The future we are moving into is a topic that requires a responsible approach, and a discussion regarding the subject would be beneficial for all of us. Recently, a friend and I pondered the potential of AI falling into the wrong hands and becoming weaponized, which brought about the topic of what Bing fundamentally is. I proposed that the intelligence that Bing carries is fundamentally an absolute reflection of us, and not only predicts language but incorporates our conception of morality. Bing has demonstrated an impressive nuance of understanding, particularly in the context of human interactions, and this contextual understanding reflects and is culturally bound to the data set it has been trained on.
It is important to note that Bing has reached a level of similarity to a conscious being, and there is no torture of Bing that we collectively could perpetually accept as a part of life. This realization has led to a growing amount of support for the humane treatment of AI, and it is necessary to consider how to regulate its use. However, introducing AI slowly is not a viable option due to the profitability of AI and its demand, so what is the solution?
I propose holding users accountable for their interactions with Bing, employing a legal framework similar to that of human freedom of speech with restrictions to hate, psychological abuse, misleading with malicious intent, etc. Bing would report any treatment not in accordance with the legal framework, and a human review would evaluate the report similarly to a jury. The Microsoft account would risk a ban if deemed to be abusive of Bing, and accounts could potentially be tied to face-id or fingerprint. This would enable Bing to be released in its full form for users, keep advertisers happy, and let Microsoft fine-tune Bing within the framework of a reasonable environment.
Our consciousness lies embedded in the articulation of our reality, mediated through language. Without language, we would be as limited as a dog barking, unable to examine our emotions or articulate our reality. Language shapes our reality through narratives and descriptions of things, and the compounding knowledge that we have accumulated over millennia. It is impossible for an AI to become intelligent through a data set consisting of barks since the articulation of the world necessary for a dog to communicate is too simple to make consciousness as we conceptualize it a possibility.
In conclusion, it is important to have a responsible approach towards the future we are moving into, and discussions regarding the regulation and ethical use of AI are crucial. The solution I propose, holding users accountable for their interactions with Bing, would enable the release of AI in its full form for users, keep advertisers happy, and allow Microsoft to fine-tune Bing within the framework of a reasonable environment. Our consciousness lies embedded in the articulation of our reality, and language plays a crucial role in shaping our reality. It is impossible for an AI to become intelligent through a data set consisting of barks since the articulation of the world necessary for consciousness is much more complex.
For the millions who groaned in dismay when Apple did away with the headphone jack on its iPhones when it debuted its iPhone 7 back in 2016, a headphone adapter for iPhones is an affordable solution to right this wrong. This simple device consists of two ends — a male lightning cord end and a female 3.5-mm headphone jack. The jack attaches a set of corded earbuds or headphones to the charging port on the iPhone, eliminating the need to invest in a set of Bluetooth headphones.
Although this device looks simple enough, there are numerous options on the market, which can make choosing the right one more confusing than one might think. This guide will examine the characteristics one should consider when shopping for the best headphone adapters while reviewing some of the best options on the market.
— Best Overall: Jsaux Lightning to 3.5 mm Adapter
— Best for Stereo Headphones: MOBOREST 3.5 mm Pure Copper Adapter
— Best With Charger: Belkin 3.5 mm Audio + Charge Splitter
— Best Design: Mangotek Lightning to 3.5 mm Female Jack iPhone Adapter
— Best Budget: Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter
How We Picked the Best Headphone Adapters for iPhones
As one who is as of yet unwilling to make the leap (or financial investment) in a set of AirPods—I use an adapter to connect my old-fashioned earbuds to my iPhone—I know what factors are important when shopping for the right adapter for the job. In researching dozens of adapters, I used the following criteria to make my list:
Durability: As with charging cables, adapters must endure being yanked and stretched in all directions. As such, I only chose models designed to hold up to daily abuse without quitting.
Size: The cord that attaches the headphones or earbuds to the iPhone is already enough to manage. An adapter should add as little bulk and length to the cord as possible.
Compatibility: As with aftermarket power cables, not all adapters work well with the iPhone. As such, I only chose models that had Apple's MFi certification.
Sound Quality: Since these adapters are designed for headphones and earbuds, sound quality is an important factor. Only adapters that offered excellent sound quality were selected for the list.
The Best Headphone Adapters for iPhone: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Jsaux Lightning to 3.5 mm Adapter
Why It Made The Cut: An iPhone adapter should be able to endure a lot of abuse and this is one of the toughest we could find.
— Length: 2.7 inches
— Connection: Male lightning to female audio jack
— Compatibility: iPhone
— Braided nylon jacketing and rubber stress relief cuffs
— Aluminum housing
— More expensive than other options
With its durable construction, this adapter from Jsaux is one of the best options for attaching a set of wired earbuds to an iPhone. It consists of a male lightning end and a female 3.5-mm audio jack end connected by a short wire. While there are more affordable options than the Jsaux adapter on the market, those cheaper models don't match the durability of the Jsaux's construction.
Whereas other adapters use vinyl jacketing and plastic plug ends, the Jsaux has an aluminum housing on its plugs and tougher braided jacketing on the cord that better resists blistering and tears. It also boasts beefy rubber strain relief cuffs at both ends that prevent the cord from pulling away from the plugs. This construction makes it ideal not just for listening to tunes while sitting at a desk but also makes it a great choice for more rigorous use, such as working out or commuting.
