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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Altererd Tastes, by Maria Konnikova, New Republic

The promise that neurogastronomy holds is that once we understand how the mind combines the disparate biological and evocative forces that create flavor, we will be able to circumvent the learned and innate preferences of our taste buds. And with that capacity—truly an example of mind over matter—instead of stimulating appetite via the conventional and unhealthy trifecta of salt, sugar, and fat, we can employ the neural pathways through which flavor is constructed in the brain to divert attention to different, more nutritious foods. Control flavor and you control what we eat—and perhaps, given time and more research, begin fighting the global nutrition problems that are a direct result of the industrialized production of food.

The Quietly Subversive Fictions Of Dana Spiotta, by Susan Burton, New York Times

Spiotta returned to the idea of ‘‘attending’’ in our talks and email correspondence this winter. What she called ‘‘codas, afterthoughts, parentheticals, digressions, qualifications’’ were often attempts to get at saying something the exact right way.

‘‘ ‘Attend’ comes from ‘attendere,’ which means ‘to stretch,’ ’’ she emailed one morning. ‘‘That is so interesting, as if attending means you have to stretch your mind toward another.’’

Is A Surrogate A Mother?, by Michelle Goldberg, Slate

A battle over triplets raises difficult questions about the ethics of the surrogacy industry and the meaning of parenthood.

Writing That Sounds Like Writing, by Elisa Gabbert, The Smart Set

“Overripe,” “overwritten” — these terms have judgment baked in. A term like baroque or minimalist reserves judgment; you can like minimalist work or dislike minimalist work without needing to choose a different descriptor. But it would be weird to say “I like overwritten poetry.” “Overwritten” implies a shared benchmark, an agreed-upon, appropriate level of writtenness.

I do, though, kind of like overwritten poetry, when it’s purposely overwritten. Take Lucie Brock-Broido, who may be the queen of garish, costumey excess. No one can tell me she isn’t trying to be funny, a little bit — see the first two lines of “Basic Poem in a Basic Tongue” from Trouble in Mind.

Review: ‘The Right Kind Of Crazy,’ On The Team That Landed The Mars Rover Curiosity, by Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

It all sounded pretty crazy, as NASA’s top administrator observed, but, as it turned out, it was “the right kind of crazy.” For more than three and a half years now, the little rover has been working diligently, trundling across the surface of Mars, looking for evidence that the planet could have once supported life, and occasionally tweeting.

“The Right Kind of Crazy” is the title of this engaging book, written by Adam Steltzner, an engineer leading the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (J.P.L.) that was charged with landing the Curiosity. Written with William Patrick, the book is an inside account of the intense decade of teamwork that went into Curiosity, and it’s also the story of Mr. Steltzner’s own unlikely journey — from an aspiring musician, who barely graduated from high school, to a California Institute of Technology recruit to a team leader at the J.P.L. in Pasadena, Calif.

Made In China, by Justin Wadland, Los Angeles Review of Books

In Finding Them Gone, the translator Red Pine, a.k.a. travel writer Bill Porter, calls on more than 40 ancient Chinese poets in 30 days. With three small porcelain cups and a flask of expensive bourbon, he crosses the country in search of places associated with the authors of his most beloved poems: usually their graves, but also former homes, memorial pavilions, and famous landmarks. Once located, regardless of the poet’s station in the literary afterlife, Porter pours his libations into the ground and then sips some himself.

Unusual Molecules Shine Light On New Applications, by Xiaozhi Lim, New York Times

What he had, he later determined, were molecules that lit up only when crowded together — in solid form, for example. Dr. Tang’s study of that chemical and its unusual behavior has led to an emerging class of small, nonmetal compounds with applications in unusually diverse arenas, from vastly improving optoelectronic devices like organic light-emitting diode (OLED) televisions to advancing the use of fluorescent technology in the human body.

How The Women-led 'Bread Boycotts' Changed 20th Century Food Pricing, by Andy Wright, Atlas Obscura

A slip of a woman with an orderly poof of snow white hair, swooping cat eye glasses and dramatic eyebrows, the 52-year-old West promptly organized a boycott of five supermarket chains on behalf of her group, Housewives for Lower Food Prices. Within a week the boycott had swept across the nation and beyond, crossing the border to Canada. Food prices were rising everywhere, and people—especially the women who did the bulk of shopping for their households—were sick of it. West (who said she found picketing to be “unladylike”) said, “I’m not an organizer, I’m simply a housewife disgusted with food prices.”

Slow, Slow, Fresh Fount, by Ben Jonson