Remainders: science and speculation edition

  • A physicist has applied statistical physics to Amazon’s bestseller list, seeking to derive “a law of how a sale’s shock to the system will jump up and decline over time.” He claims:

    We can statistically predict how the system will evolve, how sales peaks can emerge, and we can predict the expected decline slope for books that rise sharply.”

    (Thanks, Annie.)

  • At a recent lecture, Toni Morrison:

    told the medieval tale of Beowulf, a hero who slays the monster Grendel for ravaging a town and later kills Grendel’s mother when she tries to avenge him. The epic does not explain why Grendel behaves as he does; he is simply portrayed as evil incarnate. . . .

    In “a world convulsing under the pressures of globalization,” Morrison said, we must ask the same questions: “Who or what is the monster? Is it them or is it us? Where do we belong?”

    The answers could be as stark and medieval as “Beowulf,” she said. “Ours need not be – must not be.”


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