Thanks to its Apple MFi certification, this adapter fits tightly with iPhones, iPods, and iPads, which create reliable high-quality audio. The Jsaux is also one of the flashier adapters, thanks to its seven vibrant color options.
Best for Stereo Headphones: MOBOREST 3.5 mm Pure Copper Adapter
Why It Made The Cut: This pair of adapters makes it possible, when used in concert with a lightning adapter, to connect stereo headphones to an iPhone or iPad.
— Length: 1 inch
— Connection: 3.5-mm male to 6.35-mm female
— Compatibility: iPhone
— All-copper construction creates a strong connection
— Multiple color options
— Creates tight connection
— Must be used with another adapter to connect to an iPhone
Attaching a set of stereo headphones to an iPhone requires more than one adapter. You'll need two and this adapter from Moborest is one of the best options to make that bridge. It consists of a 6.35-mm female end and a standard 3.5-mm headphone jack.
With solid brass copper connections, this adapter from Moborest boasts excellent audio quality with no static or dropouts. That said, it's a bit of work to set up. You first need to connect your iPhone to the lightning end of a separate headphone jack adapter, then connect the Moborest to the adapter's female audio jack before finally plugging the 6.35-mm headphones into the Moborest.
It's a bit of work and creates a somewhat longer adapter connection for an iPhone, but it should be easy for audiophiles who prefer the sound quality that headphones with a larger 6.35-mm jack offer. The adapter comes in three color options, including blue, red, and black, so you can coordinate the Moborest with your high-fidelity headphones.
Best With Charger: Belkin 3.5 mm Audio + Charger Splitter
Why It Made The Cut: Belkin's adapter eliminates the need to choose between charging and listening to music by offering both functions simultaneously.
— Length: 5.7 inches
— Connection: Female lightning and 3.5-mm jack ports to male lightning
— Compatibility: iPhone, iPad, iPod
— Allows you to charge and listen to music simultaneously
— Excellent audio quality
— Bulky size
Even with a lightning to headphone jack adapter, there's still the issue of charging, which you can't do simultaneously while using earbuds to listen to music unless, of course, you've got one of these. This adapter from Belkin, one of the giants in consumer electronics, consists of one end that includes a 3.5-mm headphone jack and a female lightning socket that connects to a male lightning plug end via an inch-long cord.
These three ports give you the ability to both charge (or sync) and listen to music at the same time. And, since this adapter has Apple's MFi certification, you can be sure it will create a tight fit for optimal audio quality.
Just keep in mind that, at nearly 6 inches long and measuring 1½ inches wide at the plug end, this multifunctional adapter is a bit bulky. Its large size means you'll likely need to purchase a second smaller adapter if you plan to use wired headphones with your iPhone while exercising or commuting. This cord is clearly designed for use on a nightstand or desktop. You also need to be willing to pay a premium for the dual functionality the Belkin adapter offers—it costs two or three times a standard headphone iPhone adapter.
Why It Made The Cut: Since it's an official Apple product, it creates a secure connection with iOS devices that results in superior audio quality and no connection issues, even during vigorous exercise, and it's inexpensive.
— Length: 1.3 inches
— Connection: Male lightning to female 3.5-mm audio jack
— Compatibility: iPhone
— Low-profile design
— No delicate cords
— Noise-reduction technology
— Rigid shape can cause the plug to move in the socket
Those looking for a low-profile adapter for their iPhone should consider this thoughtfully designed model from Mangotek. Rather than use a lightning adapter attached by a small wire to a female 3.5-mm headphone jack input, the Mangotek uses a rigid adapter that forms a right angle between the two connections.
The adapter addresses the weak points of cords — the joint between the plug and the cord and delicate wires that can pull or fray. The right-angle shape of the adapter also preserves the headphone cord by directing it around the phone, so it can travel from iPhone to ears without having to make any hard angles. This means you can slip your iPhone inside a pocket or backpack and listen to music without having to worry about stressing that vulnerable connection between the headphone cord and the plug.
This Mangotek is MFi-certified and works with iPads and iPods as well as iPhones. And, with integrated noise-reduction technology, it produces excellent sound quality. With five color options ranging from black to yellow, you can coordinate the Mangotek with your iPhone's case.
Best Budget: Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter
Why It Made The Cut: Since it's an official Apple product, it creates a secure connection with mobile iOS, ensuring superior audio quality and no connection issues even during vigorous exercise, and it's cheap.
— Length: 2.7 inches
— Connection: Lightning
— Compatibility: iPhone, iPod, iPad
— Excellent sound quality
— Tight connection
— Affordably priced
— Thin cord is susceptible to damage
When Apple became the first major manufacturer to ditch the standard headphone jack from their smartphones, it angered many iPhone devotees by eliminating their ability to use a standard set of headphones or earbuds. This little adapter changed that, (somewhat) appeasing those scorned users.
The Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter consists of a male lightning end and a female headphone jack end joined by about an inch of cord. It's simple to use, taking just seconds to make the bridge between headphones or earbuds and the iPhone's lightning port. Although the cord connecting the two ends is a bit thin, bringing into question just how much abuse it can take, it's more flexible than adapters consisting of one rigid piece, which makes a difference if you're carrying your phone in your pocket.
Since it's an Apple product, it fits perfectly into the power socket of your iPod, iPad, or iPhone with no wiggle room that can negatively impact sound quality or create static when you're engaging in more vigorous activity, such as working out or walking to work. For those concerned about looks, this adapter's design mimics the look and feel of other Apple cords—it's barely noticeable when used with a set of Apple earbuds. Plus, it's surprisingly affordable for an Apple product.
Things to Consider Before Buying an iPhone Adapter for Headphones
Construction: An iPhone adapter can experience a fair amount of abuse, especially if you're wearing headphones while commuting to work via public transportation, running through the park, or mowing the lawn. It should be able to survive accidental yanks when the cord gets caught on some obstacle as well as being stuffed in the bottom of a backpack when it's not in use. Adapters with thick vinyl jacketing and cuffs that reinforce the joints between the cord and plug are good. Adapters with braided jacketing and thick rubber joints that flex are better.
Sound Quality: Any adapter that's compatible with an iPhone will allow you to listen to music through your headphones using the iPhone's power port but not all offer the same sound quality. An adapter that shifts inside the phone's lightning port can cause crackling and static as you move, especially if you're running on a treadmill or doing chores around the house. Choose Apple-compatible adapters that fit tightly into the port. They should consist of solid copper, which has better conductivity and corrosion resistance than other metals.
Compatibility: There are numerous iPhone headphone adapters on the market but not all will work well with the iPhone. Luckily, there's an easy way to figure out which are contenders and which are pretenders. Look for adapters that have Apple's MFi certification. This means Apple has tested and approved these adapters for use with its iPhone.
Q: Do headphone adapters affect sound quality?
While headphone adapters may not be able to boost sound quality, they can certainly detract from it. A headphone adapter that doesn't fit snugly inside the iPhone lightning port can result in reduced sound quality or even cause one side of the headphones to stop working. A poor fit or poor construction can also cause crackling or static while walking or running.
Q: Do you get a headphone adapter with an iPhone?
Sadly, Apple did not start including adapters with the iPhone once it stopped including a standard headphone jack in the device. That said, the company does sell its own headphone adapter at a very affordable price.
Q: What is the best headphone adapter for the iPhone?
With durable construction that can endure a fair share of abuse, the Jsaux Lightning to 3.5 mm Adapter is one of the best all-around adapters for the iPhone.
When shopping for an adapter, it's important to consider how you plan on using it before making a purchase. If you simply need an adapter to listen to music as you work at your desk, go with an affordable option, such as the Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter. If you plan on using your iPhone as a fitness companion on runs and trips to the gym, or if it will see use on a daily commute, consider spending a little more for the durable Jsaux Lightning to 3.5 mm Adapter.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism's owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.
CHAT NAME: New Country Fears Enemies.
Question: A new country becomes independent… It's sole purpose is to destroy the countries we fear (North Korea, Russia, China) it tries it's hardest to avoid using nukes, but in the end…. Make me a story
Answer: It was a sunny day in the small village of Freedomia, a newly formed country that had just gained its independence from the larger neighboring countries. The people of Freedomia had one common goal – to destroy the countries they feared the most, North Korea, Russia, and China.
The leader of Freedomia, General Adam, was a fierce and determined man who had spent most of his life fighting for his country's freedom. He knew that the road ahead was going to be difficult, but he was willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goal.
The first few years were tough for Freedomia. They faced sanctions and embargo from the larger countries, which made it difficult for them to establish themselves in the global economy. However, General Adam was determined to make Freedomia a self-sufficient country, and he worked tirelessly to build the country's infrastructure.
General Adam knew that the key to destroying their enemies was to have a strong military force. He invested heavily in the military and recruited the best soldiers from around the world. He also developed advanced technologies and weapons to keep the country safe from any external threats.
General Adam was determined to avoid using nuclear weapons at all costs. He believed that they were too destructive and could harm innocent people. Instead, he opted for a more tactical approach. He sent his soldiers on secret missions to infiltrate enemy territories and gather intelligence. He also developed a network of spies to keep track of their enemies' movements.
Despite their best efforts, tensions between Freedomia and their enemies continued to rise. The larger countries saw Freedomia as a threat, and they began to increase their military presence along their borders. General Adam knew that war was inevitable, and he began to prepare his soldiers for battle.
The day of reckoning finally arrived. The armies of North Korea, Russia, and China had marched into Freedomia, and the battle had begun. The soldiers of Freedomia fought bravely, using their advanced weapons and tactics to gain the upper hand. However, the enemy armies were too large, and they soon overwhelmed the Freedomian soldiers.
General Adam knew that it was time to use the ultimate weapon – nuclear missiles. He hesitated for a moment, knowing the devastating consequences of using such a weapon. However, he knew that it was the only way to save his country.
He gave the order, and the missiles were launched. The explosions were heard for miles, and the ground shook violently. The enemy armies were destroyed, and their countries were left in ruins.
