- Astrophysicist Sanjana Curtis explores the elemental origins and chemical compositions of four art materials — charcoal, cobalt blue, cadmium yellow, and helium — in Scientific American:
As chemistry has developed, so has our discovery of new elements, and this has shaped art as we know it. Among the elements identified from already existing minerals and ores was the silvery metal cobalt, discovered by chemist Georg Brandt in 1739.
This element takes its name from the German word kobelt, signifying kobolds—gnomes and goblins thought to haunt mines. It owes its ominous name to the corrosiveness of the minerals (often containing arsenic) it is associated with, which was so hazardous to miners that they thought it must have been placed in the mines by malicious subterranean beings.
- This summary from Ian Millhiser of Vox regarding the latest anti-trans laws may give you hope:
It’s important to be clear-eyed about what the future will look like for LGBTQ litigants. It is unlikely that five of the current justices agree with Romer’s conclusion that laws motivated solely by anti-LGBTQ animus are unconstitutional, for example. And many lower courts have been reluctant to protect transgender rights in contexts like public bathrooms and sports teams, where gender segregation has historically been allowed.
Yet the picture for LGBTQ litigants has thus far been more favorable than anyone reasonably could have predicted on the day Kennedy announced his retirement.
- After the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action rules at US universities and colleges, people are questioning why the biggest affirmative action on campuses (legacy admission) is not being challenged in court. Well, AP is reporting it is finally happening:
The practice of giving priority to the children of alumni has faced growing pushback in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court’s decision ending affirmative action in higher education. The NAACP added its weight behind the effort on Monday, asking more than 1,500 colleges and universities to even the playing field in admissions, including by ending legacy admissions.
The civil rights complaint was filed Monday by Lawyers for Civil Rights, a nonprofit based in Boston, on behalf of Black and Latino community groups in New England, alleging that Harvard’s admissions system violates the Civil Rights Act.
- As Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris explain for the New York Times, a Goodreads feature that allows its users to review a book that hasn’t been released yet (or is still being written, in some cases) can jeopardize its chances at publication:
Even books that are still gestating can be reviewed. George R.R. Martin’s long awaited “The Winds of Winter,” the next installment in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, doesn’t even have an official release date, but it has amassed more than 10,800 ratings and some 500 reviews on Goodreads.
It’s unclear how Amazon uses the data generated on Goodreads, which offers insights into readers’ preferences and consumer behavior. The company said that Goodreads reviews and ratings do not influence its decisions around which books and how many copies it buys from publishers.
Given its influence, some authors have come to think of Goodreads as a necessary evil, and a minefield.
- In another remarkable ocean-related story this month, check out Alan Taylor’s recent photo gallery of sharks in all their curiosity in The Atlantic.
- For the New Inquiry, writer and TikToker Eleanor Stern discusses language, power, and “folk etymologies” — false origins of specific words that tend to circulate widely despite their inaccuracy:
These narratives about everyday language reveal a fear that our language will reproduce the political structures that already determine our realities and a simultaneous desire for them to reflect those structures. Often, these realities are fully visible on the very surface of everyday language, even without convoluted and untrue taxonomies. “Knocked up” doesn’t have its roots in the slave trade, but it carries a tinge of misogyny, and “chav” is, in a U.K. context, an insult that permeates deep into the membrane of the British class system—even if its roots lie in the more mundane word-formation process of borrowing. White people treated lynchings as leisure activities, even if the origins of “picnic” have nothing to do with them. Domestic violence, slavery, and classism are too often omitted or insufficiently plumbed in official histories—that’s clear in the panic around critical race theory, and the frenzy to keep these facts as far as possible from American children. Against this backdrop, there is satisfaction in seeing language as an index of historical truth. Even if the specific linguistic history at hand isn’t real, it seems to vividly express a deeper reality of injustice. Injustices are revealed to be crouching in the corners of our speech, and reasonably horrified readers pledge not to use this or that word or idiom any longer. The following too-late, feeble fact-check appears hyper-literal and know-it-all-ish beside the vivid evocation of historic horrors.
- Gender justice activist and sexual health researcher Varuna Srinivasan shares their experience with gender and connecting with their nonbinary identity in their 30s in an essay for Allure:
While scrolling on Facebook during the pandemic, I came across that word: genderqueer. I had never really felt cisgender, even before I knew what “cisgender” meant, for whatever reason, I felt like too much of a fraud to call myself trans. But this word, genderqueer, was nice. It felt like a big enough label to fit all the feelings I felt about myself. In understanding that my identity was on a spectrum, I felt liberated.
Soon, I changed my pronouns from she/her to she/they. The former was bestowed upon me at birth. The addition of “they” was thrilling. It gave me a sense of bodily autonomy, one I had never known.
- Ahhhh … a surprise proposal always melts my heart:
- Ever wonder how traditional Western music and Indian music are different? This is an interesting description:
- Ryan Broderick has a good summary of what we may be losing with the decline of Twitter. Read it over at his Garbage Day newsletter:
I think hardcore Twitter users have rose-colored glasses about the site’s coolness. The reason for its success, if you can argue that it was ever really successful, wasn’t that it was cooler than Facebook. It was because of its proximity to power. The reason it was so popular with activists, extremists, journalists, and shitposters was because what you posted there could actually affect culture. The thing that ties together pretty much everything that’s happened on Twitter since it launched in 2006 was the possibility that those who were not in power (or wanted more) could influence those who were. And I don’t think it’s an accident that a deranged billionaire broke that, nor do I think it’s accident that we’re suddenly being offered smaller, insular platforms or an offshoot of a Meta app as replacements. The folks in charge clearly don’t want that to happen again.
- Ships could have sails! Who knew?:
- Agnes Martin in the age of GoogleSheets:
Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.