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“In a recent study, a team of scientists in China examined the time of day when paper downloads occur from a scientific publisher’s website. Controlling for the time zone where the request originated, they were able to see how hard scientists work overall by examining the downloads for a period of a little over a …

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At a conference in London, Perry showed the audience a video of another bizarre, highly risky, and quite painful bond-testing ritual in capuchin monkeys: two individuals poking each other’s eyeballs. I didn’t attend the conference or see the video, but Michael Balter, a reported for Science magazine, wrote the following description:

“One monkey will insert his or her long, sharp, dirty fingernail deep into the eye socket of another monkey, between the eyelid and the eyeball, up to the first knuckle. In videos Perry played for the meeting, the monkeys on the receiving end of the fingernail, typically social allies, could be seen to grimace and bat their eyelids furiously (as did many members of the audience) but did not attempt to remove the finger or otherwise object to the treatment. Indeed, during these eye-poking sessions, which last up to an hour, monkeys insisted on the finger being reinserted if it popped out of the eye socket”.

The conversations at Newsfoo afforded both the chance to delve deeper into topics and ideas with very sharp-minded people, and to reflect a little bit on a meta level on what all this ceaseless inquiry and activity means.  Listening in particular to discussions about sustainability, business models and revenue generation, it made me think of Sir Isaac Newton.

Most of us think of Newton as a mathematician, a physicist, an astronomer, striking out into new territories of shared, incremental, testable knowledge, whereas Newton spent the greater part of his time on studying and writing about the Bible (.doc), alchemy, and the occult – elite, hidden, controversial (as a Christian, he is widely held to have been an Arian).  He studied, for example, alchemical motifs like the Greene Lyon, and helped to sponsor an expedition in search of dragons in the Swiss Alps.  Gravitation was, in a way, a side-project – something he came up with in his 20% time.

Some of the discussions (in many, many settings – not specifically at Newsfoo) about how to pay for journalism feel to me at times more akin to a theological, doctrinal conversation about waning belief-systems than one intent on discovering the intrinsic natural forces that surround and govern our work.  That’s undoubtedly more due to my own limitations than the problems of the conversation, but I think it’s worth asking those wiser than I am:

What’s our Greene Lyon? And what’s the 20% time project that becomes gravity?

This rather lengthy post was my first maladroit assay, yesterday.