May 4th 2023
EXTRACT: "My recent book on them 25 Unforgettable French Faces covers a wide range of individuals, from an aging Brigitte Bardot to architect Gustave Eiffel. Both of them changed the face of France. In the upcoming sequel, 25 More Unforgettable French Faces, I have completed my collection of 50 examples. The new book, now in progress, ranges from The Bad Boy of the 18th Century (Voltaire) to A Man of Principle (Jean-Paul Sartre) and Big Dark Eyes, (the actress Audrey Tautou)."
May 4th 2023
EXTRACT: "Silicon solar cells are an established technology for the generation of electricity from the sun. But they take a lot of energy to produce, are rigid and can be fragile. However, a new class of solar cell is matching their performance. And what’s more, it can now be printed out using special inks and wrapped flexibly around uneven surfaces."
Apr 21st 2023
EXTRACT: "You learn from your mistakes. At least, most of us have been told so. But science shows that we often fail to learn from past errors. Instead, we are likely to keep repeating the same mistakes." .... "Sometimes we stick with certain behaviour patterns, and repeat our mistakes because of an “ego effect” that compels us to stick with our existing beliefs. We are likely to selectively choose the information structures and feedback that help us protect our egos." ..... "....there are simpler things we can do. One is to become more comfortable with making mistakes. We might think that this is the wrong attitude towards failures, but it is in fact a more positive way forward."
Mar 17th 2023
EXTRACTS: "The intensifying concentration of wealth, and unjustifiable level of income inequality is proving disastrous in many ways. Here are just a few of them. First, less equal societies typically have more unstable economies, and this country is no exception." --- "Second, there is an incontrovertible link between economic inequality and violent crime. The fact is that rates of violence are higher in more unequal societies." --- "Third, the undeniable fact is that the greater the economic inequality that exists, the worse it is for general health outcomes. What is sometimes overlooked is that income inequality is bad for health outcomes across economic strata, not just for those in poverty. To be sure, poor health and poverty are closely linked; but the epidemiological research shows that high levels of economic inequality “negatively affect the health of even the affluent, mainly because… inequality reduces social cohesion, a dynamic that leads to more stress, fear, and insecurity for everyone.” People live longer in countries with lower levels of inequality, as the World Bank reports. In the United States, for example, “average life expectancy is four years shorter than in some of the most equitable countries.” "
Mar 10th 2023
EDITOR: "Quantum mechanics, the theory which rules the microworld of atoms and particles, certainly has the X factor. Unlike many other areas of physics, it is bizarre and counter-intuitive, which makes it dazzling and intriguing. When the 2022 Nobel prize in physics was awarded to Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger for research shedding light on quantum mechanics, it sparked excitement and discussion. But debates about quantum mechanics – be they on chat forums, in the media or in science fiction – can often get muddled thanks to a number of persistent myths and misconceptions. Here are four."
Mar 7th 2023
EXTRACT: "....the destructive logic of the false dualism of man and nature continues to threaten our civilization. The new Enlightenment would overcome this dualistic perspective, by bringing about a deep reconsideration of our moral duties to animals and future generations, and transforming how we inhabit the Earth. Instead of thinking of ourselves as separate from nature, we must recognize that we are embedded in it, and that even our most mundane actions have far-reaching consequences."
Feb 28th 2023
EXTRACT: " It has now been a year since Russia, my birthplace, invaded Ukraine. For 365 days, we have been waking up to news of Russian missile strikes, bombings, murders, torture, and rape. It has been 365 days of shame and confusion, of wanting to turn away but needing to know what is happening, of watching Russians become “ruscists,” “Orks,” or “putinoids.” For 365 days, the designation “Russian-American,” previously straightforward, has felt like a contradiction in terms. For those in my situation, some methods of adapting to the new circumstances have come easier than others. Russian books still crowd my bookcase, but I no longer have any wish to re-read them. Chekhov and Nabokov cannot be blamed for the aggression against Ukraine, but it nonetheless has stolen their magic and their capacity to teach. These authors were my friends, as were the old-country rituals like Russian Easter vigils and New Year’s screenings of the Soviet classic Irony of Fate. I feel the loss acutely, but perhaps it is for the better. It helps me concentrate on the present."
Feb 18th 2023
EXTRACTS: "Like the United States, France has gained strength through immigration, a fact often overlooked by opponents of open borders. Science, industry and the arts have clearly benefitted. And I found the local color in the population to be a rich source for artwork."
