Latest reviews

5 stars
One of our favorite restaurants in Québec City

This afghan restaurant is one of our two favorite restaurants in the city! It’s Afghan dishes (best to be shared with your group) are wonderfully delicious, the staff is very friendly and in the summer you can also sit outside. To be honest, I’m getting hungry by just thinking about their wonderful, wonderful food while writing this review.

It’s also “apportez votre vin”[1], which means that the final bill will end up even more modest than you might expect from only looking at the (anyways very reasonably priced) food on the menu.

[1]: “Bring your own wine”, or BYOB, which means they do not sell alcohol but you can bring your own bottle of wine and they will open it for you with no charge.

5 stars
Eclectic combination of bar and restaurant

We have tried the Rideau Rouge the first time during Poutine Week, trying their (awesome!) poutine creation. We passed the Rideau Rouge a couple of times on Avenue Cartier before, but it’s downstairs entrance has never really motivated us to actually go there (it has a bit of a red-light look from the outside, which I guess is intentional but not in any way representative). Now we know that we have missed out all the time!

The Rideau Rouge is a unique combination, in that it looks and feels just like your run-of-the-mill American bar (in a good, laid-back way), but at the same time offers an unexpectedly diverse and delicious selection of food. They delight by adopting their food to the occasion: for Super Bowl, you will find typically American bar food, while two weeks later for Valentine’s Day, they will present an almost “haute cuisine” romantic dinner menu.

If you find yourself in the area, give that downstairs entrance a try!

5 stars
Charming café and co-working space in Bordeaux

I was in Bordeaux a couple of weeks last year and was thus looking for a co-working space during the day. What can I say - I discovered Le Buro des Possibles and fell immediately in love with this cozy café and co-working place in the middle of the old town!

Le Buro des Possibles has a small coffee area and a separate area that is dedicated for co-working, where you can rent a place by the hour (or about 20 EUR for the whole day). This includes a seat plus free coffee, tea, water, delicious cakes (dangerous!) and a very fast and reliable wifi connection (they change the password every week, which increases security and ensures that it is really reserved for the co-working customers).

For lunch, they offer the choice between usually two to three vegetarian options, which you can add to your co-working bill. They are not the largest portions, which can sometimes be a pity as they are always very delicious, but that probably compensates for your cake consumption (see above). ;)

If you are looking for a coworking space in Bordeaux, I can whole-heartedly recommend Le Buro des Possibles, and when I come back to Bordeaux I will definitely start working there again!

5 stars
Gorgeous books that make chemistry accessible through powerful visual explanations and humor

In a previous life, Theodore Gray co-founded Wolfram Research and led the design of the user interface for Mathematica, a comprehensive technical computing software package used in many fields. Since leaving Wolfram Research, Gray has focused on conveying his own passion and excitement for science through books, iOS apps and artistic projects like a physical periodic table.

The Elements, Molecules and Reactions is a trilogy of richly illustrated books best enjoyed in their beautiful hardcover editions, written by Gray with photographer Nick Mann and other collaborators.

As you might expect, the first book, The Elements, takes the reader on a journey through the periodic table. I found this book the weakest of the trilogy; the structure forces the author several times to say that element so-and-so is just not very interesting, so why don’t we just move on. That said, the photographs are still gorgeous, and the book contains a good introduction to concepts like the atomic orbitals.

In contrast, Molecules and Reactions are much more substantive, offering powerful explanations for why atoms stick together in certain configurations—or come apart—while introducing just enough jargon to give you the foundation for learning more, if you want to. The explanation for entropy offered in Reactions is, by far, the best I’ve ever come across.

The Elements, Molecules and Reactions opened up to a random page (Credit: Theodore Gray and Nick Mann. Fair use.)

A Cabinet of Curiosities

The books rely heavily on Gray’s vast personal collection of objects that represent different elements and molecules, including rare and dangerous ones. Opening up a few random pages, I find photographs of opium boxes, a Kevlar glove, trombone oil, and an antique tin of saccharin.

