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The Week in Ideas 7/22

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  July 22, 2013 06:40 AM

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How to live without air conditioning: Leon Neyfakh on the environmental costs of our addiction to air conditioning—and strategies for going without Freon-chilled air. Air conditioning use in the United States creates a “global-warming impact equivalent to every US household driving an extra 10,000 miles per year.” Strategies for making do with less air conditioning, Neyfakh explains, include allowing men to wear Bermuda shorts and polo shirts instead of suits to work, designing houses with long central hallways that promote cross-ventilation, and adopting the rhythm of a Mediterranean day, were people wake up early, go to bed late, and rest in the middle of the day when it’s hottest outside.

What will give Egypt’s ruler ‘legitimacy’?: Thanassis Cambanis on an urgent debate in Egypt—and several other Arab states—about the conditions that make a leader the rightful voice of the people. In Egypt, the military recently ousted Mohammed Morsi, who had been democratically elected, under the pretense that he had failed to fulfill what Cambanis calls his “core obligations to protect [Egypt’s] people and help them thrive.” In established Western democracies, we accept elections as the final arbiter of legitimacy, and have provisions in place which protect the rights of electoral minorities. But, in Egypt, where factional differences run deep and the recently elected Muslim Brotherhood majority governed with little heed to minority interest groups, elections by themselves may not settle the legitimacy question.

Boston’s neighborhoods: the consensus map: Andy Woodruff on how residents of Boston define neighborhood boundaries. One year ago, Woodruff and his collaborator, Tim Wallace, launched an online survey asking people to “draw neighborhood boundaries as they see them.” They received 950 responses in all. The North End, Beacon Hill, and the Back Bay were “almost indisputable,” and it was “extremely clear where old-school Southie begins and ends.” There was more dispute about the Allston/Brighton border and whether the Waterfront is part of South Boston.

You can see a graphic aggregating the results of the survey here, and you can draw your own neighborhood boundaries here.

Please dance your password now: Courtney Humphries on “gesture-based recognition software that might allow us to dance, mime, and shadow-puppet our way into offices, labs, cars, and personal devices.” The technology is being developed at Boston University’s Visual Processing Laboratory. It’s based on motion-sensing devices like Microsoft’s Kinect, and it works because everyone gestures differently due to personal differences in flexibility, skeletal design, and timing.

Plus: Kevin Lewis on how Protestants who repress taboo urges may become more creative; how baseball umpires go easier on batters they know; how kids who grew up poor are more susceptible to catching colds as adults; and more.

Image by Scotty Reifsnyder for the Boston Globe.

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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.
contributors
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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