Each week, members of the WFPL News team spotlight interesting stories we’ve read and enjoyed, for your weekend reading pleasure:
Gabe Bullard: A researcher grew a bean sprout next to a pole. He took a picture of the sprout every ten minutes. When watched as a slideshow, the photos show the plant growing directly toward the pole, as if it can see it. How did it know the pole was there? But plants can’t see. And whether plants can “know” anything is a fierce debate. Michael Pollan’s story on plant intelligence features a number of amazing anecdotes about smart plants, but it also asks whether terms and traits like intelligence which are only applied to animals (and once, only to humans) can be applied to plants. Are plants smarter than we thought, or are they up to something completely different? Read How Smart Are Plants?
Laura Ellis: Here’s a New York Times article that the Strange Fruit podcast team has been talking about this week. Twenty-five percent of new HIV infections in the U.S. are in black and Hispanic men. When you narrow it down to men under 25 who were infected through gay sex, 80 percent are black or Hispanic. The article goes into the reasons why, which include everything from choice of sex partners, family rejection, no health care access, and even lack of gay black role models. Read Poor Black and Hispanic Men Are the Face of H.I.V.
Joseph Lord: Some say government is too big. Others say government isn’t doing enough. This essay from the National Review (spotlighted by The New York Times’ David Brooks) argues that the government’s biggest issue isn’t its size or scope—it’s its complexity. Government’ lack user-friendliness (you being the user), obscure transparency and are inefficient. Read Kludgeocracy in America.
Bonus: So, Americans aren’t really into the big elaborate funeral arrangements anymore, says this story from Philadelphia Magazine. The story examines the religious, economic and social reasons why people are opting for cremation and downsizing memorial services. Read The Death of the Funeral Business.