If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

National Geographic (Oct. 2017)

Before the summer is out, a boy and more than 2,300 reindeer will die from anthrax on southern Yamal, and dozens of people will get sick–a direct result of thawing permafrost, which allowed animal carcasses buried during an outbreak in the 1940s to reemerge, still bearing infectious microbes.

“Life on the Edge”, by Gleb Raygorodetsky

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National Geographic (Oct. 2017)

The Rohingya are one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. They are Muslims in a nation dominated by Buddhists. …

Five years ago … 120,000 Rohingya were forced into camps in Myanmar. This time the Burmese military unleashed a four-month campaign of terror that included executions, mass detentions, razing of villages, and systematic rape, according to the United Nations and human rights organizations.

“Without a Home, and Without Hope”, by Brook Larmer

Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

…It makes me think of the wagging of a dog’s tail. (Could tail-wagging-ese be translated into American slang? “Hey folks–dig! I’m feelin’ groovy!” wagged Spot.)

National Geographic (Oct. 2017)

“There’s this glamorous young girl out in the jungle with potentially dangerous animals. People like romanticizing, and people were looking at me as though I was that myth that they had created in their mind. …

“There was nothing I could do about it because as far as they knew, it was me. And there was no way I could be portrayed differently. It wasn’t inaccurate. It’s just that people take the facts and weave stories around them.”

Jane Goodall, quoted in “Becoming Jane”

National Geographic (Oct. 2017)

The pressures to pose rankled Jane, but she handled it diplomatically. In a letter to Melvin Payne, whose National Geographic committee oversaw her funding, Jane wrote, “Certainly I understand that it is necessary to build up a story around ‘Jane Goodall’ and we have cooperated with Joanne as much as we possibly could.”

But when Hess came to Gombe to oversee some filming, Jane allowed herself a private act of rebellion. “We are already collecting large numbers of evil looking spiders and centipedes to lay around casually in her tent, in an endeavor to shorten her visit,” Jane wrote to her mother.

“Becoming Jane”, by Tony Gerber

National Geographic (Oct. 2017)

Humans and their canine companions both find solace in music. Researchers from the University of Glasgow put on five different playlists for kennel dogs while monitoring their stress. Although reactions differed, the music had a calming effect–particularly soft rock and reggae.

“The Science of Dogs”

National Geographic (Sep. 2017)

Functionally speaking, a border wall attempts to do two things. One is to stem migration–people coming into this country for greater opportunity. But only when we stop hiring will they stop coming.

The other is to keep out drugs–but Americans are the ones creating the demand. Until we address the problem successfully on our end, the cartels will find ways to get through. A wall doesn’t stop the reasons that this is happening.

“Bordlerlands”, by Richard Misrach

National Geographic (Sep. 2017)

The surgeon general’s report reaffirms what the scientific establishment has been saying for years: Addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. It’s characterized not necessarily by physical dependence or withdrawal but by compulsive repetition of an activity despite life-damaging consequences.

“The Addicted Brain”, by Fran Smith

Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

Every task involves constraint,
Solve the thing without complaint;
There are magic links and chains
Forged to loose our rigid brains.
Structures, strictures, though they bind,
Strangely liberate the mind.

James Falen’s “odelet in praise of constraints”, quoted in DRH’s book

Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

All readings are partial and approximate, and we must content ourselves with whatever joy and insight we can derive from deep ideas rendered clearly in beautiful language, knowing that our derivative response and the author’s original vision will never be perfectly aligned.