“Since scientific knowledge is still growing by a factor of ten every 50 years, it should not be surprising that lots of facts people learned in school and universities have been overturned and are now out of date,” writes Ronald Bailey in his review of Samuel Arbesman’s The Half-life of Facts.
Does reading a novel for a few hours make you feel smarter? You’re not alone: a new study suggests that reading novels heightens activity in the left temporal cortex, also known as the part of the brain associated with receptivity to language. The best part? The changes last for five days.
Jeff Sharlet traveled to Russia because he “wanted to see what ordinary LGBT life was like in a nation whose leaders have decided that ‘homosexualism’ is a threat to its ‘sexual sovereignty.’” What he found was unsettling and terrifying, but the courage of the LGBT community members he interviewed is also incredibly inspiring. Set aside time to read this one. It’s essential.
We knew she was trouble when Taylor Swift joined the cast of the Weinstein’s adaptation of The Giver. Billboard reports that Swift has signed on for an unspecified supporting role along with Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, and Alexander Skarsgard. The movie will start filming in Cape Town next week.
What do you do if you’re Leo Tolstoy, 20 years old and being treated in isolation for venereal disease? Start a diary, of course. Because you’re Tolstoy, you’ll probably use this diary to make a plan of your day, and then comment on how your actual activities line up with your ideals (“not quite,” usually). And, to be as Tolstoy-ish as possible, why not rate all your actions on a general moral scale? An example: “Arose somewhat late and read, but did not have time to write. Poiret came, I fenced, and did not send him away (sloth and cowardice). Ivanov came, I spoke with him for too long (cowardice). Koloshin (Sergei) came to drink vodka, I did not escort him out (cowardice).” And so on. For some long-term perspective, pair with The Millions‘s perennially popular “Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? 8 Experts on Who’s Greater.”
You’ve probably heard it before: never end a story with the phrase “it was all a dream.” Unfortunately for the person who taught you this rule, many classic stories (including Anna Karenina) take place at least partially in dreams. In the NYRB, Francine Prose investigates the trope in fiction.