Rather than lots of text with smaller photos, the images take center stage. In The Elements, each element in the periodic table gets at least one full photo page (you can preview the pages here). In addition to photos, Molecules and Reactions also make frequent use of chemical drawings in a simplified style that is easy to understand.

The text and images are presented in an unusual free-flowing layout that doesn’t always work perfectly if you’re reading in one sitting, but which makes the books a pleasure to pick up and open to a random page, even after you’ve finished them. Gray writes in an informal, casual style, for example (from Molecules):

“Undecane—a straight-chain hydrocarbon with eleven carbons—is, I swear, a moth pheromone. They use it to attract mates, in much the same way the human male uses it in sports carts (it’s one of the higher-numbered hydrocarbons in gasoline).”

The books also use lots of humor and personal anecdotes, but unlike a book like “We Have No Idea”, it’s on the whole more focused on explaining things than delivering puns or jokes. Reading any book in the trilogy feels a bit like visiting a museum (or a cabinet of curiosities) with your personal tour guide who explains everything with a wink and a half-smile.

The Verdict

I personally started with Molecules; if I had begun with The Elements, I’m not sure I would have kept going. It’s not a bad book, it’s just not nearly as gripping as the other two. As it is, I finished all three books within a few weeks (there’s not that much text).

I was neither especially good nor especially bad at chemistry in school, but I never felt that the explanations I got out of it actually helped me understand the “why”. Why do atoms prefer certain configurations over others? Why do chemical reactions release energy? Why can small changes in a chemical formula represent such massive changes in a molecule’s appearance or behavior?

Gray’s books help any reader to at least grapple with these questions in a more informed and intuitive way. They make a great gift for curious teenagers, but I would also recommend them to any lifelong learner. If you can, you’ll want to buy or borrow the whole set, but if you just want to check out one book, I suggest making it Molecules or Reactions.

5 stars
Un'idea innovativa!  it è un sito che ha delle ottime potenzialità, sono appena arrivato su questo progetto e spero che migliori nel tempo sempre di più.

5 stars
I love this app

I start with my first review with an app I personally love, this app provide many functionalities, it’s fast and secure. I don’t think this app has negative aspects, so I’ll leave 5 stars

5 stars
The noisebridge hackerspace is excellent!

noisebridge is a beautiful, cozy and inspiring anarchist hackerspace in SF full of excellent people. They always let me in when I ring the bell even though I’m not a member. It is definitely the best place to go in San Francisco whether you’re looking to disappear into the machine for a few hours, discuss the coming revolution or simply hack the planet!

3 stars
Would have made a great novella; as a 702-page novel, it overpromises and underdelivers

The premise of Sleeping Beauties, a father-son collaboration between Stephen and Owen King, is compelling: as the world’s women fall asleep, they are covered in mysterious white cocoons. Waking them up is a very bad idea with frequently lethal consequences. The world’s men, together with the dwindling number of women who manage to stay awake, attempt to figure out what’s going on. And the story of the sleeping women turns out to be more complex, as well.

The book focuses on how the crisis plays out in the fictional town of Dooling, West Virginia. King/King bring the characters to life quickly: the driven town sheriff Lila Norcross and her reserved husband Clint, who is a psychiatrist at the women’s prison; the world-weary prison warden, Janice Coates and her daughter Michaela, a national TV news celebrity; the inmates of the women’s prison; the town’s bullies and creeps.

The book’s core strength are these beautifully portrayed characters. They kept me invested over the 700 or so pages. But this length also puts the book’s weaknesses into sharp relief. Almost the entire plot takes place in Dooling. It’s fine for a story about a world-changing crisis to have a hyperlocal focus, but the conceit that only the actions within a tiny American town are truly relevant to what happens in the whole world is difficult to swallow.

After hundreds of pages of build-up, the book’s central confrontation is ultimately resolved in an anticlimactic fashion, with limited payoff or resolution. Confrontations between the book’s characters often don’t add up to much in the larger plot; they serve merely as symbols embedded in an ambiguous allegorical message about gender roles.

Sleeping Beauties is timely; it forces the reader to ask themselves moral questions about their own relationship with men and women: How would I act in this situation? Do I know people who would act like this character? Some may find it “too political”, but it really doesn’t have much of a prescriptive message that it whacks you over the head with, and King has always blended his own liberalism into his work.

