Assorted Links

  • The Shangri-La Diet: still too good to be true. It was my dream — and maybe every scientist’s dream — to discover something (a) useful and (b) counter-intuitive, the more surprising the better. It did not occur to me that (a) and (b) conflict. I think that more surprising discoveries are eventually more useful (as logic suggests), but it takes much longer.
  • Marisa Tomei wants to play Jane Jacobs. “I love that she saved Greenwich Village.” When she does, perhaps Robert Caro will post the unpublished Jane Jacobs chapter of The Power Broker.
  • Symposium on The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs.
  • Did you know that Mindy Kaling’s amusing article in this week’s New Yorker is an excerpt from a forthcoming book? Neither did I. Likewise, the recent Murakami story Town of Cats was from a forthcoming book. The New Yorker, unlike other magazines, never identifies book excerpts. This  is unfortunate because doing so would help both writers (sell books) and readers (find books to read). For more criticism of  The New Yorker, see the great book Gone: The Last Days of The New Yorker by Renata Adler.

Thanks to Dave Lull.

4 Replies to “Assorted Links”

  1. A: So are you saying most with the job title ‘scientist’ aren’t scientists, or are you saying Veblen was wrong?

    I think it is very, very significant that most of the time voters are considered to want quick, easy fixes yet if you offer a quick, easy fix that actually works, they’ll reject it. (Principle: life is usually not easy, and for good reason. But it can’t be hard all the time – sometimes the simple and easy is effective.)

    My housemate is trying to lose weight. I’ve told him about Shangri-La. His behaviour is better explained by the theory that he’s not dieting to lose weight, but dieting to prove to himself he’s a worthwhile person because he has the self-control to starve himself, and the weight is just one possible objective metric. This is especially ironic when we go out to eat and he has three times what I have. I couldn’t eat that much if I wanted to.

    What I’d do if I had weight issues would be to just try it. It takes what, like a few weeks, at most? And a few days, usually? How does one go about simultaneously actually wanting to lose weight and not just trying it?

    1. Alrenous, that’s a good point about Veblen being wrong. I think scientists have many goals. In practice, they choose prestige (attached more to useless research than useful research, as Veblen said) over usefulness. They want to be useful, but in practice a desire for prestige is more powerful.

  2. i’m quite glad that greenwich village was saved, but of course you understand that 95% of its current residents are extremely wealthy and live there mostly as a show of their high status. there is essentially no ‘community’ there any more of the form that was there in jj’s time. (i don’t think it’s her fault, and i don’t know what to do about it if anything, but i don’t think she would be particularly happy with the way things are now if she came back today.)

  3. So scientists are scientists, but not so you would notice?
    It’s always weird for me when I see people accepting an insider’s status hierarchy. Why doesn’t every non-scientist laugh at useless science? How is it at all in their interest to support it?

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