• Why Carl Sagan is Truly Irreplaceable
    A relatively short bio of Carl Sagan as Cosmos is revived and his papers are available at the Library of Congress. I think the most interesting thing that I learned was that he has a sister named Carli.
  • From Retail Palace to Zombie Mall: How Efficiency Killed the Department Store
    I think the most interesting thing about this look back on the peak and downturn of the department store, is how influential design was in making department stores a success. Design is not just a recent thing

    Not only did the design influence where a shopper’s eyes would go, it also influenced the steps that shopper would take through the store. “In a department store, there’s a tile path or flooring that you feel compelled to walk on, because you’re not going to cut through the carpeted area that has all of the fixtures to get from one place to another,” Wood says. “So you follow that path, which leads you where the store wants you to go. It leads you away from the exits and toward the interior. When you want to go up, the elevators are always hidden so that you’re more likely to take the escalator. Once you get to the next level, you have to walk all the way around the other side to keep going up, so you see everything showcased on that floor.”

  • What Do Animals See in a Mirror?
    One of the challenges of a baby is to recognize that what you see in the mirror is yourself. It has been thought that this ability is related to higher intelligence in species. Here’s some more about that idea

    Gallup, now in his 70s, mainly stays away from advocacy work but he likes to philosophize about what exactly mirror self-recognition shows, and why that capability might have evolved. Clearly, it has little to do with mirrors since aside from the occasional still pond, our distant ancestors would never have encountered their reflections. He’s come to the conclusion that a pass of the mirror test indicates a profound level of consciousness that includes animals’ ability to contemplate their own thoughts and experiences as well as to imagine what others could be thinking and experiencing. This ability is called “theory of mind.”

  • The Real Butlers of the .001 Percent
    I was really hoping that this article would be full of juicy gossip about the crazy practices that the .001 Percent have, but there was only one interesting story and a bunch of so-so ones

    The sheik wasn’t on his boat all that often, but when he did set sail, he liked to take the vessel “whoring,” as Bentley puts it. “The girls would all line up on the dock. The sheik would say, ‘You go. You go. You come aboard.'” On one four-day trip from Spain to Morocco, one of the sheik’s wives surprised the crew in port. “She came on board with her daughters, looking in every bed, trying to find a pubic hair.” Luckily, Bentley had been given a heads-up. He had his maids strip the sheets. Meanwhile Bentley hid six prostitutes in his own cabin, knowing that a sheik’s wife would never go into the staff’s lower-deck quarters.

  • Let’s, Like, Demolish Laundry
    A look at the heavy competition in the start-up world around…laundry. This article laments the fact that some of the smartest, motivated individuals in the world are tackling first-world specific problems (and not really problems at that). But hey, there’s money to be made.

    In Silicon Valley, where The Work of creating The Future is sacrosanct, the suggestion that there might be something not entirely normal about this—that it might be a little weird that investors are sinking millions of dollars into a laundry company they had been introduced to over email that doesn’t even do laundry; that maybe you don’t really need engineers to do what is essentially a minor household chore—would be taken as blasphemy. Outside mecca, though, there are still moments of lucidity.