July 21, 2016

Harper's - Arrow Heads: Living in archery 20min

When an Olympic archer readies to shoot, she is staring down a distance of seventy meters — roughly three quarters of a football field — and aiming to hit a circle the size of a CD. An elite archer does not grip her bow tightly, fearing what anxious jitters might do; she attaches it to a string that wraps around her hand, extends her arm forward, and holds the bow in place with the skin between her thumb and index finger. As she draws, more than forty pounds of resistance weighs on her fingers and back, and her bow stores so much energy that if she were to fire without an arrow the bow could break at both ends. The physical strain is never evident on her face, which remains in stern repose as she brings the string back to the same spot on her lips as the shot before and the shot before that. It presses against her mouth, pulling it into a frown, as if she were afflicted with a temporary bout of Bell’s palsy. ... She must hold steady — moving her release point by more than the width of a ballpoint pen would result in a miss. This is difficult enough on a good day, but arrows are not bullets. They dip under the weight of raindrops and veer in a gust of wind, which can force an archer to aim entirely off the target ... When an arrow is loosed, it does not fly straight; it wriggles like an eel. From bow to target, it will arc to a height of about ten feet, traveling at 150 miles per hour, and arrive at its destination in one second. ... Archery is in the middle of an unprecedented boom: membership in USA Archery, the sport’s national governing body, has quadrupled since 2011, and youth participation has quintupled. ... more than 20 million Americans pick up a bow every year, from hunters to yuppies on Groupon dates. ... Archery is meant to be a pursuit, not a performance, and even the most impressive shots make for quiet entertainment. All the action happens inside an archer’s head, and until ESPN hooks up archers to a brain scanner, there won’t be much for spectators to see.

VoxEU - How much we work: The past, the present, and the future 6min

How much will people work in the future? The rise of automation and, more generally, IT-driven structural change in the labour market have made policymakers and researchers worry about ‘disappearing jobs’ and a dire future for employment. In this column, we argue that to the extent productivity improvements continue, hours worked in the marketplace will indeed likely fall. However, the argument is not that jobs will disappear. ... Is the pattern representing a gradual disappearance of jobs since the early 19th century, perhaps as a result of technological change? No. The reason, we argue, is rather that technological change has raised labour productivity. People have then acted on this opportunity – they have chosen to work less hard as a result of technological change. Structural change makes some jobs disappear, but new ones emerge. Working hours are an outcome of not just demand but also of supply.

Bloomberg - Hunting for Diamonds Under Canada’s Frozen Tundra 7min

Twenty-five years after the first diamonds were found in Canada’s Northwest Territories, it’s still a game of hurry-up-and-wait. For every thousand grassroots exploration projects, only one becomes a mine. Snap Lake, one of three operating mines in the region, was shuttered by De Beers last year, a casualty of harsh geography and falling diamond prices. Government attempts to add production value with a cutting industry collapsed years ago; all that remains of “Diamond Row” in the territorial capital Yellowknife is a line of derelict buildings behind barbed wire. ... And yet the dream lives on. At a time when global miners are shedding assets, De Beers is about to open the largest new diamond mine in the world, Gahcho Kué, 280 kilometers (175 miles) northeast of Yellowknife. A little further north, Rio Tinto Group last year found—and just sold—the largest gem-quality diamond ever recorded in North America at its Diavik mine, the 187-carat Foxfire. Dominion Diamond Corp. last week agreed to extend the life of the neighboring Ekati mine beyond 2020.

Wired - The Unified Theory of Deliciousness 11min

Cooking, as a physical activity, doesn’t come naturally to me. It never has. To compensate for my lack of dexterity, speed, and technique, I think about food constantly. In fact, I’m much stronger at thinking about food than I am at cooking it. And recently I started seeing patterns in our most successful dishes that suggested our hits weren’t entirely random; there’s a set of underlying laws that links them together. I’ve struggled to put this into words, and I haven’t talked to my fellow chefs about it, because I worry they’ll think I’m crazy. But I think there’s something to it, and so I’m sharing it now for the first time. I call it the Unified Theory of Deliciousness. ... A chef can go crazy figuring out how much salt to add to a dish. But I believe there is an objectively correct amount of salt, and it is rooted in a counterintuitive idea. Normally we think of a balanced dish as being neither too salty nor undersalted. I think that’s wrong. When a dish is perfectly seasoned, it will taste simultaneously like it has too much salt and too little salt. It is fully committed to being both at the same time.