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On “Kirk drift” 

The strange mass cultural misremembering of Captain Kirk:

‘In this really fantastic long-form essay published in the online magazine Strange Horizons, Erin Horáková digs into the weird way William Shatner’s James T. Kirk has been collectively misremembered by popular culture. As she writes:

“There is no other way to put this: essentially everything about Popular Consciousness Kirk is bullshit. Kirk, as received through mass culture memor and reflected in its productive imaginary (and subsequent franchise output, including the reboot movies), has little or no basis in Shatner’s performance and the television show as aired. Macho, brash Kirk is a mass hallucination.

…I believe people often rewatch the text or even watch it afresh and cannot see what they are watching through the haze of bullshit that is the received idea of what they’re seeing. You ‘know’ Star Trek before you ever see Star Trek: a ‘naive’ encounter with such a culturally cathected text is almost impossible, and even if you manage it you probably also have strong ideas about that period of history, era of SF, style of television, etc to contend with.”

Horáková goes on to explore the ways in which “Kirk drift” is connected to toxic masculinity, history, culture, and so much more…’

Source: Boing Boing

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Hey Please Don’t Call Trump’s New Hotline to Report UFOs

Wednesday was Alien Day—see, it’s 4/26 because of LV-426 in the original Ridley Scott Alien movie—which, of course, made it the ideal day for the government to unveil its new immigration initiative. The Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE, get it?) website is a hotline to report “crimes committed by removable criminal aliens.”

Thankfully, Twitter knew how to help everything run smoothly. Alexnder McCoy (@alexandermccoy4) tweeted: “Wouldn’t it be a shame if millions of people called this hotline to report their encounters with aliens of the UFO-variety?” And, from @dubsteppenwolf: “The # for Trump’s hotline to report “criminal aliens” is 855-48-VOICE. Please do not call this number to describe plots of X-Files episodes.”

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So that’s exactly what happened. People spammed the line with stories about space aliens. Which led to an amazing statement from ICE, describing the calls as a cheap publicity stunt “beyond the pale of legitimate public discourse” that is both “absurd” and “shameful.”

Everyone should be impressed that the trolls had the patience that they did. Some reported being on muzak-filled hold for nearly a half-hour to file their reports.

Source: WIRED

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The Kate Bush Conjecture

‘In her 2005 song “π,” Kate Bush sings the number π to its 78th decimal place, then jumps abruptly to the 101st and finishes at the 137th.The BBC’s More or Less advanced the “Kate Bush conjecture”: that the digits that Bush sings are contained somewhere in the decimal expansion of π — just not at the start.The conjecture is true if π turns out to be a “normal” number, meaning essentially that all possible sequences of digits (of a given length) appear equally often in its expansion.π hasn’t been proven to have this property, though it’s expected to be the case. So, for now, “The Kate Bush conjecture is plausible but unproven.” …’

Source: Futility Closet

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Why Uploading Consciousness to the Cloud Will Be Impossible

‘Brain-enhancing technologies like Elon Musk’s neural lace and neural activity transference have raised both excitement and concern about the possibility of uploading human consciousness to the cloud. Doing so would, in theory, free us from Shakespeare’s mortal coil, allowing us to exist indefinitely in digitized form. This idea presupposes that our bodies and consciousness can be separated, which, if you ask neuroscientist Anil Seth, Ph.D., is bunk. In a TED Talk in Vancouver on Wednesday, Seth, a co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science and professor at the University of Sussex, explained why doing so was impossible….’ (Inverse)

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10 Chinese Thinkers and Why You Should Know Them

‘The world’s most populous country is home to some of the world’s most interesting philosophical traditions. Going hand in hand with the world’s longest continuous history is an unbroken chain of thought that blends and complements opposing schools to create fascinating, beautiful, and practical approaches to life.Here is a list of ten of the greatest, most influential thinkers in Chinese history. Some you will have heard of, others… not so much. All of them are worth your time, and your study…’ (Big Think)

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Accidental Discovery Could Solve Earth’s Plastic Waste Problem

‘Scientists might have stumbled upon an unexpected way to solve pollution from plastics. A caterpillar bred to be fishing bait is apparently able to biodegrade polyethylene – a commonly used plastic found in shopping bags. With people using around a trillion plastic bags every year, and with up to 40% of them ending up in landfills, this could be a very significant discovery.The wax worm caterpillar that eats plastic is the larvae of the common insect Galleria mellonella, aka greater wax moth…’ (Big Think)

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What ‘personal space’ looks like around the world

‘…[P]ersonal space — how close we stand to our colleagues, our friends, strangers — varies widely between countries. Sociologists have studied the whys and hows, and they’ve come up with some theories about why these social norms exist. Temperature tends to affect how people define personal space. So do gender and age.

But, they think, our personal boundaries have a lot to do with where we grow up. These researchers sort the world into “contact cultures” (South America, the Middle East, Southern Europe) and “non-contact cultures” (Northern Europe, North America, Asia). In non-contact cultures, people stand farther apart and touch less…’ (Washington Post)

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Americans are now utterly intolerant of ever being told they’re wrong about almost anything

‘This isn’t just human nature, but the result of a narcissism that took root in American society after the 1960s and has been growing ever since. Surrounded by affluence, enabled by the internet, and empowered by an educational system that prizes self-esteem over achievement, Americans have become more opinionated even as they have become less informed, and are now utterly intolerant of ever being told they’re wrong about almost anything…’ (MarketWatch)

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Suicide and the Rural ER

‘Rural America languishes not only without enough jobs, doctors, or hospitals, but also without adequate mental health care. Psychiatrists are rare as Sasquatch while the few functioning clinics are overwhelmed by cases of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and addiction. Rural hospitals have been closing and the remaining rural ERs have been struggling with financial and staffing issues, so most have little to offer patients like Jake except hours to days, to sometimes weeks, of deadly boring non-treatment. Even tele-psychiatry is often an expensive luxury we can’t afford.’ (Daily Yonder)

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US has regressed to developing nation status, MIT economist warns

‘America is regressing to have the economic and political structure of a developing nation, an MIT economist has warned.