Feb 17th 2023
EXTRACT: "Insects are by far the most numerous of all animals on Earth. The estimated global total of new insect material that grows each year is an astonishing 1,500 million tonnes. Most of this is immediately consumed by an upward food chain of predators and parasites, so that the towering superstructure of all the Earth’s animal diversity is built on a foundation of insects and their arthropod relatives. ---- If insects decline, then other wild animals must inevitably decline too."
Feb 14th 2023
EXTRACT: "When Bob Dylan and the Beatles were creating a conceptual revolution in popular music, producing works that were highly personal, obscure, and often incomprehensible to listeners, Bacharach was the greatest composer who continued the experimental tradition of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and the other giants of the Golden Age."
Feb 7th 2023
EXTRACT: "Many of Hopper’s most famous works – Nighthawks (1942), for example (not in the exhibition) – have become so ubiquitous that we are in danger of no longer being able to see them. The corrective for this over-exposure is to engage with the artist’s less familiar work; that is, to come to the artist through another portal – obliquely, if you will – and thereby trace a new path into the world that his oeuvre represents. Hopper observed, “I think I’m not very human, I didn’t want to paint people posturing and grimacing. What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.” It is as telling a description as any of Hopper’s painterly fascination with New York City."
Feb 3rd 2023
EXTRACT: "The built environment we inhabit is just the residue of a much greater imaginative world that never saw the light of day, evoking what might have been or still could be..."
Are the Clintons actually writing their novels? An expert uses ‘stylometry’ to analyse Hillary and Bill’s writing
Jan 18th 2023
EXTRACT: "In 2018, former US president Bill Clinton coauthored a novel with James Patterson, the world’s bestselling author. The President is Missing is a typical “Patterson”: a page-turner of a thriller, easy to read, with short chapters and large font. Patterson is accustomed to collaborative writing ..... He is as much a producer as he is a writer, using a string of junior collaborators to run his factory of novels. Patterson outlines the plot, the coauthors write the story, Patterson offers feedback. While he doesn’t seem to do much writing himself, it is a system that has made Patterson a rich man."
Jan 14th 2023
EXTRACT: "With hindsight, 2022 will be seen as the year when artificial intelligence gained street credibility. The release of ChatGPT by the San Francisco-based research laboratory OpenAI garnered great attention and raised even greater questions. In just its first week, ChatGPT attracted more than a million users and was used to write computer programs, compose music, play games, and take the bar exam. Students discovered that it could write serviceable essays worthy of a B grade – as did teachers, albeit more slowly and to their considerable dismay."
What Prince Harry’s memoir Spare tells us about ‘complicated grief’ and the long-term impact of losing a mother so young
Jan 14th 2023
EXTRACT: "The thought of her, as always, gave me a jolt of hope, and a burst of energy. And a stab of sorrow."
Jan 14th 2023
EXTRACT: ".....if academic discourse and campus debate are shut down every time a person feels offended, how can universities possibly examine controversial topics? Without intellectual freedom – one of the great achievements of American civilization – they can’t."
Jan 5th 2023
EXTRACTS: "London's Tate Britain and Paris' Petit Palais have collaborated to produce a wonderful retrospective exhibition of the art of Walter Sickert (1860-1942). The show is both beautiful and fascinating. ----- Virginia Woolf loved Sickert's art, and it is not difficult to see why, because his painting, like her writing, was always about intimate views of incidents, or casual portraits in which individual sitters momentarily revealed their personalities. ------ Sickert's art never gained the status of that of Whistler or Degas, perhaps because it was too derivative of those masters. But he was an important link between those great experimental painters and the art of Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, ...."
Dec 5th 2022
EXTRACT: "One of the great paradoxes of human endeavour is why so much time and effort is spent on creating things and indulging in behaviour with no obvious survival value – behaviour otherwise known as art. Attempting to shed light on this issue is problematic because first we must define precisely what art is. We can start by looking at how art, or the arts, were practised by early humans during the Upper Palaeolithic period, 40,000 to 12,000 years ago, and immediately thereafter."
Dec 3rd 2022
EXTRACTS: "As a portrait artist, I am an amateur at this compared to the technology gurus and psychologists who study facial recognition seriously. Their aplications range from law enforcement to immigration control to ethnic groupings to the search through a crowd to find someone we know. ---- In my amateur artistic way, I prefer to count on intuition to find facial clues to a subject’s personality before sitting down at the drawing board. I never use the latest software to grapple with this dizzying variety.
Dec 1st 2022
EXTRACT: "In the exhibition catalog Lisane Basquiat writes: 'What is important for everyone to understand… is that he was a son, and a brother, and a grandson, and a nephew, and a cousin, and a friend. He was all of that in addition to being a groundbreaking artist.' "