Nautilus asks “Which Comes First, Big Cities or Big Gods?”, and comes down tentatively on the side of big cities. In fact, there’s hints here that “big gods” may only be one way in which the beliefs necessary for large scale social cohesion manifest - really what we need is a way to make the fact that our actions have consequences far beyond ourselves personal. The idea of divine punishment in monotheistic religions is one way to do this, but it’s not the only way. I’ve always found the placement of monotheism at the “top” of the “pyramid” of social complexity a bit self-serving; the work described here seems like the beginning of a necessary corrective.
The incredible rock churches of Ethiopia.
Everyone’s talking about Michael Wolff’s new book about the chaos of the Trump White House. James Fallows makes the connection between the “open secret” of the Trump administration’s dysfunction and Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predation - both require that the people surrounding Trump/Weinstein be deeply complicit in their benefactor’s pathologies.
A persuasive case that the tail is wagging the dog when it comes to the media and President Trump.
NiemanLab wonders if people care enough about news to actively seek it out and concludes that most people just don’t care. A well-informed citizenry may have been a historic accident, a consequence of the momentary dominance of mass print media.
More evidence that when given access to a universal basic income (UBI), most people use it to stabilize their lives and invest in their future. Interestingly, disability payments have essentially become a UBI for a significant fraction of the population here in the US, albeit one whose structure creates some pretty perverse incentives.
Direct evidence that modern masculinity is a threat to the environment. This has been theoretically discussed for some time, but to my knowledge this is the first experimental evidence of the phenomenon.
The weird behavior of Tabby’s Star gets a decidedly prosaic explanation. But… Kickstarter-funded science!
Mounting evidence of an insect apocalypse. If this doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you, I don’t know what will.
On a related note, The Guardian has a long read meditating on the place of taxonomy in helping us be in the world.
So much melt-water has been added to the oceans due to global warming that the sea floor is sinking under the extra weight.
John Quiggin points out that “extremely unlikely” climate risks actually have the same probabilities as things we buy insurance for in our personal lives.
Pre-colonization native territories in North America and Australia.