 Peter Temin says the world’s’ largest economy has roads and bridges that look more like those in Thailand and Venezuela than those in parts of Europe.

In his new book, “The Vanishing Middle Class”, reviewed by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Mr Temin says the fracture of US society is leading the middle class to disappear.

The economist describes a two-track economy with on the one hand 20 per cent of the population that is educated and enjoys good jobs and supportive social networks.

On the other hand, the remaining 80 per cent, he said, are part of the US’ low-wage sector, where the world of possibility has shrunk and people are burdened with debts and anxious about job security.

Mr Temin used a model, which was created by Nobel Prize winner Arthur Lewis and designed to understand developing nations, to describe how far inequalities have progressed in the US.

When applied to the US, Mr Temin said that “the Lewis model actually works”. ‘ (The Independent)

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Mrs. Whitcher and the Renegade Numbers

‘In 1938 a wallet manufacturer called the E.H. Ferree company had a genius idea: to show people just how well cards would fit in the wallet, by using a placeholder. This was before credit cards and before many drivers licenses were small enough to fit into wallets. So the thing they used to showcase the wallet was a social security card. The card they placed in each and every wallet was only about half the size of a real social security card, and that had “specimen” printed in red all over it. The placeholder card was fake in almost all ways but one: The social security number on it was real. It belonged to the secretary of the company’s Vice President and Treasurer, a woman named Mrs. Hilda Schrader Whitcher.

The wallet was sold all over the US in Woolworth stores. And soon after it hit the shelves, people started using that social security number as their own.According to The Social Security Administration, at the peak of the Whitcher confusion, 5,755 people were using her social security number. In total, they say that over 40,000 people have reported her number as their own…’ (The Last Word On Nothing )

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Robert M. Pirsig 1928-2017, R.I.P.

Author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Dies at 88

‘The near-cult popularity of “Zen” … puzzled him for years before he came up with a theory. Writing in an afterword to the 10th-anniversary edition in 1984, he used a Swedish word (it was his mother’s native language) to describe the phenomenon. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” he wrote, was a “kulturbarer,” or culture-bearer.

A culture-bearing book is not necessarily a great book, he said. It does not change the culture. It simply heralds a change already underway. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” an indictment of slavery published before the Civil War, was a culture-bearing book, he said.“I was just telling my own story,” he said in a short interview posted on his website. He had never intended to make a splash.“I expressed what I thought were my prime thoughts,” he added, “and they turned out to be the prime thoughts of everybody else.” ..’ (New York Times obituary)

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Donald Trump Is Unintelligible

‘The AP has released the transcript of its Friday interview with our Yam-in-Chief, and much of it is utterly unintelligible.That’s not just my personal assessment, either. In 16 instances, the AP’s transcribers found that they were unable to discern what the fuck it was that Trump was saying. Webster’s defines “unintelligible” as “impossible to understand.” My theory isn’t so much that the recording was inaudible so much as that it didn’t make a lick of sense.I’m warning you now that there’s a whole lot of text down here, but I’m sparing you the 55 instances of ellipses, in which he trailed off because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Webster’s defines “unintelligible” as “impossible to understand.” My theory isn’t so much that the recording was inaudible so much as that it didn’t make a lick of sense.I’m warning you now that there’s a whole lot of text down here, but I’m sparing you the 55 instances of ellipses, in which he trailed off because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

I’m warning you now that there’s a whole lot of text down here, but I’m sparing you the 55 instances of ellipses, in which he trailed off because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.’ (Jezebel)

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New tell-all about Clinton campaign: searing indictment of the candidate

‘It does not take more than a few pages for journalists Jon Allen and Amie Parnes (right) to arrive at what amounts to their thesis in Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed 2016 Campaign, a new tell-all book built off years of reporting on the trail.

“[Clinton’s] campaign was an unholy mess, fraught with tangled lines of authority, petty jealousies, distorted priorities, and no sense of greater purpose. No one was in charge, and no one had figured out how to make the campaign about something bigger than Hillary,” Allen and Parnes write in the book’s introduction. “[But] no explanation of defeat can begin with anything other than the core problem of Hillary’s campaign — Hillary herself.”

Writing in a lively and fast-paced narrative, Allen and Parnes use their unparalleled access (more than 100 on-background interviews with top Clinton surrogates) to richly document what it felt like to be aboard the Clinton Hindenburg, as well as to argue that Trump’s victory was not inevitable, or the result of interventions from the FBI or Russia, but the result of campaign incoherence that went all the way to the top…’ (Vox)

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Air strikes are not an effective tactic of war, but we keep using them anyway

‘America dropped twice the tonnage of bombs on Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam as it dropped during the entire Second World War. There was so much ordnance dropped that it altered the landscape. In his book Kill Anything That Moves, the author Nick Turse quotes the ecologist Arthur Westing as writing during a wartime visit to Vietnam, “Never were we out of sight of the endless panorama of craters.” So many defoliants were dropped from American planes that between 1945 and 1980 forest cover in Vietnam declined by half. There are 78 million unexploded bombs currently still littering the landscape of Laos. And despite the overkill, America lost the war. Bombing, even with “creative” weapons like Agent Orange and Napalm, simply didn’t work. As Nick Turse writes, “Overkill was suppose to solve all American problems, and the answer to any setback was just more overkill.”

Impact craters left after a U.S. B52 bombing strike north of Dai Teng, Vietnam, in 1968. (Tim Page/Corbis via Getty Images)

The precision bombing technologies developed during the 70’s and more recent drone technologies were supposed to be the end of overkill. From now on, America would only kill bad guys, quickly and efficiently. But technology isn’t perfect, as our recent bombing of Syria has shown. Innocent people are always killed in wars, no matter the steps taken to mitigate it. So bombing remains as counterproductive as ever. As Institute for Policy Studies Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis said in an interview, “You can’t bomb terrorism out of existence.” You can destroy buildings and kill people, and perhaps you’ll kill a terrorist in the process, but that’s not a strategy to win wars or end terrorism. Rather, it only causes “more terrorism, antagonism, and violence.” …’

Source: Timeline

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Laurie Anderson’s Glorious, Chaotic New York

‘After 40 years, still, no one tells stories like Laurie Anderson.’

