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Weekly Round-up

Last Song for Migrating Birds‘ – Jonathan Franzen, National Geographic

“In a bird market in the Mediterranean tourist town of Marsa Matruh, Egypt, I was inspecting cages crowded with wild turtledoves and quail when one of the birdsellers saw the disapproval in my face and called out sarcastically, in Arabic: “You Americans feel bad about the birds, but you don’t feel bad about dropping bombs on someone’s homeland.”

I could have answered that it’s possible to feel bad about both birds and bombs, that two wrongs don’t make a right. But it seemed to me that the birdseller was saying something true about the problem of nature conservation in a world of human conflict, something not so easily refuted. He kissed his fingers to suggest how good the birds tasted, and I kept frowning at the cages.”

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The IRL [In Real Life] Fetish‘ – Nathan Jurgenson, The New Inquirer

“…we are far from forgetting about the offline; rather we have become obsessed with being offline more than ever before. We have never appreciated a solitary stroll, a camping trip, a face-to-face chat with friends, or even our boredom better than we do now. Nothing has contributed more to our collective appreciation for being logged off and technologically disconnected than the very technologies of connection.”

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A Numbers Game: Will Predictive Analytics Decide September’s Federal Election‘ – Matt Shae, The Vine

“Predictive analytics has already been widely used throughout the commercial sector, in situations ranging from the curious to the profound. Prison parole boards predict which prisoners might be repeat offenders. HP predicted employees who were likely to quit their jobs. In one particularly infamous case, Target used purchase history and other customer information willingly disclosed to the company to predict pregnancy among their female customers.

In each of these instances, the value of predictive analytics to change the future is clear: don’t release the prisoner, adjust working conditions for the disaffected employee, lift sales with the targeted marketing of baby products. But the Obama campaign took such techniques to a whole new level…”

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How Caffeine Can Cramp Creativity‘ – Maria Konnikova, The New Yorker

“…a break in intense concentration may increase unconscious associative processing. That, in turn, allows us to perceive connections that we would otherwise miss. Letting our minds wander may also increase communication between the brain’s default mode network—the parts of our brain that are more active when we’re at rest—and its executive areas, which are used in so-called higher reasoning and decision-making functions. These two regions become activated right before we solve problems of insight. Caffeine prevents our focus from becoming too diffuse; it instead hones our attention in a hyper-vigilant fashion.”

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And ‘30 Abandoned Places that Look Truly Beautiful‘ – via My Science Academy