If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

relocating

Hello! I created this quote blog on wordpress.com several years ago, and I recently decided it’s time to unify my personal site and my blogs under one roof. The new home of this quote blog is over at arestelle.net/quotes.

I will keep If Ideas Had Shapes available here, and there are new quotes scheduled through the beginning of October 2018, which will appear on both sites, but from then on the only place new quote posts will appear is over at arestelle.net. Email subscriptions aren’t available there, yet, but there is an RSS feed you can follow.

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Faroult and Robson – The Art of SQL (2006)

Unfortunately, snappy, exciting new techniques–or indeed revamped, dull old ones–often make us forget this important principle: keep things simple. Simpler often means faster and always means more robust. But simpler for the database doesn’t always mean simpler for the developer, and simplicity often requires more skills than complexity.

Faroult and Robson – The Art of SQL (2006)

At the center lies the relational theory, where mathematicians freely roam.

Faroult and Robson – The Art of SQL (2006)

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Frequently, people may have read or heard about new or unusual techniques–which in some cases can indeed be quite interesting–and then they will try to fit their problem to one of these new solutions. Ordinary developers and architects often jump quickly on to such “solutions,” which often turn out to be at the root of many subsequent problems.

Faroult and Robson – The Art of SQL (2006)

Tactics are often used as a substitute for a strategic approach.

National Geographic (May 2018)

I’ve always found it difficult to think of climbing as heroic, though I understand how some might view it this way. Stand at the foot of a Himalayan peak, and you quickly understand that getting to the top is going to require exceptional strength, stamina, concentration, and courage. But I’ve always thought that an act of heroism requires some sort of higher purpose than just risking your life to see if you can make it to the top.

“Down the Mountain,” Cory Richards

National Geographic (May 2018)

We haven’t changed–and won’t change–three principles that underlie all that we do. We are on the side of science, on the side of facts, and on the side of the planet.

National Geographic (Apr. 2018)

…Similarly, the mutation that’s most responsible for giving Europeans lighter skin is a single tweak in a gene known as SLC24A5, which consists of roughly 20,000 base pairs. In one position, where most sub-Saharan Africans have a G, Europeans have an A. …

Studying DNA extracted from ancient bones, paleogeneticists have found that the G-to-A substitution was introduced into western Europe relatively recently–about 8,000 years ago–by people migrating from the Middle East, who also brought a newfangled technology: farming. That means the people already in Europe–hunter-gatherers who created the spectacular cave paintings at Lascaux, for example–probably were not white but brown. The ancient DNA suggests that many of those dark-skinned Europeans also had blue eyes, a combination rarely seen today.

“Skin Deep,” Elizabeth Kolbert

National Geographic (Apr. 2018)

Genetics frequently works like this: A tiny tweak can have many disparate effects. Only one may be useful–and it may outlive the conditions that made it so, the way families hand down old photos long past the point when anyone remembers who’s in them.

“Skin Deep,” Elizabeth Kolbert

National Geographic (Mar. 2018)

In early spring much of the land remains bare, with soil left exposed after the harvest of quinoa that feeds an insatiable appetite for the high-protein grain in Europe and the U.S.

The timing is unfortunate. Before the year’s crops are planted, the winds off the Atacama Desert in Chile scour the empty fields, carrying twice as many tons of sediment into the lake as they did before native grasses and shrubs were cleared for quinoa production.

“Drying Lakes,” Kenneth Weiss

National Geographic (Mar. 2018)

The United Nations warned a decade ago that indigenous people would be among the first to be ravaged by climate change because so many rely on nature’s bounty as subsistence hunters and fishermen. An estimated 23.5 million people fled their homes in 2016 because of storms, floods, wildfires, extreme temperatures, and other weather-related disasters, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. That exceeded the 6.9 million newly displaced by conflict and violence that year.

In sheer numbers those fleeing “natural” calamities have outnumbered those fleeing war and conflict for decades. Still, these figures do not include people forced to abandon their homelands because of drought or gradual environmental degradation; almost two and a half billion people live in areas where human demand for water exceeds the supply. Globally the likelihood of being uprooted from one’s home has increased 60 percent compared with 40 years ago because of the combination of rapid climate change and growing populations moving into more vulnerable areas.

“Drying Lakes,” Kenneth Weiss