Happy New Year! This is my fourteenth edition of my favorite stories from the previous year.
5) The New York Times: Love Triangle Challenges Reign of Japan’s Monkey Queen
A wonderful and brief window into some drama in a simian society.
The Japanese macaque, also known as the snow monkey, is a highly intelligent species native to Japan. It is well known for its beet-red bottom and affinity for soaking in hot springs.
While many animals, including bees, hyenas and elephants, live in female-led societies, a hostile takeover by a female “is very rare in Japanese macaque society, and only a few cases have been reported in the history of primatology,” Yu Kaigaishi, a research fellow at the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, said in an email.
4) The Atlantic: The Economic Principle That Helps Me Order at Restaurants
An overly academic analysis of the reasoning to order many plates to share.
People with high levels of openness might be more into sharing food, so that they can sample more dishes. That is definitely me when I go to a restaurant—personally, what I truly want, and I am admittedly a weirdo, is two to three bites of everything on the menu.
Paul Freedman, a historian at Yale and the author of Ten Restaurants That Changed America, told me that centuries ago, Chinese emperors would occasionally have banquets in which a couple hundred dishes would be served, and that at one abundant royal feast in 15th-century England, dozens of species of fish were served. Those preposterous spreads are basically my dream, but because I cannot live like a monarch of old, I will settle for sharing a far more modest number of dishes with my dining companions. (An important clarification: I am not arguing in favor of what restaurants call small plates, which are invariably expensive and insubstantial. I want normal-size plates, and I want to share them.)
3) The Washington Post: How not to talk with Africa about climate change
The president of Nigeria shares a critical perspective for global climate discussions.
The Western countries are unable to take politically difficult decisions that hurt domestically. Instead, they move the problem offshore, essentially dictating that the developing world must swallow the pill too bitter for their own voters’ palates. Africa didn’t cause the mess, yet we pay the price. At this year’s COP, that should be the starting point for all negotiations.
2) The New York Times Magazine: Could I Survive the ‘Quietest Place on Earth’?
Caity Weaver is one of my favorite writers and I’m glad she checked this out so I don’t have to.
In a leafy Minneapolis neighborhood under a thick cloak of ivy stands a modest concrete building. Contained within the building is silence exceeding the bounds of human perception. This hush is preserved in a small room, expensively engineered to be echoless. Certain people find the promise of such quiet irresistible; it entices them, like a soundless siren call, to visit the building at great personal cost. The room of containment, technically an “anechoic chamber,” is the quietest place on the planet — according to some. According to others, it’s more like the second-quietest. It is quieter than any place most people will ever go, unless they make a point of going to multiple anechoic chambers over the course of a lifetime.
What happens to people inside the windowless steel room is the subject of wild and terrible speculation. Public fascination with the room exploded 10 years ago, with an article on The Daily Mail’s website. “The Longest Anyone Can Bear Earth’s Quietest Place is 45 Minutes,” The Mail declared. The story left readers to extrapolate their own conclusions about why this was so from the short, haunting observations of the room’s soft-spoken proprietor, Steven J. Orfield, of Orfield Laboratories.
1) The Washington Post: Cutting-edge tech made this tiny country a major exporter of food
An article on the incredible agricultural technology in Netherlands was my favorite in 2017 and I just can’t help but be fascinated again.
The rallying cry in the Netherlands started two decades ago, as concern mounted about its ability to feed its 17 million people: Produce twice as much food using half as many resources.
The country, which is a bit bigger than Maryland, not only accomplished this feat but also has become the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products by value behind the United States. Perhaps even more significant in the face of a warming planet: It is among the largest exporters of agricultural and food technology. The Dutch have pioneered cell-cultured meat, vertical farming, seed technology and robotics in milking and harvesting — spearheading innovations that focus on decreased water usage as well as reduced carbon and methane emissions.