The narrowing of the conservative mind. Plus, the best of the web this week.

How the Republican Party forgot its roots. The dark side of Thomas Jefferson. A Chinese innovator who builds skyscrapers like Legos. Why you should get ready for driverless cars. And more! Enjoy.


Politics and World Affairs

The Conservative Mind / David Brooks / The New York Times

Good piece on how the Republican Party has allowed economic conservatism to overpower traditional conservatism, and in doing so, "has abandoned half of its intellectual ammunition."




Imagination Interface / Scott Adams / The Scott Adams Blog

A very interesting take on how "economies are driven by imagination" and how great leaders are skilled at inspiring/manipulating expectations for the future.




The Lie Factory / Jill Lepore / The New Yorker

The amazing story of the world's first political consulting firm, which invented and perfected in the 1930s many of the dirty tricks and deceptions that continue to win elections today. (via Stephen)




My Name Is Joe Biden And I'll Be Your Server / Bill Barol / The New Yorker

Very funny: "If [my mom] was here you know what she'd say? ... She'd say, 'Joey, I hope your friends saved some room for dessert, because the Molten Chocolate Explosion Cake with Burnt-Caramel Gelato is outta this world, Joey. It is literally out of this world.'"




Arts and Culture

Who Wants To Eat Jellyfish Omelets? Dolphin Meatballs? Mouse-On-Toast? These Guys / Aaron Birk and Robert Krulwich / NPR

A look at two of history's most adventurous eaters, and the extraordinary lengths they went to in the name of culinary experimentation.




The Dark Side Of Thomas Jefferson / Henry Wiencek / Smithsonian

Excellent piece on how a simple financial calculation helped persuade the man who gave us the phrase "all men are created equal" to reverse his antislavery position.




The Surprisingly Colorful Spaces Where The World's Biggest Decisions Get Made / T.A. Frail / Smithsonian

A slideshow featuring the interiors of several interesting organizations, from the French Communist Party (which, let's be honest, is probably not making the world's biggest decisions) to the New School to the United Nations.




Know Your States / Jim's Pages

Test your knowledge of American geography in this fun and deceptively simple game.




Business and Economics

Meet The Man Who Built A 30-Story Building In 15 Days / Lauren Hilgers / Wired


Engaging profile of Zhang Yue, the ambitious businessman who has developed a way to build skyscrapers quickly and cheaply ... and now plans "to erect the world's tallest building in just seven months."




How Do They Make Their Money? / Seer Interactive

Clear visualization of the business models of dozens of different tech firms.




How Families Spend In Brazil, Russia, China, Egpyt, India, Turkey, Indonesia, And Saudi Arabia / Derek Thompson / Quartz

Charts show stark differences in how family budgets differ in a wide range of countries around the world.




A Trans-Atlantic Trip Turns Kafkaesque / Gary Shteyngart / The New York Times

"You, American Airlines, should no longer be flying across the Atlantic."




Science and Technology

Who's Behind The Wheel? Nobody. / Dan Neil / The Wall Street Journal

The Journal's automotive critic on why driverless cars are inevitable, and why that's a good thing. The opening paragraphs are very well done.




Glass Works: How Corning Created The Ultrathin, Ultrastrong Material Of The Future / Bryan Gardiner / Wired

Fascinating story of how Corning invented Gorilla Glass — featuring a cameo from Steve Jobs — and on how it approaches innovation more broadly.




Seven Ways Mobile Phones Have Changed Lives In Africa / Tolu Ogunlesi / CNN

Useful perspective on how quickly things are changing and improving. (via Lauren)




Explore The Ocean With Google Maps / YouTube

Apparently, organizing the world's information includes underwater information.




* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sign up to receive the Best of the Web in your inbox each week.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less