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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly photoblogs about her trip to Berlin.

  • Dead Things reports on a recent study that unraveled the evolutionary history of the domestic cat.

  • James Nicoll notes that his niece and nephew will each be performing theatre in Toronto.

  • Language Hat has an interesting link to interviews of coders as if they were translators.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at Chinese video game competitions and Chinese tours to Soviet revolutionary sites.

  • Steve Munro shares photos of the old Kitchener trolleybus.

  • Roads and Kingdoms shares the story of the Ramadan drummer of Coney Island.

  • Savage Minds shares an essay arguing that photographers should get their subjects' consent and receive renumeration.

  • Torontoist shares photos of the Trans March.

  • Towleroad
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  • blogTO notes that the old HMV store in the Dufferin Mall is now a fidget spinner store. This has gone viral.
  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about her week in Paris.

  • Centauri Dreams notes one paper examining the complex formation of the dense TRAPPIST-1 system.

  • Far Outliers reports from early 20th century Albania, about how tribal and language and ethnic identities overlap, and not.

  • Language Log notes efforts to promote Cantonese in the face of Mandarin.

  • The LRB Blog wonders if May's electoral defeat might lead to the United Kingdom changing its Brexit trajectory.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that cars have more complex computer programming these days than fighter jets.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that the counter-cyclical Brazilian fiscal cap still makes no sense.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russia is edging towards an acknowledgement of its involvement in the Ukrainian war.

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  • D-Brief notes the first-ever use of Einsteinian gravitational bending to examine the mass of a star.
  • Language Log announces the start of an investigation into the evolving rhetoric of Donald Trump. Something is up.

  • The LRB Blog reports from Tuareg Agadez in Niger, about rebellions and migrant-smuggling.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders what is the rationale for the extreme cut-off imposed on Qatar.

  • Maximos62 wonders about the impact of Indonesia's fires on not just wildlife but indigenous peoples.

  • Personal Reflections notes the irrelevance of the United States' withdrawal from Paris, at least from an Australian position.

  • Savage Minds points to a new anthropology podcast.

  • Window on Eurasia
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  • Language Log reports on the transliterations of "Trump" into Chinese and Chinese social networks.

  • Marginal Revolution shares Jill Lepore's argument that modern dystopian fiction deals with submission to the worst, not resistance.

  • At the NYRB Daily, Tim Flannery notes how Trump's withdrawal from Paris is bad for the environment and for the American economy.

  • Peter Rukavina's photo of stormclouds over Charlottetown is eye-catching. (I have not heard of "dark off" myself.)
  • Savage Minds announces a MOOC ANTH 101 course starting tomorrow.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that Putin can afford to be aggressive because he is not constrained by Communist ideology.

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  • Centauri Dreams remembers Ben Finney, this time from the angle of a man with an interest in space colonization.

  • Crooked Timber wonders what will happen to the Anglo-American tradition of liberalism.

  • Dangerous Minds imagines the VHS tapes of Logan and Stranger Things.

  • Far Outliers notes the Soviet twist on Siberian exile.

  • Inkfish notes that Detroit is unique among cities in being a good place for bumblebees.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders if modern Germany really is a laboratory for innovative politics.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at José Maria de Eça de Queirós, the "Proust of Portugal".

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw updates his readers on his writing projects.

  • Torontoist reports on how Avi Lewis and Cheri DiNovo have advocated for the NDP's Leap Manifesto.

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  • Centauri Dreams describes a new type of planet, the molten hot rubble cloud "synestia".

  • Far Outliers describes the Polish rebels exiled to Siberia in the 19th century.
  • Language Hat looks at words for porridge in Bantuphone Africa.

  • Language Log examines whistling as a precursor to human language.

  • The LRB considers the new normal of the terrorist state of emergency.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the weakness of the Indian labour market.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer tries to explain to Uruguayans how Donald Trump made his mistake on the budget.

  • Savage Minds remembers the late anthropologist of Polynesia and space colonization, Ben Finney.

  • Towleroad examines the rather depressing idea of a porn-dominated sexuality.

  • Understanding Society examines Hindu/Muslim tensions in India.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on the weakness of Belarus' opposition.

  • Arnold Zwicky talks about Arthur Laurents.

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  • Beyond the Beyond notes an image of a wooden model of Babbage's difference engine.

  • James Bow talks about the soundtrack he has made for his new book.

  • Centauri Dreams considers ways astronomers can detect photosynthesis on exoplanets and shares images of Fomalhaut's debris disk.

