The fascinating complications of the placebo response. Among other things, it seems to be getting more powerful in US drug trials.
It's not just you getting older; is really is getting harder to understand the dialog in movies. There are a lot of reasons for this, some of them related to money, others to streaming platforms. But I have personally noticed a major shift in acting, from theatrical, look-at-the-audience-and-enunciate speech to looking away and muttering, and I am glad to see that Hollywood insiders agree: "in the old days, you could count on an actor's theatricality to deliver a line to the back seats. But acting styles have changed so dramatically over the years that it has become much more difficult to capture great sound on the set."
Commonwealth Fusion Systems is a company founded by MIT physicists and funded by people like Bill Gates and George Soros. They say that new superconducting magnet technology will allow them to make a commercial fusion reactor by 2030. Not holding my breath.
The religious power of music, exemplified in the Saint John Coltrane Church in San Francisco. (NY Times)
Kevin Drum says the debate about Critical Race Theory, the 1619 Project, etc. is really about patriotism: do you love America despite its flaws, or hate it because of them?
In New York, and many other places, any complaint you make against a prosecutor disappears under a veil of judicial secrecy, and outsiders never find out what happens to most of them. But we know it isn't much, since prosecutors are hardly ever fired for misconduct. The rule that people will behave horribly when they can keep it secret applies here as everywhere. (NY Times)
These demographers predict that the world's total fertility will fall below replacement rate by 2040. I might live to see one of the most profound changes in human history, our escape from the iron scissors of Malthus.
What do all the horned helmets from the European Bronze Age mean? Interesting 25-minute video. The much simplified answer is they started out as a sign of divinity, then of semi-divine heroes, then were adopted by some human warriors.
How one reporter's tweetstorm got the port of Long Beach to change its rules and allow stacking of containers more than two high, helping to unsnarl traffic at the port.
Two-minute clip from the new Beatles documentary shows Paul composing a new song while he waits for John to show up for a recording session.
The Hubble Space Telescope, offline for a month over the summer because of computer problems, failed again on October 25, but it is now back online for "full science operations." It is 31 years old, a long time for such a complex satellite to function, so I think it can't last much longer. Fortunately its replacement is due to launch before the end of the month.
Soda shops, where you can order custom mixes of name-brand sodas adulterated with all manner of fruit juices and flavors, have been big in heavily Mormon areas for years and are now expanding across the country. "Happiness in a cup" for people who don't drink coffee. (NY Times)
Volunteer at a Massachusetts center for "farm based therapy" dies of cardiac arrest after being repeatedly rammed by a sheep.
At the Met, an amazing zoomable image of a 17th-century tapestry depicting the labors of the months. A nice reminder that while the world was beginning to change rapidly in that era, much of the civilization remained medieval.
Dirtbag Catullus, delightfully raunchy contemporary renderings of Latin poetry.
David Foster Wallace's 2005 Kenyon College commencement address is very famous, and I think deservedly so. Amazing.
David Brooks on contemporary conservatism: "The rich philosophical perspective that dazzled me then has been reduced to Fox News and voter suppression." (The Atlantic)