My friend Abby pointed me from Europe to this piece in the New York Times. Here is Laurie looking beautiful at 69. Her name comes up for me when I am asked one of those questions about listing the people one would most like to meet or have dinner with. The piece is not really about her New York, it is about her.

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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was just fired

‘America’s “top doctor” and an Obama-appointee, Vivek Murthy, was dismissed and replaced by the Trump Administration on Friday.

In a statement, the administration said it asked Murthy to resign from his post as Surgeon General after he helped with “a smooth transition.” …

The New York Times reported a somewhat different story: Murthy was asked to step down, refused, and was fired…’

Source: Vox

Murthy was anti-vaping, pro-ObamaCare, and a proponent of gun control.

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Donald Trump has ‘dangerous mental illness’, say psychiatry experts at Yale conference

Trump-narcissus.jpeg‘Donald Trump has a “dangerous mental illness” and is not fit to lead the US, a group of psychiatrists has warned during a conference at Yale University.Mental health experts claimed the President was “paranoid and delusional”, and said it was their “ethical responsibility” to warn the American public about the “dangers” Mr Trump’s psychological state poses to the country.

Speaking at the conference at Yale’s School of Medicine on Thursday, one of the mental health professionals, Dr John Gartner, a practising psychotherapist who advised psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, said: “We have an ethical responsibility to warn the public about Donald Trump’s dangerous mental illness.” …’

Source: The Independent

#notmypresident #unfit

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Scientists have created a fluid with negative mass – but what does it tell us?

‘Scientists have created a fluid that exhibits the bizarre property of “negative mass” in an experiment that appears to defy the everyday laws of motion.

Push an object and Newton’s laws (and common experience) dictate that it will accelerate in the direction in which it was shoved.

“That’s what most things that we’re used to do,” said Michael Forbes, a physicist at Washington State University and co-author of the paper, which shows that normal intuitions do not always apply to physics experiments. “With negative mass, if you push something, it accelerates toward you.”

Negative mass has previously cropped up in speculative theories, including those suggesting the existence of wormholes, a form of cosmological shortcut between two points in the universe. Just as electric charge can be either positive or negative, matter could, hypothetically, have either positive or negative mass.

For an object with negative mass, Newton’s second law of motion, in which a force is equal to the mass of an object multiplied by its acceleration (F=ma) would be experienced in reverse.

Theoretically, this sounds straightforward, but picturing how this behaviour would work in the real world is bewildering, even for experts…’

Source: The Guardian

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What the Hell is This Beautiful Thing?

‘Meet Steve, a newly discovered atmospheric phenomenon that’s so strange it still doesn’t have a formal scientific description, hence the placeholder name. Thanks to the work of aurora enthusiasts and atmospheric scientists, we’re now learning more about Steve, but many questions remain.

 This stunning feature was first documented by the Facebook group Alberta Aurora Chasers last year. Awareness of the object, in conjunction with the powers of social media, have now resulted in more than 50 observer reports. This ribbon of purple and green light is unlike any other known auroral feature and we’re still not sure what causes it. The Alberta Aurora Chasers decided to call it Steve in honor of the children’s movie Over the Hedge, in which a character arbitrarily conjures up the name Steve to describe an object he’s not sure about…’

Source: Gizmodo

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Courts Are Using AI to Sentence Criminals. That Must Stop Now

‘Algorithms pervade our lives today, from music recommendations to credit scores to now, bail and sentencing decisions. But there is little oversight and transparency regarding how they work. Nowhere is this lack of oversight more stark than in the criminal justice system. Without proper safeguards, these tools risk eroding the rule of law and diminishing individual rights.

Currently, courts and corrections departments around the US use algorithms to determine a defendant’s “risk”, which ranges from the probability that an individual will commit another crime to the likelihood a defendant will appear for his or her court date. These algorithmic outputs inform decisions about bail, sentencing, and parole. Each tool aspires to improve on the accuracy of human decision-making that allows for a better allocation of finite resources.

Typically, government agencies do not write their own algorithms; they buy them from private businesses. This often means the algorithm is proprietary or “black boxed”, meaning only the owners, and to a limited degree the purchaser, can see how the software makes decisions. Currently, there is no federal law that sets standards or requires the inspection of these tools, the way the FDA does with new drugs.

Source: WIRED

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Donald Trump Seems To Think That Kim Jong-Un Is The Same Person As Kim Jong-Il

“On “Fox and Friends” this morning, President Trump promised not “to telegraph what I’m doing or what I’m thinking,” but he ended up telegraphing a major misconception. In an interview with Ainsley Earhardt, Trump appeared to confuse current North Korean Kim Jong-un with his father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il. Trump said:

‘They’ve been talking with this gentleman for a long time. You read Clinton’s book, he said, ‘Oh, we made such a great peace deal,’ and it was a joke. You look at different things over the years, with President Obama, everybody’s been outplayed, they’ve all been outplayed by this gentleman.’. …”

Source: Digg

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A Trail of Strange Physics Results Offers Tantalizing Hints of New Particles

‘Conceptually, particle physics experiments are surprisingly simple. Smash a shitload of particles together, and look at what comes out. The results will either confirm whatever the business-as-usual theory is, or, if there’s a really crystal clear deviation from that theory, they might prove some new hypothesis about some new particles. But the middle ground, where the difference between what we know and what we see is still fuzzy, is where lots and lots of results live.

New results from LHCb, one of the experiments observing particle collisions at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, are showing one such fuzzy discrepancy. Physicists are cautiously excited, because if these results hold up, they would imply the existence of some brand-new particles. Unlike last year, when a small signal that seemed like it could have been something new turned out to be just a statistical fluke, these new results are popping up in the wake of another hint observed in a different way a few years ago that hasn’t gone away. So, this time, there may really be something there.