  • Crooked Timber looks at fidget spinners in the context of discrimination against people with disabilities.

  • D-Brief notes that Boyajian's Star began dimming over the weekend.

  • Far Outliers reports on a 1917 trip by zeppelin to German East Africa.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues that there is good reason to be concerned about health issues for older presidential candidates.

  • The NYRB Daily reports on Hungary's official war against Central European University.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes the origins of modern immigration to Russia in internal Soviet migration.

  • Savage Minds shares an ethnographer's account of what it is like to look to see her people (the Sherpas of Nepal) described.

  • Strange Maps shares a map speculating as to what the world will look like when it is 4 degrees warmer.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy argues that the US Congress does not have authority over immigration.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russia's population will be concentrated around Moscow, compares Chechnya's position vis-à-vis Russia to Puerto Rico's versus the United States, and looks at new Ukrainian legislation against Russian churches and Russian social networks.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes how Evelyn Waugh's writings on the Horn of Africa anticipate the "Friedman unit", the "a measurement of time defined as how long it will take until things are OK in Iraq".

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  • Anthropology.net reports on new evidence that Homo naledi may have used tools, buried their dead, and lived alongside Homo sapiens.
  • Centauri Dreams remembers an abortive solar sail mission to Halley's Comet.

  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of the "Apache" dancers of France.

  • Cody Delistraty writes about Swedish futurist Anders Sandberg and his efforts to plan for humanity's future.

  • At the Everyday Sociology Blog, Karen Sternheimer talks about her day as a sociologist.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the good news that normal young HIV patients can now expect near-normal life expectancies.

  • Language Hat looks at a recent surge of interest in Italian dialects.

  • Language Log looks at the phenomenon of East Asians taking English-language names.

  • The LRB Blog considers the dynamics of the United Kingdom's own UDI.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at the existential issues of a growing Kinshasa still disconnected from the wider world.

  • Steve Munro notes that Metrolinx will now buy vehicles from France's Alstom.

  • The New APPS Blog uses Foucault to look at the "thanatopolitics" of the Republicans.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at Trump's constitutional crisis.

  • Out There considers the issues surrounding the detection of an alien civilization less advanced than ours.

  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the United States' planetary science exploration budget.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at Argentina's underrated reputation as a destination for foreign investment.

  • Progressive Download shares some thinking about sexual orientation in the context of evolution.

  • Peter Rukavina looks at the success of wind energy generation on the Island.

  • Understanding Society takes a look at the dynamics of Rome.

  • Window on Eurasia shares a lunatic Russian scheme for a partition of eastern Europe between Russia and Germany.

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CBC News' Nil Köksal reports on the continuing, sad, and politically necessary search in Cyprus for the graves of the many Cypriots killed in that island's recent history of ethnic war.

There were 84 skeletons, all in one place.

It wasn't the first, or the last, mass grave Ceren Ceraloglu would search, but the feeling of standing over that particular pit, with its staggering number of victims, has stayed with her.

A field archaeologist with the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) in Cyprus, Ceraloglu has been sifting through the most painful parts of her island's past.

It's not the kind of work this mother of triplets imagined she'd be doing when she was studying archaeology in university. But it's become a calling.

Not just because the excavations aim to return the remains of those killed in the conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots to their families, but because scientists from both communities work side by side, every day.

There is no room for conflict here.
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  • Anthropology.net reports on the recent discovery in China of two skulls a hundred thousand years old, possible remnants of a hitherto-unknown hominid species.

  • blogTO reports on the boom in the Toronto tech community.

  • Language Log breaks down the linguistics, specifically word lengths, of audiobooks.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the difficult position of indigenous peoples in Nicaragua.

  • Marginal Revolution reports on the potential health benefits of substances in the blood of the Komodo dragon.

  • The NYRB Daily reports on the modernist photography of Berenice Abbott.

  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the adventures of the Mars rovers.

  • Supernova Condensate takes a quick look at Jupiter's moon, Io.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at a new Russian film that transposes the superhero genre with the Soviet era, and argues that Russia is acting these days not as a constructive power but as a spoiler.

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News of the remarkable density of planets, including potentially Earth-like planets, in the system of nearby ultra-cool dwarf TRAPPIST-1 spread across the blogosphere. This NASA JPL illustration comparing the TRAPPIST-1 worlds with the four rocky worlds of our own solar system, underlining the potential similarity of some worlds to the worlds we know like Venus and Mars and even Earth, went viral.



