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Nobel Drama, Romney’s Knockout, and a Defense of Chick-Lit

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Mitt Romney smiles after the first presidential debate on Wednesday night.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/GettyImages.

 “Romney’s Big Night: The first presidential debate was Mitt Romney’s best moment so far. Will it last?” by John Dickerson. Viewers and pundits declared Romney the winner of the first presidential debate. John Dickerson explains where Obama went wrong—but questions whether Romney can sustain his momentum. Also, David Weigel reported from the spin room,  and William Saletan looks into why Romney won’t share details about his tax plans.

Who Will Win a Nobel Prize? Everything you need to know about the contenders, rivalries, scandals, and politics of the famous awards,” by Laura Helmuth. Like your prestige with a side of drama? Laura Helmuth walks us through the sometimes contentious history of the Nobel science awards, and Slate writers and editors share their Nobel predictions.

Who Mastered Fire? The heated archaeological debate about which hominids first started cooking,” by L.V. Anderson. Is cooking a fundamental aspect of human evolution, or just a late-stage perk? L.V. Anderson examines the surprisingly divergent theories about the world’s first chefs and whether they got their start 1.8 million, 400,000, or 12,000 years ago.

Better Than Fast Food: How Wendy’s 1980s turnaround changed the fast food business,” by Katy Waldman. How did Wendy’s go from facing bankruptcy to redefining fast food in America? Waldman explores the booms and busts of McDonald’s “wholesome little sister.”

Introducing Political Kombat ‘12: The presidential campaign told as a series of video game fights,” by Andrew Bouve and Taige Jensen. For a lighter take, Slate V reimagines the presidential campaign as a video game in this five-part series. First, watch Rick Santorum trap Romney in sweater-vests. Next, watch Romney duel with Newt Gingrich on his moon-base. Finally, watch Obama face off with Donald Trump. Stay tuned for Joe Biden vs. Paul Ryan, and the ultimate battle, Obama vs. Romney.

 “This Picture Is Worth 1,000 Pictures,” by Judith B. Herman. This week, Slate’s new photoblog Behold features “hyperphotos” by Paris-based photographer Jean-François Rauzier. The hyperphotos are 10,000 times the resolution of a normal photograph, allowing viewers to zoom in and see unbelievably detailed landscapes.

My Insignificant Year: A miserable basketball team, a Nazi classmate, a fateful standardized test: notes on the indignities of the seventh grade,” by Stephen Tobolowsky. A middle school keepsake unearthed in his old room sends the author down memory lane. What he finds isn’t pretty: bloviating coaches and bullies wielding sharpened pencils as daggers. “I had always suspected that the adult world was crueler than it pretended to be,” he writes. “Now I was certain of it.”

In the Slate Book Review, Simon Reynolds discusses a slew of new books claiming that artists are little more than curators of modern culture, recycling old ideas in new ways. (It turns out reports of creativity’s death have been greatly exaggerated.) Alex Balk examines two new books on the history and etymology of the term asshole, and poses the profound question: What kind of asshole are you? And Dan Savage traces the history of gay rights back to one brave writer’s very public coming out.

The Victory Lap: Republicans suddenly love Mitt Romney—even if he sounds like a moderate governor from Massachusetts,” David Weigel. After campaigning as an extreme right-winger, Mitt Romney swung back toward the center—just in time for the first presidential debate. David Weigel reports on why Republicans don’t mind Romney’s sudden turnaround. 

 “I Wrote a Chick-Lit Novel: And I’m proud of it,” by Jessica Grose. Who say there isn’t enough room in the world for Freedom and Bridget Jones’s Diary? Grose defends her decision to write chick-lit for an overwhelmingly female fiction market.