art’s future


Documenta’s American-born artistic director, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, doesn’t even use the word “artist,” preferring “participant” instead. She says, “I am not sure that the field of art will continue to exist in the 21st century” — not meaning art itself, mind you, but our tidy roping-off of the field. To Joseph Beuys’s famous dictum “Everyone is an artist,” Christov-Bakargiev adds, “So is any thing.” The best parts of Documenta 13 bring us into close contact with this illusive entity of Post Art—things that aren’t artworks so much as they are about the drive to make things that, like art, embed imagination in material and grasp that creativity is a cosmic force. It’s an idea I love. (As I’ve written before, everything that’s made, if you look at it in certain ways, already is or can be art.) Things that couldn’t be fitted into old categories embody powerfully creative forms, capable of carrying meaning and making change. Post Art doesn’t see art as medicine, relief, or religion; Post Art doesn’t even see art as separate from living. A chemist or a general may be making Post Art every day at the office. One of the exhibitors at Documenta is the civil engineer Konrad Zuse, creator in the thirties of an early electromagnetic computer.

more from Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine here.

Big Baby behavior


Big Baby behavior has coalesced with the new rhetorical style of the right — whining, entitlement, and victimization, a bad-faith aping of how the old regime understood the demands of anti-racism and the women’s movement — to give a mashed-carrots color to the politics of our era. Tantrums are in fashion. Are you ever at a loss now, flipping through the channels, to know what policies a TV commentator will advocate if he is boyish but old, thin-haired but incapable of growing a mustache, soft, truculent, khakied and floppy-collared, wide-eyed on a sugar rush and shouting for more candy? (In his case, the Pez will be prescription drugs and alcohol: there is a curious tie between Big Babies and abuse of painkillers.) Big Baby is easier to picture sitting than standing. Man-boobs shape his polo. Big Baby has wee little feet and appears on the cover of Cigar Aficionado. Big Baby issues insults, but only at a safe distance. You sense that, up close, he might smell like milk.

more from the Editors at n+1 here.

Justin Erik Halldór Smith On Dieting

Justin E. H. Smith in his own blog:

ScreenHunter_04 Jun. 27 12.59It may be that an older form of wisdom speaks to us through proverbs, the sort of wisdom that reeks of grandparents and people even older, that announces 'you are what you eat' as an existential truism, for example. But this sort of wisdom is for the most part drowned out by chatter, about good carbs as opposed to bad ones, about the exalted ideal ratio between carbs, proteins, and fats, about whether food should be free of some negative element or other, whether it should be raw or cooked, whether it is fitting that animals be slaughtered to produce it. And all of this chatter takes place in the mode of facticity: it is put forth as if it were entirely science, and had nothing to do with culture. The striving upper middle class thus avoids McDonald's not because it is where poor fat people go, but rather because the food served there is 'unhealthy', a term that can only conceal its normativity under a thick coat of false consciousness. And thus urban subcultures emerge that condemn gluten, or that advocate a diet based principally upon meat à la Tartare, as if there were no logic of social distinction at work, as if it were simply the case that their way of eating is the correct way, the natural way, the way cavemen ate, the way we ate before we were corrupted by the Agricultural Revolution, by modernity, by supermarkets, or some other hypothetical loss of innocence.

There is no more awareness in either the bourgeois or the Bohemian expressions of this chatter than there is in traditional folk cultures, with their highly prescriptive conceptions of how one ought to eat, that 'the natural' is a contested category, that in nutritional matters as in everything else, grand gestures and elaborate programs that spell out how to live in accordance with nature are at least as artificial as everything else we come up with. Whole Foods occupies a different cultural space than the McDonald's a few blocks away; both are however equidistant from Nature.

More here.

Thomas Friedman Writes His Only Column Again

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

ScreenHunter_02 Jun. 27 12.44Fabulously wealthy CEO whisperer and newspaper columnist Thomas Friedman is little more than a human-shaped random word generator programmed with the “Computers and Internet” section of a fourth-grade vocabulary textbook and fitted with a mustache. He writes one single column, sometimes using different proper nouns or cycling through slightly new platitudes, in order to allow a new headline to be written. The Only Thomas Friedman Column That Exists—which ran right on schedule yesterday—opens like this:

TRAVELING in Europe last week, it seemed as if every other conversation ended with some form of this question: Why does it feel like so few leaders are capable of inspiring their people to meet the challenges of our day?

