The New Year

“There is a tree with twelve branches, with thirty apples in each branch, and each apple has a white half and a black half.” The Armenians of the pre-Christian era represented with this simple riddle the tree of life. It was the year. The chromatic duality was a metaphor for day and night, but also, for the good and bad news. And for humility in victory and consolation in defeat, they used to say: “There is always tomorrow.”

Why acoustics matter, even outside a concert hall

We live in the era of noise. So much so, that we no longer hear the TVs idling on as we talk, and we can’t pin down what’s so annoying about a perfectly mute office (it gets worse when a colleague opens a pack of chips), yet love the layered sounds that concur at Grand Central Station of New York. Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times takes us for a walk through the sounds of the city’s landmarks and houses, taverns and streets. He explains why we don’t mind, and are actually pleased, by the ruffling sound of pages in a space of silence, like a library, yet can find spectacular views of the city claustrophobic: windows are not only meant to be viewed but also opened to the sounds of the outside world, even in the depth of winter to hear, as it were, the silence of snow. For noise is another name for the sounds of silence.

Limited Internet for Free: Would you take Facebook’s offer?

Facebook is offering in India a free service of Internet, with access to a limited number of websites including its own. It has found resistance, prompting company founder Mark Zuckerberg to lobby hard for it, comparing it to libraries and hospitals. Critics oppose it because it challenges net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers should give access to all legal content and applications on an equal basis, without favoring some sites and blocking others. Zuckerberg is hardly driven by altruism alone: India is home to the largest number of Facebook users outside the U.S. Yet he may have a point: it’s better some access to Internet than none at all, especially for users who cannot afford carrier fees, no matter how democratic the service provided is.