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Recap: The Week in Ideas (2/17)

Posted by Josh Rothman  February 17, 2012 12:39 PM

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How Boston City Hall was born: Leon Neyfakh on the origins of the "fossilized spaceship" that is Government Center. It was designed to launch a new, modern Boston, and the architects behind it, he writes, "remain defiantly in love with it": "Art is not what pleases you immediately,” said Kallmann recently at his Cambridge apartment, speaking slowly in his faint German accent. “It is not pretty-pretty, easy on the eye . . . .That is operetta stuff. That is Rodgers and Hammerstein . . . .That is not what we did."

The emoticon on your face: Courtney Humphries pushes back against the Lie to Me theory of facial expressions. Trendy pop science has got it wrong: the newest research suggests "that happy and sad expressions are not basic, evolutionary responses that take the same form all over the world, but cultural categories that we create from a much more complex emotional reservoir."

In the future, everything will be a coffee shop: Stephen T. Gordon on the coming "coffeeshopification of everything": "Amid all the business and institutional models that are changing in the face of our growing ability to do everything online, the coffee shop alone seems secure: an irreplaceable gathering place full of beverages that cannot be downloaded.... This fact is not lost on those businesses and institutions that are struggling. And, probably wisely, they are all beginning to remake themselves in the coffee shop’s image."

Plus: Ben Zimmer on the linguistic inaccuracy of Downton Abbey, and Kevin Lewis on the open-mindedness of conspiracy theorists.

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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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