Omnium Gatherum: 8sept2021

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for September 8, 2021

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

  • Since I’ve previously mentioned Crawford book Atlas of AI, here’s something of a counterpoint: Tweet thread—”I can’t speak to @datasociety bc I avoided it like the plague after noticing the extractive and toxic nature of @katecrawford behavior. I can say that her practice of taking other people’s work as her own has been an open secret for years. 1/”
  • From 2008: Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Paul A Offit—”Vaccines save millions of lives every year, and one man, Maurice Hilleman, was responsible for nine of the big fourteen. Paul Offit recounts his story and the story of vaccines. Maurice Hilleman discovered nine vaccines that practically every child gets, rendering formerly dread diseases—including often devastating ones such as mumps and rubella—practically forgotten. Paul A. Offit, a vaccine researcher himself, befriended Hilleman and, during the great man’s last months, interviewed him extensively about his life and career. Offit makes an eloquent and compelling case for Hilleman’s importance, arguing that, like Jonas Salk, his name should be known to everyone. But Vaccinated is also enriched and enlivened by a look at vaccines in the context of modern medical science and history, ranging across the globe and throughout time to take in a fascinating cast of hundreds, providing a vital contribution to the continuing debate over the value of vaccines.”
  • The All-Consuming World [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Cassandra Khaw—”Maya has died and been resurrected into countless cyborg bodies through the years of a long, dangerous career with the infamous Dirty Dozen, the most storied crew of criminals in the galaxy, at least before their untimely and gruesome demise. Decades later, she and her diverse team of broken, diminished outlaws must get back together to solve the mystery of their last, disastrous mission and to rescue a missing and much-changed comrade . . . but they’re not the only ones in pursuit of the secret at the heart of the planet Dimmuborgir. The highly evolved AI of the galaxy have their own agenda and will do whatever it takes to keep humanity from ever regaining control. As Maya and her comrades spiral closer to uncovering the AIs’ vast conspiracy, this band of violent women—half-clone and half-machine—must battle their own traumas and a universe of sapient ageships who want them dead, in order to settle their affairs once and for all. Welcome to The All-Consuming World, the debut novel of acclaimed writer Cassandra Khaw. With this explosive and introspective exploration of humans and machines, life and death, Khaw takes their rightful place next to such science fiction luminaries as Ann Leckie, Ursula Le Guin, and Kameron Hurley.”
  • The Book of Omens: A collection of stories from the dawn of Apocrypha [Publisher] by Bobby Derie, Stephen McQuillan, Jason Schmetzer, Marc Tassin, and Phaedra Weldon, ed. Aviva Schecterson. “The omens in Apocrypha guide a ragtag collection of saints against the horrors of our modern world. In this anthology, we reveal five stories from the early days of Apocrypha, each with a new twist on the game. Enjoy this special look at the world of Apocrypha.” “P.S.: Mike wants me to tell you that the stories in this book are not part of any puzzles.”
  • Praise Boss!, by Joseph Grim Feinberg, a play based on Ernest Riebe’s comic character Mr Block, introduction Anna Hoyles, cover art by Vlocke, due December 2021—”Some people are born by mistake, some become mistakes, and some have mistakes thrust upon them. With Mr. Block, it’s a little of all three. Made infamous by Joe Hill’s eponymous song and Ernest Riebe’s cartoons, Mr. Block has written himself into labor history as the working class’s biggest blockhead. Why? Because he believes that the wage system is basically good and the bosses have his best interests at heart. At any rate it’s true that his heart is full of the bosses’ best interests. Even when he’s hit rock bottom he still thinks that if he works just a little harder he can finally make it to the top. And if hard work doesn’t work, then why not take inspiration from the bosses themselves and try making it some other way? In this new play, Mr. Block believes a slanderous rumor, which gives him the absurd idea that the way to a boss’s heart is through her heart. Will Block’s hardheaded attempts to woo her ever get him into her good graces, or even into her bad ones? Will he have any love left over for his fellow workers? Find out in Praise Boss!”
  • Those Who Can Do. Rewriting the history of literary studies, from inside the classroom.” About The Teaching Archive: A New History for Literary Study [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan—”The Teaching Archive shows us a series of major literary thinkers in a place we seldom remember them inhabiting: the classroom. Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan open up “the teaching archive”—the syllabuses, course descriptions, lecture notes, and class assignments—of critics and scholars including T. S. Eliot, Caroline Spurgeon, I. A. Richards, Edith Rickert, J. Saunders Redding, Edmund Wilson, Cleanth Brooks, Josephine Miles, and Simon J. Ortiz. This new history of English rewrites what we know about the discipline by showing how students helped write foundational works of literary criticism and how English classes at community colleges and HBCUs pioneered the reading methods and expanded canons that came only belatedly to the Ivy League. It reminds us that research and teaching, which institutions often imagine as separate, have always been intertwined in practice. In a contemporary moment of humanities defunding, the casualization of teaching, and the privatization of pedagogy, The Teaching Archive offers a more accurate view of the work we have done in the past and must continue to do in the future.”
