mysteries of Antarctica. I wanted to find a way to contribute the way my predecessors did. Halley concentrates on atmospheric science, with big-budget projects examining the solar wind, clean air chemistry, the ozone hole, the earth’s magnetic field. But my medical training towards the end of the twentieth century had been so narrow there was little that I could add. It is not only medicine that has become super-specialised over the last hundred years; the sciences have done the same.

(via The Browser)

#  Happiness is a Glass Half Empty →

June 21st, 2012 at 16:58 // In Worth Reading 

Have I told you how much I love Oliver Burkeman? Because it’s a lot. In this excerpt from his latest book, he says so many sensible things that people rarely do about life, failure, contentment, and consumer goods innovations.

The water-visualisers experienced a significant reduction in their energy levels, as measured by blood pressure. Far from becoming more motivated to hydrate themselves, people responded to positive visualisation by relaxing. They seemed, subconsciously, to have confused imagining success with having already achieved it.

(via The Browser, which I also love)

#  The Concentrated Hell of American Prisons →

February 5th, 2012 at 17:29 // In Worth Considering 

There may be be some who argue about the seriousness of the problem, but I think after reading this piece no one would be able to contest with a clear conscience that there is one. I can’t shake the feeling that the basic premise of this provocative essay is sound:

America’s prison system is a moral catastrophe. The eerie sense of security that prevails on the streets of lower Manhattan obscures, and depends upon, a system of state-sponsored suffering as vicious and widespread as any in human history. Dismantling the system of American gulags, and holding accountable those responsible for their operation, presents the most urgent humanitarian imperative of our time.

That isn’t the truly provocative part of Cristopher Glazek’s thesis, but it’s the part that you need to hear. The other half’s more in the “mind-blowing and interesting to consider” category.

(via The Browser)