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MinnPost Picks: on Katherine Johnson, a Muppets song, and the wonder that is Wikipedia

Our weekly roundup of great stories from around the web, as recommended by MinnPost’s staff and contributing journalists.

Katherine G. Johnson
President Barack Obama presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson on November 24, 2015.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria
“Mahna Mahna at 50: fascinating facts about the unforgettable Muppets song,” CBC

Jennifer Van Evra shares the story of a silly Italian song from a sexy Swedish film that became an earworm for GenXers. The original version first aired on “Sesame Street” in November 1969, and was performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show” three days later. The “Sullivan” appearance turned it into an immediate classic. Two “anything muppets” would start the tune, then be interrupted by a gruff male-voiced muppet scatting his nonsensical verse to the melody from George Shearing’s “Lullaby of Birdland.” The British “Office” and the band Cake are referenced for their versions. Give it a try the next time you’re at a karaoke bar. —Corey Anderson, design director

“The Nuclear Family Was A Mistake,” The Atlantic

David Brooks has had some strange takes lately, but this is a thoughtful one. In it, Brooks argues the American nuclear family ideal — mom, dad, kid(s) — only worked for a brief moment when many moms stayed home and kids were raised more communally between neighbors. Furthermore, he suggests our culture’s continued obsession with that ideal puts a huge burden on parents and leaves families isolated. —Greta Kaul, data reporter

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“Katherine Johnson Dies at 101; Mathematician Broke Barriers at NASA,” The New York Times

Hopefully at this point we’ve all heard the story of Katherine Johnson — one of a group of African-American women mathematicians at NASA whose work led to the 1969 moon landing. This obituary tells the story of her life beautifully and how she overcame racial and gender discrimination in her career. The lead paragraph, alone, is the best thing I’ve read so far today. —Jessica Lee, local government reporter

“Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet,” Wired

It’s the eighth-most visited website in the world, notes Richard Cooke, whose views on the still-much-maligned collaborative enterprise are clear from the title. “More than an encyclopedia,” he writes, “Wikipedia has become a community, a library, a constitution, an experiment, a political manifesto — the closest thing there is to an online public square.” —Susan Albright, managing editor