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The Week in Ideas (5/6)

Posted by Josh Rothman  June 6, 2012 06:58 AM

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Who will get PTSD? Paul Kix on the effort to identify, in advance, which soldiers are likely to suffer the disorder, which draws on data gathered from soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. "If it becomes possible to screen enlistees for their vulnerability to PTSD, is it fair to keep some out of combat and send in others, especially in an all-volunteer military where every solider has raised his or her hand to take the same risks?"

How to fight depression in space: Daniel Hudon with eight simple steps. Among them, "watch the sunrise" -- luckily, there's "a new sunrise every 90 minutes -- 16 per day!"

The hard truth about political compromise: My conversation with political scientists Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson about why political compromise is so difficult, despite its necessity. "Political compromise requires more than settling; it requires actually letting the other side make progress on its agenda, even if you find that agenda repugnant."

Whassup, citizens! Ben Zimmer on the rise of informality in political speech. It stretches at least back to FDR's "fireside chats," and in reality it's highly professionalized: "Many e-mails, posts, and tweets are being ghost-written by communications teams, and with good reason"; politicians themselves can't navigate the digital world's "combination of breezy familiarity and haiku-like constraint."

Plus: Kevin Lewis on, among other things, the difficulty of having an alibi: "A recent study found that alibis are harder to establish than you might think -- even if you’re innocent." Of the participants, "Although nearly everyone came up with an alibi, only a small minority of alibis could be corroborated with even moderately credible evidence, and about a third of the alibis were 'mistaken.'”

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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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