Whether traveling in Europe or Israel or Pakistan or The Arab Street, Thomas Friedman has astoundingly boring conversations with people who speak in vague, nonsensical phrases. He continues:

There are many explanations for this global leadership deficit, but I'd focus on two: one generational, one technological.

“There are many explanations for [broad phenomenon], but I'd focus on two: one [generational, cultural, or sociological], one [technological, biological, scientific, or economic].” Thomas Friedman knows how to write a freshman-year research paper at the last minute.

More hilarity here.

Wednesday Poem

10. Keep Your Mind From Wandering

Keep your mind from its wandering
and regain first oneness.
Is it possible?

Let your body become supple
as a newborn’s. Is it possible?

Cleanse your inner vision
till you see nothing but light.
Is it possible?

Love people and lead
without forcing your will.
Can you?

Deal with vital matters
without interfering.
Can it be done?

Can you stand clear
of your own mind and so
make sense of things?

Give birth and nourish.
Have but not possess.
Act but don’t expect.
Lead but don’t control.
Accomplish this and even your virtue
will have virtue.

by Lao Tzu
from Adadptations of the Tao te Ching
by R. Bob

Five in the Colonies: Enid Blyton’s Sri Lankan Adventures

From The Paris Review:

Famousfive460Most mornings this past winter—the Boyagoda household already running late—I discovered my oldest daughter reading at the kitchen table: one boot on, gloves, hat, knapsack, and other boot nowhere to be found. So immersed was she, so indifferent to my pleas and threats, that finally I had to pull the book from her grasping hands just to make her finish dressing for the cold walk to school. This experience has made me more sympathetic to my mother, who once spanked me in a grocery store because I wouldn’t stop reading a book. It was by Enid Blyton, the British children’s writer who wrote some 400 nursery, fantasy, and adventure series titles that have sold more than six hundred million copies worldwide, mostly in Britain and the former colonies, including Sri Lanka—where as a girl my mother herself first encountered Blyton. I recently bought one of Blyton’s books for my own daughter. But before passing it on, I decided to reread it.

The book seemed innocuous enough. As with all of Blyton’s adventure stories, it was about boys and girls drawn into mysterious doings while on summer holiday. Bickering but loyal, they best adults who are either distracted and dismissive, or criminals capable of outsmarting everybody but the kids. Working this premise for decades and dozens of stories, Blyton enjoyed great success—at the time of her death, a book club devoted to her work had some 200,000 members in Britain alone. But because that success depended upon such patterned writing, she was also accused by librarians, teachers, and academics of relentlessly dulling the imaginations of her young readers, and of unjustly encouraging those who were reading her from abroad to make identifications that race, geography, history, and politics preemptively denied them. This certainly seems to have been the case for the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; in a 2006 interview with The Times, she explained that her development as a writer was stunted by her early reading: “When I started to write, I was writing Enid Blyton stories, even though I had never been to England. I didn’t think it was possible for people like me to be in books.” Similar notions affect the eponymous protagonists of Jamaica Kincaid’s novels Lucy and Annie John, who both declare they wish they were named Enid, after their favorite author. For both the young Adichie’s and Kincaid’s characters, mimicry and the desire for renaming aren’t simple expressions of literary admiration; they’re also rejections of the children’s African and Caribbean worlds, which have been diminished by their very immersion in Blyton’s books. The Blyton reading experience likewise impacts a colonial child’s maturation in Rohinton Mistry’s novel Family Matters, in which an intelligent Indian boy grows up reading her books and from this develops a dismissive attitude towards the foods and places and names that figure in his Bombay life. When self-loathing and alienation begin to build, he stops reading her; later, noticing her books on his shelves, he admits, “I can’t bear to even open them. I wonder what it was that so fascinated me. They seem like a waste of time now.”

More here.

