Sometimes there are no words

A refugee screams for help after she and her daughter fell into the water after arriving on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, on October 2 , 2015. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year. Muhammed Muheisen / AP

Every week the Atlantic publishes their photos of the week. I encourage you to check it out.

A surfer catches a wave on his board as a super moon rises in the sky off Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia, on September 28, 2015. # David Gray / Reuters
India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C30) lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, South India, on September 28, 2015. PSLV-C30 mission included the launching of India’s space observatory satellite Astrosat.
A devotee carries a statue of the Hindu god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, to be immersed into the polluted waters of the river Yamuna on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, in New Delhi, India, on September 27, 2015. # Adnan Abidi / Reuters

The beautiful coincidence of the solar eclipse

Photos of an annular solar eclipse taken by the solar optical telescope Hinode as the moon came between it and the sun. Credit: Hinode/XRT
Photo of an annular solar eclipse taken by the solar optical telescope Hinode in 2011 as the moon came between it and the sun. Credit: Hinode/XRT

From Nautilus, an article by Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society:

Roughly twice a year, the apparent positions of sun and moon coincide, and a fortunate few observers are treated to a solar eclipse. Watching such an event provides the opportunity to contemplate a strange coincidence: From the surface of Earth, the apparent sizes of the sun and moon in the sky are nearly equal. The sun is almost exactly 400 times larger than the moon, and it’s also almost exactly 400 times farther away.

There is no particular reason why they should appear the same size, and it wasn’t always that way. The moon has been retreating from Earth since the mega-collision that created it, 4.5 billion years ago. We’ve measured its rate of retreat with the help of equipment left on the surface of the moon by Apollo astronauts: It’s presently receding at about 4 centimeters per year. A billion years ago, it would’ve thoroughly covered the sun with every eclipse; now, depending on where the moon is in its elliptical orbit, some eclipses are total, but more are annular, with the moon appearing slightly smaller than the sun, leaving a “ring of fire” surrounding the moon (see image below). Fifty million years from now, the moon will have receded to the point that all eclipses will be annular.

Read the rest. 

Photo of an annular solar eclipse taken by the solar optical telescope Hinode as the moon came between it and the sun. Credit: Hinode/XRT
Photo of an annular solar eclipse taken by the solar optical telescope Hinode as the moon came between it and the sun. Credit: Hinode/XRT

Louis C.K. on Fresh Air

This isn’t a new interview, but I heard it for the first time today, and I thought it was great. It’s Louis C.K. on Fresh Air from April of this year. Here’s something that he says:

I saw a movie once where Spencer Tracy catches this woman about to kill herself — it’s a pretty dark movie for the time — but I forget the name of the movie, but Spencer Tracy is on a boat and sees a rich, young girl about to throw herself off the boat because her fiance left her for another woman and he’s trying to talk her out of suicide and he says to her, “Do you have a job? Do you have anything that you do in your life?” which was a funny thing to ask because she’s, like, a 1920s socialite and she said, “No,” and he said, “I think you should get a job, because it’s very hard to be sad and useful at the same time.”

Ever since I saw that I keep that in my head. If you can be useful, which means to somebody else, not to yourself, if you can be useful, it just makes you feel better. So I live in service for my kids, that’s the first priority and then things like my career, they feed into that, they’re part of that, because I’m providing for them but also it’s just not that important. If something’s not important, it’s more fun.

Listen to the interview here.

Why we hate cheap things (and how to fix that crazy way of thinking)

I think this essay on consumption from the Book of Life is brilliant. Hat tip to Rory Sutherland for sharing it:

In 1927, a hitherto unknown air mail pilot called Charles Lindbergh became the first man to complete a solo crossing of the Atlantic in his fragile plane, The Spirit of St Louis.

For hours, he flew in the most arduous conditions, braving wind, rain and storms. He saw clouds passing below him and distant thunder claps on the horizon. It was one of the profoundest moments of his life. He was awestruck and felt he was becoming, for a time, almost God-like. For most of the twentieth century, his experience remained rare and extremely costly. There was therefore never any danger that the human value of crossing an ocean by air would be overlooked.

This lasted until the arrival of the Boeing 747 and the cheap plane ticket in the summer of 1970. The jumbo fundamentally changed the economics of flying. The experiences of gazing down at clouds and seeing the world spread out stopped being (as it had been for Lindbergh) a life-changing encounter; it started to feel commonplace and even a little boring. It became peculiar to wax lyrical about the red-eye to JFK or a mention of a spectacular column of clouds that one had spotted shortly after the arrival of the chicken lunch. A trip that would have mesmerised Leonardo da Vinci or John Constable was now passed over in silence.

The view from the plane window underwent an economic miracle that led to a psychological catastrophe: its cost dropped and it ceased to matter, though its real value hadn’t changed.

Be sure to read the whole thing here.

Soviet bus stops

This is started as a great idea for a photography project, and is now a Kickstarter backed book, Soviet Bus Stops:

Photographer Christopher Herwig first discovered the unusual architecture of Soviet-era bus stops during a 2002 long-distance bike ride from London to St. Petersburg. Challenging himself to take one good photograph every hour, Herwig began to notice surprisingly designed bus stops on otherwise deserted stretches of road. Twelve years later, Herwig had covered more than 18,000 miles in 14 countries of the former Soviet Union, traveling by car, bike, bus and taxi to hunt down and document these bus stops.

The local bus stop proved to be fertile ground for local artistic experimentation in the Soviet period, and was built seemingly without design restrictions or budgetary concerns. The result is an astonishing variety of styles and types across the region, from the strictest Brutalism to exuberant whimsy.

Soviet Bus Stops is the most comprehensive and diverse collection of Soviet bus stop design ever assembled, including examples from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, the disputed region of Abkhazia, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus and Estonia. Originally published in a quickly sold-out limited edition, Soviet Bus Stops, named one of the best photobooks of 2014 by Martin Parr, is now available in this highly anticipated, expanded smaller-format trade edition.

See more details here.

Families across Iceland offer their homes to Syrian refugees

More than 11,000 families in Iceland have offered to open their homes to Syrian refugees. Author Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir created a Facebook group and wrote an open letter to the country’s welfare minister, Eygló Harðardóttir, asking her to allow people to help. She wrote:

“They are our future spouses, best friends, the next soul mate, a drummer for our children’s band, the next colleague, Miss Iceland in 2022, the carpenter who finally finishes the bathroom, the cook in the cafeteria, a fireman and television host,” she wrote.

“People of whom we’ll never be able to say in the future: ‘Your life is worth less than my life.’”

The International Rescue Committee is providing medical care and emergency supplies to Syrian refugees. You can donate here. See also Save the Children.

How to age gracefully – a last message from Wiretap

WireTap with Jonathan Goldstein is coming to an end, which is a real shame. From the farewell message:

It started from a simple desire to share the funny, smart people in my life with all of you. I wanted to create a place where we could hang out together and like-minded people could join us. I wanted to make something that felt different than everything else I was hearing on the radio, something that felt funny and real, that didn’t shy away from the big questions (“why are we here?”), but still had room for the smaller questions (“why does this pork pie hat make my ass look fat?”). I wanted to make something that was weird and complicated in the way I knew life to be.

Well, they definitely achieved that goal. I think my favourite episode was about saltwater taps with Starlee Kine, who now hosts Mystery Show. The video above was posted to accompany news that the show was ending.