In last week’s State of the Union address, President Obama reminded us of China’s turbocharged economy outstripping our own. But when it comes to the global culture war for hearts and minds, the United States remains the unrivaled superpower. For now. Next, last month, thousands of mathematicians attended the Joint Mathematics Meeting in Boston — the largest annual gathering of its kind. In addition to presentations on phylogenetic algebraic geometry and trace formulas, the conference featured an art exhibition, with 80 artists presenting more than 120 works. Then, in Mexico’s drug war, nearly 50,000 people are estimated to have been killed since 2006, and there seems to be no end in sight. A new film called Miss Bala is an artful, riveting depiction of that war, and it isn’t the good guys-bad guys shoot-em-up you might expect. After that, the drummer Jack DeJohnette has recorded with all the jazz superheroes of the last half century — Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Keith Jarrett, to name a few. He was recently named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, recognizing a lifetime of contributions to the field.Following that, we received hundreds of submissions to our 420-character-story challenge. Although the contest is over, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to call a couple more authors and have them read their work.And finally, In 2009 the composer Eve Beglarian spent four months traveling down the Mississippi River — from the Headwaters in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. She made the trip mostly in a kayak, trading off for a bicycle on some stretches. But “it wasn’t stressful exercise,” she tells Kurt Andersen. “It was that kind of wonderful exercise where your mind can travel as you’re travelling. And I think it put me in a different kind of place in relation to the sources of my creativity.” [Broadcast Date: Feburary 4, 2012] 1. Language: English. Narrator: Kurt Andersen. Audio sample: http://samples.audible.de/rt/stud/120204/rt_stud_120204_sample.mp3. Digital audiobook in aax.