Omnium Gatherum: 20jun2021

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for June 20, 2021

Here’s a variety of notable things I’ve recently found that you may also be interested in checking out:

  • Gary K. Wolfe and Liz Bourke Review A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark“—”Like the two earlier stories, it begins as a kind of procedural, as Fatma – now saddled with a junior partner she doesn’t want – investigates the gruesome mass murder of a group of mostly British wannabes calling themselves the Her­metic Brotherhood of Al-Jahiz and supposedly dedicated to “uncovering the wisdom” of the missing wizard. (The echo of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, another band of Brits out to co-opt esoteric teachings from other cultures, might be no accident.)” About A Master of Djinn [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by P Djèlí Clark, book 1 in the Dead Djinn series—”Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark goes full-length for the first time in his dazzling debut novel. Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer. So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world forty years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage. Alongside her Ministry colleagues and a familiar person from her past, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city—or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…”
  • A second space rock hit Earth after the one that doomed the dinosaurs — a nail in the coffin of the mass extinction. One space rock hit Mexico 66 million years ago, causing a mass extinction that doomed the dinosaurs. A study suggests another asteroid struck Ukraine 650,000 years later, possibly warming the climate. These back-to-back impacts may have delayed Earth’s recovery from the mass extinction.”—”About 66 million years ago, Earth took a one-two punch, according to a new study. First came a space rock 6-miles-wide that struck present-day Mexico. The impactor, named Chicxulub, contributed to the demise of the dinosaurs, along with 50% to 75% of life on Earth. Then, 650,000 years later, a mile-sized asteroid known as Boltysh struck. The rock carved out a 15-mile-wide crater into what is now central Ukraine. Scientists once thought both Boltysh and Chicxulub contributed to the mass extinction that doomed the dinosaurs. But according to the study published Friday in the journal Science Advances, Boltysh likely impacted Earth long after the last victims of the extinction died out.”
  • New fossils of giant rhinos — the largest land mammals ever — are found in China. The discovery recalls an important phase of scientific history, and hints at the landscape of Asia millions of years ago.”—”Much larger than modern rhinos, giant rhinos often stood more than 20 feet tall at the shoulder and weighed more than 20 tons, making them bigger than mammoths and the largest land mammal that ever lived.”
  • Weird ‘living fossil’ fish lives 100 years, pregnant for 5.”—”These slow-moving, people-sized fish of the deep, nicknamed a ‘living fossil,’ are the opposite of the live fast, die young mantra. These nocturnal fish grow at an achingly slow pace. Females don’t hit sexual maturity until their late 50s, the study said, while male coelacanths are sexually mature at 40 to 69 years. And maybe strangest of all, researchers figure pregnancy in the fish lasts about five years. Coelacanths, which have been around for 400 million years, were thought extinct until they were found alive in 1938 off South Africa. Scientists long believed coelacanths live about 20 years. But by applying a standard technique for dating commercial fish, French scientists calculated they actually live close to a century, according to a study in Thursday’s Current Biology.”
  • 3200-year-old shrine in Turkey may be an ancient view of the cosmos.”—”‘As an idea, it’s not far-fetched,’ says Efrosyni Boutsikas at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK. Other cultures, ranging from nearby Mesopotamia to distant Mesoamerica, used religious monuments to link terrestrial life with the wider universe. ‘Obviously that makes sense, because that’s exactly what religion does. It addresses universal concerns and the place of the people in the world,’ she says. However, Boutsikas is concerned that many of the team’s interpretations of the images aren’t based on Hittite texts, which say little about astronomy. Instead, the researchers have often used texts from Mesopotamian societies, which influenced the Hittites but were also distinct. She says the evidence would be stronger if similar links between gods and astronomy could be found at other Hittite sites.”
  • Mystery of Galaxy’s Missing Dark Matter Deepens“—”When astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope uncovered an oddball galaxy that looked like it didn’t have much dark matter, some thought the finding was hard to believe and looked for a simpler explanation. Dark matter, after all, is the invisible glue that makes up the bulk of the universe’s matter. All galaxies appear to be dominated by it; in fact, galaxies are thought to form inside immense halos of dark matter. So, finding a galaxy lacking the invisible stuff is an extraordinary claim that challenges conventional wisdom. It would have the potential to upset theories of galaxy formation and evolution.” Also “Going the distance to confirm a galaxy with almost no dark matter.”
