Monday, October 3, 2011

Link roundup

1. Neal Stephenson is active on Google+ and also wrote an article lamenting stagnation in scientific development. (After about 200 pages, I'm finding Reamde to be just so-so.)

2. Meet Nicolas Berggruen:

Billionaire Nicolas Berggruen harbors a distaste for baggage, real and emotional. Over the decades, he's built a $2.2 billion fortune by snapping up hotels and stakes in companies like German department-store chain Karstadt and Spanish media conglomerate Prisa. But along the way, he has made a point of shedding the paintings, estates and other trappings that typically keep billionaires occupied. Even ordinary possessions that make other people feel "human," he says, have no place in his life. At 50, Berggruen is without a house, a car or even a wristwatch. He never married, nor does he have any children. He hopscotches around the globe living out of hotels, and on a recent sun-baked Saturday afternoon, home was the Hotel Cipriani, perched at the edge of Venice.

3. Tennis today:
How on earth, you ask yourself, are Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic hitting the ball so hard and keeping it in the court?

Part of the answer lies in the new generation of strings. As this video below from The Atlantic shows (and an accompanying story explains), the co-poly strings in use today — which spread through the pro game only over the last year decade or so — generate more spin than ever. They do so because they’re more slippery than prior string designs. Because the strings easily slide across one another, they can slip back and then snap back to position — all while they’re grabbing the ball — to create more spin. ... all these players hit with spin almost no one could produce even a few years ago.