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Best of the Web

Nuclear power: on the way back?

Nuclear power: on the way back?

(Thinkstock)

Our pick of the week from around the web, including the rise of power stations, hating Silicon Valley and how the Romans invented Facebook.

El Bulli for all
John Lanchester | London Review Of Books | 13 November 2013

Lanchester samples Ferran Adria’s free online Harvard course, Science & Cooking, and pronounces it excellent. “Homework involves an experiment to calibrate the accuracy of your oven, and calculations to ascertain the number of molecules in aubergine with buttermilk sauce … It teaches the mystery of how mathematics penetrates into matter. The course is more rigorous, and more educational, than I’d thought it would be.” 

We are allowed to hate Silicon Valley
Evgeny Morozov | Frankfurter Allgemeine | 11 November 2013

We’re so thrilled by new technology that we ignore the corporate and political agenda of its producers. “While we understand that the interests of pharmaceutical, food and oil companies naturally diverge from our own, we rarely approach Silicon Valley with the requisite suspicion. Instead, we continue to treat data as if it were a special, magical commodity that could single-handedly defend itself against any evil genius who dares to exploit it.”

More and better nuclear power
Nicholas Valery | The Economist | 11 November 2013

Despite Fukushima, nuclear power is coming back. China is adding 32 reactors, Russia 10, India seven. Nuclear stations generate large blocks of power without producing carbon dioxide – and they don’t have to be dangerous. The current industry standard, the light-water reactor using solid uranium fuel, is a “terrible mistake” in engineering terms. Liquid thorium fuel is cheap, plentiful, and far less toxic. (Metered paywall)

How the brain creates personality: A new theory
Stephen Kosslyn & Wayne Miller | The Atlantic | 11th November 2013

Forget left vs right brain. The new schema: upper vs lower brain. The upper formulates and executes plans; the lower classifies and interprets incoming information. In some situations we can choose whether to rely on the upper or lower brain system. The four possible combinations – upper, lower, both, neither — give rise to four cognitive modes: Mover, Perceiver, Stimulator, Adaptor. The cognitive mode determines personality.

Airlines mine personal data in-flight
Jack Nicas | Wall Street Journal | 8 November 2013

Coming soon: Real-time passenger data for aeroplane cabin staff. “Attendants can know that the flier in seat 23B is a vegetarian and the couple behind him are on their honeymoon.” Airlines can stock in-flight trolleys with products that passengers have a history of buying. Cute or creepy? Qantas survey finds mixed reactions: “I do want you to know I like cappuccino but I don’t want you to know that my dog’s name is Sally.”

SimCity turns dark
John McDermott | Atlantic Cities | 7 November 2013

SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow is “a deeply cynical expansion pack” for the SimCity game, in which control of the City passes into the hands of The Academy, “a publicly funded think tank whose sole mission is to push the boundaries of urban infrastructure”, and those of a “shadowy conglomerate” called Omega Co. “Whether inspired by real or fictional events, the expansion pack has an inescapable, soul-crushing pessimism.”

How the Romans invented Facebook
Justin Peters | Washington Monthly | 7 November 2013

Review of Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years, by Tom Standage. The thesis: “Informal networks flourished for centuries as society’s main sources of information and commentary, before mass media emerged to turn news into a one-way conversation. The rise of the Internet has made everyone a potential publisher, and, thus, media has reverted to its natural, social state. Everything old is new again.”

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