If these signals do turn out to indicate real discoveries, it might “imply the existence of some new kind of particles or other physics that’s still unknown,” LHCb physics coordinator Vincenzo Vagnoni told Gizmodo. “This is a way to unveil the existence of a new family of particles.” …’

Source: Gizmodo

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What Do Animals See in a Mirror?

‘A controversial test for self-awareness is dividing the animal kingdom.

…Showing chimpanzees their reflections seemed like a fascinating little experiment when he first tried it in the summer of 1969. He didn’t imagine that this would become one of the most influential—and most controversial—tests in comparative psychology, ushering the mind into the realm of experimental science and foreshadowing questions on the depth of animal suffering. “It’s not the ability to recognize yourself in a mirror that is important,” he would come to believe. “It’s what that says about your ability to conceive of yourself in the first place.”

…[P]assing the mirror test indicates a level of self-awareness that makes it unethical to keep a species in captivity. “These animals have at least some level of self-awareness, and if they do, they know where they are, they can be aware of the limitations of their physical environment,” Marino says. She is now the science director for the Nonhuman Rights Project, which is attempting to gain legal rights for animals with higher-order cognitive abilities by getting courts to recognize them as “legal persons,” and Reiss advocates for dolphin protection. Key to their arguments is the scientific evidence that chimps, elephants, cetaceans, and other animals are self-aware like humans. Not only can they suffer, but they can think to themselves, I am suffering…’

Source: Nautilus

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How to change someone’s mind effectively

‘…[W]e should focus on having more active conversations instead of passively sparing with our opposition online. If you have the chance to talk through your arguments with someone else instead of simply reading an argument and pondering your response, you are more likely to change your mind. When people take the time to exchange arguments in the course of a discussion, they tend to adopt better-supported opinions. This has been observed in a great variety of domains, from medical diagnoses to political predictions. In the case of logical or mathematical problems, this happens even if the individual defending the correct answer faces a group that confidently and unanimously agrees on the wrong answer.Believing that arguing will get us nowhere is not only unjustified, it might also be dangerous. The less we believe arguments work, the less we will try to engage people who disagree with us. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, we would then only talk with people who share our views—and that’s not going to change anyone’s mind at all.

Source: Hugo Mercier — Quartz

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Unprecedented String of Executions Blocked After Drug Co. Objections

‘A judge in Arkansas moved Friday to block the state from carrying out up to seven executions this month, deepening the turmoil that surrounds a planned pace of killing with no equal in the modern history of American capital punishment.

Judge Wendell Griffen of the Pulaski County Circuit Court issued a restraining order Friday that forbids the Arkansas authorities from using their supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three execution drugs the state planned to use. Hours earlier, the nation’s largest pharmaceutical company went to court to argue that the state had purchased the drug using a false pretense…

Four companies have publicly raised concerns about how the Arkansas Department of Correction came to stockpile the drugs for its lethal injection cocktail — midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride — but only the McKesson Corporation, the drug distributor that ranks fifth on the Fortune 500 list of companies, made an explicit allegation of deception.

Arkansas, the company said, bought 10 boxes of vecuronium bromide, which the state can use to stop a prisoner’s breathing.

But the state prison system “never disclosed its intended purpose to us for these products,” a lawyer for McKesson, Ethan M. Posner, wrote in a letter obtained by The New York Times. “To the contrary, it purchased the products on an account that was opened under the valid medical license of an Arkansas physician, implicitly representing that the products would only be used for a legitimate medical purpose.” …’

Source: New York Times

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While the US Was Bombing Afghanistan, the Coward-in-Chief Was Secretly Signing Bill to Block Planned Parenthood Money

‘…On Thursday, as news broke that the U.S. had just dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on an Afghanistan area believed to be Islamic State-group-related, either tunnels or actual Islamic State personnel or both, the dictator in chief was squirreled away in private, somewhere in the corner of the Oval Office, signing legislation that would allow states to withhold federal funding from Planned Parenthood.

The action, according to the Associated Press, erases former President Barack Obama’s rule that blocked states from withholding federal Title X funding from women’s organizations that perform abortions, including Planned Parenthood…’

Source: Kinja

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Your Guide to All the Devastating Weapons You Hear About in the News

‘Check the news and you’re guaranteed to hear to about conflict in some part of the world. But there are a lot of weapon terms getting thrown around without explanation, and even people in the public eye are totally clueless about what these weapons do. Here’s everything you need to know about the MOAB, Tomahawk missiles, barrel bombs, chemical weapons, and more…’

Source: Lifehacker

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Poignant ‘First Protest from Space’

“The Autonomous Space Agency Network (ASAN), an independent advocate of DIY space exploration, has a message for Donald Trump and they’ve launched a weather balloon into the stratosphere to send it: “@realDonaldTrump LOOK AT THAT, YOU SON OF A BITCH.” It’s honestly not as confrontational as it seems at first glance.

The Overview Effect is a phenomenon that many of the lucky few to visit space have reported feeling. It simply describes a cognitive shift in which the person suddenly felt the enormity of the universe and the silliness of human squabbles. Edgar Mitchell was one of the astronauts who reported this change in his understanding of life. Mitchell was the pilot of Apollo 14 and the sixth person to walk on the Moon. When he came back to Earth he had this to say:

 ‘You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.” ‘

The beauty of what ASAN is calling the “First Protest in Space” is that it could be referring to any complaint you’d like to lodge about Trump and his “America first” approach to leadership. There a lot of people on this big blue orb and they’re going to need the planet that the president is so tirelessly working to destroy…”

Source: Gizmodo

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5 ways the North Korea situation could spiral out of control

‘To understand how close we are to full-scale conflict in North Korea, I reached out to Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Lewis focuses on nuclear nonproliferation, international security, and disarmament, and he is the author of Minimum Means of Reprisal: China’s Search for Security in the Nuclear Age. I asked Lewis to lay out some of the worst-case scenarios in North Korea. Here’s what he told me…’

Source: Vox

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Glorious — and vulnerable

‘…We’ve just ascended the tallest mountain in the Hawaiian islands, Mauna Kea, to see the pair of 10-meter Keck Telescopes, the largest and most powerful optical telescopes in the world. Hawaii lies 4,000km away from the closest continent, North America, making this the most remote archipelago on Earth. With clear skies, therefore, Mauna Kea has arguably the best “seeing” of any telescope site in the world.

