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The Week in Ideas (9/16)

Posted by Josh Rothman  September 16, 2012 09:08 PM

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What to test instead: Leon Neyfakh on how education researchers are “reimagining” the exam. “If the research pays off, college students of the future may find themselves taking tests that those of us who remember blue books and scantrons won’t recognize as tests at all.” New ways of testing students, they think, might actually change what students are expected to learn in the first place.

Ye olde Chinese-American trade imbalance: We think of it as a modern phenomenon, and yet, as Eric Jay Dolin explains, the imbalance is as old as trade with China. “If the “made in China” label had existed at the time of the American Revolution, it would have been nearly ubiquitous here.”

The sex lives of dinosaurs: Britt Peterson talks to John Long, a paleontologist whose new book, “Dawn of the Deed: The Prehistoric Origins of Sex,” traces our own behavior back to the animals of the ancient world. “His main purpose in writing about primitive fish penises and dinosaur sex positions, he writes, is to help modern humans understand our own peculiar sexual behavior—much of which harks back to extremely ancient history.”

Privacy: it’s not just about you: Garret Keizer explains why we should care about privacy. Without it, we can’t really engage in social life. “Privacy doesn’t just protect our right to withdraw from others; it also protects our first tentative steps toward engagement with others.”

Plus: Kevin Lewis on why using different drinking glasses can make your drink last longer.

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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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