Readings: Honey Bees, Magnus Carlsen, Masculine Mystique, CNN

Here are some interesting articles I’ve read recently.

(1) “Yellow, Black, and Blues” [Seed Magazine] – a fascinating recap on the agricultural history of honey bees. Honey bees began disappearing in 2006, and this article proposes some explanations. There isn’t a single factor attributing to the honey bees’ demise:

By June 2009 a report issued by the USDA had accepted—not without a hint of resignation—that “it now seems clear that no single factor alone is responsible for the malady.” Stopping honey bee colonies from collapsing wouldn’t be as easy as banning a pesticide or killing a new pathogen. Instead it appeared an interaction of different factors must underpin CCD—for instance, a pesticide might have weakened the bees’ immune systems enough so that a new virus proved lethal.

(2) “Magnus Carlsen on his Chess Career” [Chessbase] – Germany’s Der Spiegel conducted an interview with Magnus Carlsen, the number one chess player in the world. It’s a really interesting interview, where Magnus explains that he is a “totally normal guy” who enjoys traveling:

We travelled by car to Austria, Montenegro, Greece, Italy and Hungary. The countries in the East are poorer than I thought, by the way. In Rome I visited St. Peter’s Basilica and saw a football match at the Olympic Stadium. Wonderful. When we were in Moscow, my mother and my sisters went to the Bolshoi Theatre, I didn’t.

The most interesting part is the exchange between Der Spiegel and Carlsen regarding Kasparov:

SPIEGEL: For a year now you have been working with Garry Kasparov, who is probably the best chess player of all time. What form does your cooperation take? Kasparov is the teacher, you the pupil?

Carlsen: No. In terms of our playing skills we are not that far apart. There are many things I am better at than he is. And vice versa. Kasparov can calculate more alternatives, whereas my intuition is better. I immediately know how to rate a situation and what plan is necessary. I am clearly superior to him in that respect.

So Carlsen’s response is ambivalent: on the one hand, he respects Garry Kasparov; on the other hand, he can’t restrain stroking his ego during the interview (“I am clearly superior to him”). Also of note: Kasparov’s piece in the New York Review of Books. [via]

(3) “The Masculine Mystique” [Wall Street Journal] – new research suggests that women from countries with healthier populations prefer more feminine-looking men. The research methodology seems a bit suspicious, but it’s still an interesting read.

(4) “CNN Fails to Stop Fall in Rating” [New York Times] – who better to report on this topic than the New York Times?