Portrait of a would-be world-changer Who is Sam Altman, the new head of Y Combinator? What does he want to do/for all of us? New Yorker portrait by Tad Friend. [more inside]
How do you get the world excited about space exploration? With a promotional scifilm. Come see Ambition produced by the European Space Agencacy (ESA) to promote excitement about Rosetta's mission and upcoming landing of the space probe Philae on the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November. [more inside]
How a doctor, a trader, and the billionaire Steven A. Cohen got entangled in a vast financial scandal.
As Dr. Sid Gilman approached the stage, the hotel ballroom quieted with anticipation. It was July 29, 2008, and a thousand people had gathered in Chicago for the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease. For decades, scientists had tried, and failed, to devise a cure for Alzheimer’s. But in recent years two pharmaceutical companies, Elan and Wyeth, had worked together on an experimental drug called bapineuzumab, which had shown promise in halting the cognitive decay caused by the disease. Tests on mice had proved successful, and in an initial clinical trial a small number of human patients appeared to improve... There would be huge demand for a drug that diminishes the effects of Alzheimer’s. As Elan and Wyeth spent hundreds of millions of dollars concocting and testing bapineuzumab, and issued hints about the possibility of a medical breakthrough, investors wondered whether bapi, as it became known, might be “the next Lipitor.” Several months before the Chicago conference, Barron’s published a cover story speculating that bapi could become “the biggest drug of all time."[more inside]
2014 might well be "the year of Roxane Gay," but even as Ms. Gay experiences unprecedented personal success, the price of black ambition is never far from her mind.
I am thinking about success, ambition, and blackness and how breaking through while black is tempered by so much burden. Nothing exemplifies black success and ambition like Black History Month, a celebratory month I've come to dread as a time when people take an uncanny interest in sharing black-history facts with me to show how they are not racist. It's the month where we segregate some of history's most significant contributors into black history instead of fully integrating them into American history. Each February, we hold up civil-rights heroes and the black innovators and writers and artists who have made so much possible for this generation. We say, look at what the best of us have achieved. We conjure W. E. B. Du Bois, who once wrote, "The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men." We ask much of our exceptional men and women. We must be exceptional if we are to be anything at all.[more inside]
Direct your eye-sight inward, and you'le find / A thousand regions in your mind / Yet undiscover'd. Travell them, and be / Expert in home Cosmographie. / This you may doe safe both from rocke and shelfe : / Man's a whole world within himselfe. - Habington, 1635
The problem is that cinema, as I define it and as something that inspired me, is under assault by the studios and, from what I can tell, with the full support of the audience. The reasons for this, in my opinion, are more economic than philosophical, but when you add an ample amount of fear and lack of vision and a lack of leadership you’ve got a trajectory that is pretty difficult to reverse. - "Retired" director Steven Soderbergh speaks to the San Francisco International Film Festival about the state of cinema - (summary, full audio at bottom of page 2)
Vanishing Act. Paul Collins tells the story of Barbara Newhall Follett. The daughter of authors Wilson Follett and Helen Follett, Barbara began writing at the age of 4. As she grew older, she developed a private language of her own, evolved from her view of the world of nature. Her first book, The House Without Windows, was published when she was twelve. In December 1939 Barbara walked out of her apartment and was never seen again. "Some prodigies flourish, some disappear. But Barbara did leave one last comment to the world about writing—a brief piece in a 1933 issue of Horn Book that earnestly recommends that parents give their own children typewriters. 'Perhaps there would simply be a terrific wholesale destruction of typewriters,' she admits. 'An effort would have to be made to impress upon children that a typewriter is magic.'" The entirety of her known writings now resides in six boxes at the Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library. (via longreads)
Another Paul Graham essay, Cities and Ambition. This one's one of his better ones though. His claim: each city sends its inhabitants a distinct message about how they should live their lives. New York City sends the message that you should be richer. Cambridge sends the message that you should be smarter. Berkeley sends the message that you should live better. Consequently, the city you live in has a profound effect on what you strive for, what you value, and how you channel your ambitions. Place matters; choose wisely. [more inside]
Excellent post over at BLDBLOG on the history of Bannerman's Arsenal, a ruined island castle in the middle of the Hudson river, created by a war profiteer who was at one time the world's largest arms dealer. Bonus points for the amazing accompanying photos by Shaun O'Boyle, whose site Modern Ruins has been featured on the blue previously.
Rudy Giuliani's Grand Illusion (Village Voice) -- In which we learn the difference between what happened and how it got narrated. What we have left is this: At a moment when the public needed a hero, Rudy Giuliani stepped forward. When he assured New York that things would come out all right, he was blessedly believable. It was a fine thing. But it was not nearly as much as we, at the time, imagined.