But it has other issues. Sleeping Beauties could have been an epic, gripping story like King’s post-apocalytpic masterpiece, The Stand; it could have been a poignant parable about gender and power. Instead, it overpromises and underdelivers. 3.5 stars because of the great characterizations and some powerful ideas that stay with you, but rounded down because it falls short of its potential.

In spite of these criticisms, I hope that father and son will continue to collaborate; there’s a dynamism and attention to detail here that I’ve missed in some of King’s recent works, and that holds the promise of greatness.

4 stars
Concise and thoughtful, if a bit random, recommendations from the "Cool Tools" crowd

Kevin Kelly is best known as the founding executive editor of Wired and as a former editor and publisher of the Whole Earth Review. A prolific writer about technology, he also edits Cool Tools, a blog reviewing technology that “really works”. Recomendo is its newsletter offshoot.

Each issue (sample) highlights six finds—tools, websites, videos, and so on—with a summary written by a member of the Cool Tools team. There’s no real unifying theme here; it’s just stuff that is of interest to the writers, whether that happens to be a meat chopper, an online piggy bank, or a set of videos about cryptocurrencies. There’s also no strong ethical component (e.g., is it free software? how was it made?), so you may feel the need to do additional research on the items that are featured.

The descriptions are concise and useful, often relaying the author’s personal experience with a given item. While links to are affiliate links, it’s pretty clear that this newsletter is a passion project first and foremost.

If you enjoy stumbling upon useful tools and tech and don’t mind skim-reading to find it, I recommend the subscription, but check out the previous issues to see if it’s for you.

5 stars
The gift of science, well-explained and beautifully packaged

Quanta Magazine is one of two websites published by the Simons Foundation, the vehicle for hedge fund founder James Simons’ philanthropic giving. Quanta focuses on mathematics, physics, computer science and biology. The other publication is Spectrum News, which covers autism research.

The Simons Foundation had more than $2B in net assets as of its 2015 tax return; Quanta is essentially one of its gifts to the public and does not rely on additional support. This makes it similar to Mosaic (reviews), published by the even more massively endowed Wellcome Trust. However, it publishes a lot more frequently: Mosaic tends to publish 2-4 long-form articles per month; Quanta publishes more than a dozen medium-sized articles in the same timeframe.

Financial background

The name Quanta evokes the source of James Simons’ $18.5B fortune: quant investing. Simons, who worked as an NSA codebreaker at age 26, has been described as “the mathematician who cracked Wall Street” for his use of highly sophisticated mathematical models to predict profitable trades. His personal wealth derives from his hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies, which the MIT’s Andrew Lo called the “pinnacle of quant investing” and “the commercial version of the Manhattan Project”.

In 2014, Renaissance was interrogated by the US Senate for the use of an obscure loophole to avoid an estimated $6.8B in capital gains tax, an amount which far exceeds the endowment of the Simons Foundation. Its name has made the news for another reason: Renaissance co-CEO Robert Mercer is one of the biggest backers of Donald Trump’s anti-science Presidency and of the far right, anti-intellectual propaganda outlet Breitbart News, while Simons himself backed Hillary Clinton.

While the philanthropic impulses of the company’s principals are clearly contradictory, Quanta’s editorial beat is unlikely to conflict with Renaissance’s financial origins. Quanta itself has this to say about its editorial independence:

All editorial decisions, including which research or researchers to cover, are made by Quanta’s staff reporting to the editor in chief; editorial content is not reviewed by anyone outside of the news team prior to publication; Quanta has no involvement in any of the Simons Foundation’s grant-giving or research efforts; and researchers who receive funding from the foundation do not receive preferential treatment. The decision to cover a particular researcher or research result is made solely on editorial grounds in service of our readers.

Scope, design, navigation

Quanta’s stated goal is to “illuminate science”. In practice, this translates to articles that seek to arouse curiosity rather than controversy.

