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Thursday Links (12/15)

Posted by Josh Rothman  December 15, 2011 06:30 AM

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Has cultural evolution ended? Kurt Andersen argues that, since 1992, our culture "has been stuck on repeat, consuming the past instead of creating the new." Whereas 1991 looked completely different from 1971, which in turn could never be confused with 1951, the early nineties are indestinguishable from today. James Parker concurs, Tyler Cowen concurs, cautiously. My take: It's not that our rate of cultural change has slowed down -- it's that, for the last 100 years, it's been unusually fast, fueled by social change, political unrest, and war. (Vanity Fair)

Behind the autism boom: Why have autism rates increased twenty-fold? Good reporting from the L.A. Times; their conclusion is that, "two decades into the boom... the balance of evidence suggests that it is more a surge in diagnosis than in disease." (L.A. Times)

Top economists reveal their graphs of 2011: Exactly what it sounds like -- graphs (some pretty technical) with annotations. Here's a short, one-word summary: uh-oh. (BBC)

My Occupy L.A. arrest: If you're looking to read something by an Occupy protestor explaining their experiences and point-of-view, you can't really do better than this post by L.A. protestor Patrick Meighan.

What did the world's first mug shots look like? They're from 19th-century France, and are pretty cool. (Flavorwire)

Handel, Bach blinded by the same man: They both consulted an incompetent eye doctor, John Taylor. Unfortunately, he "was the poster child for 18th century quackery." (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

The dangers of Dostoevsky: Man encourages his teenage son to read Dosteovsky, immediately regrets it:"My son’s friendship with Dostoyevsky has been a disaster for any kind of authority I might have wielded. A father wants simply for his house to run in a peaceable and agreeable fashion. The Grand Inquisitor and the Underground Man have subverted that ambition more surely than any radical political program could." (The Globe and Mail)

How to peel a head of garlic in less than ten seconds: Seriously. It's amazing! (Saveur)

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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