The BBC refutes 9/11 conspiracy theories: Re-prepare yourself for the inevitable conversations with your crazy relatives. "14% of people questioned in the UK and 15% in the US did not believe the official explanation that al-Qaeda was responsible, and instead believed the US government was involved in a wider conspiracy. Among 16 to 24-year-olds that belief rises to around one in four." (BBC)
The fascinating world of reinsurance: Brendan Greeley on the companies that insure the insurers. "The insurers who make up their market put them on the hook for everything, for all the risks that stretch the limits of imagination. This is what the industry casually refers to as the 'God clause': Reinsurers are ultimately responsible for every new thing that God can come up with." (BusinessWeek)
Are journal publishers predatory capitalists? According to George Monblot, they can be worse than Walmart and Murdoch: "Though academic libraries have been frantically cutting subscriptions to make ends meet, journals now consume 65% of their budgets, which means they have had to reduce the number of books they buy." (The Guardian)
Emerging economies now have more "heft and reach" than the developed ones: They now account for more than half of the world economy -- just as they did before the Industrial Revolution exploded in what is now the developed world. It's "not a revolution, but a restoration." A clear, succinct video explanation. (The Economist)
Ten things everyone should know about time: Including number ten: "There exist simple scaling laws relating animal metabolism to body mass. Larger animals live longer; but they also metabolize slower, as manifested in slower heart rates. These effects cancel out, so that animals from shrews to blue whales have lifespans with just about equal number of heartbeats -- about one and a half billion." (Cosmic Variance)
Barry Duncan, master palindromist (and Cambridge native): "Duncan’s virtuosity really comes through when he writes topical palindromes, intentional constructions whose degree of difficulty is often lost on an untrained audience. 'I always say to people, the easiest thing in the world to do is write a palindrome. The hardest thing to do is write a palindrome on a particular subject.'" (The Believer)
[Image: Industrial-age fires were a major factor behind the creation of reinsurance policies; "The Hamburg Fire of 1842," by Martens Ditlev.]
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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.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
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.