Quote of the day

"Common sense seldom anticipates what science is going to discover"
— Russell Lincoln Ackoff

Wonton In Zanthoxylum Sauce

A mistranslation on a Chinese restaurant menu — Wonton in Zanthoxylum schinifolium etzucc sauce — provokes a tour de force of explication touching on botany, Chinese characters, dialects, the history of Chinese food in America, and the folk-etymology of ma-po tofu, a dish of bean-curd and ground meat spiced with Sichuan peppers which probably does not derive its name from a pock-marked old woman called Ma (2,290 words)

The Man Who Solved Homelessness

It turns out that the best way to solve homelessness is to give homeless people homes. Which may sound obvious, but it amounts to a revolution in American social services, for which a psychologist called Sam Tsemberis is largely responsible. The traditional approach is to use housing as a reward: kick an addiction, get a home. The Tsemberis approach is to give the housing first, then sort out the other problems. It works (1,450 words)

The Democratization Of Space

New rules are needed to regulate travel and traffic in space, as rockets and satellites come within reach of almost every country on Earth and innumerable private actors. When the current Outer Space Treaty was signed almost fifty years ago, space was reserved for superpowers. Now a well-funded high school science club can launch a satellite. Advances in computing and 3D printing will bring costs down even further (2,250 words)

Alex Salmond, Kingmaker And Kingdom Breaker

Portrait of Alex Salmond, historic leader of the Scottish National Party, which looks set to hold the balance of power in the British parliament after this week’s election. Salmond’s party lost last year’s independence referendum, but consolidated its grip on Scottish voters, and may soon be in a position to impose its demands on a British government. If so, the break-up of the United Kingdom may be only a matter of time (5,600 words)

The Violent Secret Of Meat

A taste of food writer Josh Ozersky, who died this week. “I recklessly jacked up the heat under my cast-iron pan and slammed a steak onto its smoking surface. I was rewarded, almost instantaneously, with the violent secret of meat. My rage spent, I found a surface of burnished mahogany and an interior still red and raw. Meat, I now understood, called forth not measured skill but courage and animal aggression” (690 words)

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