Weekend reads: Rhapsody in (ocean) blue, the diary of Ann Arbor, the forest for the beans

Kathleen Escarcha's reads

In the lower level of the Literati Bookstore, you'll find a lone typewriter. The owners set the typewriter out in 2013 with the idea that patrons might write a round-robin style story. Instead, visitors have left thousands of pages of notes that range from poems, quotes, to personal confessions. People type out poignant thoughts on cats or advice for recent grads at the nearby University of Michigan. "It's just been a wonderful sort of diary of a town," says Literati’s owner, "happening in a bookstore."

In 1907, a pigeon, strapped with a small camera, took aerial photos in flight. Julius Neubronner, a German apothecary, invented the pigeon camera to track his flock's flight routes as they delivered prescriptions. The pigeon photos are among the first wave of aerial photos. I love how energetic the photos feel; they’re often askew, out of focus, or obscured by a wing.

Emily Arnim's reads

Chocolate forests are taking over the Amazon. Cattle ranchers in Brazil are planting cocoa trees on trampled pastures in the Amazon Rainforest in an effort to increase revenue without additional deforestation. Ranchers have historically cleared land in the Amazon for cattle grazing, but locals and conservationists alike worry that any additional deforestation will further destroy wildlife habitats and inhibit the planet’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide. Now cattle ranchers are undoing some of that damage by planting cocoa plantations—causing Brazil to become one of the world’s largest cocoa producers.

Oceanographers studying bowhead whales off the coast of Greenland reveal the species’ mating songs are as complex as jazz. Twenty-four hours a day, beneath solid ice, bowhead whales are creating some of the most intricate sounds made by any species in the animal kingdom. Scientists aren’t completely sure why these giant songbirds create such complex tunes. They argue more research is needed to learn about the “70% of our globe that is ocean.”

Kristin Tyndall's read

Everyone loves a good Einstein quote—even if Einstein never said it. This recent article explores the appeal of quoting (and misquoting) the popular scientist. In general, people use his name to lend credibility and a hint of rebellion to a statement about life, the universe, or anything else. They trade on Einstein's "reputation as a genius and an iconoclast." But how did he get such a powerful reputation in the first place? The answer to that question lies in the story of how Einstein rose to worldwide fame and influenced a generation of scientists, authors, and artists.

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