The combination of big mirrors and dark skies has proven nothing short of revelatory. Since the first of the two Keck telescopes began observing the heavens in 1993, astronomers have used the instruments to discover dark energy, find outer Solar System objects that led to Pluto’s demotion, and more. On a given night, an astronomer might point a telescope toward volcano eruptions on the Jovian moon Io or study faint galaxies at the edge of the visible universe.

But increasingly, the mountain’s fair skies are clouded with controversy. Native Hawaiians dispute the right of outsiders to build large telescopes on their sacred mountain, and a proposal to build a much larger instrument, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), on Mauna Kea has galvanized the activists as never before…’

Source: Ars Technica

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Research Explains Why Your Shoelaces Are Always Coming Undone

‘There are a number of forces at play that contribute to the spontaneous untying of shoelaces, according to the study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A on Tuesday. Daily-Diamond and his co-researchers were able to figure this out by recording a high-speed video of someone running on a treadmill until their shoelaces untied. From there, they were able to build a working hypothesis, which they tested with further experiments…’

Source: Motherboard

Better yet, the research points to a modification in your shoe-tying methodology that will keep them tied significantly longer.

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R.I.P. Mark Hawthorne, a Man of Few Words Except, ‘I Hate You’

“For many journalists, there is life after The New York Times.

Few, however, have led a life as strange and rich as Mark Hawthorne did. Better known as the beloved and respected “Hate Man” of Berkeley, Calif., Mr. Hawthorne died this month at 80 after living for decades on the streets of Berkeley and in People’s Park. His death became international news when it was reported by The Guardian.

An admission of hate, for Mr. Hawthorne, was a necessary prelude to love.

“He had come to believe that dialogue, understanding or trust between people can only be established if they admit what separates them, or, as he put it, why they hate each other,” Michael T. Kaufman, Mr. Hawthorne’s best friend at The Times, wrote about their reunion, in 1990, after more than two decades apart. “Negative emotions, he insisted, are true and real, while positive feelings are intrinsically hypocritical.”

“As we sat together, once more enjoying conversation and argument,” Mr. Kaufman recalled, “students would occasionally approach and good-naturedly call out, ‘I hate you.’ My friend would reply, ‘I hate you, too.’ …”

Source: New York Times obituary

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Trump team on the defensive; Democrats stop fawning

Tommy Christopher writes:

‘Donald Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes on a Syrian airfield was hailed by many corporate media and foreign policy establishment types, but in addition to the myriad questions surrounding the motivation and constitutionality of Trump’s unilateral action, the ineffectiveness of the strike is becoming the story. According to multiple reports, flights from the airbase resumed on Friday, a day after the strikes. …’

Source: Shareblue

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The ‘untranslatable’ emotions you never knew you had

‘Have you ever felt a little mbuki-mvuki – the irresistible urge to “shuck off your clothes as you dance”? Perhaps a little kilig – the jittery fluttering feeling as you talk to someone you fancy? How about uitwaaien – which encapsulates the revitalising effects of taking a walk in the wind?

These words – taken from Bantu, Tagalog, and Dutch – have no direct English equivalent, but they represent very precise emotional experiences that are neglected in our language. And if Tim Lomas at the University of East London has his way, they might soon become much more familiar.

Lomas’s Positive Lexicography Project aims to capture the many flavours of good feelings (some of which are distinctly bittersweet) found across the world, in the hope that we might start to incorporate them all into our daily lives. We have already borrowed many emotion words from other languages, after all – think “frisson”, from French, or “schadenfreude”, from German – but there are many more that have not yet wormed their way into our vocabulary. Lomas has found hundreds of these “untranslatable” experiences so far – and he’s only just begun.

Learning these words, he hopes, will offer us all a richer and more nuanced understanding of ourselves. “They offer a very different way of seeing the world.”

 Lomas says he was first inspired after hearing a talk on the Finnish concept of sisu, which is a sort of “extraordinary determination in the face of adversity”. According to Finnish speakers, the English ideas of “grit”, “perseverance” or “resilience” do not come close to describing the inner strength encapsulated in their native term. It was “untranslatable” in the sense that there was no direct or easy equivalent encoded within the English vocabulary that could capture that deep resonance.

Intrigued, he began to hunt for further examples, scouring the academic literature and asking every foreign acquaintance for their own suggestions. The first results of this project were published in the Journal of Positive Psychology last year.

Many of the terms referred to highly specific positive feelings, which often depend on very particular circumstances:

  • Desbundar (Portuguese) – to shed one’s inhibitions in having fun
  • Tarab (Arabic) – a musically induced state of ecstasy or enchantment
  • Shinrin-yoku (Japanese) – the relaxation gained from bathing in the forest, figuratively or literally
  • Gigil (Tagalog) – the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished
  • Yuan bei (Chinese) – a sense of complete and perfect accomplishment
  • Iktsuarpok (Inuit) – the anticipation one feels when waiting for someone, whereby one keeps going outside to check if they have arrived

But others represented more complex and bittersweet experiences, which could be crucial to our growth and overall flourishing.

  • Natsukashii (Japanese) – a nostalgic longing for the past, with happiness for the fond memory, yet sadness that it is no longer
  • Wabi-sabi (Japanese) – a “dark, desolate sublimity” centred on transience and imperfection in beauty
  • Saudade (Portuguese) – a melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away either spatially or in time – a vague, dreaming wistfulness for phenomena that may not even exist
  • Sehnsucht (German) – “life-longings”, an intense desire for alternative states and realisations of life, even if they are unattainable

In addition to these emotions, Lomas’s lexicography also charted the personal characteristics and behaviours that might determine our long-term well-being and the ways we interact with other people.

