this week in Tremendous – #4

08/14/2014
A RECURRING SERIES OF BULLETS WHERE I GATHER BITS OF TREMENDOUS THAT HAVE CROSSED MY PATH. THE TERM ‘WEEK’ WILL BE USED LIBERALLY AND INCORRECTLY.

The scale of it is staggering; overwhelming. As you explore the extended Minecraft-verse online, you start to get the same oceanic feeling that huge internet systems like YouTube and Twitter often inspire: the mingling of despair (“I’ll never see it all”) with delight (“People made this”) with dizzying anthropic awe (“So… many… people.”)

Students learn not math but, in the words of one math educator, answer-getting. Instead of trying to convey, say, the essence of what it means to subtract fractions, teachers tell students to draw butterflies and multiply along the diagonal wings, add the antennas and finally reduce and simplify as needed.

It is true that today’s young people appear to be more socially engaged than kids have been for several decades and that they are more apt to harbor creative or entrepreneurial impulses. But it is also true, at least at the most selective schools, that even if those aspirations make it out of college—a big “if”—they tend to be played out within the same narrow conception of what constitutes a valid life: affluence, credentials, prestige.

For grazers, these stress compounds in plants may convey important information about environmental conditions. So grazers’ ability to “perceive” these signals, Sinclair argues, likely proved advantageous over evolutionary time. It allowed them to prepare for adversity. A grape vine stressed by fungi churns out resveratrol to fight off the infection. You drink wine made from those grapes, “sense” the harsh environmental conditions in the elevated tannins and other stress compounds, gird your own defenses, and, in theory, become more resistant to degenerative disease.