“Language Alters Our Experience of Time” by Panos Athanasopoulos (The Conversation) [contains¬†Arrival¬†spoilers]

This is a fascinating explanation of how language shapes our conception of time. Athanasopoulos categorizes languages into “future-in-front” or “future-is-behind” patterns. These patterns, which employ a vertical time axis, are further juxtaposed with languages like Mandarin Chinese, which employs a horizontal time axis (such that “last week” is expressed “up one week” and “next week” is expressed “down week”). Subtle differences in linguistic conventions can even influence the way we experience the passage of time (for instance, whether we judge time as a distance–a long or short period–or volume–a big or small period).

Athanasopoulos claims that our individual conceptualizations of time are flexible; hence, learning a new language with a different temporal construct enables an individual to perceive the passage of time in a novel manner. This, of course, has wider implications, suggesting that learning a new language may grant access to an entire new set of mental models.

The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross

From The New Yorker’s music critic, this is an account of the composers and musicians who defined twentieth century music and an exploration of the cultural and historical contexts that inspired them. This is not a musicology of the bestsellers of the century per se, but of the mavericks who defied conventional composition.¬†The Rest Is Noise is particularly compelling in how it juxtaposes these composers with major societal factors of their time (like totalitarianism in World War II or racial inequality in the United States at the turn of the century).


Science Solved It (Motherboard)

Motherboard’s newest podcast explores mysterious and once-unsolved phenomena that have since been explained scientifically. The inaugural episode features “the bloop,” a mysterious and incomprehensibly loud sound captured by underwater microphones in the Pacific in 1997. I was fascinated by the bloop as a child.

My favorite episode of this season features the Marfa lights, a pattern of mysterious glowing lights visible (and frequently spectated) in the desert east of Marfa, Texas.