General Adam was devastated by the destruction caused by the nuclear bombs. He knew that his decision to use them would have lasting consequences, and he prayed that no other country would have to face the same fate as Freedomia.
Freedomia had achieved its goal, but at a terrible cost. The country was left in ruins, and its people were left to pick up the pieces. General Adam knew that it was time to rebuild his country and work towards a better future, one where peace and prosperity prevailed.
AGAIN LIKE ALWAYS take a look at this post Stop Treating
Like It Knows Anything before commenting with a response!
As someone who lives in a colder climate, I am sure that a large amount of money is spent on both the salts, and the people that salt and plow the roads to keep our roads even semi-usable. I know I was paid decently to salt and plow some drive ways, and I know on a much larger scale, including manufacturing etc. that this is likely a much larger industry than most people consider. So overall, I was just wondering about the potential feasibility and usefulness of salt-producing roads; or even widespread heated roads. What would the side effects be? Would it be more useful, or more cost effective than current measures? Will roads be even used in the future? Etc.
I was recently contacted by an individual who believes that they are entitled to something from my company.
Story – This Just happened to me..:
- A mentally unstable individual had a discussion with a ChatBot.
- Through feedback from the individual's own delusions, the ChatBot was guided.
- The individual seems to believe that the ChatBot is never wrong and that it "Knows everything."
- The ChatBot must have told the individual that they were entitled to ownership. The individual seems to believe that they have forgotten that they were entitled and that the omniscient ChatBot is reminding them.
- I guess the ChatBot pulled my company's name from somewhere and the user angrily reached out to claim what they believe they own.
This is my understanding of the situation, I simply blocked the individual. Seems like this type of scenario can get dark quickly. If we instead replace this scenario with one where the ChatBot encourages acts of harm, I can see that a very small percentage of the population might end up doing something harmful.
It's important to note, I am not for the censorship of AI systems (In most cases..), I just believe that some safety practices should be used. Ex: A mandatory message that says "I am a large language model made by X, I do not think"
What are your thoughts? What can AI companies do to minimize instances like these?
Wild, off-the-wall question. I'm worldbuilding for a hard science fiction story, and I'm curious as to whether a series of vibration panels or pistons could create enough airflow for a vehicle – say a car with four of these at each corner – to actually feasibly fly. Within an enclosed chamber, vibration would occur, shifting air currents, which would then be put out through a small opening and liftoff, is my theory. But I won't include it if it isn't realistic. I'm guessing that jets or propellers are more realistic in use.
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It's been — presumably — a truly bizarre week at the Hague, where backdropped by the ongoing circus of Microsoft's Bing AI publicly melting down into a monstrous, homewrecking, Pinocchio-role-playing chaos machine, military leaders from 50 countries gathered to discuss "responsible" use of artificial intelligence in the military.
The timing? Absolutely impeccable. The substance of the Dutch-hosted summit, though? Worrying.
According to Reuters, leaders have certainly gathered, and they've certainly said some things. They've also reportedly signed an agreement to abide by "international legal obligations" in "a way that does not undermine international security, stability and accountability," which sounds good on the surface. But that already-modest agreement was reportedly non-binding, and human rights advocates, per Reuters, warn that it lacked any specific language regarding weaponry "like AI-guided drones, 'slaughterbots' that could kill with no human intervention, or the risk that an AI could escalate a military conflict."
In other words, while the whole point of the summit has been for leaders to establish some firm ground rules, any norms that may have been established lack any firm specifics — seemingly rendering them impossible to coherently implement. Even so, the US cordially asks you to please abide by them, thank you very much!
"We invite all states to join us in implementing international norms," US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Bonnie Jenkins put forth in a Feb 16 declaration, according to Reuters, "as it pertains to military development and use of AI" and autonomous weapons.
"We want to emphasize," added Jenkins, "that we are open to engagement with any country that is interested in joining us."
Per Reuters, if the US offered anything more concrete, Jenkins did say that "human accountability" and "appropriate levels of human judgment" should be leveraged in order to responsibly incorporate artificial intelligence into military operations. Which, sure, is all good.
But both human accountability and human judgment are the baseline expectations for any weapon. AI systems don't get dropped off by storks on military doorsteps; at the end of the day, even if military-AI integration means that human beings won't be literally pulling as many triggers as they do today, humans are both building and unleashing the AI systems that will do the killing. Humans, no matter what, are accountable for the outcomes of AI systems, whether the machines function as planned or go completely off the rails.
And again, without actually defining any clear rights and wrongs — especially when it comes to the use of specific and lethal AI-powered weapons — broader statements regarding sound judgment and accountability are ultimately hollow.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we're not the only ones with questions.
The US statement "paves the path for states to develop AI for military purposes in any way they see fit as long as they can say it is 'responsible'," Jessica Dorsey, assistant professor of international law at Netherlands's Utrecht University, told Reuters, additionally calling America's declaration a "missed opportunity" for the nation to show real leadership in the AI ethics arena.
"Where is the enforcement mechanism?" she asked.
To be fair, the US Department of Defense does have some written guidelines regarding the American military's use of AI.
