History

"Did China Discover America"

Zheng He certainly got around, but nope.

It is these detailed elements, however, that give the game away. Only Europeans represented the globe this way. European explorers completed travels like this over the course of hundreds of years, rather than Zheng He’s 30, which makes it almost impossible that his maritime voyage would have had such a specific grasp of river courses. The Arctic appears first on a Ming Chinese map only in 1593. And the world’s greatest mountain range was labelled as such only in the 19th century.


"The Engineer’s Lament: Two ways of thinking about automotive safety"

Interesting piece by Malcolm Gladwell that offers insight into the difference between how engineers view the world and how the rest of us do.

Almost all engineering jokes—and there are many—are versions of this belief: that the habits of mind formed by the profession enable engineers to see things differently from the rest of us. “A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.” To the others, the glass is a metaphor. Nonsense, the engineer says. The specifications are off. He doesn’t give free rein to temperament; he assesses the object. These jokes, like many of the jokes people tell about themselves, are grievances. The engineer doesn’t understand why the rest of us can’t make sense of the world the way he does.

It includes some interesting discussion of the infamous Pinto case.


"Why most American Jews vote for Democrats, explained"

With this information I hadn't known:

But these explanations don’t help us explain political differences among Jews across countries or over time. American Jews share a religious tradition, historical inheritance, and minority status with most Jewish communities around the globe — and yet only Jews in the United States are concentrated on the left. Jews outside the U.S. are sometimes centrist, sometimes rightist, and occasionally indistinct from the general population, but never as tightly clustered on the left as American Jews.

(The paper referred to the article is here.)