Monthly Archives: August 2012

Mars or bust: Why your future plans need a dose of technological optimism

NASA’S new Mars rover, Curiosity, has a processor ten times slower than a modern smartphone. Its main imaging camera may be taking some groundbreaking photos but it can only manage a resolution of two megapixels. The current iPhone offers eight. That’s what happens when you have to design a rover eight years before it actually makes planetfall. Continue reading

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Filed under Innovation, Technology

Sweden turns the page and Scandinavian noir explains why

EVERYONE knows that Sweden is a social-democratic paradise, where taxes are high, the welfare state is big and everyone enjoys the benefits. That doesn’t mean it’s true. In recent years, research like that compiled in Richard Wilkinson’s and Kate Pickett’s The Spirit Level has painted Sweden and its Scandinavian neighbours as political role models. The reality, as always, is more complicated. Thanks to a new publication from the Institute of Economic Affairs, the other side of the story is harder than ever to ignore. Continue reading

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Filed under Economics, Human nature, Literature, Politics

Life isn’t short: But we’ve learnt to squander our time like spendthrifts

SUMMER’S lease is drawing to a close again. With less than a month until the autumnal equinox on 22 September, we’re running out of time to complain about the disappointing weather or attempt to cook burgers in one another’s backyards. Or, from another point of view, there’s four weeks left before the summer of 2012 is over: what shall we do with all that time? Continue reading

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Filed under Human nature, Liberal education, Literature

The Manchester medal factory: Be grateful for this strange cluster of genius

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Filed under Economics, Human nature, Innovation, Olympics

Sport teaches passion and practical wisdom – but only to those who take part

ACCORDING to one tradition that has come down to us from antiquity, the Greek philosopher Plato was also a victor at the ancient Olympic Games – for wrestling. Another anecdote adds that his real name was Aristocles. “Plato”, as we know him today, is just a nickname referring to his broad, well-muscled shoulders. Continue reading

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Filed under Human nature, Liberal education, Olympics

Bring back artists’ medals: The Olympics was never supposed to be just about sport

ONE hundred years ago, the first Olympic medals were awarded for cultural achievement. In the summer of 1912 in Stockholm, exponents of architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture were celebrated alongside the runners and the jumpers. The tradition continued for decades, with a final hurrah at the London Games of 1948, when the medallists’ work was exhibited at the Victoria and Albert museum. Since then, the awarding of medals to artists has been given up, replaced by cultural exhibitions held alongside the Games, like this year’s Cultural Olympiad. Continue reading

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Filed under Human nature, Liberal education, Olympics