Links for the week of July 6, 2015

http://io9.com/this-fungus-was-a-medieval-mass-murderer-1711876237

Probably shouldn’t have eaten that ergot.

  • New York Review of Books has a great overview of the latest theories about microbes and the origins of life (paywall).
  • There’s been a lot of talk recently about the Ecomodernist Manifesto, a document authored by some big names in the environmental sciences (including Stewart Brand — see above for his take on extinction) that essentially argues for technofixes for climate change. In the past, the Ecomodernist group has been linked to Bruno Latour’s work, but Latour clarified his position in a talk last month, calling the manifesto a “well packaged product of some PR.”
  • The verdict might still be out on the utility of big data, but it the meantime it can provide us with a little entertainment. Check out some of the highlights from Google’s recently released aggregate search data (down to the minute). In the morning, searches for peak for “news” and “weather”; in the evening, it’s all “Kardashians” and “how to roll a joint.” Thanks Google!
  • Read a short history of St. Anthony’s Fire, the mysterious medieval affliction that would, without warning, would cause searing pain and gangrene in your limbs (until they fell off). To be ahistorical, St. Anthony’s Fire was most likely caused by ergot, a fungus that grows on bad wheat.
  • Gives eating gluten-free a whole new meaning.
  • Autobiographical notes on life as a famous librarian.
  • The Pulitzer Prize notwithstanding, futurist Stewart Brand argues that, when it comes to climate change and the environment, extinction isn’t what we should be worrying about.
  • Right next to MIT, and near huge new complexes by Novartis, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, is Area Four: the poorest neighborhood in Cambridge, Mass.
  • Mike Konczal, aka Rortybomb, does a superb job of demolishing the myths and errors of the robotic “post-work” future.
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