  • Dadirri (Australian aboriginal) term – a deep, spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening
  • Pihentagyú (Hungarian) – literally meaning “with a relaxed brain”, it describes quick-witted people who can come up with sophisticated jokes or solutions
  • Desenrascanço (Portuguese) – to artfully disentangle oneself from a troublesome situation
  • Sukha (Sanskrit) – genuine lasting happiness independent of circumstances
  • Orenda (Huron) – the power of the human will to change the world in the face of powerful forces such as fate

You can view many more examples on his website, where there is also the opportunity to submit your own…’

Source: BBC – Future (via David)

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Can the President read?

…’When Donald Trump hosted Saturday Night Live in 2015, none of the regulars were happy about it, according to an interview with Killam in Brooklyn Magazine… But here’s an observation from Killam about Trump that brings us to a serious question.

“What you see is what you get with him, really,” he said. “I mean, there was no big reveal. He struggled to read at the table read, which did not give many of us great confidence. Didn’t get the jokes, really. He’s just a man who seems to be powered by bluster.”

It’s an interesting question, which has been asked before. In news reports of how briefings unfolded before recent air strikes on Syria, multiple accounts say Trump asked for more pictures, no text…’

Source: Boing Boing

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Top Democrats Are Wrong: Trump Supporters Were More Motivated by Racism Than Economic Issues

 

‘Since Donald Trump’s shock election victory, leading Democrats have worked hard to convince themselves, and the rest of us, that his triumph had less to do with racism and much more to do with economic anxiety — despite almost all of the available evidence suggesting otherwise…

Look, I get it. It’s difficult to accept that millions of your fellow citizens harbor what political scientists have identified as “racial resentment.” The reluctance to acknowledge that bigotry, and tolerance of bigotry, is still so widespread in society is understandable. From an electoral perspective too, why would senior members of the Democratic leadership want to alienate millions of voters by dismissing them as racist bigots? …

Philip Klinkner, a political scientist at Hamilton College and an expert on race relations, has pored over the latest data from the American National Election Studies (ANES), and tells me that “whether it’s good politics to say so or not, the evidence from the 2016 election is very clear that attitudes about blacks, immigrants, and Muslims were a key component of Trump’s appeal.” For example, he says, “in 2016 Trump did worse than Mitt Romney among voters with low and moderate levels of racial resentment, but much better among those with high levels of resentment.”

The new ANES data only confirms what a plethora of studies have told us since the start of the presidential campaign: the race was about race. Klinkner himself grabbed headlines last summer when he revealed that the best way to identify a Trump supporter in the U.S. was to ask “just one simple question: is Barack Obama a Muslim?” Because, he said, “if they are white and the answer is yes, 89 percent of the time that person will have a higher opinion of Trump than Clinton.” This is economic anxiety? Really?

Other surveys and polls of Trump voters found “a strong relationship between anti-black attitudes and support for Trump”; Trump supporters being “more likely to describe African Americans as ‘criminal,’ ‘unintelligent,’ ‘lazy’ and ‘violent’”; more likely to believe “people of color are taking white jobs”; and a “majority” of them rating blacks “as less evolved than whites.” Sorry, but how can any of these prejudices be blamed on free trade or low wages? …’

Source: The Intercept

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The Outrage of Bipartisan Praise for Trump’s Bombing of Syria

Instantly falling behind Trump as he ejaculates with Cruise missiles ensures that he keeps doing so: There is no more reliable factor to reflexively unite people behind any leader than war, and Trump now sees how true that is. The same political leaders who have spent the months since his election denouncing him as a mentally unstable inept Fascist and an unprecedented threat to democracy are now lauding him uncritically for his missile attack on Syrian government targets. Even if you are someone who on principle wanted the US to attack Assad, shouldn’t your view that Trump is a fool and a monster prevent endorsement of this war with this Commander-in-Chief?

And, as always in war, the American media is immediately converted into state media. In the first 24 hours after, the five leading US newspapers had eighteen op-ed pieces in praise of, and zero in opposition to, the attack.

The unexamined questionable claim that this attack serves humanitarian goals exerts such a powerful appeal that it overrides all rational considerations. The Trump blockade on refugees fleeing the horrors of the civil war gives the lie to any sentiment for the victims of the gas attacks, though, doesn’t it? The US does not blow things up for altruistic reasons, it does so when it believes there will be some self-serving benefit, but we always want to believe that our bombs and missiles will be filled with love, help, and freedom. In the last two months, Trump has ordered a commando raid in Yemen that has massacred children and dozens of innocent people, bombed Mosul and killed scores of civilians, and bombed a mosque near Aleppo that killed dozens.

While Trump said it was in the “vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons”, there is no conceivable self-defense pretext for Trump’s action. The greatest threat it solves is that to Trump’s infantile ego, instantly giving him the media respect he craves with his most popular action since he took office, changing the indubitable perception of disarray in his administration as his popularity rating continues its steady downward crawl. Trump himself had accused Obama in 2012 of preparing to start a new war in response to falling poll numbers. Instantly falling behind Trump as he ejaculates with Cruise missiles ensures that he keeps doing so. As NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman observed, “This action is a feel-good kind of thing for Trump. Blow away aircraft; you don’t kill any Russians, and that’s it. It’s good optics.”

