The Sunday Post for May 27, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.

A Lexicographer’s Guide to Real Words

I agree with Kory Stamper here (“I agree with Kory Stamper” is almost a tautology): unlike the news, there are no fake words. Though I might advocate for declaring some words fake, like “innovation” and “disruptive” and the use of “impacted” to mean “had an effect on.” Irregardless, this is an absolutely splendid opportunity to do that thing we all used to do on the Internet and fall down the rabbithole of clicking all the links in this post that lead to other posts in Stamper’s blog, and then clicking all the links in those posts, and then it’s almost dinnertime and you don’t have your column done but who cares? Kory Stamper!

And even if a word is illogical or stupid, so what? You know how many completely unremarkable words arose from a stupid misreading? You use "cherry" and "apron" just fine, even though "cherry" came about because some 14th-century doofus thought the Anglo-French "cherise" was plural (it wasn't), and "apron" came about because court clerk read "a napron" as "an apron" and rendered it as such, and then future readers thought, "Oh, man, the clerk to Edward III says it's 'apron,' I better get in line," even though that same clerk used "napron" later in the Household Ordinances, and here we are.
What's Going On in Your Child's Brain When You Read Them a Story?

This short piece by Anya Kamenetz is very cool. It offers some real, though preliminary, scientific evidence that reading to your kids is better than plopping them in front of a television set. And it also offers a lens into a part of the brain — the default mode network — that scientific researchers (those romantics!) call “the seat of the soul.” It’s the bit of your mind that’s absolutely farthest from the buzz of social media, the bit associated with self-reflection, daydreaming, and spontaneous thought. Knowing how to cultivate that early and keep it talking to the rest of our overstimulated brains seems like a potentially society-saving discovery.

When children could see illustrations, language-network activity dropped a bit compared to the audio condition. Instead of only paying attention to the words, Hutton says, the children's understanding of the story was "scaffolded" by having the images as clues.

"Give them a picture and they have a cookie to work with," he explains. "With animation it's all dumped on them all at once and they don't have to do any of the work."

Most importantly, in the illustrated book condition, researchers saw increased connectivity between — and among — all the networks they were looking at: visual perception, imagery, default mode and language.

Tech Billionaires Are Building Their Utopias Without Asking Us

The dream of outer space is an expansive dream, big enough to hold intergalactic battles, exploration of the unbearably unknown, and deeply human interactions with deeply alien cultures. Space is The Martian and Star Trek and Ursula K. Le Guin and Sally Ride separated by light years of beliefs and hopes and fears, then tessered back so close they’re almost touching.

The dream of space is expansive, and it’s almost always a dream of something little overcoming something big. It’s not a dream of the richest men on earth claiming outer space as their own personal utopia and throwing up walls of money and power around it. S. A. Applin wonders whether Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk know they’re not, and can’t ever be, the heroes of the space story they’re writing for the rest of us.

We all carry visions of our own utopias, working towards betterment of self, community, or dreaming of an escape. It’s how we focus intent for what we want. The game changes though, when people who have resources can suddenly begin to realize those changes in their Utopian visions, and those visions being realized may begin to conflict with others who have less money and power to realize theirs.