Moderate coffee consumption offers protection against heart failure

From PhysOrg:

CofWhile current American Heart Association heart failure prevention guidelines warn against habitual coffee consumption, some studies propose a protective benefit, and still others find no association at all. Amidst this conflicting information, research from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center attempts to shift the conversation from a definitive yes or no, to a question of how much. “Our results did show a possible benefit, but like with so many other things we consume, it really depends on how much coffee you drink,” says lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky, MPH, ScD, a post-doctoral fellow in the cardiovascular epidemiological unit at BIDMC. “And compared with no consumption, the strongest protection we observed was at about four European, or two eight-ounce American, servings of coffee per day.” The study published June 26 online in the Journal Circulation: , found that these moderate were at 11 percent lower risk of heart failure.

Data was analyzed from five previous studies – four conducted in Sweden, one in Finland – that examined the association between and heart failure. The self-reported data came from 140,220 participants and involved 6,522 heart failure events. In a summary of the published literature, the authors found a “statistically significant J-shaped relationship” between habitual coffee consumption and heart failure, where protective benefits begin to increase with consumption maxing out at two eight-ounce American servings a day. Protection slowly decreases the more coffee is consumed until at five cups, there is no benefit and at more than five cups a day, there may be potential for harm.

More here.

Why I wish the Obamas would stop inviting me to dinner

Walter Kirn in The New Republic:

ScreenHunter_01 Jun. 27 11.19The problem with these small-stakes lotteries that are currently clogging up our inboxes isn’t that they cheapen politics (it is what it is, especially lately) but that they reveal, in a depressing way that makes the whole enterprise seem almost futile, just how insanely expensive it has become. They offer as prizes places at power’s table that simply aren’t available to anyone but the odds-beating elect. They ritualize a sense of mass despair at ever achieving influence in normal ways, from getting somewhat but not filthy rich (R) to getting organized (D). Whatever they generate by way of cash or names and addresses for campaign mailing lists is canceled out by the cynicism they spread (or partake of and embody).

At a time when political idealism is hard to come by at any price, suckerball is an extremely dangerous game. It doesn’t help that the hucksters who promote it, the Ed McMahons of this particular sweepstakes, are tied to the candidates by blood and marriage. Tagg Romney sent me a note the other morning that opened with an encomium to fatherhood, the holiest of conservative institutions next to the debt and equity markets themselves (“Dad taught us a lot of lessons, including the importance of having fun as a family, but the most important lesson he imparted to us was the joy in helping others”), and closed with an invitation to wager five bucks on a chance to rub shoulders with his “Papa,” a famously tight-fisted, high-stakes gambler who’d never take such lousy odds himself, not even if tickets were a penny a pop. The deal stirred doubts in me about Tagg’s upbringing as well as contempt for his estimation of mine.

More here.

The Trouble with the Turing Test

Mark Halpern in The New Atlantis:

Alan_Turing_491x491In the October 1950 issue of the British quarterly Mind, Alan Turing published a 28-page paper titled “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” It was recognized almost instantly as a landmark. In 1956, less than six years after its publication in a small periodical read almost exclusively by academic philosophers, it was reprinted in The World of Mathematics, an anthology of writings on the classic problems and themes of mathematics and logic, most of them written by the greatest mathematicians and logicians of all time. (In an act that presaged much of the confusion that followed regarding what Turing really said, James Newman, editor of the anthology, silently re-titled the paper “Can a Machine Think?”) Since then, it has become one of the most reprinted, cited, quoted, misquoted, paraphrased, alluded to, and generally referenced philosophical papers ever published. It has influenced a wide range of intellectual disciplines—artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, epistemology, philosophy of mind—and helped shape public understanding, such as it is, of the limits and possibilities of non-human, man-made, artificial “intelligence.”

Turing’s paper claimed that suitably programmed digital computers would be generally accepted asthinking by around the year 2000, achieving that status by successfully responding to human questions in a human-like way. In preparing his readers to accept this idea, he explained what a digital computer is, presenting it as a special case of the “discrete state machine”; he offered a capsule explanation of what “programming” such a machine means; and he refuted—at least to his own satisfaction—nine arguments against his thesis that such a machine could be said to think. (All this groundwork was needed in 1950, when few people had even heard of computers.) But these sections of his paper are not what has made it so historically significant. The part that has seized our imagination, to the point where thousands who have never seen the paper nevertheless clearly remember it, is Turing’s proposed test for determining whether a computer is thinking—an experiment he calls the Imitation Game, but which is now known as the Turing Test.

More here.

