Weekly Newsletter

January 4, 2015

Power of the Mind

Secrets of a Mind Gamer
Narrates how a journalist won the U.S. Memory Championship. Summarizes the techniques used by memory athletes – individuals who competitively memorize card sequences, digit strings, and poems. I’ve been discussing memory with a few newsletter readers, so I thought I’d include this piece. If you enjoy this piece, I highly recommend the author’s book on this topic, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. It’s definitely one of my favorite non-fiction books.

The Blind Man Who Taught Himself to See
Profiles Daniel Kish, a blind man who has learned to use echolocation to navigate and model his environment. Provides a fantastic example of someone turning a disability into an ability and shows how narratives about disadvantaged peoples inhibit them from rising above perceived limits.

Neuroscience

In Search of a Science of Consciousness
Discusses the intersection of Eastern thought and Western rationalism. If you want to learn more about this, I recommend this video, which provides more detailed information about the synthesis of these two systems.

Politics

The Tragedy of the American Military
Reading this article made me feel uncomfortable. This discomfort captures why the article is important. It convincingly argues that a more skeptical attitude towards military funding and deployment strategy will counter a trend of blind acceptance of military policy.

Global Environment

Back to Nature
Argues that our conquest of nature has deprived us of experiences which engage our full range of emotions. The author proposes that widespread “rewilding” will allow us to experience these emotions once again. I agree with the author’s sentiment that

"The world lives within us, we live within the world. By damaging
the living planet we have diminished our existence."

However, he ignores the negative aspects of pre-civilization life. He writes

"Navigating this world required astonishing skills. Our ancestors,
in the boom-and-bust savannahs, had to travel great distances to find
food, through a landscape shimmering with surprise and hazard. Their
survival depended upon reacting to the barest signals: the flicker of a
tail in the grass, the scent of honey, a change in humidity, tracks in
the dust. We still possess these capacities."

Navigating this world also involved watching people be killed by predators and die from countless natural causes. I think the author should have recommended a balance between innovation and our evolutionary roots. He takes an unfairly harsh stance against progress.

Food Engineering

The Next Generation of Plant Based Burgers
Describes how Beyond Meat developed a new type of veggie burger that better replicates beef’s texture. This was an interesting expose on how food can be engineered.

Other Contributions

The Benefits of Being Cold (Will Baird)
Lays out the benefits of exposure to cold temperatures. The biological mechanism discussed here is fascinating. In addition, I admire Ray Cronise’s undogmatic approach to health science.

Cracking the Sitcom Code (Andrew Lindner)
Breaks down the structure of a sitcom episode. Reveals the elements almost all sitcom episodes share.

Discussion, links, and tweets

I'm a software developer currently working at UberEats. I keep a low social media presence, but, if you enjoy what I have to say or want to rant at me, you should email me at stephenmalina@gmail.com. If you're interested in what I'm currently programming, check out my Github. I occasionally rant on Twitter as well.