Those who voice opposition to the bombing campaign are met with two predictable and pervasive toxic conceits driving American decision-making: that we must “Do Something” and “Look Strong,” predicated on the false and dangerous premise that the US military can and should solve every world evil. Democratic policy-makers are in thrall to these same principles. Critics have spent months claiming Trump is a traitorous puppet of Putin’s unwilling to defend US interests and that anyone who refuses to confront the Russians or their proxies like Assad is a sympathizer of or a servant to foreign enemies. Thus, they have no ability or desire to oppose Trump’s wars. Even those Democrats who have criticized the bombing campaign have done so on process issues rather than on the merits – with very few exceptions such as Rep. Ted Lieu and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

And even the procedural objections to this action have been cowardly and inept. Is no one concerned that he was able to order this attack without any democratic debate, not to mention Congressional approval? The action was without even the pretext of anti-terrorist legal justification Obama drew upon through the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force when he started bombing ISIS in Syria.

Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard professor and former George W. Bush lawyer, said, “I can imagine the smile on Trump administration officials’ faces when they figured out that they would both enforce a red line that Obama wouldn’t and rely on Obama administration legal thinking to provide cover for doing so.”

The Congressional abdication of war-making authority to an all-powerful imperial presidency has been jointly built by both parties and handed to Trump gift-wrapped.

The autocratic presidency only works in the hands of a clever and moral man. One of Obama’s best decisions, and one of which he said he was very proud, was his resistance to bipartisan demands that he use military force against Assad. In contrast, we knew where Trump’s morality stood long before he was elected, with his explicit vows to commit war crimes — torturing detainees and purposely murdering the families of terrorists.

US war fever waits for nothing. Wanting conclusive evidence before we drop bombs is roundly condemned as support for evil. The chemical weapons claim rapidly became the gospel truth even though questioned in multiple world capitals. How do you know whether there really was a sarin gas attack and, if there was, that the Assad government was responsible? Susan Rice just two months ago boasted to NPR: “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.” Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, for one, had urged an investigation to determine what had actually happened before any action was undertaken in response. No US allies could be enlisted to cooperate and give broader legitimacy to the action. Britain, for example, “said it would not participate if asked,” the Washington Post reported.

Trump made it clear that this was a limited action designed to punish and warn Assad for the use of chemical weapons rather than the start of a new war to remove him. But crossing a line with our aggression often quickly becomes impossible to contain. And I am skeptical that Congress would demand a role in deciding on any wider effort, or that they would prevail if they did. As Glenn Greenwald summarized it:

‘Ultimately, what is perhaps most depressing about all of this is how, yet again, we see the paucity of choice offered by American democracy. The leadership of both parties can barely contain themselves joining together to cheer the latest war. One candidate – the losing one – ran on a platform of launching this new war, while the other – the victor – repeatedly vowed to avoid it, only to launch it after being in office fewer than 100 days. The one constant of American political life is that the U.S. loves war. Martin Luther King’s 1967 denunciation of the U.S. as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” is more accurate than ever.’

#notmypresident #notmeinfuhrer

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Cannibalism Study: People Are Not That Nutritious

‘Note to the prehistoric party planner: One dead mammoth can feed 25 hungry Neanderthals for a month, but cannibalizing a human would provide the crowd with only a third of a day’s calories.

Essentially, you’re a walking lunch.

A new look at the nutritional value of human flesh shows that, compared with other Paleolithic prey animals, humans weren’t especially packed with calories for their size…’

Source: National Geographic

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U.S. strikes Syrian military airfield

First direct assault on Assad government

‘The U.S. military launched approximately 50 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield late on Thursday, in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began six years ago.The operation, which the Trump administration authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack killing scores of civilians this week, dramatically expands U.S. military involvement in Syria and exposes the United States to heightened risk of direct confrontation with Russia and Iran, both backing Assad in his attempt to crush his opposition…’

Source: Washington Post

The infant tyrant strikes. As my friend Rich Kubelka comments, “Agent Orange tips off his master, Putin, per the “deconfliction” agreement, & Putin tells Assad to scramble the jets at that airfield. End result? We’ve just bought $44.5 million worth of potholes… And AO gets to look like a tough guy…”

Or, as per Vox:

‘What’s crucial here is that Trump’s justification for launching the strike isn’t to end the Syrian civil war, or even to slow down Assad’s killing of his country’s civilians. It is a “targeted” strike designed as punishment for one specific crime: the use of chemical weapons.

 The core problem with any proposed plan for intervention against Assad has always been the risk that it could get wildly out of hand, dragging the US deeper into the Syrian conflict than it was prepared to go and potentially making the already incredibly complex and bloody war even worse. Any serious intervention in Syria also carried the very real risk of killing Russian soldiers, who are in Syria helping Assad, thus potentially sparking conflict with a powerful, nuclear-armed enemy.

The Trump administration is trying to avoid this kind of open-ended commitment. By going out of his way to emphasize that this US strike targeted the exact airbase from where the chemical attack was launched, Trump is making it crystal clear that the strike is designed as a specific punishment for the recent chemical attack — and not a broader effort aimed at striking Assad until he stops bombing civilians or leaves power.

The goal isn’t to stop the bloodshed in Syria, but rather to send a message to Assad (and potentially other rogue states) that chemical weapons use is out of bounds…’

#notmypresident

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R.I.P. Joanne Kyger

Beat Generation Poet Dies at 82:

“The shape of the day, the words of the moment, what’s happening around me in the world of interior and exterior space — these are my writing concerns,” Ms. Kyger explained in a statement to the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in New York in 2005.

Joanne Kyger, a prolific poet whose works, inspired by natural wonders and Zen Buddhism, distinguished her as one of the few women embraced by the Beat Generation writers’ fraternity, died on March 22 at her home in Bolinas, Calif. She was 82.

The cause was lung cancer, her husband, Donald Guravich, said.

Along with Diane di Prima, Anne Waldman and several others, Ms. Kyger made her mark not only as a writer, but also as a member of the male-dominated post-World War II cultural movement personified by William S. Burroughs, Lucien Carr, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke, Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac.

(It was Kerouac who, to characterize his generation, appropriated the musical term, which he interpreted as nonconformist and upbeat.)

