----- 3 stars -----

While We Sleep, Our Mind Goes on an Amazing Journey / National Geographic

Nearly every night of our lives, we undergo a startling metamorphosis. Our brain profoundly alters its behavior and purpose, dimming our consciousness. For a while, we become almost entirely paralyzed. We can’t even shiver. Our eyes, however, periodically dart about behind closed lids as if seeing, and the tiny muscles in our middle ear, even in silence, move as though hearing. We are sexually stimulated, men and women both, repeatedly. We sometimes believe we can fly. We approach the frontiers of death. We sleep. Around 350 B.C., Aristotle wrote an essay, “On Sleep and Sleeplessness,” wondering just what we were doing and why. For the next 2,300 years no one had a good answer. In 1924 German psychiatrist Hans Berger invented the electroencephalograph, which records electrical activity in the brain, and the study of sleep shifted from philosophy to science. It’s only in the past few decades, though, as imaging machines have allowed ever deeper glimpses of the brain’s inner workings, that we’ve approached a convincing answer to Aristotle.

Aly Raisman Takes the Floor / ESPN

Her statement began quietly. Raisman walked to the podium, smiled at the judge, spelled her name, then rocked back on her heels for a moment, steadying her face. (She often made the same expression before her floor routines, right before the music kicked in.) Her hair was pulled into a high ponytail, and she wore a hot-pink blazer that matched her blush and lipstick; the effect was one of glowing, unapologetic femininity. "Larry," she said, reading from a piece of paper, "you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force" -- she paused and lifted her eyes, then turned and faced Nassar, looking at him the way a person might gaze at the bottom of her shoe after realizing she had stepped on a piece of gum -- "and you are nothing." The video went viral. How could it not? Raisman was channeling an emotion that female celebrities are rarely allowed or encouraged to display: rage. Raw, unfiltered, incandescent rage, the sort of rage that's uncomfortable to look at, like pictures of a crime scene. Women were exhilarated. They shared the speech online and posted clips and painted quotes on signs, some of which Raisman saw afterward. When she realized how many women could relate to her story -- how many women understood her story because it had happened to them too -- she was moved. "It was nice," she says, before correcting herself. "Not nice -- I want to use the word 'nice' wisely, because it's horrible. But to have so much support, and to know you're not alone ..." she trails off a little. "Because sometimes, you feel alone."

----- 2 stars -----

What Did 17th Century Food Taste Like? / Res Obscura

I didn't realize until recently that broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and collard greens are all technically the same species, Brassica oleracea. The substantial differences between these sub-species are all due to patient intervention by human farmers over millennia. Many of these changes are surprisingly recent. Early versions of cauliflower may have been mentioned by Pliny and medieval Muslim botanists, but as late as 1600, a French author was writing that cauli-fiori "as the Italians call it" was "still rather rare in France." Likewise, Brussels sprouts don't appear to have become widely cultivated until the Renaissance.

What Elon Musk Should Learn From the Thailand Cave Rescue / New York Times
What's the full story behind Elon Musk's involvement with the Thai cave rescue effort? / Quora

Silicon Valley moguls seem to favor spending money on improbable but impressive-sounding long shots. In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, donated $100 million to New Jersey schools as part of a multiyear plan to improve them. The centerpiece of the plan was teacher evaluation and charter schools, but it didn’t work well. Some aspects of the plan even made things worse. Education is a complex topic, and making a lot of money in tech is not a qualification for solving educational problems. Silicon Valley also tends to ignore problems in its own house. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has declared that space exploration is one of the main things he should spend his money on. But poorly paid workers in Amazon warehouses, who work under grueling conditions, may have other ideas about how Mr. Bezos might best spend his money. In the case of Mr. Musk and his submarine, the Thai authorities understood that they needed to let the expert cave divers plan and direct the rescue operation (and Mr. Musk, to his credit, said he would take the lead from the divers). But the kind of publicity Mr. Musk created can take on a life of its own and exert undue influence.

So, in sum, a wealthy problem-solver with a long history of responding to charity requests on Twitter is asked to see what he can do to help. He agrees, opens dialogue for ideas, takes them to the on-the-ground experts for feedback, then sends some of his best engineers to work pro bono on practical mechanics. And this is a bad thing…? [...] So, again, we have a wealth of condemnation and ridicule directed at Musk for what exactly? For collaborating with the dive team to come up with something that, at worst, would add to their toolbox for other rescue missions? [...] Musk’s PR needs aside, I think we’re right to condemn him for words to Unsworth (a provoked but disproportionate response). Working under the assumption that Unsworth is innocent of the charge, he should sue for libel. If he can’t afford to, he should be helped. Or Musk should reach out proactively to donate to a charity of Unsworth’s choice to begin his amends. That notwithstanding, I have a hard time identifying with the cries of villainy. Musk made a terrible judgment call, sure. But to over-focus on that is to excuse ourselves at the same time. The waves of shoddy journalism exacerbating his behavior are coming from somewhere, supported by many a someone’s clicks. And as the old saw goes, no raindrop likes to see itself as responsible for the flood.

Discovery of 14,000-Year-Old Toast Suggests Bread Can Be Added to Paleo Diet / Gizmodo

Bread-making predates agriculture, according to a new study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That’s quite the revelation, given the conventional thinking that bread only appeared after the advent of farming. The discovery means that ancient hunter-gatherers were using the wild ancestors of domesticated cereals, such as wild einkorn and club-rush tubers, to make flatbread-like food products. What’s more, the new paper shows that bread had already become an established food staple prior to the Neolithic period and the Agricultural Revolution.

----- 1 star -----

an entomologist rates ant emojis / CurlicueCal

Apple: Beautiful big almond eye, realistic and full of expression as she gazes gently at you. Elbowed antennae and delicately segmented legs and body. Gorgeous pearlescent sheen like she is glowing. This ant moisturizes. This ant is round and huggable. This ant is a star. 11/10.

The Misallocation of International Math Talent / Marginal Revolution

Wealthier countries allocate a greater proportion of their workers to science and engineering, fields which produce ideas that often benefit everyone. This is one reason why we all gain when other countries become rich. It’s not just the number of scientists and engineers that matters, however. In a clever paper, Agarwal and Gaule demonstrate that equally talented people are more productive in wealthier countries. Agarwal and Gaule collect the scores of thousands of teenagers who entered the International Math Olympiad between 1981 and 2000 and they follow their careers.

Open offices result in less collaboration among employees / Kottke

Contrary to what’s predicted by the sociological literature, the 52 participants studied spent 72% less time interacting face-to-face after the shift to an open office layout. To make these numbers concrete: In the 15 days before the office redesign, participants accumulated an average of around 5.8 hours of face-to-face interaction per person per day. After the switch to the open layout, the same participants dropped to around 1.7 hours of face-to-face interaction per day. At the same time, the shift to an open office significantly increased digital communication. After the redesign, participants sent 56% more emails (and were cc’d 41% more times), and the number of IM messages sent increased by 67%.

Click here to subscribe and to see previous issues.