  • David Graeber Was Right: A Debt Free World Is Possible. Mass debt cancellation isn’t a myth; we’re already doing it.” By Andrew Ross, author of Creditocracy and the Case for Debt Refusal [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]—”It seems like pretty much everybody – homeowners, students, those who are ill and without health insurance, and, of course, credit card holders – is up to their neck in debt that can never be repaid. 77% of US households are seriously indebted and one in seven Americans has been pursued by debt collectors. The major banks are bigger and more profitable than before the 2008 crash, and legislators are all but powerless to bring them to heel. In this forceful, eye-opening survey, Andrew Ross contends that we are in the cruel grip of a creditocracy – where the finance industry commandeers our elected governments and where the citizenry have to take out loans to meet their basic needs. The implications of mass indebtedness for any democracy are profound, and history shows that whenever a creditor class becomes as powerful as Wall Street, the result has been debt bondage for the bulk of the population. Following in the ancient tradition of the jubilee, activists have had some success in repudiating the debts of developing countries. The time is ripe, Ross argues, for a debtors’ movement to use the same kinds of moral and legal arguments to bring relief to household debtors in the North. After examining the varieties of lending that have contributed to the crisis, Ross suggests ways of lifting the burden of illegitimate debts from our backs. Just as important, Creditocracy outlines the kind of alternative economy we need to replace a predatory debt-money system that only benefits the 1%.” Partly about Debt: The First 5,000 Years [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by David Graeber—”The groundbreaking international best-seller that turns everything you think about money, debt, and society on its head—from the “brilliant, deeply original political thinker” David Graeber (Rebecca Solnit, author of Men Explain Things to Me). Before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors—which lives on in full force to this day. So says anthropologist David Graeber in a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Renaissance Italy to Imperial China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like ‘guilt,’ ‘sin,’ and ‘redemption’) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today.”
  • More about this: “Read It and Weep: Margaret Atwood on the Intimidating, Haunting Intellect of Simone de Beauvoir.” About Inseparable: A Never-Before-Published Novel [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Simone de Beauvoir, trans. Sandra Smith, introduction by Margaret Atwood—”A never-before-published novel by the iconic Simone de Beauvoir of an intense and vivid girlhood friendship. From the moment Sylvie and Andrée meet in their Parisian day school, they see in each other an accomplice with whom to confront the mysteries of girlhood. For the next ten years, the two are the closest of friends and confidantes as they explore life in a post-World War One France, and as Andrée becomes increasingly reckless and rebellious, edging closer to peril. Sylvie, insightful and observant, sees a France of clashing ideals and religious hypocrisy—and at an early age is determined to form her own opinions. Andrée, a tempestuous dreamer, is inclined to melodrama and romance. Despite their different natures they rely on each other to safeguard their secrets while entering adulthood in a world that did not pay much attention to the wills and desires of young women. Deemed too intimate to publish during Simone de Beauvoir’s life, Inseparable offers fresh insight into the groundbreaking feminist’s own coming-of-age; her transformative, tragic friendship with her childhood friend Zaza Lacoin; and how her youthful relationships shaped her philosophy. Sandra Smith’s vibrant translation of the novel will be long cherished by de Beauvoir devotees and first-time readers alike.”
  • Lauren Groff and Rebecca Makkai Talk Literary Ethics, the Loneliness of Bodies, and Writerly Friendship.” About Matrix [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Lauren Groff—”Cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, deemed too coarse and rough-hewn for marriage or courtly life, seventeen-year-old Marie de France is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey, its nuns on the brink of starvation and beset by disease. At first taken aback by the severity of her new life, Marie finds focus and love in collective life with her singular and mercurial sisters. In this crucible, Marie steadily supplants her desire for family, for her homeland, for the passions of her youth with something new to her: devotion to her sisters, and a conviction in her own divine visions. Marie, born the last in a long line of women warriors and crusaders, is determined to chart a bold new course for the women she now leads and protects. But in a world that is shifting and corroding in frightening ways, one that can never reconcile itself with her existence, will the sheer force of Marie’s vision be bulwark enough? Equally alive to the sacred and the profane, Matrix gathers currents of violence, sensuality, and religious ecstasy in a mesmerizing portrait of consuming passion, aberrant faith, and a woman that history moves both through and around. Lauren Groff’s new novel, her first since Fates and Furies, is a defiant and timely exploration of the raw power of female creativity in a corrupted world.”
  • Yanis Varoufakis on Alternatives to Techno-Feudal Capitalism.” Podcast episode with guest Yanis Varoufakis, author of Another Now [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]—”What would a fair and equal society actually look like? The world-renowned economist and bestselling author Yanis Varoufakis presents his radical and subversive answer in a work of speculative fiction that recalls William Morris and William Gibson. The year: 2035. At a funeral for Iris, a revolutionary leftist feminist, Yango is approached by Costa, Iris’s closest comrade, who urges him to carry out Iris’s last wish: plough into her secret diaries to tell their story. “But”, Costa insists ‘leave out anything that might help Big Tech replicate my technologies!’ That night Yango delves into Iris’s diaries. In them he discovers a chronicle of how Costa’s revolutionary technologies had unveiled an actually existing, fully democratized, postcapitalist society. Suddenly he understands Costa’s obsession with the hackers trying to steal his secrets. So begins Yanis Varoufakis’s extraordinary novelistic thought-experiment, where the world-famous economist offers an invigorating and deeply moving vision of an alternative reality. Another Now tells the story of Costa, a brilliant but deeply disillusioned, computer engineer, who creates a revolutionary technology that will allow the user a “glimpse of a life beyond their dreams” but will not enslave them. But an accident during one of its trial runs unveils a cosmic wormhole where Costa meets his DNA double, who is living in a 2025 very different than the one Costa is living in. In this parallel 2025 a global hi-tech uprising, begun in the wake of the collapse of 2008, has birthed a post-capitalist world in which work, money, land, digital networks and politics have been truly democratized. Banks have been eliminated, as well as predatory, data-mining digital monopolies; the gig economy is no more; and the young are free to experiment with different careers and to study ‘non-lucrative topics, from Sumerian pottery to astrophysics.’ Intoxicated, Costa travels to England to tell Iris, his old comrade, and her neighbor, Eva, a recovering banker turned neoliberal economics professor, of the parallel universe he has discovered. Costa eventually leads them back to his workshop in America where Iris and Eva meet their own doubles, and confront hard truths about themselves and the daunting political challenge that “the Other Now” presents. But, as their obsession with the Other Now deepens, time begins to run out, as the wormhole begins to deteriorate and hackers begin to unleash new attacks on Costa’s technology. The trio have to make a choice: which 2025 do they want to live in? Varoufakis has been claiming for a while that we already live in postcapitalist times. That, since the 2008 crisis, capitalism has been morphing into technofeudalism. Another Now, a riveting work of speculative fiction, shows that there is a realistic, democratic alternative to the technofeudalpostcapitalist dystopia taking shape all around us. It also confronts us with the greatest question: how far are we willing to go to bring it about?” And Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: or, How Capitalism Works—and How It Fails [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]—”In Talking to My Daughter About the Economy, activist Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s former finance minister and the author of the international bestseller Adults in the Room, pens a series of letters to his young daughter, educating her about the business, politics, and corruption of world economics. Yanis Varoufakis has appeared before heads of nations, assemblies of experts, and countless students around the world. Now, he faces his most important—and difficult—audience yet. Using clear language and vivid examples, Varoufakis offers a series of letters to his young daughter about the economy: how it operates, where it came from, how it benefits some while impoverishing others. Taking bankers and politicians to task, he explains the historical origins of inequality among and within nations, questions the pervasive notion that everything has its price, and shows why economic instability is a chronic risk. Finally, he discusses the inability of market-driven policies to address the rapidly declining health of the planet his daughter’s generation stands to inherit. Throughout, Varoufakis wears his expertise lightly. He writes as a parent whose aim is to instruct his daughter on the fundamental questions of our age—and through that knowledge, to equip her against the failures and obfuscations of our current system and point the way toward a more democratic alternative.”
