Weekly Newsletter (11-16-2014)

Philosophy #

Did Zen philosophy create the Kamikaze?
Pontificates on the relationship between WWII-era Zen philosophers and Japanese Jingoism.

A murderer’s warped idealism
Contrasts previous portrayals of Adolf Eichmann as “terrifyingly normal” and “banal” with stories of his devotion to “the Final Solution.”

Our Miraculous Biosphere #

The Termite and the Architect
Begins by talking about an architect’s attempt to mimic the way termites’ mounds manage air flow, and then uses this example as an example of biomimicry. Due to this article, I’ve latched onto the question of what would happen if we could harness the full power of swarms in our architecture and even our economy?

The Planternet
Describes our growing understanding of the “wood-wide web,” the fungal connections that allow plants to communicate in previously unforeseen ways. The similarities with the internet presented are fascinating and potentially instructive for the architects of the next web.

Education #

Why Air Force Cadets study the humanities
Details how the Air Force academy combines a rigorous STEM curriculum with a healthy dose of liberal arts. As a student at a liberal arts college and a STEM major, this article felt relevant to me. Beyond that, I thought the Air Force academy’s methodology presented a compelling portrait of the future of liberal arts education. Like it or not, liberal arts colleges seem to be integrating and expanding traditionally pre-professional disciplines, and this article provided a way to do this while maintaining a focus on the traditionally espoused benefits of the humanities.

Mind and Brain #

Positive Effects of Bilingualism on the Brain
Summarizes recent research on the neurological effects of speaking two languages. I often face a dilemma when including soft science articles like this one. On one hand, I find the basic thesis of this article and the study it describes compelling and fascinating. On the other hand, I am acutely aware of the dangers of blindly trusting “fad science,” a category in which articles like this often fall into. My solution to this tension is simply to make you aware of it. So, read the article or don’t. But, if you do, be aware of my reservations.

Technology and Politics #

On Net Neutrality
Carefully breaks down the argument for net neutrality. This issue defies typical party lines and endlessly confuses me. The article definitely presents a pragmatic case for opposing net neutrality. The author displays an awareness of how the modern internet works and what features of it are important to protect.

Robotics and Prosthetics #

Rise of the Robot Security Guards
Presents some of the first robot security vehicles. These bots both present a huge opportunity and a surveillance nightmare.

The Boy with the Lego Hand
Inspires the reader with a story of a boy who managed to work with a professional product designer to build a new prosthetic hand that fits his needs.

Productivity #

Workplace Productivity Experiment
A New York Magazine writer details his attempts to increase his day-to-day workplace productivity. The blend of useful information presented and playfulness make this article worthwhile.

Other Contributions #

Michigan Blocking Tesla from selling Cars (Contributed by Paul, Described by Me)
Discusses Michigan’s efforts to block Tesla from selling cars in their stores in Michigan. I have no tolerance for this sort of politicking but you are free to come to your own conclusions.