Hundreds of years later, a Black composer gets his due

Hundreds of years later, a Black composer gets his due

Vicente Lusitano was an African-Portuguese composer and music theorist who was most likely born between 1520 and 1522, and who died sometime after 1562. Probably the child of an enslaved African woman and a Portuguese noble, Lusitano traversed Europe in a career that saw him depart the Iberian Peninsula for Rome as a Catholic priest in 1550 and, around a decade later, relocate from Italy to Germany as a married Protestant. He wrote sacred and secular vocal music, taught extensively and produced scholarship that includes a unique manuscript treatise on improvised vocal counterpoint. But until recently, Lusitano has been mostly overlooked by music histories. He has been omitted altogether in some instances, and his appearances in centuries of academic literature have consistently minimized his biography.

The Renaissance riddle known as the Sola Busca tarot card deck

Considered the oldest complete seventy-eight card tarot deck in existence, the Sola Busca — named for the family of Milanese nobles who owned it for some five generations — was the first to be produced using copperplate engraving. It is also the earliest known tarot deck that illustrates the Major and Minor Trumps in the way that has become the standard, with characters and objects depicting allegorical scenes. In the Renaissance era this would have been revolutionary, while, today, some of these cards may seem familiar. In 1909, when Arthur Edward Waite commissioned artist Pamela Colman–Smith to illustrate his The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (1910), she drew inspiration — and for nearly a dozen cards, the exact imagery — from the Sola Busca deck.

Why some of the smartest people can be so stupid

A few years before he died in exile from Nazism, the Austrian novelist Robert Musil delivered a lecture in Vienna, ‘On Stupidity’ (1937). Dumbness, for Musil, was ‘straightforward’, indeed almost ‘honourable’. Stupidity was something very different and much more dangerous: dangerous precisely because some of the smartest people, the least dumb, were often the most stupid. Musil’s lecture contains an important set of questions. What exactly is stupidity? How does it relate to morality: can you be morally good and stupid? How does it relate to vice: is stupidity a kind of prejudice, perhaps? And why is it so domain-specific: why are people often stupid in one area and insightful in another?

This company is about to grow new organs in a person for the first time

A volunteer in Boston, Massachusetts was the first to trial a new treatment that could end up creating a second liver in their body. And that’s just the start—in the months to come, other volunteers will test doses that could leave them with up to six livers in their bodies. A company called LyGenesis hopes to save people with deadly liver diseases who are not eligible for transplants. Their approach is to inject liver cells from a donor into the lymph nodes of sick recipients, which can give rise to entirely new miniature organs. These mini livers should help compensate for an existing diseased one. The approach appears to work in mice, pigs, and dogs. Now we’ll find out if it works in people.

Forest lizards genetically morph to survive life in the city

Lizards that once dwelled in forests but now slink around urban areas have genetically morphed to survive life in the city, researchers have found. The Puerto Rican crested anole, a brown lizard with a bright orange throat fan, has sprouted special scales to better cling to smooth surfaces like walls and windows and grown larger limbs to sprint across open areas, scientists say. “We are watching evolution as it’s unfolding,” said Kristin Winchell, a biology professor at NYU and main author of the study, which analyzed 96 Anolis cristatellus lizards, comparing the genetic makeup of forest-dwellers to those living in Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, as well as the northern city of Arecibo.

The strangely beautiful experience of Google reviews

Will McCarthy writes about his fondness for reading Google reviews of random places and objects: "Google Reviews taps you into a nearly infinite community of people who have, out of the goodness of their hearts, shared their experiences. But in reality, it’s not always like that. Most of the time, reviews alternate between angry, comically banal, and downright bizarre. I was riding my bike through Baja California, and one night I planned poorly and got stuck in the dark next to a small concrete overpass. Looking on Google Maps, I noticed the overpass had a name, and also had nine Google reviews. Three of these reviews included comments, which Google translated from Spanish. “Basic bridge,” Pedro Monroy Cruz wrote. “Ugly,” Jesus Garibay observed. “Excellent road condition,” Karina Núñez commented."

Candles can be re-lit by igniting the smoke