Long reads

Weekend long reads – 2 February

Take some time this weekend to delve a bit deeper and enjoy these long reads.

Does smiling make you happy? – Julia Layton (How Stuff Works)

In 1989, a psychologist named Robert Zajonc published one of the most significant studies on the emotional effect of producing a smile. His subjects repeated vowel sounds that forced their faces into various expressions.

Banter about Dildoes – Mary Beard (London Review of Books)

It is often said that shopping in the modern meaning of the word – that familiar combination of economic exchange, voyeurism and leisure pastime – is a relatively recent invention. The English verb ‘to shop’, for example, in the sense of retail activity (rather than its earlier – now slang – meaning of ‘to imprison or inform on someone’), is not attested until the mid-18th century; and the noun ‘shopper’ not until a hundred years after that.

The Real Cuban Missile Crisis – Benjamin Schwarz (The Atlantic)

Everything you think you know about those 13 days is wrong.

Memory to myth: tracing Aaron Swartz through the 21st century – Tim Carmody (The Verge)

Aaron, I’ve learned, had a way of implicating you, as a person, as an ethical being, as a social agent embedded in a wider world, through issues that could be seen as “just” about technology, law, or policy. At Aaron’s memorial, Quinn said “he lived a life of thought and action, and that is the rarest thing in this world, in this moment in history, to marry thoughts with actions.” You can parse that in multiple ways: a boy who had a brain and a heart, who had strongly-reasoned beliefs about what technology was for and the computing skills to put his ideals into practice.

Why You Truly Never Leave High School – Jennifer Senior (New York Magazine)

Not everyone feels the sustained, melancholic presence of a high-school shadow self. There are some people who simply put in their four years, graduate, and that’s that. But for most of us adults, the adolescent years occupy a privileged place in our memories, which to some degree is even quantifiable: Give a grown adult a series of random prompts and cues, and odds are he or she will recall a disproportionate number of memories from adolescence.

Not in my house: how Vegas casinos wage a war on cheating – Jesse Hicks (The Verge)

As casinos grew in size, thanks in part to the rise of blackjack, it became increasingly difficult to keep a vigilant eye on players. It might surprise you to hear that the most important countermeasure casinos employed against cheaters and thieves was nothing high-tech and novel like biometrics or facial recognition or RFID chips. It was simply installing cameras, being able to see.

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II – Mike Dash (The Smithsonian Magazine)

The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—”a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar,” with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells.

For Our Information: Politicians Need To Let Go – Suelette Dreyfus (The Global Mail)

Aaron Swartz, the 26-year-old folk hero of the internet who recently committed suicide after he’d been hounded for years by US prosecutors, was a great storyteller.

There’s More to Life Than Being Happy – Emily Esfahani Smith (The Atlantic)

“Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,” the authors write.

24/192 Music Downloads …and why they make no sense – Monty (Xiph)

Unfortunately, there is no point to distributing music in 24-bit/192kHz format. Its playback fidelity is slightly inferior to 16/44.1 or 16/48, and it takes up 6 times the space. There are a few real problems with the audio quality and ‘experience’ of digitally distributed music today. 24/192 solves none of them. While everyone fixates on 24/192 as a magic bullet, we’re not going to see any actual improvement.

How the Professor Who Fooled Wikipedia Got Caught by Reddit – Yoni Appelbaum (The Atlantic)

T. Mills Kelly encourages his students to deceive thousands of people on the Web. This has angered many, but the experiment helps reveal the shifting nature of the truth on the Internet.

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