If it's as wet where you are as it is here, you'll be wanting to forget that resolution to get some exercise at lunchtime and stay nice and warm inside reading this lot instead
- Marooned Among the Polar Bears - ”A Russian helicopter pilot had nearly completed a record-breaking trip around the globe when he crashed into the icy waters of the Arctic Circle. He never should have survived." The remarkable adventure of fifty-year-old Russian businessman Sergey Ananov.
- How the Illuminati Stole the Mind, Soul, and Body of Hip-Hop - ”The true story of how an 18th-century secret society came to dominate today’s music industry (allegedly).” Yet another conspiracy theory
- The Detective of Northern Oddities - "When a creature mysteriously turns up dead in Alaska—be it a sea otter, polar bear, or humpback whale—veterinary pathologist Kathy Burek gets the call. Her necropsies reveal cause of death and causes for concern as climate change frees up new pathogens and other dangers in a vast, thawing north."
- Death Star: Ultimate weapon of mass destruction - Spoiler alert as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists looks at the parallels between the Star Wars galaxy’s Death Star and our nuclear weapons: ”The Death Star’s creation is at its most basic level an engineering challenge, one that massively eclipses the Manhattan Project’s creation of US nuclear weapons but shares a number of similarities, including the commitment of a massive amount of resources and human capital… The fuel to power the Death Star’s primary weapon brings to mind the real world quest for the plutonium 239 and uranium 235 used in the core of a nuclear warhead. ”
- I Can’t Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems - ”One teacher wrote to me last month, working after 10 p.m., trying to figure out the test maker’s interpretation of my poem MIDNIGHT… I just put that stanza break in there because when I read it aloud (I’m a performance poet), I pause there. Note: that is not an option among the answers because no one ever asked me why I did it.” I always suspected a lot of the stuff we were supposed to come out with in English Literature O Level was bulltulip, but at least we got to say things in our own words rather than having to answer multiple-choice questions that make no sense.
- The Skeletal Legacy of Odd Fellows Lurks in Closets and Attics Across America - "The Odd Fellows, like many fraternal organizations, are shrouded in secrecy and steeped in esoteric symbolism. Though they were a charitable staple of many communities throughout America for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, whose purpose was to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan,” little was known about what was happening behind closed doors… Years of declining memberships saw many Odd Fellows chapters across the country closing their doors. That’s when people started finding skeletons in closets, attics, and beneath floorboards of defunct lodges, cryptically emblazoned with the letters FLT inside three interlocking rings.” Makes you wonder what the all-powerful Freemasons have in their lodges
- Drugs du jour - "LSD in the ’60s; ecstasy in the ’80s; ‘smart’ drugs today: how we get high reflects the desires and fears of our times.” Cody Delistraty considers what changing fashions in recreational drugs tell us about society.
- Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People - Transcript of yet another brilliant talk by Maciej Cegłowski, this time casting a sceptical eye over the notion that we can develop an AI that will supplant us: ”At that point this monstrous intellectual creature, through devious modeling of what our emotions and intellect are like, will be able to persuade us to do things like give it access to factories, synthesize custom DNA, or simply let it connect to the Internet, where it can hack its way into anything it likes and completely obliterate everyone in arguments on message boards.”
- The Crackin’, Shakin’, Breakin’ Sounds - American music journalist Nat Hentoff died on Saturday. Here’s his 1964 New Yorker profile of Bob Dylan, including an account of the recording of his fourth album Another Side of Bob Dylan in a single evening: ”After three takes of one number, one of the engineers said to Wilson, ‘If you want to try another, we can get a better take.’ ’No.’ Wilson shook his head. ‘With Dylan, you have to take what you can get.’”
- The Chernobyl Story - There are many photo galleries of what Chernobyl and Pripyat look like now, but this collection by Andrew Leatherbarrow also includes many images of the power station and neighbouring town in their heyday, as well as lesser-known images from the time of the accident and the ensuing containment and cleanup operations. ”This is believed to be the first photograph ever taken of the accident, and the only photo that survives from that morning. Igor Kostin was a photographer from Kiev who became world famous for his images of the the clean-up operation. Kostin claims the image is very noisy because radiation was destroying the film in his camera. Of all the shots he took on that flight, this is the only one that wasn't ruined.”