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At some levels this looks like one of those commercial parodies you might see on Saturday Night Live. But no, it looks to be true. It’s disappearing ink. In an urge to create a sense of urgency for readers to actually read the book they purchase, a publisher in Buenos Aires has introduced books printed…

The Book That Can't Wait

At some levels this looks like one of those commercial parodies you might see on Saturday Night Live. But no, it looks to be true. It’s disappearing ink. In an urge to create a sense of urgency for readers to actually read the book they purchase, a publisher in Buenos Aires has introduced books printed with ink that literally disappears from the page after being exposed to air for two months. Watch this video. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

Posted by Joel on June 29 2012 • Books

A Cooperative Species

An interesting book is out this week on the science of human altruism: A Cooperative Species by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis. It sounds like it might be a good read with Edward O. Wilson’s latest: The Social Conquest of Earth. From the book description on Barnes and Noble:

“Why do humans, uniquely among animals, cooperate in large numbers to advance projects for the common good? Contrary to the conventional wisdom in biology and economics, this generous and civic-minded behavior is widespread and cannot be explained simply by far-sighted self-interest or a desire to help close genealogical kin.

In A Cooperative Species, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis--pioneers in the new experimental and evolutionary science of human behavior--show that the central issue is not why selfish people act generously, but instead how genetic and cultural evolution has produced a species in which substantial numbers make sacrifices to uphold ethical norms and to help even total strangers.”

Posted by Joel on June 24 2012 • Books

Eye Witness Account

Courtesy of Discover magazine: After 147 years, the doctor’s original account of the Abraham Lincoln assassination has been found by a researcher looking through the National Archives for other undiscovered writings by or about Lincoln. On April 14, 1865, Dr. Charles Leale, an army surgeon, was sitting near the president when he was shot. According to Discover magazine, the doctor was the first on the scene and he provided a first-hand account of what he did and saw:

“When I reached the President he was in a state of general paralysis, his eyes were closed and he was in a profoundly comatose condition, while his breathing was intermittent and exceedingly stertorous. I placed my finger on his right radial pulse but could perceive no movement of the artery. As two gentlemen now arrived, I requested them to assist me to place him in a recumbent position, and as I held his head and shoulders, while doing this my hand came in contact with a clot of blood near his left shoulder.”

You can find the entire 22-page, handwritten letter here.

Posted by Joel on June 15 2012 • Current Affairs

What Money Can't Buy

Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel’s new book What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets asks us to consider the consequences of our society becoming so market driven. Decca Aitkenhead quotes Sandel in her review in the Guardian: “We live at a time when almost everything can be bought and sold,” the Harvard philosopher writes. “We have drifted from having a market economy, to being a market society,” in which the solution to all manner of social and civic challenges is not a moral debate but the law of the market, on the assumption that cash incentives are always the appropriate mechanism by which good choices are made. Every application of human activity is priced and commodified, and all value judgments are replaced by the simple question: “How much?”

More from her interview and review of the book: “Sandel leads us through a dizzying array of examples, from schools paying children to read – $2 (£1.20) a book in Dallas – to commuters buying the right to drive solo in car pool lanes ($10 in many US cities), to lobbyists in Washington paying line-standers to hold their place in the queue for Congressional hearings; in effect, queue-jumping members of the public. Drug addicts in North Carolina can be paid $300 to be sterilised, immigrants can buy a green card for $500,000, best man’s speeches are for sale on the internet, and even body parts are openly traded in a financial market for kidneys, blood and surrogate wombs. Even the space on your forehead can be up for sale. Air New Zealand has paid people to shave their heads and walk around wearing temporary tattoos advertising the airline.

“According to the logic of the market, the matter of whether these transactions are right or wrong is literally meaningless. They simply represent efficient arrangements, incentivising desirable behaviour and “improving social utility by making underpriced goods available to those most willing to pay for them”. To Sandel, however, the two important questions we should be asking in every instance are: Is it fair to buy and sell this activity or product? And does doing so degrade it? Almost invariably, his answers are no, and yes.”

Sandel of course is well-known for his book Justice and Harvard lectures on political science, which were made into a popular television series and subsequently made him an unlikely celebrity around the world. His latest book expands on his thinking. For more about the book, check out A.C. Grayling’s review in the Barnes and Noble Review.

Posted by Joel on June 04 2012 • Books