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Miscellany

Andrew Blum on fusion: “On the evening of March 18, 1987…three thousand [physicists] crammed into the Hilton ballroom for the High Temperature Superconductivity Symposium, while hundreds more watched on TVs set up in the hotel corridors. In a marathon session that soon became known as the ‘Woodstock of physics,’ fifty-one separate presentations went on until 3:15 am, with example after example of new superconducting feats. It became a singular event in modern science, its legend fueled by a Nobel Prize that year for Bednorz and Müller and a cover story in Time magazine (‘Superconductors!’).”

Christina Rawls on a philosophy of sound: “The mystic Eckhart Tolle…noted that some of our most profound moments are those we encounter without description—such as any new (positive) experience in a place we’ve never visited before, or delicious meals we’ve never tasted before, or beautiful sounds and instruments we’ve never heard before. The unnameable and the unfathomable can be striking, affective; not all sounds need to or can have names, and yet we both experience them and also learn from them. New research on binaural music—where the frequency of sound is slightly different in both ears—suggests that such noises can alter our brainwaves and mental processes for the better.”

Adam Kirsch on “getting” poetry: “Most Americans first encounter poetry as a classroom subject, and it never loses the associations of dutifulness and dullness. American adolescents make their way through ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ and ‘The Road Not Taken’ the way Victorian schoolboys were made to construe Homer: the language may not be dead, but the context is equally remote from real life.”

Gina Kolata on the woman who may very well have saved us all: “On Nov. 8, the first results of the Pfizer-BioNTech study came in, showing that the mRNA vaccine offered powerful immunity to the new virus. Dr. Kariko turned to her husband. ‘Oh, it works,’ she said. ‘I thought so.’ To celebrate, she ate an entire box of Goobers chocolate-covered peanuts. By herself.”



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