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The Week in Ideas 4/7

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  April 7, 2014 09:00 AM

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Not your grandpa’s labor union: Leon Neyfakh on a new breed of labor unions that try to fit the way we work today. Increasingly, we’re a country of independent contractors, temporary workers, freelancers. In recent years, college football players, music video dancers, and fast-food workers have tried to organize. Their successes—and failures—show what a new model for labor unions might look like.

Taxi data shows Bostonians don’t fear the cold: Martine Powers on insights from a big data analysis of Boston taxi rides. We’re not a 24-hour city, pedestrians flee the rain, but can tolerate the cold, and in many cases might be better off walking to the aquarium.

The museum of how work sounded: Chris Wright interviews Torsten Nilsson, who’s leading a project to collect “endangered” sounds of the industrial age, like “a framed pit saw, a Merlin aircraft on low fly-by, a chain saw, a spinning jenny, a chocolate factory in Belgium, and an Atlas mine compressor from 1910.”

How old is this whale? A new way to tell: I wrote about a new method developed by researchers on Cape Cod for determining the ages of live humpback whales. Whale age is a mystery. They almost certainly live longer than we thought, and knowing their ages would be key to unlocking many other secrets of their deep-water lives.

Plus: Britt Peterson on the man who created the languages Dothraki and Valyrian for “Game of Thrones.”

And: Kevin Lewis on how democracy is good for GDP; how companies that hold their annual meetings in out-of-the-way places tend to perform badly; how our subconscious mind is better than our conscious mind at spotting liars; and more.

Image courtesy of the Center for Coastal Studies.

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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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