News 01.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 01.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 01.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
This Is Glamorous
News 01.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Mysterious Life (and Death) Of Africa’s Oldest Trees

The baobab trunks are thick and bulbous and fat. The bark is shiny and red. The trees don’t sway. They don’t whistle with the wind. Movement is slow and barely perceptible, if they move at all. Baobabs can grow to 100 feet tall; their diameters can reach up to 40 feet. For the most part their leaves appear for just a few months during the wet season and look like the unnatural hair that emerges from a chia pet. Their most dynamic motions are during the roughly five minutes at dusk when their night-blooming flowers open for the bats and moths who drink their pollen, and in death, when they topple suddenly and dramatically in just a few hours.

In June 2018, a study was published by the scientific journal Nature Plants; it stated simply that the baobabs are dying. The scientists involved do not know why, but they suspect increased drought and climate change. For decades, villagers in Botswana have witnessed the depletion of baobabs because of human encroachment—cattle grazing and farmland have taken over areas once roamed by hunter-gatherers. The introduction of agriculture and changes to the soil have produced a negative effect on the trees. These trees, which are some of the oldest on the planet, are rooted so solidly into the African horizon, they appear invincible, as if the sun couldn’t set without the silhouettes of their gnarly branches reshaping the line where land meets sky.

Read the rest of this article at: Topic

News 01.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution

News 01.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

A male flame bowerbird is a creature of incandescent beauty. The hue of his plumage transitions seamlessly from molten red to sunshine yellow. But that radiance is not enough to attract a mate. When males of most bowerbird species are ready to begin courting, they set about building the structure for which they are named: an assemblage of twigs shaped into a spire, corridor or hut. They decorate their bowers with scores of colorful objects, like flowers, berries, snail shells or, if they are near an urban area, bottle caps and plastic cutlery. Some bowerbirds even arrange the items in their collection from smallest to largest, forming a walkway that makes themselves and their trinkets all the more striking to a female — an optical illusion known as forced perspective that humans did not perfect until the 15th century.

Yet even this remarkable exhibition is not sufficient to satisfy a female flame bowerbird. Should a female show initial interest, the male must react immediately. Staring at the female, his pupils swelling and shrinking like a heartbeat, he begins a dance best described as psychotically sultry. He bobs, flutters, puffs his chest. He crouches low and rises slowly, brandishing one wing in front of his head like a magician’s cape. Suddenly his whole body convulses like a windup alarm clock. If the female approves, she will copulate with him for two or three seconds. They will never meet again.

The bowerbird defies traditional assumptions about animal behavior. Here is a creature that spends hours meticulously curating a cabinet of wonder, grouping his treasures by color and likeness. Here is a creature that single-beakedly builds something far more sophisticated than many celebrated examples of animal toolmaking; the stripped twigs that chimpanzees use to fish termites from their mounds pale in comparison. The bowerbird’s bower, as at least one scientist has argued, is nothing less than art. When you consider every element of his courtship — the costumes, dance and sculpture — it evokes a concept beloved by the German composer Richard Wagner: Gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art, one that blends many different forms and stimulates all the senses.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

Life Lately: Recently in Photos December 2018

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How To Eat in 2019

I had always maintained that I’d be the kind of person who makes time for cooking, regardless of how busy I became. It is, after all, my job, my hobby, my creative outlet and how I connect with people.

Fast forward to 2018, and it became painfully clear that while that was a nice thought and all, it was also highly and incredibly unrealistic. The general idea that Life Is Overwhelming and There’s No Time for Anything is hardly new, but my reaction to it has adjusted from resistance to acceptance.

The way my friends and I spend our time has changed as families grow and careers take off and life gets more delightfully cluttered, and to me that has shown itself most obviously in the kitchen. Sure, I still enjoy the occasional elaborate, multihour cooking affair, but these days, there’s a lot more “come over for cheese and crackers because it’s all I have energy for” than there used to be.