  • Hybrid membrane doubles the lifetime of rechargeable batteries. Chemists from the University of Jena prevent dendrite formation in lithium metal batteries.”—”The energy density of traditional lithium-ion batteries is approaching a saturation point that cannot meet the demands of the future – for example in electric vehicles. Lithium metal batteries can provide double the energy per unit weight when compared to lithium-ion batteries. The biggest challenge, hindering its application, is the formation of lithium dendrites, small, needle-like structures, similar to stalagmites in a dripstone cave, over the lithium metal anode. These dendrites often continue to grow until they pierce the separator membrane, causing the battery to short-circuit and ultimately destroying it.”
  • Mayflower Autonomous Ship Begins Transatlantic Crossing Attempt. – AI-powered crewless vessel commences journey from Plymouth UK, to Plymouth, MA USA. – Online dashboard provides live video and data showing ship’s progress. – Vessel to conduct numerous science experiments to help safeguard the future of the ocean.”
  • Ugh. Not now many armed, many teethed ancient deep horror! “Jurassic relict: a new family of Brittle Stars. Long-armed and bristling with teeth, this Brittle Star is a marine relict from the Jurassic era discovered on a remote seamount.” Also “This deep-sea creature is long-armed, bristling with teeth, and the sole survivor of 180 million years of evolution.”
  • Ugh. Not now space arachnids! Thousands Of ‘Ballooning’ Spiders Cloak Australian Town In Webs. Heavy flooding in Victoria prompted a “mass evacuation” of spiders from the waterlogged earth.” OTOH, are they maybe big enough to take out the mouse plague?
  • Ugh. Not now robotic tunneling snake-like sand worms! “Subterranean Investigations. Researchers explore the shallow underground world with a burrowing soft robot” OTOH, can they take care of the spiders and mice? Also: “Bless the Maker and His water. Bless the coming and going of Him. May His passage cleanse the world. May He keep the world for His people.” And, just check out that cuddly muppet in the photo! Who’s a cute Shai Hulud? You’re a cute Shai Hulud! Just don’t anyone tell Doc Oc about this. m’kay?
  • Ugh. Not now heat death of the Universe! “Researchers cool a 40 kg object to near its quantum ground state. Mirrors of the LIGO gravitational-wave detector get cool—extremely cool.”
  • Ugh. FFS. Not now techbrollionare! “Ex-Facebook VR exec says he’ll turn U.S. troops into ‘invincible technomancers,’ just raised $450 million.”—”Anduril founder Palmer Luckey announced Thursday that his new company has raised an additional $450 million in funding, which will be used to ‘turn allied warfighters into invincible technomancers.’ Luckey is best known for selling Oculus to Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion.” Also, from 2018: “Inside Anduril, Palmer Luckey’s Bid to Build a Border Wall. How the Oculus founder, along with ex-Palantir executives, plans to reinvent national security, starting with Trump’s agenda.”
  • Simple urine test may help early detection of brain tumors.”—”A recent study by Nagoya University researchers revealed that microRNAs in urine could be a promising biomarker to diagnose brain tumors. Their findings, published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, have indicated that regular urine tests could help early detection and treatment of brain tumors, possibly leading to improved patient survival.”
  • Meringue-like material could make aircraft as quiet as a hairdryer. Extremely low-density graphene-based aerogel ‘meringue’ can improve passenger comfort and reduce noise up to 80%.”
  • Mystery Solved: Dust Cloud Led to Betelgeuse’s ‘Great Dimming’. The star Betelgeuse became visibly darker in 2019 and 2020, puzzling astronomers. New images show that the star was partially concealed by a cloud of dust, solving the mystery of the “Great Dimming” of Betelgeuse.”
  • How a supermassive black hole originates. UC Riverside-led study points to a seed black hole produced by a dark matter halo collapse.”
  • Graphene ‘camera’ captures real-time electrical activity of beating heart.”—”Bay Area scientists have captured the real-time electrical activity of a beating heart, using a sheet of graphene to record an optical image — almost like a video camera — of the faint electric fields generated by the rhythmic firing of the heart’s muscle cells.”
  • China launches first crewed mission for space station construction.”—”China on Thursday successfully launched the crewed spacecraft Shenzhou-12, which is expected to send three astronauts to its space station core module Tianhe for a three-month mission. It is China’s seventh crewed mission to space and the first during the construction of China’s space station. It is also the first in nearly five years after the country’s last manned mission.”
