Links: Casanova biography, the case for optimism, where life comes from, and more!

* “The Thoughtful Prick,” an essay on Casanova and the new biography of him.

* The Case for Energy Optimism, and I’m subscribing to the RSS feed on the strength of this essay. He notes, for example, that “Over the last few years cobalt demand estimates have been crushed by developments in cathode chemistry due to cost and performance improvements in simpler chemistries – I am sceptical that this is the last time that today’s ‘unobtainium’ becomes tomorrows chopped liver.” When you hear about fundamental resource limitation, be politely skeptical: usually that means “prices haven’t risen sufficiently to make the investment in more acquisition worthwhile.”

* “Xi Jinping, forever: China has shackled itself to…this one mediocre guy.” The last paragraph is excellent, and the Xi episode a reminder of the strengths of the system mentioned there.

* Maybe those UFO reports aren’t actually UFOs. A shame, as I wanted to believe: but I’ve seen pushback against this, too: even if most UFO reports have terrestrial explanations, some, it seems, don’t.

* Fiction in the age of screens, which is very long, and which says that written fiction is uniquely capable of helping us acquire other perspectives; but I’m not sure that this property is unique to fiction, relative to many forms of narrative nonfiction, and even some non-narrative nonfiction. The end is worth reading, although without the journey it will mean less:

But at least, if the novel falls, it won’t be because of its artistic essence. It won’t be replaced in its effects by equivalent television or video games or any other extrinsic medium. If the novel goes, it will be because we as a culture drifted away from the intrinsic world. Left without the novel our universe will be partitioned up, leaving us stranded within the unbreachable walls of our skulls. And inside, projected on the bone, the flicker of a screen.

* “The irrelevance of test scores is greatly exaggerated.”

* More about John le Carré; I think the essays are more useful than the books.

* How food powers your body, how the Krebs cycle works, and the origins of life, as well as where life might be headed if we can engineer our metabolisms better.

* “The death of god and the decline of the humanities.” This reads like a dispatch from another century; I like the anachronistic usage of “profane literature.”

* Missile defense is obviously better than the alternative and we should do it.

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