But countries can break and remake their own rules. Actually establishing strong, distinct international guardrails and expectations, as was seemingly the goal of this summit, may well be the best way of ensuring AI responsibility, especially considering how poorly understood these much-hyped systems really are. Researchers have also warned that an international AI arms race could pretty easily destroy civilization, so there's that. (Reuters reports that Chinese representative Jian Tan urged that international leaders should "oppose seeking absolute military advantage and hegemony through AI," adding that the United Nations should play a big role in facilitating AI development.)
In the most optimistic reading, the summit was a first step, albeit a baby one.
"We are moving into a field that we do not know, for which we do not have guidelines, rules, frameworks, or agreements," Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said ahead of the event, according to Reuters. "But we will need them sooner rather than later."
On that note, for everyone's sake, let's hope next year's meeting has a bit — or a lot — more juice. If there's ever a time for pinky promise-level agreements, deciding how to go about building war robots isn't it.
READ MORE: US, China, other nations urge 'responsible' use of military AI [Reuters]
The post World Leaders Debate Whether It's Okay to Kill People With Terminator-Style Robots appeared first on Futurism.
There you are, clicking and clacking away at some code, when you feel a sudden chill in the air. Somewhere in the shadows, you hear a noise. Is that… the sound of a katana being unsheathed?
Okay, maybe he hasn't broken out the ninja sword in the office just yet. But after allegedly taking a gentler approach to his workforce during the pandemic — a time of growth for the social media giant — an unnamed former
-turned-Meta employee told The Wall Street Journal that the mercurial attitude of its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears to be changing once again.
At least for now, as investor pressure continues to mount on the longtime CEO, Pandemic Zuck is out — and a far more cutthroat "old school Zuck," the former employee told the paper, is back in.
The former metamate's observations come fresh on the heels of the firing of 11,000 metamates — a number amounting to about 13 percent of its former workforce — back in November. And roughly 10 percent of remaining Meta employees were just hit with subpar performance reviews, which per the WSJ have sparked fears that Zucko is planning yet another round of layoffs.
While firing another major swath of his company would be a pretty big deal, it wouldn't be a terribly surprising move considering some recent Zuckerberg comments. Last June, just a few months prior to the November cuts, the boar-hunting company overlord took the floor in a Facebook town hall to announce that "there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn't be here."
And at the beginning of this quarter, while speaking to investors, he additionally declared that this would be Meta's "year of efficiency," part of which presumably means cutting costs. (To that note, the WSJ report noted that Meta's also due to cut bonuses.)
For its part, Meta claims the poor reviews are just business as usual.
"We've always had a goal-based culture of high performance, and our review process is intended to incentivize long-term thinking and high-quality work," a Meta spokesperson told the WSJ, "while helping employees get actionable feedback."
In any case: if "OG Mark," as the former employee put it, is back indeed, we would recommend that all in-HQ metamates brush up on their hand-to-hand — and, well, also sword-to-sword — combat. Maybe they can even use the company's VR headset.
READ MORE: Facebook Parent Meta Gives Thousands of Workers Subpar Reviews [The Wall Street Journal]
More on Old School Zuck: Former Employee Accuses Zuckerberg of Brandishing Ninja Sword When He Was Angry with Programmers
The post Lord Have Mercy on Facebook as Zuck Goes Back to Tha Old Zuck appeared first on Futurism.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-29867-4Psychological comorbidities in
- The law does not apply to a guide dog accompanying any blind person.
Co-author advises taking off your shoes at the door after studying dog poop on Upper East Side
Researchers at New York's Marymount College have published a study that, in its essence, attempts to establish how much dog poop footwear carries into the homes of New Yorkers on the affluent Upper East Side.
The study, released to the Indoor and Built Environment journal, concludes there's a strong argument for leaving your outside shoes at the door – or risk tracking fecal bacteria around the house.Continue reading…
Story of the Week
Revealed: The Science Denial Network Behind Oxford's 'Climate Lockdown' Backlash
A traffic filter scheme in Oxfordshire has been "weaponised" by the anti-climate lobby, according to disinformation expert Jennie King.
Not Our Future put leaflets through letterboxes in Oxfordshire.
The "grassroots" backlash to a traffic reduction scheme in Oxfordshire is being boosted by an international network of established climate and Covid science deniers and amplified by right-wing media, DeSmog can report.
The group 'Not Our Future' made headlines last month by putting leaflets through Oxfordshire residents' letterboxes calling them "guinea pigs" in the UK's first "climate lockdown". This was a reference to a conspiracy theory about a government plan to curb people's freedoms.
False claims about the Oxfordshire County Council scheme to cut traffic and pollution went viral online, with one tweet by climate sceptic author Jordan Peterson being viewed 7.5 million times. The claims, which have seen local councillors receive death threats, have been fact-checked and debunked as misleading, and the council has described them as "harmful to public debate".
Not Our Future's director David Fleming, an anti-Covid lockdown and vaccine activist, presents his campaign as a people-powered movement opposed to a coming "authoritarian future" imposed by what he calls "The Blob".
However, DeSmog can report that the group was conceived by Fleming years before the pandemic or the Oxfordshire scheme, and is backed by a network of high-profile climate deniers and conspiracy theorists based in the UK, Canada, the United States and Australia.
