The Weekender, January 4, 2019

1) “What is Glitter?” (New York Times, 13 minutes, December 2018).

What is glitter? The simplest answer is one that will leave you slightly unsatisfied, but at least with your confidence in comprehending basic physical properties intact. Glitter is made from glitter. Big glitter begets smaller glitter; smaller glitter gets everywhere, all glitter is impossible to remove; now never ask this question again.

Ah, but if you, like an impertinent child seeking a logistical timetable of Santa Claus’ nocturnal intercontinental journey, demand a more detailed definition — a word of warning: The path to enlightenment is littered with trade secrets, vapors, aluminum ingots, C.I.A. levels of obfuscation, the invisible regions of the visible spectrum, a unit of measurement expressed as “10-6 m” and also New Jersey.

2) “The Room of Requirement” (This American Life, 61 minutes, December 2018). The subhead: “Libraries aren’t just for books. They’re often spaces that transform into what you need them to be: a classroom, a cyber café, a place to find answers, a quiet spot to be alone. It’s actually kind of magical. This week, we have stories of people who roam the stacks and find unexpected things that just happen to be exactly what they required.” Thanks to Roger G. for the suggestion.

3) The Now I Know Week in Review:

Monday: The Slave Who Shipped Himself to Freedom​ — The story of Henry “Box” Brown, who earned his nickname by securing his freedom.

Tuesday: New Year’s Day. Happy New Year!

Wednesday: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish — the story of Kelly, a really innovative dolphin. Sorry I got the name of the Mississippi town wrong, it’s fixed now!

Thursday: The Dog With Strings Attached — The dog whose owner loved him so much, he put him in the museum.


4) “Science’s Pirate Queen” (The Verge, 17 minutes, February 2018).

The publisher Elsevier owns over 2,500 journals covering every conceivable facet of scientific inquiry to its name, and it wasn’t happy about either of the sites. Elsevier charges readers an average of $31.50 per paper for access; Sci-Hub and LibGen offered them for free. But even after receiving the “YOU HAVE BEEN SUED” email, [Alexandra] Elbakyan was surprisingly relaxed. She went back to work. She was in Kazakhstan. The lawsuit was in America. She had more pressing matters to attend to, like filing assignments for her religious studies program; writing acerbic blog-style posts on the Russian clone of Facebook, called vKontakte; participating in various feminist groups online; and attempting to launch a sciencey-print T-shirt business.

5) “My mother learned to read at 63 – she was still the smartest woman I know” (The Guardian, 11 minutes, December 2018).

Have a great weekend!