  • The Surprisingly Big Business of Library E-books. Increasingly, books are something that libraries do not own but borrow from the corporations that do.”—”The sudden shift to e-books had enormous practical and financial implications, not only for OverDrive but for public libraries across the country. Libraries can buy print books in bulk from any seller that they choose, and, thanks to a legal principle called the first-sale doctrine, they have the right to lend those books to any number of readers free of charge. But the first-sale doctrine does not apply to digital content. For the most part, publishers do not sell their e-books or audiobooks to libraries—they sell digital distribution rights to third-party venders, such as OverDrive, and people like Steve Potash sell lending rights to libraries. These rights often have an expiration date, and they make library e-books ‘a lot more expensive, in general, than print books’” Michelle Jeske, who oversees Denver’s public-library system, told me. Digital content gives publishers more power over prices, because it allows them to treat libraries differently than they treat other kinds of buyers. Last year, the Denver Public Library increased its digital checkouts by more than sixty per cent, to 2.3 million, and spent about a third of its collections budget on digital content, up from twenty per cent the year before.”
  • “Call me a pedant, but I think of a library as a place that houses books. Books which educated opinion deems us to be the better, intellectually and spiritually, for having read. If you wonder who should be given the responsibility of deciding which those books are, wonder no more. I will do it. So call me paternalistic as well. … Don’t mistake me for a puritan. I like the lunacy of libraries. … Don’t give libraries a penny, I say, until they present themselves once more as palaces of bookish learning, for the behoof of the studious and the deranged alike.”—Howard Jacobson, Whatever It Is, I Don’t Like It (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011), pp. 10-11, quoted at Public Libraries.
  • From 2020: “Covid vaccine technology pioneer: ‘I never doubted it would work’. Katalin Karikó’s mRNA research helped pave way for Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s successful work.”—”The Hungarian-born biochemist who helped pioneer the research behind the mRNA technology used in the two Covid-19 vaccines showing positive results believes it was always a no-brainer. ‘I never doubted it would work,’ Katalin Karikó told the Guardian. ‘I had seen the data from animal studies, and I was expecting it. I always wished that I would live long enough to see something that I’ve worked on be approved.’ This month has been the pinnacle of Karikó’s lifelong work researching mRNA, or messenger ribonucleic acid. The 65-year-old, who left Hungary in 1985 to pursue an academic career in the US with her husband, toddler and just £900 hidden in a teddy bear, has now been suggested as a possible Nobel prize winner.”
  • Analysis unlocks secret of the Vinland Map — it’s a fake“—”The Vinland Map, once hailed as the earliest depiction of the New World, is awash in 20th-century ink. A team of conservators and conservation scientists at Yale has found compelling new evidence for this conclusion through the most thorough analysis yet performed on the infamous parchment map.” “‘The Vinland Map is a fake,’ said Raymond Clemens, curator of early books and manuscripts at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which houses the map. ‘There is no reasonable doubt here. This new analysis should put the matter to rest.'”
  • Ancient humans turned elephant remains into a surprising array of bone tools“—”Ancient humans could do some impressive things with elephant bones. In a new study, University of Colorado Boulder archaeologist Paola Villa and her colleagues surveyed tools excavated from a site in Italy where large numbers of elephants had died. The team discovered that humans at this site roughly 400,000 years ago appropriated those carcasses to produce an unprecedented array of bone tools—some crafted with sophisticated methods that wouldn’t become common for another 100,000 years.”
  • Genetic patterns offer clues to evolution of homosexuality. Massive study finds that genetic markers associated with same-sex encounters might aid reproduction. But some scientists question the conclusions.”
  • Scientists Discover Tiny Tardigrades Trot Around Like Insects. The microscopic organism’s gait may have evolved to adapt to unpredictable terrains.”
  • A transient radio source consistent with a merger-triggered core collapse supernova“—”A core collapse supernova occurs when exothermic fusion ceases in the core of a massive star, which is typically caused by exhaustion of nuclear fuel. Theory predicts that fusion could be interrupted earlier by merging of the star with a compact binary companion. We report a luminous radio transient, VT J121001+495647, found in the Very Large Array Sky Survey. The radio emission is consistent with supernova ejecta colliding with a dense shell of material, potentially ejected by binary interaction in the centuries before explosion. We associate the supernova with an archival x-ray transient, which implies that a relativistic jet was launched during the explosion. The combination of an early relativistic jet and late-time dense interaction is consistent with expectations for a merger-driven explosion.” Also “Star-smash supernova? New type of stellar explosion possibly seen. ‘A merger-triggered supernova, I think, is just scratching the surface of what’s possible.'”
