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Thursday Links (9/8)

Posted by Josh Rothman  September 8, 2011 02:45 PM

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Europe's debt crisis, with Legos: JPMorgan analyst Michael Cembalest helps you grasp the situation: "The end-game is mostly about who pays for the accumulated, unrealized losses of the last decade, and who finances the transition to whatever comes next. Markets are nervous, since Europe has not figured this out yet. To examine the various factions, I consulted Peter Cembalest, who specializes in conceptualization of such phenomena. Peter (age 9) uses Lego Minifigures as a medium...." (Felix Salmon)

Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, dies: "Hart was best known for his 1971 invention of electronic books, or eBooks. He founded Project Gutenberg, which is recognized as one of the earliest and longest-lasting online literary projects. He often told this story of how he had the idea for eBooks. He had been granted access to significant computing power at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On July 4 1971, after being inspired by a free printed copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he decided to type the text into a computer, and to transmit it to other users on the computer network. From this beginning, the digitization and distribution of literature was to be Hart's life's work, spanning over 40 years." (Project Gutenberg)

Canada builds a stealth snowmobile: "Why Canada needs a stealth snowmobile is a question best not asked. The solicitation laments that current snowmobile engines are too loud for 'missions where covertness may be required,' but doesn’t bother to list any." (Wired Danger Room)

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely on the uselessness of financial advisors: They ask you meaningless questions, then perform a service that "a simple algorithm" could perform, and "probably with fewer errors"; meanwhile, they don't help you think about money, which, "it turns out, is incredibly hard to reason about in a systematic and rational way (even for highly educated individuals). Risk is even harder." (Dan Ariely)

Ariely's YouTube channel: Not to be missed. Start with romantic adaptation, the moral dangers of wearing fake sunglasses, and adapting to pain.

[Image: The EU crisis in lego, from Michael Cembalest's Eye on the Market.]

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

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Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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