Josh Clark

The Best Stuff We've Read This Week

'O, Excellent Airbag': Humphry Davy and Nitrous Oxide On The Public Domain Review, Mike Jay writes about the origins of laughing gas and the early scientist who experimented on himself to dangerous degrees.

The RIO Scale Applied to Fictional SETI Detections Hosted on AV Sport, Seth Shostak and Ivan Almar write an academic paper introducing their quantified scale for the impact the detection of extraterrestrial intelligence would have and apply their scale to some fictional accounts of contact, which the pair synopsize (and occasionally critique).

The French And Indian War In Pittsburgh: A Memoir In a 1987 article on FourScore, Annie Dillard writes a simultaneous charming and historically unflinching overview of the French and Indian War and the fascination it held for her as a younger person.

Death Stories In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Rachael Monroe reviews a work of non-fiction that wades into the unsatisfying and compulsion-forming online world of amateur missing person identification.

What Do Talking Apes Really Tell Us? On Slate, Jane C. Hu writes about the largely overestimated academic rigor of primate communication research and the unsettling world in which these captive apes live.

Searching for Harvey Wallbanger In a 2012 article in Saveur, Robert Simonson writes about the murky origins of a classic fern bar drink.

Awakening In a 2013 article in The Atlantic, Joshua Lang writes about the horrific phenomenon of waking up during surgery while still outwardly appearing sedated. The article also includes one of the best-expressed explanations of the difficulty science faces in investigating the subjective human experience of consciousness.

On Human Shields In the Boston Review, Seth Lazar calculates the moral math of the use and killing of human shields.

If You're Born In the Sky, What Nationality Are You? An Airplane Puzzler On NPR's blog, Robert Krulwich wonders over the case of citizenship for babies born in airplanes crossing international borders.

Tells How It Feels To Go Up In A Geyser hosts a 1916 New York Times article (which includes discomfiting 1916 racial and gender stereotypes and descriptors) about an astounding and peculiar accident during subway construction that left two men dead and another alive to tell the tale.

Why BMI Is A Big Fat Lie On Mother Jones, Kiera Butler writes about the misleading use of body mass index as a predictor of overall health and risk of obesity-related diseases.

Use them or lose them: There's more to stake than language in reviving Ryukyuan tongues In Japan Times, Patrick Heinrich writes about the endangered native language of Okinawa and other tongues around the world that are on the verge of being lost.

A Hole in the Ground In a 2000 article in the New Yorker, Alex Wilkinson writes about an insane man who is likely a serial murderer of women and little girls.

What Went Wrong With Communism On Hectic Dialetics, Dino Mehic provides a different interpretation for the thus-far failures of pure socialism in geopolitics and suggests that it remains unproven and not disproven as a viable economic system.

Early Canid Domestication: The Farm-Fox Experiment In a 1999 article in American Scientist, Lyudmila Trut writes about a 40-year experiment in animal domestication that proved successful in examining the changes animal species undergo as they transition from wild to tame.