  • International Space Station facing irreparable failures, Russia warns. The International Space Station (ISS) could suffer ‘irreparable’ failures due to outdated equipment and hardware, a Russian official has warned.”
  • Rice physicists find ‘magnon’ origins in 2D magnet. Topological feature could prove useful for encoding information in electron spins. Rice physicists have confirmed the topological origins of magnons, magnetic features they discovered three years ago in a 2D material that could prove useful for encoding information in the spins of electrons.”
  • New molecular device has unprecedented reconfigurability reminiscent of brain plasticity“—”In a discovery published in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers has described a novel molecular device with exceptional computing prowess. Reminiscent of the plasticity of connections in the human brain, the device can be reconfigured on the fly for different computational tasks by simply changing applied voltages. Furthermore, like nerve cells can store memories, the same device can also retain information for future retrieval and processing.”
  • A neuroscientist shares the 6 exercises she does every day to build resilience and mental strength“—”1. Visualize positive outcomes … 2. Turn anxiety into progress … 3. Try something new … 4. Reach out … 5. Practice positive self-tweeting … 6. Immerse yourself in nature …”
  • I taught myself to lucid dream. You can too. We still don’t know much about the experience of being aware that you’re dreaming—but a few researchers think it could help us find out more about how the brain works.”
  • Female Hummingbirds Who Look Like Males Avoid Harassment, Get More Time To Eat. For the white-necked jacobin hummingbird, looking like a male comes with big perks.”
  • Why can’t it be both?! “How the Cat Gets Its Stripes: It’s Genetics, Not a Folk Tale. Researchers took a deep dive into embryonic development to tease out the source of the tabby pattern in cats.”
  • Ugh. Not now animorphs! “Animals are ‘shape shifting’ in response to climate change“—”Some warm-blooded animals are experiencing shifts in their body shapes, likely as a response to the pressures of climate change, according to a new review of existing research. Animals are getting larger beaks, legs and ears that allow them to better regulate their body temperatures as the planet gets hotter, with birds particularly affected, said Sara Ryding, a researcher at Deakin University in Australia and one of the authors of the research that published on Tuesday in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution. The biggest shifts in appendage size in the more than 30 animals they looked at in the review were among some Australian parrot species, which saw their beak size increase by 4% to 10% on average since 1871.”
  • No, on second thought, you go, animals. Adapt as quickly as you can! “Nearly 30% of 138,000 assessed species are facing extinction, group warns“—”A top international conservation agency warned that 28% of the 138,374 species identified on its “survival watchlist” as being under threat have now been moved to the more dangerous ‘red list’ — meaning they are at high risk of extinction.”
  • Lower-dose chemotherapy can be made more effective in killing HPV-induced cervical cancer cells by inhibiting a key survival factor. SMU study suggests that inhibiting the TIGAR protein is key to new treatment strategy for virus-induced cancers.”
  • Perseverance rover successfully collects first Martian sample“—”While we were enjoying the weekend, the Perseverance rover was hard at work making history on Mars. New images with better lighting reveal that the rover did, in fact, successfully collect a Martian rock sample last week. After processing and sealing, it’s the first Mars rock core sample to be stowed on the rover. It’s one of more than 30 Martian samples that will be returned to Earth by future missions in the early 2030s — and they could reveal if microbial life ever existed on Mars.” Also “Mars Rover Perseverance Appears to Have Grabbed Its First Rock Sample.”
  • Why is the color blue so rare in nature? Feeling blue? That color isn’t as common as you may think.”
  • PPPL physicist helps confirm a major advance in stellarator performance for fusion energy“—”Stellarators, twisty magnetic devices that aim to harness on Earth the fusion energy that powers the sun and stars, have long played second fiddle to more widely used doughnut-shaped facilities known as tokamaks. The complex twisted stellarator magnets have been difficult to design and have previously allowed greater leakage of the superhigh heat from fusion reactions. Now scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP), working in collaboration with researchers that include the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), have shown that the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) device in Greifswald, Germany, the largest and most advanced stellarator in the world, is capable of confining heat that reaches temperatures twice as great as the core of the sun.”
  • Tales From the Dark Side: The Dark Tetrad of Personality, Supernatural, and Scientific Belief“—”Theories such as the psychodynamic functions hypothesis, attribution theory, and the just world theory have been used to explain different types of supernatural belief. This study aims to examine “dark” personality traits and how they link to different beliefs using the Dark Tetrad. The Dark Tetrad” comprises narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism. Relationships have been found between dark personality traits and religious belief, but no studies have examined the Dark Triad or Tetrad and paranormal and scientific belief directly. An opportunity sample of 199 participants completed an online survey including scales measuring Dark Tetrad traits, religious and paranormal belief, and belief in science. Path analysis revealed five significant relationships. Belief in psychokinesis was negatively related to Machiavellianism, as was belief in common paranormal perceptions, which was also positively related to psychopathy. Religious belief was negatively related to psychopathy but positively related to sadism. Findings suggest some links between Dark Tetrad traits and elements of supernatural belief. The unexpected positive relationship between religiosity and sadism indicate that religious believers believe in a just world where people get what they deserve. These findings indicate that religious and paranormal experience, and dark personality are avenues for future research.”
  • Stunning image shows dark tendrils masking giant Centaurus A galaxy near Earth.”—”Scientists have captured a stunning new image of a massive galaxy ringed by dust filaments. In the image, Centaurus A, which is located more than 12 million light-years away from Earth in the southern constellation Centaurus (the centaur), ripples across space. The galaxy, which was first identified in 1826, is among the best studied in the southern sky because it is so bright and relatively close to Earth. In the image, although stars glow, swaths of the galaxy are hidden by dust tendrils looping around the galaxy’s center, where a supermassive black hole containing 55 million times the mass of the sun, hides and spews out a jet of matter that acts as a bright source of radio light.”