Supernova Condensate provided a good outline of this system in the post "A tiny red sun with a sky full of planets!".

One interesting thing is that TRAPPIST-1 is tiny. Really tiny! It’s a class M8V ultracool red dwarf, which really is about as small as a star can get while still being a star. Much smaller and it wouldn’t be able to even fuse hydrogen. I’ve put it side by side with a few other familiar celestial objects in this image. As you can see, it’s a little bigger than Jupiter. It’s actually roughly the same size as HD189733b, a much studied hot jupiter, and noticeably smaller than Proxima, our friendly neighbourhood red dwarf. Lalande 21185 is on the larger end of the scale of red dwarfs, and is also one of the few you can actually see in the night sky (though you’ll need a dark sky to find it).

Ultracool red dwarfs really are tiny, but they’re also extremely long lived. Quietly burning stellar embers which exemplify the old saying that slow and steady wins the race. Because these little stars don’t burn their fuel too quickly, and because they’re low enough in mass to be fully convective, they can burn for trillions of years. Long after the Sun exhausts the fuel in its core, flares into a red giant and then cools silently in the darkness, TRAPPIST-1 will still be burning, providing warmth for it’s little planetary entourage.

Not much warmth, mind you. TRAPPIST-1’s handful of planets are huddling around their parent star as if it were campfire on a cold night. The entire star system would fit inside Mercury’s orbit and still have cavernous amounts of room to spare. So close are those planets, that they have years which pass by in mere Earth days. The shortest has a year which is just 1.5 Earth days long. The longest year length in the system is still less than a month.

aureliaOf course, I say Earth days, because these planets don’t have days as such. They’re so close to their parent star that they’re certain to be tidally locked. The gravitational forces are sufficiently different that they cannot rotate at all. One side constantly faces the tiny red sun in the sky, and the other side constantly faces outwards towards the cold night. It’s quite likely that the night sides of these planets may be frozen in a permanent winter night, never gaining enough warmth to thaw. Half a planet of permanent Antarctica.


Supernova Condensate was kind enough to produce an illuminating graphic, hosted at "Model Planets", comparing the TRAPPIST-1 system to (among others) the Earth-Moon system and to Jupiter and its moons. The TRAPPIST-1 system is tiny.



The Planetary Society Blog's Franck Marchis wrote a nice essay outlining what is and is not known, perhaps most importantly pointing out that while several of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds are in roughly the right position in their solar system to support life, we do not actually know if they do support life. Further research is called for, clearly.

Centauri Dreams' "Seven Planets Around TRAPPIST-1" has great discussion in the comments, concentrating on the potential for life on these worlds and on the possibility of actually travelling to the TRAPPIST-1 solar system. The later post "Further Thoughts on TRAPPIST-1" notes that these worlds, which presumably migrated inwards from the outer fringes of their solar system, might well have arrived with substantial stocks of volatiles like water. If this survived the radiation of their young and active sun, they could be watery worlds.

The cultural implication of these discoveries, meanwhile, has also come up. Jonathan Edelstein has written in "We Just Got Our ’30s Sci-Fi Plots Back" about how TRAPPIST-1, by providing so many potentially habitable planets so close to each other, would be an ideal setting for an early spacefaring civilization, and for imaginings of said. If a sister world is scarcely further than the moon, why not head there? Savage Minds, meanwhile, in "The Resonance of Earth, Other Worlds, and Exoplanets", hosts a discussion between Michael P. Oman-Reagan and Lisa Messeri talking about the cultural significance of these and other discoveries, particularly exploring how they create points of perceived similarity used as markers of cultural import.
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  • blogTO notes that the redevelopment of Toronto's Port Lands is continuing.

  • Crooked Timber argues that climate denialism exposes the socially constructed nature of property rights.

  • D-Brief notes the reburial of Kennewick Man.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes there is no sign of a second planet around Proxima Centauri.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at life in Texas.

  • The LRB Blog analyzes Milo's stumble.

  • Marginal Revolution considers the levels of disorderliness different societies, like Sweden, can tolerate.

  • The NYRB Daily reports on the poisoning of a Russian dissident.

  • The Planetary Society Blog suggests Voyager 1 picked up Enceladus' plumes.

  • Peter Rukavina writes of his mapping of someone's passage on the Camino Francés.

  • Supernova Condensate looks at the United Arab Emirates' plan to build a city on Mars in a century.

  • Torontoist reported on a protest demanding action on the overdose crisis.
  • Towleroad describes the plight of Mr. Gay Syria in Istanbul and reports on the progress of same-sex marriage in Finland.

