7.19.2009 New York Times Digest


1. “One Giant Leap to Nowhere”

“Here on Earth we live on a planet that is in orbit around the Sun. The Sun itself is a star that is on fire and will someday burn up, leaving our solar system uninhabitable. Therefore we must build a bridge to the stars, because as far as we know, we are the only sentient creatures in the entire universe. When do we start building that bridge to the stars? We begin as soon as we are able, and this is that time. We must not fail in this obligation we have to keep alive the only meaningful life we know of.”

2. “Drivers and Legislators Dismiss Cellphone Risks”

“Scientists are grappling, too, with perhaps the broadest question hanging over the phenomenon of distracted driving: Why do people, knowing the risk, continue to talk while driving? The answer, they say, is partly the intense social pressures to stay in touch and always be available to friends and colleagues. And there also is the neurological response of multitaskers. They show signs of addiction — to their gadgets.”

3. “The People Speak: No Michael Jackson Sculpture in Butter at the Iowa Fair”

“No such concerns were raised about Tiger Woods or Harry Potter, previous honorees. And in truth, Ms. Chappell said, the King of Pop and his four brothers did perform at the fair in 1971. But apparently the link was too tenuous (or discomforting) to a majority of those who cast votes last week in the fair’s admittedly ‘unscientific online poll.'”

4. “Nancy Drew’s Granddaughters”

“Touchstone, pole star, reflecting pool. Often what women remember about the books speaks to who they were — shy girls seeking inspiration; smart girls seeking affirmation. The series even gave voice to girls who rebelled against the Girl Sleuth’s pearl-necklace perfection.”

5. “Taking a Tesla for a Status Check in New York”

“I must admit: I expected to get more attention from women than a Magnolia cupcake, but it turns out the Tesla is a six-figure dude magnet.”

6. “Foie Gras Palates, Hot Dog Pocketbooks”

“The humblest of foodstuffs have come to be treated in the most exalted and rapt of fashions — worthy of probing, pondering and ranking.”

7. “The Power of the Brand as Verb”

“By controlling the use of their brand name, businesses hope to put off the day when the name grows so popular that it defines all similar products on the market. When that happens, a brand has been lost to ‘genericide,’ lawyers say. That means that the term is so prevalent, or generic, that it no longer sticks to a single company.”

8. “The Crowd Is Wise (When It’s Focused)”

“Few concepts in business have been as popular and appealing in recent years as the emerging discipline of ‘open innovation.’ It is variously described as crowdsourcing, the wisdom of crowds, collective intelligence and peer production — and these terms apply to a range of practices. The overarching notion is that the Internet opens the door to a new world of democratic idea generation and collaborative production. Early triumphs like the Linux operating system and the Wikipedia Web encyclopedia are seen as harbingers. In the new model, innovation is often portrayed as a numbers game. The more heads, the better — all weighing in, commenting, offering ideas. Collective knowledge prevails, as if a force of egalitarian inevitability. But a look at recent cases and new research suggests that open-innovation models succeed only when carefully designed for a particular task and when the incentives are tailored to attract the most effective collaborators.”


9. “Giant Leaps of Moonstruck Dreamers”

“He said that the earliest known Moon voyage in written history is by the satirist Lucian of Samosata of the second century A.D. Lucian begins his True History with a disclaimer that it’s all lies. He goes on to describe sailing on a ship that’s carried to the Moon by a giant waterspout. He finds the Moon inhabited by men who ride three-headed vultures and giant fleas, and are at war with the inhabitants of the Sun.”

10. “Nothing for Nothing”

“Cheap chicken, cheap shirts, cheap sneakers — they’re all being paid for by somebody, even if it’s not the person taking them home.”

11. “What History Is Good For”

“History’s ultimate utility does not lie in its predictive or even its explanatory value, but in its ability to teach humility, to nurture an appreciation of the limits on our capacity to see the past clearly or to know fully the historical determinants of our own brief passage in time.”



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