  • Yale researchers discover healing effects of psychedelic drug. Researchers find that one dose of psilocybin results in roughly a 10 percent increase in neuron size and density in mouse brains.”—”Yale researchers found that a single dose of the naturally occurring psychedelic compound psilocybin can cause structural changes in the brain that counteract symptoms of depression. In a paper published in the journal Neuron on Aug. 18, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine presented evidence that administering this drug to mice resulted in an approximately 10 percent increase in neuron size and density in the frontal cortex of the brain. Led by postdoctoral associate Lingxiao Shao and associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience Alex Kwan, the team found that this ‘structural remodeling’ occurred within 24 hours of the drug administration and persisted for one month, indicating that psilocybin made long-lasting changes in the brain. ‘Psilocybin is fascinating because it has an incredibly short half-life, which means that it gets out of the body quickly and yet has long-lasting behavioral effects,’ Kwan said. ‘We’ve seen that psilocybin can be effective in treating depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders. In this study, we wanted to investigate this mystery by observing individual connections in the mouse brain.'”
  • Ugh. Not now cosmic-scale Hedorah! “Cosmic Pollution: Astronomers Show Galaxies Pump Out Contaminated Exhausts“—”Galaxies pollute the environment they exist in, researchers have found. A team of astronomers led by Alex Cameron and Deanne Fisher from the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) used a new imaging system on at the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii to confirm that what flows into a galaxy is a lot cleaner than what flows out.”
  • From the IP-over-Pidgeons dept: “An ‘Internet apocalypse’ could ride to Earth with the next solar storm, new research warns. The underwater cables that connect nations could go offline for months, the study warns.”
  • Twitch viewership noticeably dropped when streamers took a day off in protest” Twitch viewership noticeably dropped when streamers took a day off in protest. It seems as if the Twitch walkout was a success.”
  • The disastrous voyage of Satoshi, the world’s first cryptocurrency cruise ship. Last year, three cryptocurrency enthusiasts bought a cruise ship. They named it the Satoshi, and dreamed of starting a floating libertarian utopia. It didn’t work out.”
  • From the Arcosanti dept: “Plans for $400-billion new city in the American desert unveiled“—”The cleanliness of Tokyo, the diversity of New York and the social services of Stockholm: Billionaire Marc Lore has outlined his vision for a 5-million-person “new city in America” and appointed a world-famous architect to design it. Now, he just needs somewhere to build it — and $400 billion in funding. The former Walmart executive last week unveiled plans for Telosa, a sustainable metropolis that he hopes to create, from scratch, in the American desert. The ambitious 150,000-acre proposal promises eco-friendly architecture, sustainable energy production and a purportedly drought-resistant water system.”
  • From the Synthetic Pleasures dept: Watch “Las Vegas is Building the World’s Largest Sphere“, or read “Las Vegas is Building the World’s Largest Sphere“—”Known as the MSG Sphere, the USD $1.8BN spherical entertainment venue will stand 112-metres tall, contain 17,500 seats and feature the largest and highest-resolution LED screen in the world – that’s 19,000 x 13,500 pixels in case you were wondering. The screen covers an area larger than three football fields, wrapping up, over and behind the stage to give the audience a fully immersive experience that’s 100 times clearer than today’s best HD TVs. Outside, the building will be fitted with 54,000 square metres of programmable lighting giving those outside a show of their own.”
  • Facebook Apologizes After Its AI Labels Black Men As ‘Primates’“—”Facebook issued an apology on behalf of its artificial intelligence software that asked users watching a video featuring Black men if they wanted to see more “videos about primates.” The social media giant has since disabled the topic recommendation feature and says it’s investigating the cause of the error, but the video had been online for more than a year.” Tweet—If you want AI’s racist, sexist, transphobic, ableist, & otherwise bigoted & oppressive outcomes to stop, then you need to change: Your training sets; Your dev teams; Your managers; Your CEO’s; Your funding; Your research questions; Your aims; Your Beliefs; Your Values.”
  • In the future, you’ll share your work with robots… unless you’re a woman. A job is an important part of how we find happiness in our lives (even if we don’t always enjoy the work). But what if the machines start doing everything for us? Helen Russell finds out if our working days are numbered.”—”As well as driving us to work more, COVID-19 has also accelerated the move towards automation and artificial intelligence, especially for jobs with high physical proximity – from Amazon developing delivery drones to self-driving cabs. By 2050, economist Dr Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, a professor of machine learning, both at the University of Oxford, predict that at least 40 per cent of current jobs will be lost to automation, while management consultancy firm McKinsey puts the figure at 50 per cent. There are exceptions. Jobs that involve complex social interactions are beyond current robot skills: so teaching, social care, nursing and counselling are all likely to survive the AI revolution. As are jobs that rely on creativity. The same also goes for cleaning jobs, according to Frey and Osborne, due to the multitude of different objects cleaners encounter and the variety of ways those objects need to be dealt with. Interestingly, areas of the workplace traditionally dominated by women won’t be so easily adopted by AI. Nor can robots pick up the ‘second shift’ – with women still shouldering three-quarters of all unpaid care work and doing 40 per cent more household chores according to the ONS. Robots are unlikely to assist in the ‘work’ of childrearing, preparing lunchboxes and doing the laundry.”
  • The Masked Professor vs. the Unmasked Student. At universities, some instructors are finding the return to the classroom a nerve-racking experience. A few have quit — one in the middle of class.”
  • University of Mississippi Faculty Senate Votes To Mandate COVID Vaccines“—”An 89% majority of the University of Mississippi Faculty Senate voted this evening in favor of a resolution urging the administration to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all students, faculty and staff. Only six of the body’s 54 members voted against the resolution during the Tuesday evening meeting, most of them representing the UM School of Business. Faculty members representing the school’s pharmacy and biology departments voted overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution, noting that ‘the University of Mississippi has an obligation to protect the life, health, and well-being of its students, faculty, staff, and surrounding communities.'”
