The link between rainfall and the duration of Roman emperors

There’s an interesting piece in The Economist about the link between rainfall and the rise and fall of Roman emperors. One such lesson is how drought affected the stability of the Roman empire 1,500 years ago. In a new paper published in Economics Letters, Cornelius Christian of Brock University and Liam Elbourne of St Francis Xavier University identify […]

The history behind the modern definition of ‘average’

Everybody is unique, but on the whole, there’s still the average. Average height, average SAT score, there is even ‘average looking.’ From clothing to education to body features, there’s always been a standard. According to 99% Invisible’s podcast ‘On Average,’ Belgian astronomer/mathematician Adolphe Quetelet discovered what we now know today as the ‘average’ when he aggregated […]

How Coffee Fueled the Civil War

Coffee did not win the war – Union material resources and manpower played a much, much bigger role than the quality of its Java – but it might say something about the victors. From one perspective, coffee was emblematic of the new Northern order of fast-paced wage labor, a hurried, business-minded, industrializing nation of strivers. […]

“Truth is what works”

“Truth is what works,” said the pragmatist William James. Simple enough. But as Robert Talissee explains, you can’t take James’s advice at face value. Beliefs are tools. A belief is like a hammer or a pair of scissors. It’s supposed to do things, behaviourally, it’s supposed to guide our actions. James thinks that the truth of […]

Why Twitter Is Good For Us

According to the bestselling author Jonathan Franzen, Twitter is “unspeakably irritating.” Little does he know that Twitter is the greatest communications tool of our (mobile) time, driving people to read more, act more, and create more. Twitter can also be the world’s greatest interruptor.  You really have to ignore it to focus on work and […]