2.06.2011 New York Times Digest

1. “Why Some Twitter Posts Catch On, and Some Don’t”

“If we keep seeing the same links and catchphrases ricocheting around our social networks, it might mean we are being exposed only to what we want to hear.”

2. “Spider-Man Becomes the Punch Line of Broadway”

“The musical, which marries a hugely popular comic book brand with music by Bono and the Edge of U2, is grossing about $1.3 million a week in ticket sales, the most of any Broadway show except the blockbuster Wicked, despite relatively little advertising and no major reviews yet.”

3. “Anger and a Facebook Page That Gave It Voice”

“While it is almost impossible to isolate the impact of social media tools from the general swirl of events that set off the popular uprisings across the Middle East, there is little doubt that they provided a new means for ordinary people to connect with human rights advocates trying to amass support against police abuse, torture and the Mubarak government’s permanent emergency laws allowing people to be jailed without charges.”

4. “Mexico City: Hiking Mecca?”

“At more than 17,000 feet above sea level, it is nearly two miles above the already nosebleed-high Mexico City and taller than either the Rockies or Sierra Nevadas. Altitude sickness often forces unprepared visitors to cut their hikes short. Even the mountain’s name is ominous. Iztaccíhuatl means ‘White Woman’ in Nahuatl, a reference not only to the way its peaks resemble a reclining woman’s curves, but also to the two glaciers and year-round snow near its summit.”

5. “For Car Cassette Decks, Play Time Is Over”

“The last new car to be factory-equipped with a cassette deck in the dashboard was a 2010 Lexus.”

6. “Who’s the Boss, You or Your Gadget?”

“All of this amped-up productivity comes with a growing sense of unease.”

7. “Online Courses, Still Lacking That Third Dimension”

“When colleges and universities finally decide to make full use of the Internet, most professors will lose their jobs.”

8. “Dominating the Man Cave”

“What messages about masculinity is ESPN sending?”

9. “Better Penmanship, Less Pain”

“Mr. Baitz is not alone in his love of a fountain pen. Lots of writers have a weakness for them, just as they love unusual notepads and stationery stores and all the things that exist to support the as-yet-unprinted word.”

10. “Married or Single: Is That in the Facebook Sense?”

“Why do so many Facebook users agree to announce their romantic entanglements?”

11. “What Is Artificial Intelligence?”

“The real showdown is between us and our own future.”

12. “Here’s Looking at Him”

“A stint in the Navy in World War I brought time in the brig, a demotion in rank and no action overseas. As an actor, he found work on the stage, but fame eluded him; between jobs, he played chess for 50 cents a game in the arcades on Sixth Avenue. His father became addicted to morphine and died leaving $10,000 in i.o.u.’s, which Bogart paid. His three disastrous marriages before the one to Lauren Bacall fell into a pattern of professional rivalry (his wives were all actresses) and resentment, sometimes building to loud late-night arguments punctuated by flying ashtrays and the sound of broken glass. (His third wife, Mayo Methot, whom he nicknamed Sluggy, stabbed him with a knife.)”

13. “Twitter Can’t Save You”

“Contrary to the ‘cyberutopians,’ as he calls them, who consider the Internet a powerful tool of political emancipation, Morozov convincingly argues that, in freedom’s name, the Internet more often than not constricts or even abolishes freedom.”

14. “Expanding Horizons”

“If information is indeed the key to understanding nature, the question arises of whether the universe ‘is’ a computer, as some advocates of the so-called computational universe have claimed. Most physicists would regard this as at best a useful metaphor. After all, scientists of the past compared nature to a musical instrument, a clockwork or a steam engine (from which came, respectively, Pythagorean mathematics, Newtonian dynamics and thermodynamics), but they didn’t think the universe really was any of those things. The Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom takes the metaphor literally. He makes the clever if disturbing argument that computers will eventually become powerful enough to run simulations involving intelligent entities like human beings so realistically that the beings inside the sims think they’re living real lives.”

15. “Postal Mortem”

“Social-networking sites aren’t just Internet phenomena. In Livingston, Mont., my current hometown, the post office does what Facebook only purports to as far as promoting human interaction.”

16. “How Hef Got His Groove Back”

“No one is more fascinated by Hefner’s success and longevity than Hefner himself.”

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