  • COVID Won’t Change Higher Ed, but Anti-racism Might. Racial-justice movements in higher education offer a template for how to dislodge education’s focus on entrenching prestige.”
  • New research reveals what living with COVID-19 could look like into 2022“—”New research suggests states should move away from a COVID-19 elimination strategy. Epidemiologist Catherine Bennett says easing restrictions should not be used as a reward. She says some restrictions will be in place until the first half of 2022”
  • Pandemic once again disrupts plans for Jewish High Holy Days. At many synagogues, there will be a mix of in-person services, including indoor and outdoor options, and virtual offerings for people staying home.”
  • 3rd conservative radio host who condemned vaccines dies of Covid. Marc Bernier was a mainstay on talk radio in Daytona.”—”A conservative Florida radio host who spoke out against Covid-19 vaccines died after a weekslong fight with the virus, marking the third radio personality to die from coronavirus who publicly rejected vaccines.” “On Aug. 4, another Florida conservative radio host who had criticized the coronavirus vaccine, Dick Farrel, died from Covid-19 complications. … But the Post also reports that Farrel had changed his stance on vaccines after he became infected with Covid-19. He had reportedly urged a longtime friend to get the vaccine and regretted not getting it himself.” “Last week, Phil Valentine, a 62-year-old conservative radio host in Nashville, Tenn., who had questioned the necessity of vaccines, also died from the virus. … But like Farrel, he had reportedly changed his position on vaccines after contracting Covid-19. The radio station he was affiliated with, 99.7 WTN, posted a statement on July 23 that Valentine had been hospitalized and ‘regrets not being more vehemently ‘Pro-Vaccine.””
  • Ugh. Not now panspermia! “Viruses may exist ‘elsewhere in the universe’, warns scientist. Prof Paul Davies suggests viruses may form vital part of ecosystems on other planets.” Also, Ripley was right. Don’t break containment.
  • Tweet thread—”This is a good point. When anti-vaxxers cite their freedoms, constitutional rights, and–the whitest thing of all–the Founding Fathers to rail against vaccine mandates, do they know what they’re talking about? What if I told you this happens EXACTLY every 100 years? A thread.”
  • Timothy Leary’s Castalia Foundation Has Been Co-opted to Promote Conspiracy Theories about COVID and Elite Pedophile Rings. The Castalia Foundation—originally founded in part by Timothy Leary—’resurfaced’ in 2020 with anti-mask content, praise for Donald Trump, and paranoid discussion around the sexual abuse of children.”
  • From the !? dept: “We Have to Talk About Doubt. How to tell the difference between scientific and conspiratorial skepticism.”
  • Are We Serious About Critical Thinking?“—”In 1979 philosopher Douglas Stalker (University of Delaware, now retired) adopted the stage persona Captain Ray of Light, a pseudo-science hawking speaker whose humorous presentations educated his audience about pseudo-science and poor thinking.” “Ironically, the man who once dressed up in a dollar-sign-adorned costume to satirize pseudo-science doesn’t think that we’re ‘serious’ about improving how people think.”
  • “Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”—Jean-Paul Sarte, Anti-Semite and Jew, quoted at Sartre on far right speaking in bad faith
  • Media Literacy Standards to Counter Truth Decay“—”Truth Decay—the diminishing role that facts, data, and analysis play in political and civic discourse—has in part been fueled by a complex and rapidly evolving media and technology ecosystem. For those interested in countering Truth Decay, media literacy (ML)—the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication—has emerged as a potentially powerful tool. But the lack of specificity regarding ML competencies can challenge teachers, policymakers, curriculum developers, advocates, and researchers hoping to understand what kinds of ML education work best and how ML education can be implemented effectively. There is also no shortage of ML-relevant standards. The large number of existing standards can be an additional challenge for stakeholders trying to understand how to define ML for themselves and to determine what competencies are most important to their work. This report, part of the Countering Truth Decay initiative, describes how the authors synthesized myriad existing standards using the lens of Truth Decay—drawing from standards in ML, digital literacy, information literacy, news literacy, social and emotional learning, and other areas—to identify a single, concise set of ML standards.”
  • Mexico’s Supreme Court Votes to Decriminalize Abortion. The ruling, which sets a precedent for the legalization of abortion nationwide, follows years of efforts by a growing women’s movement in Mexico.” Also, uh oh: “Mexico Hit by Powerful EarthquakeMagnitude 7.1 quake struck near the resort city of Acapulco, killing at least one person.”
  • Richmond bar manager ‘praying’ expiration of pandemic unemployment benefits brings people to work.”
  • Inside The Family. Bias, Theocracy, and Lies at the National Prayer Breakfast.”—”For nearly 70 years, and even in this moment of surging Christian nationalism, Democrats and Republicans have set aside their differences once a year to join in an event for fellowship and reconciliation: The National Prayer Breakfast. The breakfast and the secretive religious group behind the scenes, popularly known as The Family, have been the subject of scandal over the years. Most notably, journalist Jeff Sharlet exposed the group’s theocratic, anti-labor origins, and revealed The Family’s role in Ugandan capital punishment legislation for gay people. More recently, the FBI caught Russian operatives using the breakfast to pursue back-channel connections with U.S. politicians. But despite its dealings with international powers, The Family still enjoys the invisibility to which it attributes its influence. We’ve never had a full accounting of who works for The Family or even just who gets to attend the National Prayer Breakfast, let alone who decides. Until now.”
  • Joe Manchin’s Dirty Empire. The West Virginia Senator Reaps Big Financial Rewards From a Network of Coal Companies With Grim Records of Pollution, Safety Violations, and Death.”