  • New Cleveland Clinic Research Identifies Link Between Gut Microbes and Stroke. Findings lay the groundwork for new stroke treatments, prevention strategies.”
  • This CEO was misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia when it was menopause. Now her startup hopes to create a $600 billion menopause market, backed by female VCs..”
  • Intermittent fasting ‘no magic bullet for weight loss’ says new study. New CNEM research from suggests that if you want to lose weight, intermittent fasting such as the 5:2 diet might be less effective than many people believe.”
  • Let there be light! New tech for night vision.”—”The first-of-its-kind thin film, described in a new article published in Advanced Photonics, is ultra-compact and one day could work on standard glasses. The researchers say the new prototype tech, based on nanoscale crystals, could be used for defence, as well as making it safer to drive at night and walking home after dark. The team also say the work of police and security guards – who regularly employ night vision – will be easier and safer, reducing chronic neck injuries from currently bulk night-vision devices. ‘We have made the invisible visible,’ lead researcher Dr Rocio Camacho Morales said. ‘Our technology is able to transform infrared light, normally invisible to the human eye, and turn this into images people can clearly see – even at distance.'”
  • The World’s 1st REAL 10K 3D planetarium, by RSA Cosmos & Sony!“—”The 3D Planetarium of La Coupole, in Helfaut (France), is the 1st planetarium in the World to have a REAL 10K 3D system, achieving a 10K resolution on the meridian, in a 15m digital dome.” Watch “The World’s 1st REAL 10K 3D Planetarium by RSA Cosmos & Sony
  • Wind turbines unexpectedly more productive behind hill. If someone asked you to name the ideal place to build a wind turbine, chances are your first answer would not be “behind a hill”. Yet researchers from the University of Twente have discovered that in some cases wind turbines can actually produce more energy in that position than in a wide, open landscape. In an article published in the leading scientific journal Renewable Energy, Dr Luoqin Liu and Dr Richard Stevens (Faculty of Science and Technology) show in a series of simulations that wind turbines behind hills can generate up to 24% more energy.”
  • Earth is now trapping an ‘unprecedented’ amount of heat, NASA says. The amount of heat the Earth traps has roughly doubled since 2005, according to new research from NASA and NOAA. The additional energy is equivalent to four detonations per second of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.”
  • I mean, I suppose as iOS finally approaches full NewtonOS, we might was well also start seeing the actual release of Pink and OpenDoc. But, in a twist, it’s from Redmond! “Microsoft’s new Fluid Office documents are coming to life in Teams, OneNote, and more. The biggest change to Office in decades is starting to roll out.”
  • From the Commodore 64 dept: “Hubble Space Telescope sidelined by issue with its 1980s computer. ‘There is no definitive timeline yet as to when this will be completed, tested, and brought back to operational status,’ the Hubble operations team said.”
  • People keep finding late loved ones on Google Maps. Some find it comforting, some find it creepy.”
  • From the Wipeout 2097 dept: “Airspeeder: The World’s First Electric Flying Car Racing Series. Airspeeder is the electric VTOL flying car racing series, using electric manned multicopters in a fusion of UAM and motorsport.” Watch “Flying Car Racing Is Here | Airspeeder: EXA Series First Flight.”—”EXA is Airspeeder’s first racing series. Up to four teams with two remote pilots per team will compete in three individual events across the globe through 2021. They will race ‘blade-to-blade’ over locations inaccessible to traditional motorsport.”
  • A different class of eVTOL. Founded in NYC — our approach is mass transit.” Watch “A different class of eVTOL“—”Founded in New York City, our approach is mass transit. Our aircraft is designed to carry 40 passengers + pilot or 10,000 lbs of cargo.”
  • I mean, this was almost the plot of a Stargate: Atlantis episode, only COVID-19 was a Harry Mudd character. “Common cold combats COVID-19.”
  • Lockdown was not a sabbatical. Don’t worry if you haven’t grown as a person during the pandemic.”—”The pandemic gave rise to new, weird kinds of productivity discourse.”
  • I mean, it’s a start. “Entire Portland police crowd-control unit quits over fellow officer’s assault charge.”
  • Tucker Carlson And The Far Right Want To Recast Jan. 6 As A False Flag By The Deep State. Right-wing media and the GOP are still trying to shift blame for the Capitol riot. Their latest ploy? Claiming the insurrection was organized by the FBI.”
