Rats Are Us–That discovery was just the tip of the iceberg. We now know that rats don’t live merely in the present, but are capable of reliving memories of past experiences and mentally planning ahead the navigation route they will later follow. They reciprocally trade different kinds of goods with each other – and understand not only when they owe a favour to another rat, but also that the favour can be paid back in a different currency. When they make a wrong choice, they display something that appears very close to regret. Despite having brains that are much simpler than humans’, there are some learning tasks in which they’ll likely outperform you. Rats can be taught cognitively demanding skills, such as driving a vehicle to reach a desired goal, playing hide-and-seek with a human, and using the appropriate tool to access out-of-reach food. aeon.co
Moving Millions, Leaving Mayhem–The armored truck full of money barreled down a two-lane road until it encountered a stopped SUV. The truck didn’t brake. Instead it whipped into the oncoming lane, as if to pass, and rammed into a tanker truck.
The impact ripped open the side of the armored truck and launched a worker guarding the cash into the air with such force that his seat went with him. Illinois police found him still buckled in, crushed to death. projects.tampabay.com
This Bizarro Desert Highway is One of America’s Weirdest Roads–Nevada is, by all scientific metrics, very weird. Area 51. Seemingly sentient rocks rolling across the playas. Whatever is happening in approximately 78% of all hotel rooms in Vegas right this second. But in this sprawling, mostly desolate state, there is perhaps no more concentrated a dose of pure Nevadan oddity than the stretch of US-95 that winds northwest from Vegas and Tonopah. www.thrillist.com
How to prepare for the coronavirus like a pro–Are you stocking up on masks and soap and putting meat in the freezer? If you are, you might be like me: a coronavirus prepper.
The way a prepper sees things, our society is efficient but also fragile. How many days’ worth of food does your city have? How many extra ventilator machines are at your nearest hospital? It may be fewer than you think. www.technologyreview.com
On the Market | Justin E. H. Smith–There is a movement among moral philosophers, particularly those attuned to the sensibilities of the tech world, that is known as “effective altruism,” and that encourages its proponents to give away as much of their income as they can: late capitalism transiting, perhaps, to a variety of potlatch as the greatest signifier of high social status. I know some academic philosophers who periodically post on social media the precise amounts they have given to charity (some prefer to post simple percentages), on the presumption that this sort of open bookkeeping is beneficial to the success of the movement as a whole. www.cabinetmagazine.org
The paradox of an atheist soul–A different and more interesting approach is to argue that theism is suggested by the fact that we experience ourselves as unified, conscious beings – in other words, as having a soul. Not necessarily an immaterial entity, the soul is the part of us that strives to realise what is best in our nature. We do not come to know the soul through any special revelation. We know it by considering the kind of creature we find ourselves to be – a thinking being inhabiting a life-world that seems to reflect a mind greater than our own. Once we realise we have a soul, theism becomes a credible way of thinking. www.newstatesman.com
Reading Richard Rorty in Tehran–When the American philosopher Richard Rorty arrived to deliver a lecture in Tehran on a summer night in 2004, he was surprised to discover that he could not get into the room. Some 2,000 enthusiastic Iranians, many of them students, had crammed into the venue’s 200-seat auditorium to hear his talk on philosophy and democracy: sitting in the aisles, blocking the stairwell, and standing on the street outside. Organizers hastily set up TV monitors in the hallways to broadcast the talk for the overflow crowd. Shy despite his fame, Rorty said later the whole experience made him feel like a rock star. www.thenation.com
The Shadow Network of Anti-Vax Doctors–Brandeis is one of a sizable number of doctors who allow their patients to avoid or delay vaccines if they are concerned about their health effects. It’s unknown how many of these physicians there are, but dozens of names—some even organized by state—come up on earthy mommy blogs and other web communities. “We are hoping to find a pediatrician/pediatric group in the … area who is an MD, but open-minded to alternative medicine, as well as less aggressive vaccination schedules,” wrote one California parent on the Berkeley Parents Network in December. www.theatlantic.com