Pakistan’s Impending Defeat in Afghanistan

Ashley J. Tellis at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

PakistanSoldierIrrespective of how the coming security transition in Afghanistan pans out, one country is on a surprising course to a major strategic defeat: Pakistan. Every foreseeable ending to the Afghan war today—continued conflict with the Taliban, restoration of Taliban control in the southern and eastern provinces, or a nationwide civil war—portends nothing but serious perils for Islamabad. But judging from Pakistan’s behavior, it appears as if this fact has eluded the generals in Rawalpindi.

Ever since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan has had one simple strategic goal on its western frontier: ensuring that Afghanistan remains a stable but subordinate entity deferential to Pakistan’s sensitivities on all matters of national security. Such deference was sought for a host of reasons. Islamabad wanted a guarantee that Kabul would not reignite the dispute over the countries’ common border (the Durand Line) and would not seek to mobilize the region’s Pashtun populations in support of either absorption into Afghanistan or the creation of a new nation. The Pakistani leadership also aimed to ensure that Afghanistan would not enter into close geopolitical affiliations with other, more powerful countries, such as the United States or India, in order to increase Kabul’s autonomy from Islamabad.

Amid the chaos that emerged after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan settled on supporting the Afghan Taliban as its strategic instrument for securing Kabul’s compliance with its objectives.

More here.

Corporate Intrigue in the Art World

Dan Duray in the New York Observer:

ScreenHunter_12 Jun. 26 16.14When news broke on Monday that the Germany-based tech company Artnet would immediately cease to publish its 16-year-old online magazine—the longest-standing online resource for visual art reporting and criticism—people in the art world took notice.

“I’m shaken,” New York magazine’s art critic Jerry Saltz, whose writing has appeared on Artnet since 1998, told The Observer yesterday. He added that he was considering sending back his “low-three figure” freelance check for this month. “A really dynamic, really open, unpredictable, chaotic species just became extinct.”

News of the magazine’s closure nearly eclipsed the larger story from within the company that day, that longtime CEO Hans Neuendorf—who had helmed Artnet since 1995 and built its signature product, a powerful auction-price database that is used daily by dealers worldwide and revolutionized the art market by essentially providing a “Blue Book” value for works of art—would step down at the beginning of next month.

The changes at the company are part of a larger power struggle between the current management and a group of shareholders that has recently been accumulating stock at a rapid clip. Until the announcement that Mr. Neuendorf would step down, and cede the title of CEO to his eldest son Jacob Pabst, 39, the family faced a proxy battle at its July 11 shareholder meeting, and still may lose the company. The threat to the Neuendorfs (Mr. Pabst takes his mother’s name) comes from a group of investors led by Russian art-market analyst and former investment banker Sergey Skaterschikov, founder of the art-market analysis firm Skate’s. In the matter of Artnet, Mr. Skaterschikov represents Redline Capital Management, where he sits on the board. Redline is owned by the Russian billionaire Vladimir Evtushenkov and has recently purchased enough stock to own at least eight percent of the company.

More here.

Evolution and Our Inner Conflict

E.O. Wilson at NYTimes' The Stone:

EowilsonWithin biology itself, the key to the mystery is the force that lifted pre-human social behavior to the human level. The leading candidate in my judgment is multilevel selection by which hereditary social behavior improves the competitive ability not of just individuals within groups but among groups as a whole. Its consequences can be plainly seen in the caste systems of ants, termites and other social insects. Between-group selection as a force operating in addition to between-individual selection simultaneously is not a new idea in biology. Charles Darwin correctly deduced its role, first in the insects and then in human beings — respectively in “On the Origin of Species” and “The Descent of Man.”

More here.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón: ‘I’m haunted by the history of my city’

From The Independent:

