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The Week in Ideas 5/27

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  May 27, 2013 09:00 AM

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Marathon Memorial.jpeg

Boston’s Marathon Memorial: How much should we save? Ruth Graham on what to do with the thousands of objects—ribbons, sneakers, bouquets, paintings, poems—that have been left at the spontaneous public memorial in Copley Square. For now, the city of Boston is preserving and archiving all the items, just as officials in New York City, Oklahoma City, and at Texas A&M have done for memorials that sprouted in those places in response to tragedies. But as Graham’s article discusses, it’s hard to know how to balance between appropriate preservation and commemoration, and the logistical and financial challenges of storing all the many tokens of our sadness.

American energy independence: the great shake-up: Thannasis Cambanis on how energy independence would change America’s place in the world. Energy independence has been a public policy goal since the Nixon administration but now it’s near at hand: The U.S. is on track to supply all its own energy by 2030. And while energy independence seems like am unqualified boon for the U.S., Cambanis talks to experts who explain why the picture is a lot more complicated than that.

A baby picture of the web: Daniel McLaughlin breaks down the very first website ever created. The site, which was created by the European physics lab CERN was recently restored to its original URL and, fittingly enough, it is a kind of summary of the state of the nascent WorldWideWeb (W3) circa 1992. McLaughlin’s graphic includes links and annotations to help you better understand the original website.

How do you pronounce ‘cicada’?: Cicadas hatch in 17-year biological cycles and they’re out in swarms this summer. With the bugs in the news, Ben Zimmer looks at the disagreement about how even to pronounce their name. Is it “si-KAY-da” or “si-KAH-da” or “chi-KAY-da” or “chi-KAH-da”? He traces the etymological history of the word—and the way vowel sounds have changed over time—to try and figure out the proper way to say “cicada.”

Plus: Kevin Lewis on how isolated capital cities breed corruption; how marijuana may protect against loneliness; how we prefer narcissistic leaders in times of uncertainty; and more.

Image courtesy of Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters.

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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.
contributors
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.

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.

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