In her “Night Palace,” from 2003, she wrote:

“The best thing about the past
is that it’s over”
When you die.
you wake up
from a dream
that’s your life.
Then you grow up
and get to be post -human
in a past that keeps happening
ahead of you

Source: New York Times obituary

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This Test Could Settle the Loch Ness Monster Mystery Once and For All

‘Neil Gemmell is a geneticist at the University of Otago whose lab focuses on ecology and conservation. His group uses what’s known as environmental DNA to monitor marine biodiversity, which with a few liters of water allows them to detect traces of thousands of species. The same technique, he proposes, might be used to determine whether Scotland’s Loch Ness has anything unusual swimming around in it—say, for example, a mysterious giant monster…’

Source: Gizmodo

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Senate Democrats have the votes to filibuster Gorsuch

‘Senate Democrats have the 41 votes they need to filibuster Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

On Monday afternoon, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) told reporters that he would be joining the Democratic filibuster against Gorsuch’s nomination.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he would respond to a filibuster by rewriting the Senate’s rules so that Supreme Court justices need 51 rather than 60 votes to be confirmed. That rule change — called the “nuclear option” on Capitol Hill — would allow Gorsuch to be confirmed without Democratic votes.

Still, Senate Democrats and left-wing activists have sought to force McConnell to use the nuclear option rather than lay down their arms prematurely. Like other Democrats, Coons stressed that he would filibuster Gorsuch in large part because of McConnell’s refusal to give President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a Senate hearing after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February of last year…’

Source: Vox

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WHO: Depression Is Now the Leading Cause of Ill Health Worldwide

‘Depression has become the leading cause of ill health and disability across the world, now affecting more than 300 million people globally, the World Health Organization said Thursday. However, half of people suffering from depression don’t get treatments they need to live healthy, productive lives.The worldwide depression rates increased 18 percent between 2005 and 2015, according to the WHO. Yet, there still exists a stigma associated with the condition, as well as a lack of support in many countries for those suffering from mental disorders…’

Source: NYMag

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Happy 1st of April

Everyone hates April Fools’ Day — so why does it endure? The 500-year history of a troll holiday. (The Verge)

And why and how did it come to be associated with April 1st? (Digg)

This Is the Only Good April Fools’ Joke So Everybody Else Can Shut Up (Motherboard)

Horrific April Fool’s Pranks of the 19th Century, and more (Gizmodo)

(Although there is a significant value to April Fool’s Day. As Jay Kuo tweeted, this is the only day of the year that people critically evaluate what they read on the web before accepting it as true!)

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The Emergence of the Hive Mind

‘The research was conducted by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, and was derived from data collected by the Framingham Heart Study, which has been tracking the vital statistics and psychological states of the residents of one Massachusetts town for over five decades. The researchers were initially interested in the impact of social contacts on health habits, and the richness of the Framingham data allowed them to track the long-term behavior of more than 12,000 individuals.

The results, as reported in Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, were startling, and have further undermined modernity’s presumptions about the individual as a rational and self-reliant decision maker. As clearly tracked on the researchers’ graphs, health habits spread rapidly through the separate social networks of the Framingham population: Whom one knew strongly affected what one chose to do—overeat or not, smoke or not—and highlighted the power of emulation in human behavior. Further study showed that the influence of these social networks was not limited to health decisions..

Our misery or happiness, our good or bad health, and our indifference or commitment to political participation, are not only contagious; according to Christakis and Fowler, they are mysteriously influenced at a distance by the decisions of people we never meet. The persistence of this influence within the social networks could be traced through “three degrees of separation,” so that the habits of a man’s sister’s neighbor’s wife had a statistically significant effect on his own behavior. If she quit smoking, though out of sight and out of mind, his chances of doing the same were increased by nearly a third…’

Source: 3quarksdaily

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The Funnier You Are, the Sooner You Die?

‘Comedians use a lot of death-related terminology both on-stage and off. Terms like “I died up there” (bad performance) or “I murdered the crowd” (good performance) are pretty commonplace. But according to a recently published study by the International Journal of Cardiology and the the Australian Catholic University, the funnier you are, the more likely you are to die.

The study compared the median ages of death of three groups — dramatic actors, comedic actors, and stand up comedians — and found that, on average, stand up comedians are two times more likely to die younger than their thespian counterparts. Stand up comedians die on average 2.5 to 3 years before dramatic actors, and 2 years before comedic actors.

The real kicker is that the higher ranked comedian you were (according to the crowd-based ranking over at Ranker) the more likely you are to die: for each 10 points higher you were (towards the number 1 ranked comedian) there was a 7% increased risk of you dying. For example, compared to the 150th ranked stand-up comedian, the 50th was 70% more likely to die.*

It should be noted that many stand up comedians tend to be solitary performers who travel alone a lot, and that depression in comedic performers is hardly a new phenomenon…’

Source: Big Think

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Coming for you in Klaipeda, Lithuania

‘If you ever visit the quaint seaside town of Klaipeda in Lithuania, beware of the black ghost… [I]f you’re prone to nightmares, it’s surely something out of one your very worst. The immense bronze sculpture, known as the Juodasis Vaiduoklis in Lithuanian, is 7.8 feet tall… Sculpted by Svajunas Jurkus and Sergejus Plotnikovas, the mysterious figure holds a lantern in one hand, as his long, sinister fingers grip the dock. Located near the Memel castle remains, the black ghost is a reminder of not only Lithuanian legend but of Klaipeda’s own folklore and history. Legend has it that one evening in 1595, one of the Memel Castle guards, Hans von Heidi, while walking around the docks, saw a hooded ghostly figure…’

Source: Design You Trust

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A short guide to conversations with extraterrestrials

‘China completed the construction of one of the largest radio telescopes on the planet in July. The craft will scan space for extraterrestrial signals. For centuries, humanity has dreamt of making contact with other worlds. From the most zany to the most serious, these attempts have been based on a common representation: this radical Other would be a pure, cold and logical intelligence. So that in wishing to greet the Martians humans have learned … to speak to the machines.’

Source: Finn Brunton, Le Monde diplomatique, August 2016