ZafonThe Covent Garden Hotel off Seven Dials, London's 17th-century junction, is a fitting location in which to meet the perpetually inquisitive Carlos Ruiz Zafón. “The stranger who finds himself in the Dials for the first time,” wrote Charles Dickens in Sketches by Boz, “at the entrance of seven obscure passages, uncertain which to take, will see enough around him to keep his curiosity awake for no inconsiderable time.” Ruiz Zafón is no stranger to the allure of eerie alleys. In his bestseller The Shadow of the Wind, the master of Catalan gothic seized upon the seductive, sinister nature of Barcelona's maze of avenues and plazas during the chaos of the Spanish Civil War and its Francoist hangover. The Prisoner of Heaven, the third in a projected quartet of tales set around the city's mythical literary haven of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, is now being published in English. We settle into the hushed cocoon of the hotel's drawing room, where Ruiz Zafón cuts a gently commanding figure. He's a great bear of a man with a neat goatee and a voice lazing half way between Beverly Hills and the Ramblas of Barcelona. He's the physical opposite of Fermin Romero de Torres, the beanpole hero of The Prisoner of Heaven. Fermin is the skinny bookseller at Sempere and Sons, purveyors of fine volumes; a romantic with a quickstep wit and tango libido. Held in Montjuic castle by Franco's goons, his period of captivity holds the key to earlier mysteries and future retribution.

“What I want is that these stories are arranged as a labyrinth with different points of entry,” says Ruiz Zafón.

More here. (Note: For Sara Preisler who introduced me to this magnificent story teller.)

Tuesday Poem

Not Leaving the House
When Kai is born I quit going out Hang around the kitchen – make cornbread Let nobody in. Mail is flat. Masa lies on her side, Kai sighs, Non washes and sweeps We sit and watch Masa nurse, and drink green tea. Navajo turquoise beads over the bed A peacock tail feather at the head A badger pelt from Nagano-ken For a mattress; under the sheet; A pot of yogurt setting Under the blankets, at his feet. Masa, Kai, And Non, our friend In the garden light reflected in Not leaving the house. From dawn till late at night making a new world of ourselves around this life. by Gary Snyder

Unafraid of Aging

From The New York Times:

MailThe signal public health achievement of the 20th century was the increase of the human life span. Now, as that achievement helps raise the proportion of the aged around the world, what once seemed an unalloyed blessing is too often regarded as a burden — a financial burden, a health care burden, even a social burden.

“It’s nuts,” said Dr. Linda P. Fried, an epidemiologist and geriatrician who is dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. “To assume defeat from what every one of us as individuals wants suggests we’re not asking the right questions.” Findings from the science of aging, Dr. Fried said, should “reframe our understanding of the benefits and costs of aging.” From her perch at Mailman, a position she has held for four years, Dr. Fried is pushing students, professors and a wider audience to ask the right questions and ponder the right policies for coping with an aging world population. Dr. Fried’s mandate is to lead a school that will give a new generation the tools to deal with global challenges to public health, including environmental degradation, climbing health care costs and the pressure of rapid urbanization. But she believes that research on aging and health changes “across the life course” are central to designing solutions to public health problems in the 21st century.

More here.

The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights

Jimmy Carter in the New York Times:

CarterRevelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

More here.

Obesity, the Other Gulf War Syndrome

Peter Savodnik at Businessweek:

ObesityAccording to surgeons like Al Sanea, the bariatric boom can be traced to the buildup to the 1991 Gulf War. That was when hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops descended on the Gulf nation, bringing with them Taco Bell (YUM), Hardee’s, Baskin-Robbins (DNKN), and Nathan’s Famous (NATH) hot dogs, among others. “The [war] was the demarcation line,” says Dr. Abdulwahab Naser Al-Isa, at the Department of Community Medicine & Behavioral Sciences at Kuwait University. Andrew Smith, the author of the Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food, says, “The American military went in, and obviously they wanted fast food. Therefore, the number of fast-food establishments expanded exponentially.” And Kuwaitis fell in love.

If war introduced fast-food joints to Kuwait City, peace made them a permanent fixture. Some 3,400 U.S. troops remained in Kuwait after the war, enforcing the no-fly zone over Iraq. McDonald’s (MCD) first opened in Kuwait in 1994, three years after the war ended. (In contrast, the U.S. withdrew its troops from Iraq late last year, and ongoing spurts of violence mean it’s unlikely that there will be a surge in U.S. restaurants there. In 2011, Pizza Hut, Cinnabon, and Burger King started closing locations in Iraq.)

The Winners of the 3QD Science Prize 2012

2012 Science prize WinnerScience2012Strange WinnerScience2012

Sean Carroll has picked the three winners:

1. Top Quark, $1000: Aatish Bhatia, The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains
2. Strange Quark, $300: Cosma Shalizi, In Soviet Union, Optimization Problem Solves You
3. Charm Quark, $200: Holly Dunsworth, Forget bipedalism. What about babyism?