  • Proud Boys Leader Claims He’s Forced to Sell BLM Apparel Through Secret Business Because They’re ‘Hemorrhaging Money’.”
  • Narrator: No, they can’t. They’re just putting the theatrical “show” into “Show Me State”. “Missouri Has Declared Federal Gun Laws Invalid. Can It Do That?
  • LGBTQ Groups, Allies See Trouble In Ruling Upholding Discrimination In Philly. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously to allow a Philadelphia-based foster care agency to reject LGBTQ parents on the basis of religious freedom.”
  • From Library of Congress: “Gay Pride Parades: Identity, Protest, and Tradition” (2016), LGBTQ Activism and Contributions: A New Primary Source Set” (2021).
  • Republican States Have Already Enacted 19 New Anti-Trans Laws This Year. Nearly 200 bills targeting trans individuals’ participation in sports, access to health care, or other rights have been introduced in state legislatures this year.”
  • Title IX Protections Extend to Transgender Students, Education Dept. Says. Using a Supreme Court ruling as its guide, the department issued guidance that discrimination against gay and transgender students was prohibited under the 1972 law.”
  • Calls for flag burning from the flag burning is treason crowd in 3 … 2 … “Macy Gray Calls for a Redesign of the U.S. Flag in Juneteenth Essay. For Juneteenth 2021, R&B singer-songwriter Macy Gray penned an essay about why and how the American flag should undergo a ‘transformation.'”
  • The Hypocrisy Of Honoring Juneteenth While Condemning Critical Race Theory. Banning critical race theory from classrooms whitewashes racism’s role in U.S. history and, ironically, America’s newest federal holiday.”
  • Tweet—”Lindsay brought a philosophical knife to a philosophical gun fight.” Also tweet—”This is beautiful.”
  • From Library of Congress: “The Birth of Juneteenth; Voices of the Enslaved” (2020), “Ralph Ellison’s ‘Juneteenth’” (2020), “Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories” collection.
  • Why the panic over ‘critical race theory’ is the perfect right-wing troll. Trying to debunk the lies about ‘critical race theory’ is a distraction — but the hysterics have huge implications.” Also tweet—”Instead, go meta. Don’t argue, but simply repeat as often as needed: ‘Republicans are lying about the public school curriculum because they want to hide the historical facts from children. We should not force schools to lie to students.'” Also tweet—”Heard it put something like this, earlier, and it’s true: They pivoted to labelling everything ‘critical race theory’ because they were losing ground against the more correctly termed ‘anti-racism efforts.'”
  • Office Culture Is So Unwelcoming To Black Employees, They Don’t Want To Go Back. More Black professionals want flexible work policies than their white, Asian and Latinx colleagues. Researchers blame office culture.”
  • Tweet thread: “Everyone, some personal news: There will be no strike at Ars Technica. Today, @ars_union @newyorkerunion + @p4kunion reached an agreement in principle with individual brand mgmt and @CondeNast on the makeup of our first collective bargaining agreements. [1/x]” Also “The New Yorker Reaches Deal With Union To Avoid Strike. The tentative agreement includes raises of 10% for most staffers. “These gains are the direct result of collective action,” the union said.”
  • The Pulpit of Fear. How Religious Leaders Inflame Violence in America.”—”But in some churches, the preacher’s thunderous sermon is vitriolic, inciting hatred, divisiveness, suspicion and aggression toward others, and ultimately violence. These preachers are out of touch with reality from consuming too much right-wing media. … I know of no parallel dehumanizing and violence-inciting narrative told about Republicans by Democrats. Things are so bad that some clergy have complained that the persistent presence of conspiracies among church members is ‘like an infection.’ Some have said they are ‘exhausted’ from dealing with their conspiracy-crazed members. Overwhelmed, a few preachers have even left their church for a kinder and more rational denomination.”
  • America’s largest evangelical denomination is at war with itself. Why the Southern Baptist Convention is in turmoil — and why you should care.”
  • Escape from Little Island. New York City welcomes the bad future of urban planning.”—”While Little Island is technically public, it has no clear purpose but to sell us a billionaire’s sleek SimCity fantasy.” “What passes for public space comes more and more to resemble the kind of commodified spectacle that can only be secured by private capital.”
