Nick Riggle’s new book out now

How to Be Awesome is out now from Penguin Books. Nick was recently interviewed in Scientific American about the book.

How did you become interested in awesomeness, and what is it, exactly? A good person is great; but an awesome person—they’re on another level. I’m all for tasty sandwiches; but I’d rather have an awesome one. In a Socratic spirit I started wondering what was going on with “awesome” and whether there was anything to gain from a philosophical inquiry into its contemporary significance. I started to notice that “awesome” is often being used in a distinctive social sense to talk about people and actions that bring people together in a certain way. []

Peter McGraw’s research featured in the NY Times

Peter McGraw and his Humor Research Lab were referenced in the essay, “Is Nothing Funny, Mr. President?”

Whether in public or in private, politicians use humor to identify, and ultimately to uphold, unwritten norms. This is best explained using what the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Peter McGraw, founder of the Humor Research Lab, has called “benign violation theory.” We laugh when something breaks one of life’s many rules. This is why, at the White House Correspondents’ dinner, President Obama could chastise Republicans for failing to reach beyond their base (“Call me self-centered, but I can think of one minority they could start with”), or pretend to lose his cool over climate change deniers as “Luther, my anger translator” tried and failed to calm him down. By stepping up to the line without crossing it, a commander in chief tacitly acknowledges that a line exists. []

Wall Street Journal: Gretchen Rubin’s Great Expectations

The self-help author on how she responds to expectations, keeps up habits and follows obsessions.

In 1996, Gretchen Rubin was working as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she started to think that a legal career wasn’t for her. For one thing, she enjoyed writing, but she found little satisfaction in the dense, technical jargon of the law. “I was like Scarlett O’Hara, and I said, ‘As God is my witness! I will never write in such a confusing, obfuscatory way,’ ” she says. []

Bob Pozen’s latest at MarketWatch

Read Bob Pozen’s piece on “how Republicans and Democrats can come together to fix health care.”

Now that Senate Republicans have failed to agree on any health-care bill, is it feasible for a bipartisan majority to enact health-care reform? The Senate will hold health-care hearings in early September, while a bipartisan coalition in the House has put forth six incremental proposals. []

Wall Street Journal review of David Baron’s American Eclipse

The WSJ have reviewed the David Baron’s new book.

On July 29, 1878, a hundred-mile-wide patch of midday darkness swept across a swath of the western United States. It was a total solar eclipse—a rare transit of the moon directly between earth and sun. Across the still-wild West, thousands of stargazers gathered, chasing a few minutes of astronomical measurements and ecstatic experience. Afterward, famed Scottish astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth congratulated his colleagues across the Atlantic on a scientific spectacle “which American men, and American instruments, methods, & ideas, have made more peculiarly & grandly American, than any Solar Eclipse you have… []