Communication, Library-Lists, Anthologies, Pandemics, Symphony

A weekly selection of fine writing from Conked


Wishing all our subscribers a happy and healthy Christmas!

How Claude Shannon Invented the Future

David Tse | Quanta Magazine |  DEC 2020

Claude Shannon was never well-known, yet over 70 years ago he outlined the foundation for “the entire communication infrastructure underlying the modern information age.” Initially, he wrote his thesis on circuit design, and then in 1948 he published a paper, hailed by some as a masterpiece, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication.” His model was a shock to communication engineers of that time and these days he is considered “the father of information theory.” He was a scientist, a mathematician and an engineer and he proved his theories by focussing on the feature of a problem without putting attention on other aspects. (1,508 words)

These are the books New Yorkers checked out from the library most this year.

Dan Sheehan | Literary Hub | 22 DEC 2020

Every year New York City’s public libraries release the list of their annual top 10 checkouts. Undeniably always an interesting list, this year while in the midst of a pandemic and with many locals locked into their apartments for long periods, it is a spotlight on how they distracted and amused themselves during this stressful time. The list includes the top ten from the Brooklyn Public Library, The New York Public Library (covering The Bronx, Manhattan and Straten Island) and Queens Public Library. Only three books appear on all three lists - Michelle Obama’s Becoming, Tara Westover’s Educated, and Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing. (436 words)

What Do We Want from Poetry in Times of Crisis?

Clare Bucknell | The New Yorker | 22 DEC 2020

Anthologies have had a big boom this year while we are in the grip of a global pandemic. In an anthology, various voices and subjects are published together under a unifying concept. This year, scholar Alice Quinn gathered work from poets across the US through two large waves, in Spring and early Summer, with over one hundred pieces published in “Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic”. There are other poetry collections also wanting us to focus on the here and now in these uncertain times. They all highlight that despite our disparity, we are all human with concerns about our futures. (1,778 words)

A lunar pandemic

Dagomar Degroot | Aeon | 22 DEC 2020

In 2020 many of us have had to quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, but all astronauts need to enter a period of isolation prior to departure. In July 1969, three weeks before lift-off, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, entered quarantine in the midst of a flu pandemic that had killed tens of thousands of people. It was not only to ensure they were well when starting their journey, but on their return a similar procedure would need to be followed to ensure fears of a lunar pandemic caused by alien microbes would not come to fruition. This article explains the breaches and how lucky we are no contamination occurred. (4,249 words)

Chopin Versus the Coronavirus: Classical Music Is Helping Houston Patients Heal

Michael Hardy | Texas Monthly | 21 DEC 2020

Houston Symphony musicians have been performing virtual recitals for ICU patients. These are the idea of Dr Mei Rui, who has a dual career as a research scientist and concert pianist. The COVID-19 pandemic provided Rui with an opportunity to advance her research on the health benefits of classical music, while patients were cut off from family and friends. The MUSICARE program was launched in April 2020 using a specially designed iPad Pro rig set up next to the bed of a patient. Rui’s research is conducted on how medical recovery is impacted by different kinds of classical music. (1,013 words)


Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!

― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

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Rand Leeb-du Toit, Conkerer

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