  • Understanding Society considers the complexity of managing large technological projects.

  • Window on Eurasia links to one Russian writer arguing Putin should copy Trump and links to anotehr suggesting the Russian Orthodox Church is overreaching.

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Anthropologist Nadia El-Shaarawi, writing at Savage Minds, describes her experiences interviewing Middle Eastern candidates for refugee status and frames them in the context of the anti-refugee sentiment and exclusionary state structures.

As a volunteer legal advocate working with refugees who were seeking resettlement, I learned to ask detailed questions about persecution. These were the kind of questions you would never ask in polite conversation: Who kidnapped your best friend? Were they wearing uniforms? What did those uniforms look like? Where did they hit you? Did you pay a ransom for her release? How did you identify her body? Questions like these, which refugees are asked over and over as part of the already extreme vetting that they undergo to be granted asylum and resettlement, are personal, intimate, painful. They demand a precise and consistent command of autobiographical detail and the strength to revisit events that one might otherwise want to forget. They try to get to the heart of what happened to a person, what forced them to leave everything behind.

On a more cynical level, these questions try to catch a person in a lie, to identify those who are not “deserving” of refuge. The answers are checked and cross-checked, asked again and again across multiple agencies and organizations. In separate interviews, family members are asked the same questions. Do the answers match up? Do the dates and places make sense? Were you a victim of persecution? Are you who you say you are? While these questions and their answers shape the narrative of an individual resettlement case, there is a way in which they don’t get to the heart of what happened to a person, why someone was forced to flee, cross at least one border to enter another state, and is now seeking resettlement in a third country.

Vetting, extreme or otherwise, is about inclusion and exclusion. But before someone even gets to the arduous, opaque process of being considered for resettlement in the United States, decisions are made at the executive level about who to include in a broader sense. While the Refugee Convention provides protection for any person with a “well-founded fear of persecution” on specific grounds, this has never been the full story of the US refugee program, where a presidential determination each year decides how many refugees will be resettled, and from where. Some die-hard advocates and detractors aside, refugee resettlement has historically had bipartisan support and mostly stays under the radar of public attention, except, it seems, in moments where it becomes a reflection of broader anxieties and struggles over belonging and exclusion.
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  • The Crux makes the case that, for too long, modern homo sapiens have underestimated the genius of the Neanderthals.

  • D-Brief looks at the efforts of some scientists to develop brewing standards for the Moon.

  • Language Hat examines different languages' writing standards--Turkish, Greek, Armenian--in the late Ottoman Empire.

  • Language Log deconstructs claims that Japanese has no language for curses.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen looks at the standards of truth by which Trump's supporters are judging him.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at the hollow Styrofoam aesthetics of the Trump Administration.

  • Savage Minds considers the idea of personhood.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell considers key mechanics of populism.

  • Arnold Zwicky meditates, somewhat pornographically, on a porn star of the last decade and public sexuality.

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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly calls on journalists to stand up to Trump.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at exocomets.

  • Language Log shares an ad from the 1920s using the most vintage language imaginable.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money talks about globalization as a mechanism for concentrating wealth at the top of the elite.

  • The LRB Blog talks about the ghosts of the Cold War in the contemporary world.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen argues that Germany has its own responsibility in transatlantic relations.

  • The New APPS Blog looks at the importance of administrative law.

  • The NYRB Daily celebrates John Berger.

  • Savage Minds proposes a read-in of Michel Foucault in protest of Trump's inauguration on the 20th.

  • Towleroad reports on the latest statistics on the proportions of LGBT people in the United States.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at the continuing depopulation of the Russian Far East and examines the shift to indigenous naming practices in Kyrgyzstan.

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  • Anthropology.net describes an effort to digitize tapes recording Navajo oral history.

  • Centauri Dreams remembers Vera Rubin.

  • D-Brief looks
  • Dangerous Minds shares a 1984 TV clip featuring George Michael and Morrissey talking about Joy Division.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting a gas giant exoplanet might be indicated by a protoplanetary disk.

  • Language Log reports on how Chinese netizens are criticizing pollution through the mockery of official slogans.

  • Language Hat looks at the question of how the word "pecan" is pronounced.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues political science is not a science at all, like economics.

  • The NYRB Daily notes that the shared inability of Trump and Putin to plan things and account for unexpected consequences does not lend itself to optimism.

  • Window on Euruasia looks at Tatarstan's issues with regional transfer funding in Russia and shares an apocalyptic account of what will happen to Ukraine in the Russian sphere of influence.