  • TSR, the Original Maker of Dungeons & Dragons, Has Re-Launched as New Company.”—”TSR, the original maker of Dungeons & Dragons, has “reformed” with Gary Gygax’s son taking on a leadership role with the company. Earlier this week, TSR announced that it had re-launched with E. Gary Gygax Jr., the son of Dungeons & Dragons’ co-creator Gary Gyax, serving as Executive Vice President. Notably, the new TSR will be based out of Lake Geneva, the home of the original TSR, and will make new RPGs in addition to selling TSR-branded merchandise. The first new TSR RPG is GiantLands, a new science RPG by Stephen E. Dinehart IV and James M. Ward set on a devastated Earth. GiantLands was originally produced as a Kickstarter game back in 2019 and will be given a wide release through TSR. TSR Games has also stated they are publishing a second game called Tales and Tots, although no other details were provided. In addition to making new tabletop games, TSR also operates the Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum, which is located in the first TSR office building in Lake Geneva. In addition, the company has brought on several employees that were previously employed by the original TSR, including Jeff R. Leason (who co-wrote the classic D&D adventure The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan). GiantLands was also designed by former TSR employees, including Ward and artist Larry Elmore.”
  • The Lillith Trailer Shows Why Summoning Even a Helpful Demon Is a Bad Idea. A college student summons a succubus to get revenge on her cheating boyfriend, and all hell breaks loose.” Watch “Lillith Official Trailer“—”Jenna Collins (Nell Kessler) is a girl whose heart has been broken by her self-absorbed boyfriend, Brad (Michael Finnigan). With some convincing from her best friend Emma (Robin Carolyn Parent), Jenna turns to the dark arts to seek revenge. That vengeance comes in the form of Lillith (Savannah Whitten), a murder-hungry siren from hell. Jenna quickly realizes that her new friend Lily is more than what she bargained for. The lust demon embarks on a sex-fueled killing spree with no end in sight. Can Jenna and her friends stop Lillith in time before the entire campus is doomed? From director Lee Esposito, and leading genre distributor Terror Films, comes the terrifying Lillith – On Demand and Digital this July 9th, 2021.”
  • Watch “BANKS – The Devil“. “I go way down / I go way down ’cause I’m the devil now / I go way down / I go way down ’cause I’m the devil now / (Another life past) / (‘Cause I’m the devil now) / (I like the fast life) / (‘Cause I’m the devil now).”
  • By different devs, but set in the universe of HopFrog’s Forager: “Lost Nova. Your spaceship crashed on an alien planet. Explore, salvage, craft, trade, manage and upgrade your way back home!”
  • Prince’s ‘Welcome 2 America,’ an Unreleased Album, Is Due Out in July. The politically minded, never-before-heard 2010 album will be the first complete project released from Prince’s storied vault.”
  • Crowdfunding launching in 23 days: “Vast Grimm by Infinite Black Infinite Black. Vast Grimm is a rules-light Infectious Sci-Fi Horror tabletop roleplaying game, compatible with Mörk Borg, featuring 3 new Elder Dice sets!”
  • Israeli Archaeologists Figure Out Where Ancient Egypt Got Its Metal After Civilization Collapsed. Analysis of 3,000-year-old statuettes from pharaonic burials suggests disruption of international trade following the Bronze Age Collapse was not as catastrophic as we thought.”—”The lead isotopes for all four figurines were compatible with ancient copper mining sites in the Arava Valley, which runs along the modern southern border of Israel and Jordan.”
  • From the Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings dept: “Māori May Have Reached Antarctica 1,000 Years Before Europeans. New research draws on oral histories and other traditional records often ignored by Western scholars.”—”A variety of Māori oral traditions describe early exploration of the Antarctic, reports Tess McClure for the Guardian. Oral histories kept by Māori tribal groups Ngāti Rārua and Te Āti Awa tell of an explorer named Hui Te Rangiora who led the vessel Te Iwi-o-Atea to ‘a foggy, misty and dark place not seen by the sun,’ finding summits that ‘pierce the skies’ but are ‘completely bare and without vegetation on them.’ Beyond describing Antarctic icebergs, the narratives include what appear to be references to marine mammals.” “‘We didn’t discover this, it’s a known narrative,’ she says. ‘Our job was to bring together all the information and communicate it to the world.'”
  • From the Weirding Way dept: “The Man Who Put Out Fires with Music. My Inquiry Into the Strange Case of Charles Kellogg, Nature Singer.”