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Friday, September 9, 2016

Why It’s So Hard To Find The Next Earth, Even If You’re Looking Right At It, by Maggie Koerth-Baker, FiveThirtyEight

But this brings us to what is probably the ultimate limitation. Most exoplanets haven’t been studied using both the transit and radial velocity methods. Transit can find a planet’s radius, but not mass. Radial velocity can find mass but not radius. And what scientists really, really want to know about is exoplanets’ density — a calculation that requires both mass and radius. “It’s like the holy grail for planets,” Christiansen said. That’s because density is what tells you if a planet is rocky (like Earth) or just a big ball of gas (like Jupiter). Density is how you really start to separate out the stuff that might be kind of Earth-ish, maybe, from the stuff that could be truly habitable.

This is why the fact that we’ve found 10 habitable exoplanets doesn’t mean there are only 10 habitable exoplanets. There could be way, way more than that. But our technology, and the way we’ve used it, hasn’t been optimized to find them.

Divine Indigestion, by Jonathon Sturgeon, The Baffler

The notion that American literature might have an imperial bent—that it might be anything other than a string of lightly co-influential works of “imaginative power,” and might itself reflect our national desire to dominate—is lost on its critics, both right and left.

But the possibility of an imperial literature wasn’t always lost on our sly centrist critics, who helped to cultivate it across generations.

A Professional Book Critic In Praise Of Amazon Reader Reviews., by Laura Miller, Slate

So I’ll never denounce the abundant proliferation of reader reviews, not even the ones that lambast my own book. One-star reviews testify to a loss of faith, and they wouldn’t get written if that faith didn’t keep rising up in the first place. Each review represents an instance of someone taking a chance, opening the covers of a book and allowing an author’s words into her head with the hope that something magical might result. And I just can’t see anything bad about that.

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan: ‘Pain Shape-shifts Down The Generations’, by Ilana Masad, The Guardian

When her mother suddenly lost her memory, Buchanan began to write Harmless Like You, her cross-cultural debut novel about how children inherit identity

The harm we cause one another – casually, accidentally, deliberately, unknowingly – haunts Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s mind. Her debut novel, Harmless Like You, which sparked a fierce bidding war among publishers, takes its title from a photography series that Yuki, one of Buchanan’s main characters, puts together in the early 1970s. The series is made up of pictures taken on the sly of girls around New York City: brown, black, Asian girls, and one of a white American darling, complete with ringlets, rosy cheeks and a copy of the 11 June 1972 edition of the New York Times, with the now-famous Napalm Girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, on the front cover.

Keep Trying. Be Content: On Belle Boggs’s ‘The Art Of Waiting’, by Linnie Greene, The Millions

It is an innocent train ride, full of the banal chatter we save for our post-work hours, until my coworker Marthine pulls out her phone and shows me a video of her laughing son. At what she calls the “sweet spot,” those tender months between squalling and teething, Arun(whose name refers to the dawn in Sanskrit) glimpses himself in the mirror and chortles, drool pooling between his lips and chin. He is as smitten with himself as the world is with him. He observes himself; he loves what he sees. We observe him; we love what we see.

There is a portion at the end of Belle Boggs’s The Art of Waiting in which, as she’s holding her infant at home, a mason says, “Imagine if there was only one baby in the whole world…Wherever that baby was, we’d put down our things and go see it.” “You’re right,” she says. “I’d go.” At 26, newly struck with baby fever, I would be there in line, craning my neck to behold.

What African-American Cookbooks Tell Us About Our Culinary History, by Adrian Miller, First We Feast

For centuries, we've been force-fed myths about the African-American culinary experience—distorted realities describing African-American cuisine as unsophisticated, or the supposed limited capabilities of black cooks. To begin to unravel these myths and re-write the script takes thorough research, which is exactly what award-winning author Toni Tipton-Martin resolved to do with her monumental book, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cooks.