Writing a series like this, it’s not possible to be consistent. Sometimes I’m in a very discerning mood, and hardly anything seems remarkable enough to include. Other times I feel fascinated by just about everything I read, and the task of filtering out all but the most worthy discoveries is more than I can bear. These moods tend to come in waves: I can be in one state or the other for several days at a time before becoming, as it were, tired of it, and switching to the opposite state of mind.
I like to be as consistent as I can, though, which is why I don’t publish installments more than twice a month (I need enough time for my conservative and liberal moods to average out) and why I list provisional nominations on Twitter as an intermediate filtering stage. For most of the last fortnight I’ve been in a particularly conservative mood, but then along came the nominees for the 3QD Prize in Science, and I couldn’t read a collection of 171 science articles from the last year without coming across some new and interesting facts.
As far as my vote is concerned, I chose not to consider any article that I’d read before. I really wanted to choose something new to me, something I wouldn’t have read were it not nominated for the prize. Of the articles that I had already read, perhaps this is the best (and indeed I linked to it in an earlier installment of this series) but it would have been against my policy to vote for it. In the list below I’ve indicated which items come from the list of 3QD prize nominations, and also which one I actually voted for.
After deciding which were the best candidates I found myself in a much less discerning mood, probably because my brain was exhausted from the process of selecting favourites. Anyway, here’s my latest selection of Interesting Stuff.
Archaeology and Environment:
- From Catalyst, an article on the archaeology of ancient Inca roads.
- An article on noise pollution in the oceans. [via 3QD]
- It’s amazing what sights you can see from space if you look.
- How to keep elephants away.
- Chimpanzees can be helpful when they don’t have much to lose.
- Galapagos mosquitos: I think Darwin missed this one.
- How to confuse a white blood cell.
- Ticklish apes. Need I say more?
- Sex of skinks depends on the size of their eggs.
History and People:
- What C. P. Snow was really trying to say. [via 3QD]
- Faraday speculated on the unification of electricity and gravity. [via 3QD]
- Some abandoned models of the atom. [via 3QD]
Linguistics and Psychology:
- I spent a little time recently browsing the Features page in the World Atlas of Language Structures.
- A bit of pronunciation history trivia.
- Apparently, depression can be treated online.
- Experiments on associations between the senses.
- Recreating a lost type of horn.
- Computers are beginning to think they can compose music. I bet I can do better, though. (Admittedly, I do need to stop to eat occasionally.)
- I tried this cute camera trick, and it worked.
- A very interesting essay about triboluminescence. [via 3QD: my second-favourite]
- Predictions of what the Large Hadron Collider will find. [via 3QD]
- A wide-ranging essay on mathematics, cosmology, history, etc. [via 3QD: I voted for this one] [Update: PDF version substituted as the original link is no longer available.]
Incidentally, by the time I publish the next edition of this series I will be thirty-two years old. But if you believe the theory that you’re only as old as you feel, then I’m twenty-seven and intending to remain so for some time.