Here is what Sean had to say about them:

I want to thank Abbas and all the 3QD crew for inviting me to judge this year's Science Prize. I can't help but thinking that after having Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and Lisa Randall judge the previous years, a certain phase transition has occurred; but I'm happy to be associated with such an amazing group.

Let me start by saying something obvious but nevertheless true: the entries this year were of extraordinarily high quality. Some excellent blog posts among the initial nominees didn't even make the final nine, and any one of the nine finalists would have been a worthy choice for number one. But I will resist the temptation to declare a nine-way tie.

There is no simple and objective standard for what makes a blog post “the best.” “Blog is software,” as Bora Zivkovic likes to remind us — blogging is a medium, not a genre. Successful blog posts can be one word or ten thousand; a personal reflection or a rigorous analysis; an original idea or an insightful commentary; a devastating take-down or an inspirational message. But within these flexible parameter, there are certain aspects of blogging that make it special, and I looked for posts that took advantage of those unique capabilities. I wanted to choose posts that would be hard to imagine finding in any other medium, but whose quality measured up to the best of journalism or science writing. One frustrating aspect of a contest like this is that the prize is given to posts, rather than to blogs — for many of the most successful blogs, their charm comes from the accumulated effect of reading many posts over a long period of time. But okay, enough with the throat-clearing.

Without further ado:

First place this year goes to Empirical Zeal, for “The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains.” With many different criteria in mind, this post by Aatish Bhatia stood out among the rest. It's just about the perfect use of a blog. For one thing, it looks gorgeous: all those colorful images, each of which actually serves a purpose. The writing is playful and clever; once you see the mantis shrimp telling you “DEAR MORTAL, YOUR RAINBOW IS PUNY,” you're not likely to forget it. And most of all, the science is fascinating and important. To a physicist, there is a continuum of colors; but to our eyes and brains, “rainbows have seams,” and that affects how we think about the world. A completely deserving winner. (And don't forget that there is a Part II.)

Second place goes to Three-Toed Sloth, for “In Soviet Union, Optimization Problem Solves You” (cross-posted at Crooked Timber.) Cosma Shalizi doesn't bother with colorful pictures; he even uses a slightly gray font on a white background, presumably because black on white would come off as too florid. But this is a creative and original essay that brings the theory of computational complexity to bear on the practical problem of managing a planned economy. (Conclusion: it can't be done.) The flexibility of blogs doesn't just mean the ability to post videos; it also means the freedom to explore ideas outside traditional disciplinary comfort zones. Not a light read, but a true contribution to intellectual discourse. The kind of post that nudges the rest of us to be better bloggers.

Third place goes to The Mermaid's Tale, for “Forget bipedalism. What about babyism?” In another great use of the medium, Holly Dunsworth takes creative advantage of the blog format to make important points both about science and about how science is done. How much can we learn about a species just by studying a few bones in its feet? Does a particular anatomical feature represent a crucial adaptation to circumstances, or is it just an ancestral remnant? Also: adorable pictures of baby monkeys, as well as real data with error bars. Everybody wins.

In very different ways, these three posts serve as proud examples of what blogging can be at its best — feel free to share them with any of your friends who still remain skeptical. Yet, I cannot help but cheat just a little bit by offering two “honorable mentions.” At The Primate Diaries, Eric Michael Johnson's “Freedom to Riot: On the Evolution of Collective Violence” is a polished and fascinating look at natural selection and the behavior of human crowds. And at Quantum Diaries, Flip Tanedo's “Helicity, Chirality, Mass, and the Higgs” is an original take on explaining an abstract but central point in modern quantum field theory. All of these posts — as well as the other finalists! — are impressive achievements. My hat's off.

Congratulations also from 3QD to the winners (remember, you must claim the money within one month from today–just send me an email). And feel free, in fact we encourage you, to leave your acceptance speech as a comment here! And thanks to everyone who participated. Many thanks also, of course, to Sean Carroll for doing the final judging and for his charmingly erudite judging essay.

The three prize logos at the top of this post were designed by Sughra Raza, me, and me. The photograph used in the strange quark logo was taken by Margit Oberrauch. I hope the winners will display them with pride on their own blogs!

Details about the prize here.