The Big Picture
I’m looking forward to reading Sean Carroll’s new book: The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself. My copy arrived today. It sounds like a book full of big ideas that crosses many intellectual disciplines. Listen to the author speak at Google about the book, and you will see what I mean. Here is portion of the book description from the publisher: Penguin Random House.
“Already internationally acclaimed for his elegant, lucid writing on the most challenging notions in modern physics, Sean Carroll is emerging as one of the greatest humanist thinkers of his generation as he brings his extraordinary intellect to bear not only on Higgs bosons and extra dimensions but now also on our deepest personal questions. Where are we? Who are we? Are our emotions, our beliefs, and our hopes and dreams ultimately meaningless out there in the void? Does human purpose and meaning fit into a scientific worldview?
“In short chapters filled with intriguing historical anecdotes, personal asides, and rigorous exposition, readers learn the difference between how the world works at the quantum level, the cosmic level, and the human level–and then how each connects to the other. Carroll’s presentation of the principles that have guided the scientific revolution from Darwin and Einstein to the origins of life, consciousness, and the universe is dazzlingly unique.
“Carroll shows how an avalanche of discoveries in the past few hundred years has changed our world and what really matters to us. Our lives are dwarfed like never before by the immensity of space and time, but they are redeemed by our capacity to comprehend it and give it meaning.”
Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast; it’s called Revisionist History. His style of storytelling lends itself to the podcast platform very well. The ten-week show will take a creative look at the past. ““Every week, I’m going to take you back into the past,” says Glad well in this video introduction, “to examine something that I think has been overlooked and misunderstood.” I can’t wait to hear it. The first episode is available now.
Sharing Human Stories
I like this post at All Things IC. Rachel Miller shows how storytelling has affected three companies. In particular she highlights how sharing human stories at Nationwide UK led them to turn something as boring as pensions into an effecitve communication that led to more people signing up for greater contributions. By using an honest approach, with a bit of humor, the difference was huge, she writes. “It was just 10 percent of employees signed up to make additional contributions and now there are 83 percent of employees now paying in extra contributions to their pensions.”
Here is the video that made the difference:
Prince's Final Performance
Prince gave his final concert at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Thursday, April 14. As this article at US magazine says, his performance of Purple Rail “will give you chills.”
The Vital Question
Bill Gates just released his list of five books everyone should read this summer. One of them looks very interesting. It’s called The Vital Question. In the book, author and biochemist Nick Lane posits a new idea about how life began on earth. How did life make a radical jump to complexity more than 4 billion years ago? It’s about energy, as Nick explains in this video. I’m looking forward to reading it.
The Story of Content
Building brands is about telling stories. And the best story about telling stories is produced by the Content Marketing Institute. It’s called The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing. “To break through the clutter, brands need to tell remarkable stories that are worth listening to…and they are becoming the media in the process.”
Epictetus: Think Better
Epictetus was a Stoic Greek philosopher who lived from AD 55-135. His belief was basically that all external events are determined by fate; there’s nothing we can do to control what happens to us. Nevertheless, we are responsible for how we react, which we can control through rigorous self discipline. Odd as it sounds, it reminds me of a M*A*S*H episode. Colonel Potter says as much when he compares life to baseball. We can’t control the circumstances of the game; the best thing we can do is hit what’s pitched. I like this quote on how books can inform our lives.
“Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.”
-Epictetus, The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness
The Shapes of Stories
Kurt Vonnegut was well-known worldwide for his novels, such as Slaughterhouse-Five, Hocus Pocus and others. But he also made a contribution to culture that wasn’t as well known. Maya Eilam made this graphic from Vonnegut’s rejected master’s thesis in anthropology on the shape of stories. “The basic idea of his thesis was that a story’s main character has ups and downs that can be graphed to reveal the story’s shape,” she writes.
I really wish Ludovico Einaudi would tour the United States. I first began to enjoy his music just a few years ago, when I first heard his previous work, In a Time Lapse, which is wonderful. Now his current release, Elements, is getting constant play on my iPhone. Whether you are a fan of classical, or jazz, or just good music, and you haven’t heard him before, give it a try. In fact, I will bet you have heard his music without realizing it. Einaudi’s work is featured on many film soundtracks. Here is how Ludovico describes his latest work:
The Rest is Advertising
Journalists will relate to Jacob Silverman’s “confession” in The Baffler about being a writer of sponsored content: The Rest is Advertising.
“In case you haven’t heard, journalism is now in perpetual crisis, and conditions are increasingly surreal” he writes. “The fate of the controversialists at Gawker rests on a delayed jury trial over a Hulk Hogan sex tape. Newspapers publish directly to Facebook, and Snapchat hires journalists away from CNN. Last year, the Pulitzer Prizes doubled as the irony awards; one winner in the local reporting category, it emerged, had left his newspaper job months earlier for a better paying gig in PR. “Is there a future in journalism and writing and the Internet?” Choire Sicha, cofounder of The Awl, wrote last January. “Haha, FUCK no, not really.” Even those who have kept their jobs in journalism, he explained, can’t say what they might be doing, or where, in a few years’ time. Disruption clouds the future even as it holds it up for worship.
“But for every crisis in every industry, a potential savior emerges. And in journalism, the latest candidate is sponsored content.”
Silverman’s assessment of the state of journalism today is well worth the read.