Where a magazine like Mosaic doesn’t shy away from in-depth articles about abortion rights in India and the US or sex workers in Mozambique, Quanta tends to write about questions in science that are both interesting and not highly politicized. Over a five-year period, I only found two feature articles with a strong political dimension: “A Physicist Who Models ISIS and the Alt-Right” and “How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering”. Zero articles about abortion, zero about transgender or homosexuality, one whose primary topic is climate change.

This is not a criticism; there surely is a place for a publication like this, which may succeed in reaching people across the political spectrum and promote a greater interest in science itself. Indeed, for the topics it does tackle, Quanta often succeeds spectacularly at making complex topics accessible and interesting.

This starts with the website design: Quanta is easily one of the most beautiful sites we’ve reviewed. The design leaves a lot of room for large-format images, while scaling well onto mobile devices, as well. Careful use of typography, color and whitespace gives the articles an aesthetic that brings together elements of print and the web in a very appealing manner.

Quanta sometimes publishes interactive micro-sites, such as this explorable (and information-rich) map of current contenders for a “Theory of Everything” (Credit: Quanta Magazine. Fair use.)

Alongside recent articles and features, the front page highlights videos, podcasts, most-read articles, and “recommended features” (which includes articles from previous years). Individual pages include tags like “Microbiology” or “Podcast”. Overall the site is easy to navigate. Most content loads without JavaScript enabled, though some site features will break and leave behind empty boxes.

Content examples

Quanta’s reporting on bacteria and biofilms is illustrative of how it approaches complex topics. The feature story, “Bacteria Use Brainlike Bursts of Electricity to Communicate”, recaps well-understood principles of chemical communication in bacterial colonies, and adds recent findings regarding ion channel communication.

The story is supported by quotes from multiple scientists (five from the United States, one from Spain and one from Italy). It includes a GIF animation that was carefully adapted from YouTube videos published by one of the scientist teams. The writing and approach is similar to Scientific American. In fact, the article was also syndicated to its website, and the author has bylines there and in other science magazines.

Quanta published a related feature titled “Seeing the Beautiful Intelligence of Microbes”, which shows many more examples of biofilm and slime mold behavior, again often employing large format GIF animations. This underscores the magazine’s willingness to go beyond the limitations of a print magazine. It’s a visually stunning feature that even readers with limited scientific interest may enjoy.

Expansion of Pseudomonas biofilm, an example of the kind of carefully produced GIF animation that makes many Quanta articles visually outstanding (Credit: Quanta Magazine. Fair use.)

A more elaborate example is Quanta’s 2015 map of “theories of everything”. It’s an interactive full screen overview of physics concepts like loop quantum gravity and the holographic principle, organized into the larger and overlapping areas of knowledge they relate to. This is the kind of resource you may end up returning to as you read about these topics in the news.

Some Quanta articles are accompanied by podcast episodes. Episodes are featured as a prominent “play” button at the top of a regular article for the relevant episode, which looks like an effective way to draw in listeners who don’t typically subscribe to podcasts.

There is also a YouTube channel. As with many other nonprofit publications, it reaches a relatively small audience of less than 10,000 subscribers, though some of the educational videos (e.g., “What is a species?”) are quite good. There are many education/science YouTube channels with orders of magnitude more subscribers, so perhaps a partnership would be more successful at reaching a large audience.


Quanta articles are frequently syndicated to other publications. They are under conventional copyright; in response to an inquiry, a staff member stated that there are no plans to consider a Creative Commons license. This is regrettable: much of the text, image and video content would be useful for open educational resources.

Like Mosaic, Quanta’s funding is secure thanks to a large endowment; it’s not clear why an open access license is off the table. As it is, we can enjoy Quanta for free, but we cannot re-use it and build on it without permission. It is a gift, but one with strings attached.

The Verdict

Quanta succeeds in its mission of making scientific topics accessible, often in a way that inspires further exploration and learning. It’s a beautiful website that makes good use of the web as a medium–through animations, large format photographs, videos, interactives, well-integrated podcasts, and so on.

I recommend following Quanta’s work to any curious person. While I would love to see it under a Creative Commons license, this does not impact the rating per our standard criteria. 5 out of 5 stars.

 Older reviews