This is also partly because of a realization I had: When I did invite people over for a meal, I would spend all my time alone in the kitchen working, without really focusing on what anyone was saying, or engaging in any meaningful way. (I am a lot of things, but a multitasker is not one of them.) Eventually, we would all sit down, quickly eat whatever it was I’d prepared, and then the evening would come to a close.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 01.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The End Of Forever

News 01.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Of her five children, Djenane Phadael Estimé was hardest on two-year-old Marie Jacqueline. Djenane said that the little girl was hardheaded, and she wanted her to grow up to be a good person. When Djenane got angry, she beat Jacquie, as her family called the toddler, with belts, plates, and shoes. Jacquie walked with a limp because of a broken femur that her parents had left untreated. In November 1999, she finally died.

One Sunday night, Jacquie complained of pain in her arm and couldn’t fall asleep. Djenane took her to a Haitian healer who treated injuries, no matter how severe, with a mentholated ointment. They returned to their home in Lake Worth, Florida, around midnight, and Djenane put Jacquie to bed. The next morning, the toddler wouldn’t wake up.

In a panic, Djenane called her niece Claire Dameus, who often left her own children at the Estimés’ while she worked as a nursing assistant. Dameus instructed Djenane to call 911, then drove over to the family’s one-bedroom apartment in Lake Worth, a working-class town north of Miami. She found her aunt cradling the stiff child as Djenane’s husband, Pascal, stood nearby. They hadn’t yet called 911, so Dameus did. The emergency operator told her to put Jacquie on the floor and perform CPR.

“Don’t go nowhere,” Dameus said to Djenane. “Everything is not easy no more. When 911 come in, they’re going to ask questions.”

Paramedics found Jacquie dead on the kitchen floor in a tiny red dress. The cause was recorded as multiple blunt-force trauma to the head, but it was impossible to say which of Jacquie’s injuries had killed her. There were nine distinct contusions on her head; at least one of them had caused hemorrhaging in her brain. Twelve of her ribs were broken. She had a black eye and a burn mark on her thigh.

Read the rest of this article at: the Atavist Magazine

News 01.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Philosopher Redefining Equality

American stories trace the sweep of history, but their details are definingly particular. In the summer of 1979, Elizabeth Anderson, then a rising junior at Swarthmore College, got a job as a bookkeeper at a bank in Harvard Square. Every morning, she and the other bookkeepers would process a large stack of bounced checks. Businesses usually had two accounts, one for payroll and the other for costs and supplies. When companies were short of funds, Anderson noticed, they would always bounce their payroll checks. It made a cynical kind of sense: a worker who was owed money wouldn’t go anywhere, or could be replaced, while an unpaid supplier would stop supplying. Still, Anderson found it disturbing that businesses would write employees phony checks, burdening them with bounce fees. It appeared to happen all the time.

Midway through summer, the bank changed its office plan. When Anderson had started, the bookkeepers worked in rows of desks. Coördination was easy—a check that fell under someone else’s purview could be handed down the line—and there was conversation throughout the day. Then cubicles were added. That transformation interrupted the workflow, the conversational flow, and most other things about the bookkeepers’ days. Their capacities as workers were affected, yet the change had come down from on high.

These problems nagged at Anderson that summer and beyond. She had arrived at college as a libertarian who wanted to study economics. In the spirit of liberal-arts exploration, though, she enrolled in an introductory philosophy course whose reading list included Karl Marx’s 1844 manuscripts concerning worker alienation. Anderson thought that Marx’s economic arguments about the declining rate of profit and the labor theory of value fell apart under scrutiny. But she was stirred by his observational writings about the experience of work. Her summer at the bank drove home the fact that systemic behavior inside the workplace was part of the socioeconomic fabric, too: it mattered whether you were the person who got a clear check or a bounced check, whether a hierarchy made it easier or harder for you to excel and advance. Yet economists had no way of factoring those influences into their thinking. As far as they were concerned, a job was a contract—an exchange of labor for money—and if you were unhappy you left. The nature of the workplace, where most people spent half their lives, was a black box.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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