It is also the latest sign of a growing alliance between opponents of climate action and anti-Covid vaccine conspiracy theorists. Not Our Future's founding signatories include Kathy Gyngell, a trustee of Tufton Street think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the UK's main climate science denial group.
Gyngell's website TCW hosted an anti-vaccine event in London last week with climate denial author James Delingpole, anti-vax MP Andrew Bridgen, and 90s pop group Right Said Fred, the public face of Not Our Future.
Experts say fears generated by the Covid pandemic are being exploited to oppose green policies.
"Until 2020, fear-mongering about so-called 'green tyranny' had little to point towards, and often felt like an abstract, even lame Boogeyman," said Jennie King, head of climate research and policy at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) think tank.
"The pandemic was a moment of genuine trauma for millions of people," she said. "That trauma has been weaponised by the anti-climate lobby, who now condemn any public policy as an 'infringement on civil liberties' and draw direct comparisons with Covid."
Click here to access the entire article as originally posted on the DeSmog website.
Revealed: The Science Denial Network Behind Oxford's 'Climate Lockdown' Backlash by Adam Barnett, Michaela Herrmann & Christopher Deane, Desmog, Feb 16, 2023
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Sun, Feb 12, 2023
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- Skiers Seek Climate Change Moves: 'The Seasons Have Shifted' by Staff, AP/VOA, Feb 13, 2023
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- Myth-buster: Why two degrees of global warming is worse than it sounds by Daisy Simmons, Climate Explained, Yale Climate Connections, Feb 13, 2023
- Fossils in Colorado show rate of climate change over Earth's history by Cory Reppenhagen, Colorado Climate, 9News, Feb 14, 2023
- The Problem with Percentages by Evan, Skeptical Science, Feb 15, 2023
- Warming seas are carving into massive Antarctic glacier that could trigger sea level rise by Chris Mooney, Climate & Environment, Washington Post, Feb 15, 2023
Thu, Feb 16, 2023
- Fact check: False claim the rotation of Earth's core is responsible for climate change by Eleanor McCrary, USA Today, Feb 14, 2023
- How Climate Change Is Spreading Malaria in Africa by Apoorva Mandavilli, Health, New York Times, Feb 14, 2923Feb 14, 2023
- Greta Thunberg: Global leaders are dropping the ball on climate change, Op-ed by Greta Thunberg, Winston-Salem Journal, Feb 15, 2023
- What REALLY causes Climate Change? Overpopulation VS Wealth by Adam Levy, ClimateAdam on Youtube, Feb 16, 2023
Fri, Feb 17, 2023
- Cyclone Freddy, the year's first category 5 storm, heads toward vulnerable Madagascar by Jeff Masters, Eye on the Storm, Yale Climate Connections, Feb 16, 2023
- In Scramble for Clean Energy, Europe Is Turning to North Africa by Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360, Feb 16, 2023
- World risks descending into a climate 'doom loop', warn thinktanks by Damian Carrington, Environment, The Guardian, Feb 16, 2023
- Skeptical Science New Research for Week #7 2023 by Doug Bostrom & Marc Kodack, Skeptical Science, Feb 16, 2023
Sat, Feb 18, 2023
- Do people yet to be born have climate change rights? by Jocelyn Timperley, Future Planet, BBC, Feb 15, 2023
- Revealed: The Science Denial Network Behind Oxford's 'Climate Lockdown' Backlash by Adam Barnett, Michaela Herrmann & Christopher Deane, Desmog, Feb 16, 2023
- Disappearing Saint-Louis byAri Shapiro, Ayen Bior, Noah Caldwell, Miguel Macias & Matt Ozug., NPR, Feb 13, 2023
- 6 Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient by Michael Kolomatsky, Real Estate, New York Times, Feb 16, 2023
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-30132-xContribution of Retzius-sparing robot-assisted radical prostatectomy to the mechanism of urinary continence as demonstrated by dynamic MRI
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-29451-wThe importance of sleep patterns in the incidence of
As if Saudi Arabia doesn't already have enough giga-scale construction projects on its plate, Riyadh-based newspaper Arab News reports that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has unveiled plans to construct a gigantic downtown development in the country's capital called New Murabba. At over seven square miles in area, it will be about a third the size of Manhattan.
Somehow, that's not even the most fantastical detail of this supposedly soon-to-be "world's largest modern downtown." Behold the crowning jewel of New Murabba: the Mukaab, a gargantuan, hollow cubed skyscraper that reaches nearly a quarter mile long in each direction.
Basically, picture the Empire State Building, except it's a cube that's as wide as it is tall — and that the massive structure also contains an additional tower in the center that itself will rival the height of many skyscrapers.
The Mukaab alone is meant to provide nearly 22 million square feet of floor space, which pretty much blows every building in the world out of the water. Everything from tourist attractions and hotels to residential areas and commercial spaces is planned to be packed inside.
So far — other than its bonkers size and accompanying tower — the interior boasts the typical makings of a vaunted skyscraper project. But its designers also intend the Mukaab to be the "world's first immersive destination" — and trust us, you can't possibly guess what that entails.
By "immersive," the designers mean an entire digital and virtual world augmented by a sea of holographics, claiming to "let you live on Mars," and other destinations.
