Friday, September 11th, 2015


Why You Want to Be Cool

Note: NextDraft will not be published on Monday.

"So, this MacBook Air, let's stipulate that that's cool. If I look at it, it's going to stimulate the same part of the brain as if I won at gambling or took some cocaine?" What is it that makes us want to get the cool, new thing? Well, for starters you can blame a section of your brain called the medial prefrontal cortex (although the ventral striatum is by no means innocent). The same central reward structure involved in most forms of addiction is also activated when thinking about social status or even imagining yourself in possession of the latest status symbol. Here's Newhour on why we crave what's cool. (Full disclosure: I'm typing this on a Macbook Air.)


Fear Itself

On the anniversary of 9-11, the very smart Jeff Eggers looks back at one of that day's most damaging legacies; fear-based political policies. "Policy based on fear may be expedient for politicians and profitable for the media and the security sector, but it is generally bad policy."

+ Longreads has a great collection 9-11 articles from over the years. Even just reading their excerpts is a worthwhile way to remember the day and consider its impact.

+ Newsweek takes you on a tour of the recently opened United Flight 93 Memorial. And The Atlantic tracks down where some of the pieces of the Twin Towers ended up.


Weekend Reads

"When intolerable conflicts do arise, dignity cultures prescribe direct but non-violent actions." The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf shares the findings of a new scholarly paper on what he calls the rise of victimhood culture. And a somewhat related piece I linked to a few weeks ago: The Coddling of the American Mind.

+ In Mosaic, Bryn Nelson shares the story of an 82-year-old doctor whose has a radical idea about the real source of the excruciating eye pain felt by many people: In the blink of an eye. You can read this as the story of a doctor searching for a solution. I read it as an all too common story of how brutal it is to have debilitating pain that no one seems to be able explain.

+ Shannon Proudfoot in MacLean's: Jo Aubin has Alzheimer's. He's 38. Slipping Away



"Dad, I know how much you love me. Promise me you're going to be all right." On Stephen Colbert's show, Joe Biden got emotional while discussing his son's death and the the possibility of a future in politics. A lot of people are sharing this clip, which makes sense. But I really think part of the story here is how shocked we are when we see a politician acting like a normal human being. (Also worth noting: Colbert is already closing in on Letterman's career record for emotional moments on The Late Show.)


Reading the Smoke Signals

If you want to truly understand the key to longevity, you can study the people who seem to be the most healthy. Or you can study the really durable humans like Jeanne Calment; She smoked every day but still lived to be 122.

+ If you're one of the 79 milion Americans with high blood pressure, then this is important news. A recent study (that ended early because the evidence was so conclusive) found that we can save a lot of lives if we aim much lower when it comes to our blood pressure guidelines.


Uber U

"There was something missing from the lab today, though. In February, a group of some 40 employees -- including several longtime senior lab members -- resigned. They had been lured away, en masse, by a new employer." NYT Mag's Clive Thomson finds out what happened when Uber went looking for a team of roboticists -- which led him to a bigger question: Can high-tech academia survive today's Silicon Valley talent binge?


Tripped Out

"I'm not a heartless, racist, children-kicking camerawoman." That's what Petra Laszlo tried to explain after she was caught tripping a child-holding migrant as he ran from police. And I'm sure she's right. But man, that was one of the weirdest moments in journalistic history. (Whatever happened to just asking someone to say cheese?)


Why They Play the Game

There were a lot of obstacles between Serena Williams and the first tennis grand slam since 1998. Roberta Vinci was not assumed to be one of them. In what could be the biggest upset in tennis history, the unseeded Italian defeated Williams in three sets in the U.S. Open semi-finals.


Busy Signal

"In an era of limitless technology and information, life can feel at once empowering and overwhelming—especially in jobs where employees feel pressure to be swamped. But just how busy are we, really?" According to a recent survey, not that busy. From reading the news, one gets the feeling that a lot of people are mostly busy taking surveys.

+ Which brings us to this... After opening thousands of tabs, I've finally found the world's most unnecessary poll: California voters hopeful that El Niño will ease drought, poll finds.


Bottom of the News

From Fusion's Molly Fitzpatrick: I gazed into this Croatian man's eyes over the internet and was ‘healed'... (I tried it and I was healed too. After all, laughter is the best medicine.)

+ Some researchers are trying to convince you that it's an illusion when it seems like someone else's skin is softer than yours. (Unless it's someone like me who works in front of a computer all day. We really are soft.)

+ Patrick Hogan built a bot to communicate with his teenage self. I'd like to build a bot to help me forget mine.