R.I.P. fRoots, bible of British folk music

“A big tree has fallen.”

‘For 40 years, the magazine was a guide to Britain’s pulsating underground and a champion of thrilling weirdos. Its closure leaves a chasm in the grassroots music scene…

Take a look at its recent 40th-anniversary edition: it’s like a huge fanzine created by a groovy uncle, occasionally gazing at the mainstream but much happier exploring the margins. Its going out guide is staggeringly broad, revealing a fertile UK festival and gig scene rarely covered by the national press. Features include a dig into Kate Bush’s traditional roots, reports on the qawwali ensembles of Pakistan and a free desert festival in Morocco, plus Scottish folk musician Alasdair Roberts celebrating new artist Burd Ellen’s songs about women. The huge reviews section takes in London’s Cafe Oto, Korean experimentalist Park Jiha and Topic Records’ 80th-anniversary CD. Trendy bells and whistles are few, but it’s a rich treasure trove...’

— Read on The Guardian

I’ve subscribed for most of its forty years. I can’t imagine what my music-listening habits would have been without it.

Possible Detection of a Black Hole So Big It ‘Should Not Exist’

Black Hole 2880x1700 Lede’Black hole physicists have been excitedly discussing reports that the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors recently picked up the signal of an unexpectedly enormous black hole, one with a mass that was thought to be physically impossible.

“The prediction is no black holes, not even a few” in this mass range, wrote Stan Woosley, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in an email. “But of course we know nature often finds a way.”

Seven experts contacted by Quanta said they’d heard that among the 22 flurries of gravitational waves detected by LIGO and Virgo since April, one of the signals came from a collision involving a black hole of unanticipated heft — purportedly as heavy as 100 suns.…’

Via Quanta Magazine

How mirror neurons allow us to send other people ‘good vibes’

I have long been interested in the relationship between mirror neurons and some behavioral disorders related to person-perception and the capacity for social relationships . I think the evidence is good that mirror neuron dysfunction plays a role in autistic spectrum disorders including Asperger syndrome. But, because of the mirror neuron system, smiles are literally neurologically contagious, and so are the good feelings associated with them. Via Big Think

Good luck trying to Google the devastating Amazon rainforest fires

Screen Shot 2019 08 21 at 6 37 01 PM e1566427819961’Right now, if you search for news about the massive fires burning in the Amazon rainforest, you might mostly find stories about the Amazon Fire line of tablets and streaming devices.

The search results come at a critical time for the rainforest. Smoke from the fires, which as of this afternoon cover huge swaths of the Amazon basin, completely blotted out the midday sun in Sao Paulo this week, darkening the city at 2:00pm on Monday (Aug. 19). According to Brazil’s state satellite agency, the number of fires in the Amazon so far this year is up 85% compared to the same period last year. About half of this year’s blazes have occurred in the last 20 days.

Meanwhile, many of the headlines in Google News highlight “midweek deals” on older models of Amazon’s Fire tablet and reviews of the latest version of the device. Searches for both “amazon fire” and “fire in the amazon” on Aug. 21 turned up news stories about the products rather than the fires; in one search, news stories about the ongoing Amazonian fires didn’t appear until the second page of Google News results.

Amazon Watch, one prominent NGO dedicated to advancing the rights of indigenous people living in the Amazon basin, has called on Jeff Bezos and his company to direct some efforts towards protectingits namesake ecosystem in the past. (Bezos installed a model “rainforest” in Amazon’s Seattle headquarters last year.)…’

Via Quartz

Monster crabs may hold clue to Amelia Earhart fate

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The secret of the 1937 disappearance of the famed aviator may lie in the underground haunts of the world’s largest land invertebrate. One theory is that Earhart made an emergency landing on one of the islands of Kiribati, which teems with coconut crabs. These monsters can measure three feet across and weigh more than nine pounds. Their claws exert more force than most animal bites. At night, observed one veteran of multiple expeditions to Kiribati, shining a flashlight can reveal hundreds of crabs clustering outside the shadow ring. One does not sleep on the ground. 

One theory says that Earhart was stranded on the island of Nikumaroro after flying off course and making an emergency landing with her navigator Fred Noonan, who soon died. Thirteen bones suspected to have been from Earhart’s body were found by British colonists in 1940 (they were sent to Fiji for analysis but later lost). Observations of the coconut crabs endemic to the area where the remains were found establishes that the eat, among other things, carrion, stripping a body to the bones in less than two weeks and dragging the bones back to their burrows. This may have happened to the rest of Earhart’s remains.Forensic dogs brought to the area two years ago signaled that someone had died there and excavations are proceeding. 

Via National Geographic

Don’t Believe a Word

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David Shariatmadari’s book explodes language myths:

’Each chapter explodes a common myth about language. Shariatmadari begins with the most common myth: that standards of English are declining. This is a centuries-old lament for which, he points out, there has never been any evidence. Older people buy into the myth because young people, who are more mobile and have wider social networks, are innovators in language as in other walks of life. Their habit of saying “aks” instead of “ask”, for instance, is a perfectly respectable example of metathesis, a natural linguistic process where the sounds in words swap round. (The word “wasp” used to be “waps” and “horse” used to be “hros”.) Youth is the driver of linguistic change. This means that older people feel linguistic alienation even as they control the institutions – universities, publishers, newspapers, broadcasters – that define standard English.

Another myth Shariatmadari dismantles is that foreign languages are full of untranslatable words. This misconception serves to exoticise other nationalities and cultures, making them sound quaint or bizarre. It amuses us to think that there are 27 words for eyebrow in Albanian. But we only really think this because of our grammar-blindness about Albanian, which can easily form adjectival compounds by joining two words together…

…He also rescues nonstandard forms, such as African American Vernacular English (AAVE), from the routine condescension meted out to them. AAVE misses out the linking “to be” verb (“you late”) but then so do many other languages. The AAVE construction “he be singing” does not mean “he is singing” but “he sings [as a hobby, professionally]”. It is an efficient means of marking the habitual aspect. “Imma” for “I’m going to” is another standard linguistic move: cutting a word or phrase that is just a grammatical marker. “Imma” doesn’t work with the more literal sense of “going to”, which is why you can say “Imma let you finish” (I’m going to let you finish) but not “Imma the shops” (I’m going to the shops).…’

Via The Guardian