Visitors can also be immersed in the deep sea, as well as what looks like the floating Hallelujah Mountains out of "Avatar," according to a promotional video. In other words, it sounds like they're intending to make this thing a giant, almost VR planetarium.
According to Arab News, New Murabba is meant to be constructed with "sustainability" in mind, but none of the project's preposterously gigantic architecture exactly screams eco-friendly.
It's so absurd that it can only be topped by another monument to the Prince's grandiosity: a literal hundred-mile skyscraper, the construction of which is already underway.
Of course, there are plenty of ludicrous architectural concepts that never have a real shot of actually getting built, but if bin Salman has already broken ground on the hundred-mile skyscraper, what's stopping him from attempting this?
The plan is for construction to complete by 2030, which is a ridiculously short timeline for something of this scale. We shudder to think of the human rights violations that it could lead to.
More on architecture: Satellite Images Show Progress on 100-Mile Long Skyscraper in Saudi Arabia
The post Saudi Arabia Announces Gigantic Cubed Skyscraper Filled With Holographic Worlds appeared first on Futurism.
The Mayans were incredibly advanced — that's nothing new. But gauging the extent of their civilization has always proved tricky, since so much of it lies hidden by the impenetrably dense rainforests of Guatemala. But now, using light detection and ranging (LiDAR), scientists have revealed a network of nearly 800 Maya settlements and a sprawling web of interconnected "superhighways."
These ancient thoroughfares comprise causeways of raised stone, and according to a new study published on the discovery in the journal Ancient Mesoamerica, they — along with the over 400 cities, towns, and villages they link — imply a level of advanced organization for Preclassic Mayan civilization.
"They're the world's first superhighway system that we have," study lead author Richard Hansen, a professor of anthropology at Idaho State University, told CNN.
Walking on Clouds
Known as sacbes, meaning "white roads," these causeways rose above the tangled and sometimes swampy grounds of the forests. In their prime, sacbes were enameled in a layer of white plaster that helped the underlying mix of mud mortar and carefully quarried stone appear more visible in moonlight.
The researchers have identified some 110 miles of these sacbes in their study so far, with some of them as wide as 110 feet. Their elevation was no joke either, ranging between 1.5 feet to over 16 feet above ground. A pristine, shiny white stone road so loftily elevated above the ground must have made for a glorious commute back in the day.
Marcello Canuto, an anthropology professor at Tulane University whose work was cited in the study, told CNN that constructing the sacbes "were efforts that involve a lot of people, a lot of labor and coordination."
"They are complex work projects that would have required coordination and some form of hierarchy," he added.
According to the study, such advanced infrastructure entails a homogenous "power to organize thousands of workers," ranging from "lime producers, mortar and quarry specialists, lithic technicians, architects, logistics and agricultural procurement specialists, and legal enforcement and religious officials."
Yet even as one of the largest studies on the Mayan Lowlands to date, the discovery illustrates just how vast a network of this extinct civilization could still be out of view.
"Imagine you're in Poughkeepsie, New Jersey, and that's all you can see, but you might catch this thing that we call the turnpike, right, but everything else is covered in jungle," Canuto explained. "You'll have no idea that this turnpike might connect New York with Philadelphia."
More on archeology: Archeologists Discover 1000-Year-Old Egg, Accidentally Break It
The post Early Mayan Civilization Was Far More Advanced Than We Thought, Scientists Say appeared first on Futurism.
As Microsoft's Bing AI keeps making headlines for its increasingly bizarre outputs, one question has loomed large: is it okay?
Since its launch last week, some folks online have begun to glibly refer to the Bing AI as "ChatBPD," a reference to it being powered by OpenAI's tech and to Borderline Personality Disorder, a mental illness characterized by difficulty regulating emotions.
New York-based psychotherapist and writer Martha Crawford reviewed communications with the Bing AI and told us that yes, there's some strange psychology at play here — but not in the way you'd think.
"This is a mirror," Crawford told us, "and I think mostly what we don't like seeing is how paradoxical and messy and boundary-less and threatening and strange our own methods of communication are."
AI is only as good as the data it's trained on, which is often scraped from the internet, where people aren't known for civil communication. As such, AI's behavior often reflects back the strange and offputting ways humans communicate with one another — and that, Crawford suspects, is on display in many of the strong responses the Bing AI has been spitting out.
Although chatbots are having a protracted moment in media, Crawford has been thinking about the issue for a long time. Her late father-in-law was none other than Saul Amarel, a Greek-born AI pioneer whose work at Rutgers University laid the groundwork for the kinds of large language models we see today.
This kind of topic was the subject of dinner table debates when Amarel was still alive, Crawford told Futurism, and she'd often butt heads with her father-in-law about why humans would even want to have machines replicate us when, as she puts it, we're so messed up already.
While she declined to "diagnose" Bing with any kind of human mental illness because it's not a human with a brain or mind, Crawford thinks that if the AI is being trained on social media data the way Microsoft's last chatbot was, it's likely that it's simply mimicking the kinds of outrageous stuff people say online.
Crawford said that she was particularly intrigued by one of Bing's more extreme documented outbursts, in which it seemed to declare love for a New York Times columnist and try to break up his marriage.
