Re: What inspires you?

Virginia Postrel: I really wish I had a good answer to that. You know, it’s kind of like, “Well, I walk around and I look at things, and I read a lot.” And when I find out about an interesting person I will sometimes try to interview them, particularly if I can come up with an article, and I sleep on it. Quite literally, I get a lot of these ideas while I’m asleep or in that sort of twilight zone. And the process of writing actually helps too, because just as somebody who does mathematical modeling has to sit down and actually take their vague notion and to turn it into equations, in the case of me writing, while I take, you know, I usually start with some sort of intuition and then I refine it. And while I’m actually sitting there I’ll have other ideas. And I’ll realize, “Oh that doesn’t really logically follow” What about this? What about that? I look for interesting academic research, which is often hard to find because if you don’t have a popularizer who’s already popularized it, how do you find it? It’s easier for me within the world of economics because I know a lot of economists. I wrote an economics column for the New York Times for six years, and over the course of doing that I learned a lot. But I learned how to do it in other fields, and you follow footnotes. You read an interesting book, it has footnotes. You go look up the things that they’ve footnoted. I read a lot of history. I think that we have a tremendous amount to learn about the present and the future from studying the past. Not just in the sense of where we got here, but in less sort of linear sense of analogy, and inspiration, and synthesis.

 

Inspiration is intuition, refined.

Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
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After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

Credit: Petr Kratochvil. PublicDomainPictures.net.
Surprising Science

Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?

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Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
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