Does our body tell us when we can't go any farther, or does our brain? A look at marathon runners and the science behind human endurance.
"A classic situation in which athletes believe they have hit a true physical limit is 'bonking' during a marathon: you stagger to a halt, ostensibly because your body runs out of carbohydrates. When Noakes started running in the 1970s, the standard advice was to drink only water during long races. Then, in the late stages of a sixty-four-kilometre race one year, he tried a few spoonfuls of corn syrup. 'Five minutes later, I just started running. I finished that race faster than I ever finished,' he recalls. 'It was like the brain released something.” The discovery led to the first external funding ('a thousand rand in a brown paper packet,' he says) for his nascent sports science lab, to study the effects of corn syrup on participants in South Africa’s Stellenbosch marathon.
"The fact that the corn syrup worked seems to support the idea that the body is limited by its finite store of carbohydrates. But it almost worked too well, and Noakes began to question whether carbohydrates could even reach the muscles that quickly. Sure enough, recent experiments in Britain have shown that your brain picks up the presence of carbohydrates in your mouth via previously unknown sensors, anticipates that fuel is headed to your muscles, and allows you to go a bit faster — even if you trick it by spitting out the carbs rather than swallowing them to replenish your muscles."
PUBLISHED: June 20, 2012
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5442 words)
A woman who grew up near her grandmother's farm with a large extended family recalls her childhood, and how things will be different for her children and their children as her family shrinks. (A Best American Essays 2012 notable essay):
"This shift is evident in our family. Counting spouses and not counting our cousins’ kids, I have 17 aunts and uncles and 22 cousins on my side of the family, and Brandon has ten aunts and uncles and 16 cousins on his side. On the other hand, my three kids have two uncles and an aunt on my side, with hopes of cousins, someday, and an aunt and uncle and two cousins on my husband’s side. And that’s it. Our family is gradually shrinking.
"As more families choose to have two or fewer children, the population is beginning to plateau. I don’t know what that means economically, but I know for me it means a growing void. As our family ages and our grandparents pass away, there will come a time when the large extended family will no longer get together for every holiday; with the patriarchs and matriarchs alive only in our jokes and memories, we will eventually begin to celebrate special occasions with our more immediate family. Fifty of my grandma’s descendants attended her 80th birthday party. Today, celebrating my dad’s birthday with just his offspring would include five children and three grandchildren."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 1, 2012
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5111 words)
The secrets of Moneyball, eight years later. "The young men had heaps of fun, working crazy hours and, to blow off steam, knocking golf balls around the office, playing football among the cubicles and celebrating big wins with postgame refreshments at Boston watering holes. Then one day in 2002, a best-selling writer by the name of Michael Lewis walked into the Red Sox offices and knocked the smile right off Epstein's face. Lewis was working on a book about baseball's nascent information age, but Epstein wanted nothing to do with him. 'I can't believe Billy is letting him write this book,' he told his colleagues. Billy Beane, Oakland's general manager, had granted Lewis access to his front-office operations, which meant revealing how the A's were mining information from statistical analysis, a tool used extensively at the time by only the Athletics, Indians, Blue Jays and Red Sox. 'He's handing out the blueprint,' Epstein told Hoyer."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 21, 2011
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4711 words)
With three Michelin stars to Grant Achatz's name and many critics convinced that Alinea is now the best restaurant in the United States, Achatz and Kokonas are in an enviable position: They can do what they want. ... Take, for instance, Next's reservation system. There are no reservations. If you want to eat there, you will have to buy tickets through Next's website. So far, 15,000 have signed up to be notified when tickets go on sale.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 16, 2011
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5676 words)