The Atlantic Monthly, September 2008

This issue includes several pieces about the 2008 presidential campaign, but some interesting things as well. 

A note mentions a RAND Corporation study of piracy which reached the reassuring conclusion that, contrary to hype, terrorists and pirates are natural adversaries.  While terrorists “would presumably aim for the destruction of the maritime economy, pirates depend on it for their livelihood.” 

Guy Gugliotta recounts the increased interest in space-based weaponry in the US defense establishment since the current administration took power, then argues that nothing is to be gained and a great deal lost from the development or use of such weapons. 

Lisa Margonelli’s “Gut Reactions” explains how the biochemical reactions that take place in a termite’s stomach could provide a model for efficient biofuel production.  Along the way, she discusses the complexity of the communities of bacteria found in termites’ stomach’s and quotes the idea that “Maybe the termite is just a fancy delivery system for the creatures in the gut.”  And maybe humans are really controlled by their stomach bacteria, too…

The jewelry of Ted Muehling is the topic of a new book; Benjamin Schwarz reviews the book, taking the opportunity to write at length about how obscure the location of Muehling’s New York shop is (“tucked on a short stretch of the four-block, semi-hidden Howard Street- reportedly the last street in Manhattan to get street lights”) and how all the most sophisticated ladies in New York know and wear his work

In 1974, heiress Patty Hearst was abducted by the Symbionese Liberation Army.  During her captivity, she was beaten repeatedly, raped hundreds of times, and brainwashed into joining the SLA’s bank robberies.  Apparently something just like that happened to Caitlin Flanagan.  Well, minus the abduction, captivity, beating, rape, brainwashing, and bank robberies.  Her sister left home and became a hippie for a while back in the early 70’s, much to her mother’s dismay.  So as you can see, she knows exactly what Patty Hearst must have gone through, and is the person most qualified to write a highly judgmental essay about her in the guise of a review of a recent book about her case.  

Corby Kummer takes a cooking class on the Greek island of Kea.  His slideshow about the island and its food can be found here.

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  1. cymast

     /  October 2, 2008

    Doesn’t everybody know we are but vessels for countless bacteria and viruses? In the grand scheme of life, that is.

  2. acilius

     /  October 3, 2008

    Maybe so! In the article entomologists speculate that the termites’ gut bacteria must have a means of controlling their hosts. They speculate about this while drinking coffee. They then sit and stare at the cups for a long time, wondering just who it was who decided to drink coffee.

  3. cymast

     /  October 3, 2008

    So people, termites, and the rest of the easily visible life forms are controlled by internal bacteria and viruses. The question then becomes, “What creatures control the bacteria and viruses?” Sub-microscopic entities? And so forth.

  4. acilius

     /  October 3, 2008

    Maybe the bacteria control the sub-microscopic entities too.

  5. cymast

     /  October 3, 2008

    All hail bacteria! And viruses!

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