Friday, April 10, 2020

Links 10 April 2020

Small silver figurine from China's Warring States Period, now in Japan's Miho Museum

US alcohol sales rise 55 percent in one week. Of course that might have been about hoarding liquor for the long term, so we'll have to see if this continues.

A "real world" test of the effectiveness of SSRIs on depression and anxiety.

Does a ninth-century Swedish rune stone refer to a climate crisis of the 530s, nine generation before?

Great fads: quarantined people recreating famous artworks with whatever they have in their houses.

Trying to recreate the Stone Age life

How good is the human sense of smell?

Why did nobody listen when the alarm about Covid-19 was raised in January?

Sometimes things change very fast.

Scott Alexander reviews Toby Ord's book The Precipice, about the risks that might lead to the end of humanity.

Kevin Drum on what the pandemic is likely to change

A blog that recounts the 15-year adventure of restoring a Victorian mansion in Danville, Virginia.

The statisticians at 538 work through all the problems with understanding the coronavirus pandemic, which start with huge variations in testing strategy. Incidentally their model assumes that 10% of cases are severe, 60% are mild, and 30% are asymptomatic, which they says the current consensus estimate.

Whale sharks may live to be 150 years old.

In New Jersey, middle-aged Pink Floyd fans defy police to hold a "corona street party"

Times article on the Franglais rappers of Montreal.

Plant domestication in the Amazon goes back 10,000 years.


G. Verloren said...

"How good is the human sense of smell?"

This puts me in mind of the curious fact that the English language is astoundingly BAD at describing smells, and relies almost entirely on comparison.

Most of the time, we simply say that one thing smells like another thing. "That smells sweet", or "that has a floral smell", or "that smells chocolate-y", or "that has an earthy smell", et cetera.

This differs dramatically from sight, where we have terms for common visual phenomena such as colors. We don't say that a rose is "apple colored" or that a stop sign is "barn colored" - we instead have the concept of the color red, a quality that those different objects can all possess independent of one another.

We have a few words for describing a smell as being particularly strong or unpleasant - acrid, pungent, piquant, et cetera - but those words don't actually describe the smells themselves, but rather their general potency or desireability.

What's more, these terms are fairly imprecise and lack granularity - is a "pungent" smell stronger than a "sharp" one? How "fragrant" is fragrant? Why don't we have terms like "light fragrant" and "dark fragrant"? (Aside from the obvious fact that light and dark color descriptions arise from the phenomenon of variable lighting and how that changes a color's appearance. Surely we could devise equivalent terminologies.)

G. Verloren said...

"Times article on the Franglais rappers of Montreal."

Oddly enough, translingual Québécois rap doesn't faze me much after being exposed to Maritimes hip hop replete with concertinas and deeply accented Cape Breton dialect.

I love that these sorts of things exist out there. How wonderful is diversity.

John said...

@G - one of my sons was into Taiwanese rap for a while, which I found delightfully weird.