  • John Roberts has lost control of the Supreme Court“—”The Supreme Court’s dramatic 5-4 action leaving a Texas abortion ban in place at midnight Wednesday establishes that the Roberts Court no longer is Roberts’ Court. Chief Justice John Roberts dissented with three liberal justices in what could be regarded as the least considered but most consequential case in years. Since Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court last October and he lost his position at the ideological center of the bench, Roberts has been on the dissenting side in a handful of close cases. But the Texas abortion controversy arguably marked his most significant loss to date.”
  • Republicans Are Using Fear of Eugenics to Attack Reproductive Rights. Cute kids with Down syndrome, like my son, should never be an excuse to deny access to an abortion.”
  • The Legal Minds Who Tried to Overturn the Election for Trump Are Being Welcomed Back Into Polite Society“—”On the right, within the Federalist Society, and even among others who apparently value civility over preserving democracy, some are quietly welcoming back into the fold those who would have stolen the election for Trump or who fomented the violent Jan. 6 insurrection. Most appear to be doing so not because they supported the insurrection or Trump’s ridiculous claims, but out of willful ignorance of the facts, or in the name of civility or free speech. It’s a mistake, and it’s taking us down a dangerous path.”
  • It’s Time to Put the Right-Wing Zombie Death Cult on Trial. This isn’t a ‘both sides’ problem. And Joe Biden is just scratching the surface so far.”
  • How a Small Town Silenced a Neo-Nazi Hate Campaign. A Montana town reflects on its effort to drive former President Donald J. Trump’s extremist supporters back to the fringes.”
  • A Very British Coup? Former Royal Navy Trident Submarine Commander Assesses.”—”Dr Andrew Corbett, of the Joint Services Command and Staff College, delves into evidence that the Government is actively undermining British democracy
  • “Past Imperfect, Part One. Astroturfing History.”—”As the battles of Brexit morph into a culture war, Otto English detects a pattern among the ‘concerned citizens’ demanding Britain ‘takes back control’ of its past.”
  • Tweet—”In a consumerist society where companies are allowed to make pseudoscientific nutritional claims to sell people bogus health products you’re likely to create a culture where everyone thinks they’re an expert on health science, and ignores public health guidance during a pandemic.”
  • Afghanistan’s young musicians, long targeted and persecuted by the Taliban, fear what comes next.” And “Afghan artists flee Kabul, fearing for their lives and dire future for art in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.”
  • ‘I think I’ve accidentally joined a cult’. Alex’s Bible classes started taking over his life. Then he found out who was pulling the strings.”
  • Jim Jarmusch’s Collages.”
  • From the Better to Burn Out than Fade Away dept: “Priests fear bishop is possessed after he falls for writer of satanic erotica. Sources say the Pope told Xavier Novell to undergo an exorcism after he began relationship with author Silvia Caballol and quit his duties.”
  • ‘What is this if not magic?’ The Italian man living as a hobbit. After building his own version of Middle-earth, Nicolas Gentile has thrown a ‘ring’ into Mount Vesuvius.” Also “An Italian pastry chef built his version of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ Shire and has been living like a real-life hobbit for 3 years. Nicolas Gentile, a 37-year-old Italian pastry chef, has been living like a hobbit for three years. He even made a 180-mile trek to Mount Vesuvius to toss a replica of the One Ring into its crater. Members of his group dressed up as the ‘Lord of the Rings’ characters Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn.”
  • Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke and the Labor of Creativity.”—”Be wary of those who fetishize the difficulties of their own creative process. One does not need to shirk the healthy levels of their own emotional and physical well-being to make a work that would add meaning and clarity to the world. The human life is composed of such limited currency. Spend it wisely, and in pursuit of a balance of passions. Take care of yourself. Such is the contemporary wisdom on work ethic; for the most part a good and healthy redirection of cultural norms. But like any maxim or ideal, it does not apply to all. There are those for whom a life’s balance cannot be struck. Those that, due to whatever mysterious confluence of personal/societal history and chemical composition have created them, for whom work is life. Whether it makes them happy or not. Whether or not they sleep at night satisfied. Their waking moments have been and will continue to be dedicated to that Thing, whatever it may be.”
  • Neologism watch: Girlie Guns! “China Bans Effeminate Men On TV, Part of A Campaign To Tighten Social Control“—”Broadcasters must “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics,” the TV regulator said, using an insulting slang term for effeminate men — niang pao, or literally, ‘girlie guns.’ That reflects official concern that Chinese pop stars, influenced by the sleek, girlish look of some South Korean and Japanese singers and actors, are failing to encourage China’s young men to be masculine enough. Broadcasters should avoid promoting ‘vulgar internet celebrities’ and admiration of wealth and celebrity, the regulator said. Instead, programs should ‘vigorously promote excellent Chinese traditional culture, revolutionary culture and advanced socialist culture.'”
  • Gay history exhibit removed from museum at Missouri Capitol“—”The removal amid political pressure of a temporary display in the Missouri Capitol Museum commemorating the struggle for LGBT rights in Kansas City is just the latest example of the Republican war on the truth. Only scared people with small minds feel threatened by historical facts that challenge them to reevaluate what they think they know. The state Capitol belongs to all Missourians, and all Missourians deserve to have their history represented in it. This display must be reinstated immediately.”
  • Virginia high court rules for teacher who won’t use transgender students’ pronouns. The northern Virginia gym teacher said he would not refer to transgender students by the pronouns they use, citing his religious convictions.”
  • Halsey Succinctly Shuts Down An Accusation Of Catholic Cultural Appropriation On Her New Album“—”The cover art of Halsey’s new album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power certainly generated a lot of attention upon its reveal, largely because it’s so revealing, specifically as it pertains to Halsey’s body. Now it has drawn a bit of criticism, as there’s at least one writer who views the art as cultural appropriation of the Catholic church.” “Halsey caught wind of this on Twitter and made her silent argument by sharing a childhood photo of herself. Based on her outfit and apparent age in the photo, it appears the photo is from Halsey’s first communion or confirmation, two sacraments of initiation in the Catholic church. The implication being made, it would seem, is that Halsey doesn’t believe she is appropriating Catholicism, since she herself had a Catholic upbringing.”