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the advanced microelectronics that might last a space probe the two decades it would take to get to Proxima Centauri.

  • Dangerous Minds links to a 1980 filmed concert performance by Queen.

  • The Dragon's Gaze reports on the discovery of potassium in the atmosphere of WASP-17b.

  • Language Hat looks at the Carmina of Optatianus, an interesting piece of Latin literature.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the shameless anti-democratic maneuvering of the Republicans in North Carolina.

  • The LRB Blog reflects on the shamelessness of the perpetrators of the Aleppo massacres.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at what Charles Darwin's reading habits have to say about the man's process of research.

  • North!'s Justin Petrone looks at the elves of Estonia.

  • The NYRB Daily praises the new movie Manchester by the Sea.

  • The Planetary Society Blog shares a recent photo of Phobos.

  • Peter Rukavina argues that the Island's low PISA scores do not necessarily reflect on what Islanders have learned.

  • Savage Minds shares an essay by someone who combines academic work with library work.

  • Torontoist notes the city's subsidies to some major water polluters.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the anniversary of some important riots in Kazakhstan.

  • Arnold Zwicky reflects on the penguin-related caption of a photo on Wikipedia that has made the world laugh.

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  • Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith writes about what he has learned from his huskie.

  • Bad Astronomy shares some gorgeous Cassini images of Saturn's polar hexagon.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at L2 Puppis, a red giant star that our own sun will come to resemble.

  • D-Brief notes climate change is starting to hit eastern Antarctica, the more stable region of the continent.

  • Dangerous Minds looks at some of the cool pins put out by supporters of LGBT rights over the decades.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at Susan Faludi's account of her life with her newly trans father.

  • Far Outliers examines the War of American Independence as one of the many Anglo-French global wars.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money wonders why the Los Angeles Times allowed the publication of letters defend the deportation of the Japanese-Americans.

  • Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok argues that we are now moving beyond meat production.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at Mexico as a seedbed of modernism.

  • Savage Minds shares an article arguing for a decentering of the position of human beings at the interface of anthropology and science.

  • Understanding Society has more on the strange and fundamentally alien nature of the cephalopod mind.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that the North Caucasus is set to go through austerity.

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  • blogTO recommends five neighbourhoods for people looking for apartments.

  • False Steps' Paul Drye describes a failed European-Russian project for a manned capsule.

  • Language Log looks at the oddity of English pronunciations of words in foreign languages, like placenames, with no connection to how these words are pronounced in English.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is critical of the coverage given to Trump and Clinton, finding it biased against the latter.

  • Marginal Revolution suggests that seasteading has a future.

  • The NYRB Daily suggests Israeli colonization will mean the end of the traditional lifestyle of Palestinian Bedouin.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw reports on the spread of the red fire ant in Australia.

  • Peter Rukavina describes the unusual round boundaries of the Island village of Crapaud.

  • Savage Minds shares a lovely timeline of the history of anthropology.

  • Torontoist looks at the origins of human rights law in Ontario.

  • Window on Eurasia argues Russia's position as the Soviet successor state hampers its ability to engage with Communism, and reports on Belarus' concern at the dominance of local television by Russian imports.

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I wonder if Joe Wiesenthal's Bloomberg View essay is unduly unkind to traditional oral cultures. Honesty has almost always been praised, after all.

[A]ll this focus on fake Facebook news obscures a much bigger story about the way social media -- the endless public opining and sharing of information -- is reshaping politics. Even if you’ve never given much thought to its meaning, you’ve probably heard someone say “the medium is the message,” the famous dictum of media theorist Marshall McLuhan.

But what does that mean, and what does it mean specifically for the 2016 election? A possible answer can be found in the work of Walter J. Ong, a Jesuit priest and a former student of McLuhan’s at St. Louis University. In his most famous work, “Orality and Literacy,” Ong examined how the invention of reading and writing fundamentally changed human consciousness. He argued that the written word wasn’t just an extension of the spoken word, but something that opened up new ways of thinking -- something that created a whole new world.

The easiest way to grasp the difference between the written world and the oral world is that in the latter, there’s no way to look up anything. Before the invention of writing, knowledge existed in the present tense between two or more people; when information was forgotten, it disappeared forever. That state of affairs created a special need for ideas that were easily memorized and repeatable (so, in a way, they could go viral). The immediacy of the oral world did not favor complicated, abstract ideas that need to be thought through. Instead, it elevated individuals who passed along memorable stories, wisdom and good news.

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