Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.
I've written about the science documentary COSMOS quite a bit already. But I thought I'd take this Late Movies opportunity to show you some awesome clips from it. Get your 70's science thinking caps on, people!
Whale... READ ON
Steve Lekson is an archaeologist at the University of Colorado. And he's got a controversial theory: ancient settlements in the American Southwest were organized along the 108th meridian of longitude (also called the "Chaco meridian"). He theorizes that the many large, abandoned settlements along that line point to a pattern of north-south-north-south migration that may have arisen from political, cultural, or environmental changes in the distant past. Other archaeologists think Lekson is, to use the... READ ON
Diane Benscoter devoted five years of her life to being a Moonie, a follower of Sun Myung Moon. After years in the church (which she now refers to as a cult), Benscoter left and became a "deprogrammer" (...until she was arrested for kidnapping in connection with a deprogramming attempt). In this TED Talk from early 2009, Benscoter describes her history, a bit about deprogramming, and how being a Moonie changed her brain -- the specific logical process that led her to lock into the cult's mindset,... READ ON
If you enjoyed the TED Talk I pointed to last week, How Brain Damage Reveals Brain Function, I have a treat for you. Here's a ninety-minute lecture by the same speaker (V.S. Ramachandran), in which he talks about how the human brain deals with visual art. Why do we enjoy art? How do we know what is "good" art? How does the brain process metaphors? What does neurology tell us about how the brain processes visual information? This is a great way to spend an hour and a half -- it's enlightening,... READ ON
Wade Davis is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence (an awesome-sounding job that I kinda want) and an anthropologist. He travels worldwide, living with indigenous people and documenting their cultures. In this TED Talk from 2003, Davis talks about endangered languages and endangered cultures -- cultures are being lost at an astounding rate (at least in 2003, one human language was going extinct every two weeks). Further, he shares his vision of the ethnosphere, "humanity's great legacy" of... READ ON
There are two little hummingbirds outside my window right now. They come for the feeder on a nearby porch (and perhaps for the view of me typing). They're gorgeous little creatures, but a little on the nervous side -- just the sight of someone walking nearby will have them zooming off to the next feeder. So I wondered what they would look like, slowed down? YouTube to the rescue. Prepare to Zen out:
More slow-mo hummingbirds after the... READ ON
With Kodachrome going away, I've had Paul Simon on the brain for a few days. I was a big Simon & Garfunkel fan in high school, and my trusty Paul Simon Songbook helped me learn to play guitar. Here are some great live performances to make your evening sing. (Fun fact: my first concert, in seventh grade, was Garfunkel. Solo.)
"You Can Call Me Al," 1987
"Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon... READ ON
Vilayanur Ramachandran studies the brain. You may have seen a profile of him in last month's New Yorker...if you haven't get thee to a library and check it out! Anyway, Ramachandran is an interesting speaker -- he spends a lot of time dealing with bizarre neurological problems (not his own, of course), and he makes neurology sound downright fascinating. Have a look at this TED Talk from 2007 in which he describes several puzzling neurological syndromes.
Discussed: how brain damage is very selective,... READ ON
Ray Bradbury is trying to save his local library. Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 and zillions of other works is holding a fundraiser to help cash-strapped libraries in Ventura Country, California. In a New York Times profile of Bradbury's library work, Bradbury says, "Libraries raised me." I strongly identify with that remark -- I spent nearly every afternoon at the Venice Public Library in Venice, Florida, for the seven years of middle and high school. I did my homework there, read books there,... READ ON
An important moment in nerd history took place three days ago. John Hodgman, nerd icon of stage and screen (if by stage you mean...uh...books), gave a speech at the 2009 Radio and TV Correspondents' Dinner. Sitting on the dais with him was President Obama. Hodgman suggested that Obama is America's first nerd president in the modern era, after a succession of jock presidents. Obama seemed to agree. Watch the video below for a cultural moment that's sure to resonate for decades to come.
Discussed:... READ ON
Liechtenstein is the world’s leading exporter of false teeth.