I’m neck deep in Andrea Wulf‘s biography of Alexander von Humboldt, and it’s absolutely riveting. Von Humboldt was some kind of scientific maniac, who caught the interest of everyone from Goethe to Thomas Jefferson to Simon Bolivar. Von Humboldt was arguably the first naturalist to think ecologically, as well as one of the earliest abolitionists. He didn’t get to go everywhere, and he didn’t get to meet everyone, but damn close.
Uncle Sam wants kids to read more, so he blankets the web with ads like this:
Which I think is pretty cool because
(1) I’ve been an Edgar Rice Burroughs junkie since junior high school; John Carter and Tarzan turned me into the voracious reader am I today, and
(2) I can’t wait to see the movie, and I’m sure a whole generation of boys are going to read the books to get “the rest of the story.”
But it’s also not so hot an idea because
(3) It wouldn’t hurt to get GIRLS to do a bit more reading, as well, and
(4) There’s more to reading–even for young folks–than pulp fiction. Long before the pulps, one of my heroes was the “real” Indiana Jones, Dr Roy Chapman Andrews, who popularized paleontology with, among others, his “All About” books.
It turns out that benevolence, like nice, is totally overrated. I’m plumping for thrift and courage, myself.
Update (10 August). Silly me. I forgot industry, a sure sign that I’ve been goofing off.
Cleve Moler, Chairman and Chief Scientist at the MathWorks, has published an online MATLAB texbook, Numerical Computing with MATLAB. You can download the chapters as individual PDFs, for free.
Tip from the MathWorks, via email. (I knew there was a reason to stay on that mailing list!)
Virginia Postrel explains why girls are still fascinated with being princesses.
For all its Victorian stoicism and sense of duty, this princess dream shares the mixture of openness and elitism that gives princesses their contemporary appeal. Like the superhero, the princess has a special identity and destiny. She is more than an ordinary girl. But her value is not determined by playground hierarchies. You don’t have to be popular to be a princess. You can be an iconoclast, even an outcast, but you must be worthy. You must be good. In this version, as my then-5-year-old niece once wrote me, “Anyone can be a PRINCESS.”
Learn more: read Francis Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess online.
Tip from the Instapundit.