What I'm Reading (June 3)

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Drinking cholera, culture wars, let's put a hydra in a blender and see what we get [spoiler alert: no organisms are harmed], the science of gerrymandering.

“After Metchnikoff discovered phagocytes, he plunged into researching human immunity, hopeful to find ways to extend lives. He was motivated by his own grim experiences with disease. When his first wife died from tuberculosis, despite his zealous efforts to save her, a grievous Metchnikoff took an overdose of opium, but lived. When his second wife, Olga, battled typhoid fever, he inoculated himself with a tick-borne disease to die with her—but they both lived. But having discovered the body’s natural defense system, Metchnikoff grew optimistic. “With the help of science,” he wrote, “man can correct the imperfections of his nature.”

The title tells the beginning of a fascinating story, from Nautil.us, The Man Who Drank Cholera and Launched the Yogurt Craze

“2008 was a really important year, insofar as the Great Recession accentuated an important distinction within the white middle class. It drove a wedge between the middle and lower-middle or working class and the highly trained, professionally educated managers, technocrats and intellectuals—basically, between the top 20 percent and the bottom 80 percent. And that meant [there] were now class differences that were overlaid upon some of these cultural differences. And in surveys that we've done here at the Institute [for Advanced Cultural Studies at University of Virginia], we’ve tracked that. In 2016, the single most important factor in determining a Trump vote was not having a college degree.

So now, instead of just culture wars, there's now a kind of class-culture conflict. With a sense of being on the losing side of our global economy and its dynamics, I think that the resentments have just deepened. That became obvious, more and more, over the four years of Trump, and part of Trump’s own genius was understanding the resentments of coming out on the losing side of global capitalism.”

An interview with the man who coined the term “culture wars.” From Politico, by way of the Hedgehog Review, How the ‘Culture War’ Could Break Democracy

And now for a video moment

“A relative of jellyfish, the rice-sized freshwater creatures known as hydra are, at first glance, rather basic – all tentacles and mouth, with lives dedicated to nabbing passing prey. But, as scientists have gradually been discovering over centuries, these simple organisms have such a unique capacity for regeneration that they’re considered biologically immortal.”

Watch as a blenderized hydra returns to its original form. Nature is awe-inspiring. From PBS by way of Aeon, a 5-minute video

One of the consequences of the recently completed census is redistricting, how to aggregate voters into state and federal legislative districts. This is a highly contested concern. The Census Bureau has made an effort to get our personal information out of the decision, and computers are often being utilized to create “fair” districting. But what does fair mean? This is an essential issue for all citizens on both sides of the aisle to understand. From Politico, Is Gerrymandering About to Become More Difficult?