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The Week in Ideas 1/20

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  January 20, 2014 09:00 AM

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urban farming.jpg

If urban farming took off, what would Boston look like?: Leon Neyfakh on different approaches Bostonians could use if the city really got serious about growing more of its own food. One of Thomas Menino’s last acts as mayor was to sign off on a new ordinance that, for the first time in fifty years, makes it legal to operate a commercial farm within the city limits. Urban farming is a controversial idea—dismissed by some as a fad and by others as economically impractical. But if it were to work, what agrarian techniques would urban farmers use? Don’t expect fields of waving grain. Instead, look for high-rise farming, rooftop greenhouses, hydroponic trays, and other inventive agricultural uses of city space.

108 terrorist memoirs, analyzed: Jacob Shapiro on what we can learn about terrorists from the (surprisingly many) autobiographies they’ve written. Shapiro, a professor at Princeton and author of the new book, “The Terrorist’s Dilemma,” explains, “The memoirs can occasionally be chilling for their sheer callousness towards human life. But reading them is surprisingly reassuring, because they reveal something else as well: the ordinariness and the incompetence that are common hallmarks of terrorist life.”

How blind people see race: Francie Latour interviews Osagie K. Obasogie, author of the new book, “Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind.” The book brings together the results of a study that spanned eight years, into whether blind people are less race conscious than the rest of us. As it turns out, they’re not.

Plus: Kevin Lewis on how children with low self-esteem are less motivated by inflated praise; how there may be a gene that makes some people better than others at multitasking; how even a short nap can boost your cognitive performance; and more.

Image by Javier Zarracina 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.
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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