Best of 2021 Links
Vincent Thorne · Posted 22 Dec 2021 · Last edited 03 Jan 2022
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The holiday season is the perfect time to comfortably sit by the fire with a cup of hot Christmas tea and a great article to read. Here are few suggestions from links I collected in 2021.
The Internet is a wonderland of interesting content. Everyday, millions of people write, record and share excellent pieces of work, with the potential of expanding one’s mindset, knowledge and curiosity on many topics. Throughout the year, I encounter or receive many such fascinating links. Some I share, some I keep for later, some I read right away. But there is always too much content, and a lot ends up in a dusty digital drawer.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, so I decided to browse that dusty drawer and make a Best-Of-2021 list of links I enjoyed the most. Each link has its own value, and made the cut for different reasons: some taught me something new, others showed me a perspective I didn’t know about before, and some are just entertaining. Of course, the list is not exhaustive, missing articles I read but failed to save, for example, but it’s a pretty nice selection already.
I hope you find something in those links, too, and that it starts new conversations, or enriches old ones we’ve had. If you have your own Best Of 2021, I would love to read through it as well!
Thanks to all those who’ve sent me great content, but also to all the thriving online communities that make the Internet a great place — this list is yours.
If you have an issue accessing any article behind a paywall, you may try this tool — otherwise just get in touch and I’ll be happy to help.
The list kept on growing as I was writing the post, and now contains 33 links. To help the reader, ★ identify top picks.
- ★ Private Schools Have Become Truly Obscene An in-depth dive into U.S. private schools and how they worsen economic and social divides. Resonates with this 2014 article The Mobility Myth which also presents the amazing work of economist Raj Chetty and his team on social mobility.
- ★ Can Progressives Be Convinced That Genetics Matters? Behavior geneticist Kathryn Paige Harden tells the story of her research and how difficult it is to maintain a scientific middle-ground in an increasingly polarized public discourse. She has an interesting discussion with Sam Harris on his podcast (listen directly here).
- David Graeber’s Possible Worlds The life and work of anarchist anthropologist David Graeber who passed away in September 2020.
- Adam Curtis Explains It All Adam Curtis is a British filmmaker interested in the intersection between history, ideology and social psychology. His movies are like collages, carving out new ways of understanding the world and its changes. The article focuses on his latest movie.
- ★ The Real Benefits Of Staying Off Social Media There is a lot written about our contemporary relationship with technology, and this article summarizes the evidence quite well, speaking from lived experience. This other one is a good follow-up article: ★ Pursue High-quality Leisure.
- For New Year’s Resolutions, Never Think You’re Too Old to Become a Beginner Don’t be afraid to start something new and be bad at it. This article also talks about the importance of being bad at something: The Mental Benefits of Being Terrible at Something.
- Learning Curve: Learning to Suffer A small essay on how suffering is part of life and how endurance sports can help us get used to the mental challenges that suffering causes.
- Is the Western way of raising kids weird? A different perspective on how children are raised around the world.
- Identify a Remarkable Trait in Anyone. Then Either Copy or Avoid It Very short, everything is in the title, but great advice to remind oneself from time to time.
- Advice for Young Scientists—and Curious People in General Selected extracts from Nobel Prize-winning biologist Peter Medawar.
- ★ How are Rome’s monuments still standing? Talks about the special type of concrete that the Romans used to build, which lasted almost 2,000 years, versus 100 years for modern concrete. The future of concrete might be in Roman recipes!
- ★ Unboxing the hidden politics of SimCity Don’t know if you ever played SimCity, but this video goes “behind the curtain” and exposes the underlying ideology behind one of the world’s most successful strategy video game.
- Why Tokyo Works The title is pretty self-explanatory: what are some of the key ingredients that make one of the biggest cities in the world work pretty well? Hint: public transportation.
- How a dearth of tourists has transformed Barcelona’s property market Looks at the effect of the pandemic on Barcelona’s real-estate market. (Use the tool linked above to access.)
- Why New York’s Billionaires’ Row Is Half Empty New York recently built some of the most crazy skyscrapers, and here’s an analysis of the economics behind such luxurious buildings.
- As birth rates fall, animals prowl in our abandoned ‘ghost villages’ How some regions are emptying and what does that mean for human settlements and biodiversity.
- Habitat 67, Montreal’s ‘failed dream’ A short history and critique of the highly innovative (at the time) Habitat 67, a housing project built for the 1967 Universal Exhibition in Montreal.
- How Early Megacities Emerged From the Jungles of Cambodia The story of old cities in South-East Asia and what led to their abandonment.
- When Is the Revolution in Architecture Coming? A critique of contemporary architecture being too cold and disconnected from people’s lives. Disclaimers: he is not an architect (at all), and I don’t necessarily agree with all his arguments, but I found his perspective interesting.
- ★ A dead battery dilemma The issues linked with increasing the share of electric vehicles, in particular producing and recycling their batteries.
- Cycling is ten times more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero cities Of course, it comes to no surprises that bicycles will save the world!
- Biodiversity decline will require millions of years to recover The biodiversity decline that we are creating is not temporary and will have dramatic consequences for centuries to come.
- Living Mediterranean Report This report documents the collapse of Mediterranean biodiversity.
- ★ Thirty-six Thousand Feet Under the Sea The fascinating adventure of 21st century explorers and how their crazy personalities collide.
- ★ 21 old films from 1895 to 1902 colorized and upscaled in 60 fps, with sound Denis Shiryaev has been uploading some of the first ever made films completely restored in 4K and colorized. I find it really amazing to watch the oldest moving images in such high quality — puts things in perspective.
- Stromatolites: The Earth’s oldest living lifeforms A story about very old living organisms and how the Earth became what it is today.
- 400-year-old Greenland shark ‘longest-living vertebrate’ Just amazing how long an animal may live: this shark was already 150 years old when the U.S. became a country.
- The digital natives are not who you think it is A humorous comment on the new “digital native” buzzword: true digital natives are the ones who know how computers work, as opposed to those who know how to scroll and make TikTok videos.
- The Body’s Most Embarrassing Organ Is an Evolutionary Marvel A history of the anus, which apparently is an amazing organ.
- Are We on the Verge of Chatting with Whales? The article starts by proposing a definition of language (always an interesting challenge) and how some biologists are using machine learning to try to communicate with sperm whales.
- CERN 2019 WorldWideWeb Rebuild A team at the CERN recreated the original World Wide Web browser. A true delight to be able to browse the Web as it originally looked like.