8.7.2011 New York Times Digest


1. “The Mathematics of Changing Your Mind”

“The theorem itself can be stated simply. Beginning with a provisional hypothesis about the world (there are, of course, no other kinds), we assign to it an initial probability called the prior probability or simply the prior. After actively collecting or happening upon some potentially relevant evidence, we use Bayes’s theorem to recalculate the probability of the hypothesis in light of the new evidence. This revised probability is called the posterior probability or simply the posterior. Specifically Bayes’s theorem states (trumpets sound here) that the posterior probability of a hypothesis is equal to the product of (a) the prior probability of the hypothesis and (b) the conditional probability of the evidence given the hypothesis, divided by (c) the probability of the new evidence.”

2. “A Brazilian’s Comic Mania: Social Media”

“I’m a creature and creation of the Internet, and I’m very proud of that. The Internet made it possible for me to construct my career the way I wanted to.”

3. “So You Think You Can Judge Dance”

“What do professionals think of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’?”

4. “Robert Ryan’s Quiet Furies”

“A little prettier and he might have been one of the golden boys of the golden age. But there could be something a touch menacing about his face (something open and sweet too), which bunched as tight as a fist, and his towering height (he stood 6 foot 4) at times loomed like a threat. The rage boiled up in him so quickly. It made him seem dangerous.”

5. “Daring to Stumble on the Road to Discovery”

“Invention and discovery emanate from the ability to try seemingly wild possibilities; to feel comfortable being wrong before being right; to live in the world as a careful observer, open to different experiences; to play with ideas without prematurely judging oneself or others; to persist through difficulties; and to have a willingness to be misunderstood, sometimes for long periods, despite the conventional wisdom.”

6. “The Thrill of Boredom”

“Boredom deserves respect for the beneficial experience that it is.”

7. “When Data Disappears”

“We generate over 1.8 zettabytes of digital information a year. By some estimates, that’s nearly 30 million times the amount of information contained in all the books ever published. Even if we had perfectly stable storage, could we ever have enough to preserve everything?”

8. “Education Needs a Digital-Age Upgrade”

“We can’t keep preparing students for a world that doesn’t exist.”

9. “An Ex Blogs. Is it O.K. to Watch?”

“I was ashamed of my own prurient curiosity, but I was hooked. My ex wanted readers. He got one.”

10. “Teaching Kids How to Break Up Nicely”

“Should you delete pictures of your ex after splitting up? Is it O.K. to unfriend your last girlfriend if you can’t stop looking at her profile? And is it ever ethically defensible to change your relationship status to single without first notifying the person whose heart you’re crushing?”

11. “The Mad Scientist of Smut”

“His preservationist impulses, his hoarding of books and newspapers; that microscopic, slow-motion style, filling an instant with cascades of thought and remembrance; even his way of writing about sex … is still more about foreplay than climax — what are they but ways of arresting time, of preserving the moment and staving off the end?”

12. “The Trivialities and Transcendence of Kickstarter”

“The reason it works is that somebody is in charge.”

13. “My So-Called Adulthood”

“Many people’s first reaction is to cry ‘too soon!’ — a hopeless protest against the brute fact that we are now, 20 years later, as far in time from Nirvana as the grunge bands were from their retro inspirations like Black Sabbath. The fact that this feels like an eye blink only testifies to how the brain’s internal clock gums up with age, so that whole years now generate fewer novel memories than once might have been sparked by a single sweaty night in a mosh pit. Remember: Most kids who entered college this year weren’t even born when grunge broke. If it’s too soon, you’re too old.”

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