  • ‘They’ve Been Trying To Cancel Me For Years’ Says Star Trek’s Deanna Troi.”
  • Thandiwe Newton Slams Star Wars for Killing off Her Character in Solo. ‘You don’t kill off the first Black woman to ever have a real role in a Star Wars movie. Like, are you fucking joking?'”
  • The New Puritans. Social codes are changing, in many ways for the better. But for those whose behavior doesn’t adapt fast enough to the new norms, judgment can be swift—and merciless.”
  • Michelle Yeoh: ‘Jackie Chan thought women belonged in the kitchen – until I kicked his butt’. The kung fu goddess talks about her most eye-popping stunts, her yearning to do another Crazy Rich Asians, and her outrageously enjoyable new Marvel movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
  • Watch “Reviving the Aboriginal cultural tradition of possum skin cloaks“—”Possum skin cloaks have been used by Aboriginal people in south-east Australia as an expression of individual identity. But the traditional practice was almost lost after colonisation. Mitch Mahoney, 24, spoke about why he’s helping to drive its resurgence.”
  • Blades in the Dark tabletop RPG being developed for TV. Peaky Blinders mixed with Ocean’s Eleven, seasoned with Gothic horror.”
  • Watch “Life Beyond 3: Official Trailer” from Melodysheep
  • Um. This is both interesting and unnerving. This is basically animal torture. But fascinating? From the Cross of a Frog dept: “I WAS BORN IN A GLASS!” They spent three years trying to hatch chickens outside of their shells.
  • Watch “The Wheel Of Time“, official teaser trailer, coming to Prime Video in December. Also “Amazon’s Wheel of Time show is finally revealed in its first trailer. Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.”
  • TwilioQuest. DISCOVER YOUR POWER TO CHANGE THE WORLD WITH CODE. Learn to code and lead your intrepid crew on a mission to save The Cloud in TwilioQuest, a PC role-playing game inspired by classics of the 16-bit era. Free forever, and available now for Windows, Mac, and Linux.”
  • Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator, due Sept 21—”Potion Craft is an alchemist simulator where you physically interact with your tools and ingredients to brew potions. You’re in full control of the whole shop: invent new recipes, attract customers and experiment to your heart’s content. Just remember: the whole town is counting on you.”
  • What started out online Nov 2020: “Dave Grohl VS Nandi Bushell EPIC Drum Battle – Dead End Friends – Them Crooked Vultures – Checkmate!” Became real Aug 2021: “Live Performance Dave Grohl and Nandi Bushell at The Forum LA jamming Everlong with Foo Fighters” (quality is a little low, but it’s film by her father. Here’s a 4k version with better audio.)
  • Watch “How This Heavy Metal Band TRANSFORMED The 70s With This Hard Rock Anthem“—”How Black Sabbath changed radio forever with Paranoid from their second album of the same name. They needed 3 more minutes of music to finish the album. Instead of simply jamming together for 3 inconsequential minutes as their producer suggested, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward created a track that inadvertently affected the future of rock & roll in the early 70s, Originally they were going to call the album War Pigs.”
  • Watch “Girl, 4, finds colonies of rare stingless bees in California neighborhood“—”A 4-year-old girl with a knack for nature found two colonies of rare stingless bees. Scientists thought these creatures were long gone and that no adult had managed to notice. Dana Jacobson reports from Palo Alto, California.”
  • Samurai, ninja, and anime butlers join dinosaur staff at Tokyo’s ‘Weird Hotel’“—”Say hello to the future of contact-free check-in. If you’re looking for a weird hotel to stay at in Japan, you can’t go past Hen na Hotel, a chain whose name literally translates to ‘Weird Hotel’. What makes their hotels so strange is the fact that instead of humans at the reception desk, guests are greeted by holograms and robot dinosaurs. Now, there’s a new branch opening at Kokubuncho in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, and at this location there are some new “weird” staff members on hand to help guests as well.”
  • Happy Star Trek Day! Watch “Star Trek: Prodigy“, main title sequence, coming to Paramount+. “… STAR TREK: PRODIGY is the first ‘Star Trek’ series aimed at younger audiences and will follow a motley crew of young aliens who must figure out how to work together while navigating a greater galaxy, in search for a better future. These six young outcasts know nothing about the ship they have commandeered – a first in the history of the Star Trek Franchise – but over the course of their adventures together, they will each be introduced to Starfleet and the ideals it represents.”
  • Also for Star Trek Day: Playmobil Star Trek – U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, $499.99. “Beam us up, Scotty! Discover the impressive U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 in a whole new light with the interactive Star Trek AR app from Playmobil! Explore the legendary starship, with its iconic bridge and engineering. Interact with her famous crew, featuring Captain Kirk, Spock, Uhura, McCoy, Sulu, Scotty and Chekov. Have fun recreating iconic scenes from the original series show, or set off on new adventures. With a removable roof, the entire bridge and crew are playable! Equipped with lighting effects and original sounds and dialogue from the show, you too can join the adventure of the Enterprise’s historic five-year mission. Dimensions: 39.4 x 18.9 x 13.4 in (LxWxH)”
  • Watch “ABBA announce new album Voyage and spectacular new live show“—”With their first new album in 40 years heading to stores on November 5, ABBA give us a detailed look behind the scenes of their groundbreaking new live show ABBA Voyage, due to launch in May 2022.” Watch “ABBA – I Still Have Faith In You.”
  • Watch “The Wave-Soaked Maiden — a Sea Shanty // Songs to Drown Sailors To”—”She said to him, come closer sir, and I’ll eat you alive / Da da da da, da da da da, I’ll eat you alive / Beware the wave-soaked maidens, to whom the depths belong / If you sail upon their waters, then you won’t sail for long.”