Essays

Essays

Jul 13th 2023
EXTRACT: ".....art purchases and prices have plateaued. The prevailing mood at this year’s Art Basel was one of anxiety, as dealers roamed the halls searching for answers. Some speculate that the state of the art market indicates declining confidence among the world’s richest people. When the economy is booming, collectors are more inclined to invest in art and take on leverage, especially when borrowing costs are low. But these dynamics can shift quickly during downturns. The 2008 crisis, for example, caused art prices to fall by 60%."
Jul 13th 2023
EXTRACT: "But even if you’re having trouble motivating yourself to exercise, many types of physical activity may be helpful as long as you do them regularly. For example, walking, gardening and household chores (such as cooking, hoovering and dusting) may prevent symptoms worsening and improve quality of life. And, these activities may be easier to incorporate into your daily routine than a gym workout."
Jul 12th 2023
EXTRACTS: "Insect populations are declining worldwide at a rate of almost 1% per year. This decline is alarming. Insects play a crucial role in pollinating crops, controlling crop pests and maintaining soil fertility. In the UK alone, pollination provided by bees and other insects adds over £600 million to crop production every year. That’s about 10% of the country’s total annual crop value. Through pollination, insects also make sure that fruit and vegetables are packed full of the vitamins and minerals needed for healthy human diets. Insufficient pollination would result in lower-quality foods, less choice and higher food prices." .... "Just like fertiliser and water, these insects should be considered a legitimate agricultural input that needs to be protected and managed sustainably."
Jul 6th 2023
EXTRACT: "But whatever the truth may turn out to be, the Lindemann affair raises a question that has been hotly debated over the past few years, especially in the United States, but more and more in Europe, too: must art be judged by the private behavior of its creator? It has become fairly common for critics to denounce Pablo Picasso’s paintings because he made women in his life suffer. A well-known movie critic declared that he could no longer view Woody Allen’s films in the same way after the director was accused, without any evidence, of abusing his seven-year-old adoptive daughter. Roman Polanski’s movies are no longer distributed in the US, because he drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl in 1977."
Jun 25th 2023
EXTRACT: "There’s a great deal of research showing that people with negative personality traits, such as narcissism, ruthlessness, amorality or a lack of empathy and conscience, are attracted to high-status roles, including politics. In a representative democracy, therefore, the people who put themselves forward as representatives include a sizeable proportion of people with disordered personalities – people who crave power because of their malevolent traits. And the most disordered and malevolent personalities –the most ruthless and amoral – tend to rise to the highest positions in any political party, and in any government. This is the phenomenon of “pathocracy”, which I discuss at length in my new book DisConnected."
Jun 11th 2023
EXTRACT: "Although there’s still much we don’t know about flavanols – such as why they have the effect they do on so many aspects of our health – it’s clear from the research we do have that they are very likely beneficial to both memory and heart health."
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..."
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."

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