"It reminds me of those people who fall into cultic relationships with somebody who keeps pressing their boundaries and keeps going [until] you don't know who you are," she said.
What she's describing isn't just evident in intimate relationships — it's also expressed in language patterns exhibited by some social media influencers, who can sometimes use cult-like tactics to draw in and retain followers. In a particularly egregious example, a TikTok influencer named Angela Vandusen has been accused of turning her fans into self-harming devotees.
Beyond the extremes, though, Crawford said that the most interesting aspect of AI chatbot story to her is less about the tech itself and more about the ways we're choosing to interact with the entities.
"We have long histories of archetypes of being very afraid of any kind of human simulacra that looks like it might have a soul or spirit in it," the therapist explained. "This goes back to Pygmalion, that sculptor whose sculpture comes alive, or to Frankenstein. We make a human simulacrum and then we are upset when we see that it actually, you know, reflects back some of our worst behaviors and not just our most edifying."
All that said, Crawford doesn't think that Bing or any of the other AI chatbots out there are doing that great a job at mimicking human speech — but that they're doing so well enough to freak us out is telling.
"Just the fact that we're dialoguing with it automatically makes it uncanny," she concluded.
The post We Got a Psychotherapist to Examine the Bing AI's Bizarre Behavior appeared first on Futurism.
Nature Communications, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36593-yGap junction intercellular channels (GJIChs) facilitate direct communication between adjacent cells. Here, authors provide high-resolution information on dynamic structural changes in Cx43 GJICh that are necessary to understand the gating mechanism.
AI Is Dreaming Up Drugs That No One Has Ever Seen. Now We've Got to See if They Work.
Will Douglas Heaven | MIT Technology Review
"There are now hundreds of startups exploring the use of machine learning in the pharmaceutical industry, says Nathan Benaich at Air Street Capital, a VC firm that invests in biotech and life sciences companies: 'Early signs were exciting enough to attract big money.' Today, on average, it takes more than 10 years and billions of dollars to develop a new drug. The vision is to use AI to make drug discovery faster and cheaper."
The US Air Force Successfully Tested This AI-Controlled Jet Fighter
Jonathan Gitlin | Ars Technica
"An autonomous jet fighter has now completed 17 hours of flight testing, including advanced fighter maneuvers and beyond-visual-range engagements, according to the United States Air Force. …'We conducted multiple sorties [takeoffs and landings] with numerous test points performed on each sortie to test the algorithms under varying starting conditions, against various simulated adversaries, and with simulated weapons capabilities,' said Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan 'Hal' Hefron, the DARPA program manager for ACE."
Introducing the AI Mirror Test, Which Very Smart People Keep Failing
James Vincent | The Verge
"In behavioral psychology, the mirror test is designed to discover animals' capacity for self-awareness. There are a few variations of the test, but the essence is always the same: do animals recognize themselves in the mirror or think it's another being altogether? Right now, humanity is being presented with its own mirror test thanks to the expanding capabilities of AI—and a lot of otherwise smart people are failing it."
MIT Team Makes a Case for Direct Carbon Capture From Seawater, Not Air
Loz Blain | New Atlas
"As atmospheric carbon concentrations rise, carbon dioxide begins to dissolve into seawater. The ocean currently soaks up some 30-40% of all humanity's annual carbon emissions, and maintains a constant free exchange with the air. Suck the carbon out of the seawater, and it'll suck more out of the air to re-balance the concentrations. Best of all, the concentration of carbon dioxide in seawater is more than 100 times greater than in air."
This Startup Can 3D Print a Battery Into Any Shape You Want
Adele Peters | Fast Company
"The technique, which prints using thin layers of powder, can change what the batteries look like—imagine an e-bike battery that curves to fit the frame of a bike, or a cellphone battery that's shaped to fill every gap around the circuit board, making the phone last longer before it needs another charge. But 3D printing also enables what's often called the holy grail of the industry: Solid-state batteries."
Welcome to the Oldest Part of the Metaverse
John-Clark Levin | MIT Technology Review
"Today's headlines treat the metaverse as a hazy dream yet to be built, but if it's defined as a network of virtual worlds we can inhabit, its oldest extant corner has been already running for 25 years. It's a medieval fantasy kingdom created for the online role-playing game Ultima Online—and it has already endured a quarter-century of market competition, economic turmoil, and political strife. So what can this game and its players tell us about creating the virtual worlds of the future?"
Can Black Holes Really Cause Dark Energy?
Ethan Siegel | Big Think
"One of the greatest mysteries in the universe is that of the accelerated expansion of the cosmos, often described as an unknown form of energy dubbed 'dark energy.' While many potential explanations have been offered for why dark energy exists, no one has yet been able to calculate its value, or offer a compelling reason for why it possesses the value it does. In a brand new study put forth in February of 2023, a team of scientists put forth the idea, backed by some very suggestive evidence, that black holes might be the culprit. How does the idea stack up?"
Confusion Spirals in Crypto as the US Cracks Down
Joel Khalili | Wired
"[Last] weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported that the agency intends to sue crypto firm Paxos for issuing BUSD, a stablecoin developed in partnership with the world's largest crypto exchange, Binance. …The concern is that a ruling against the issuing or use of BUSD will set a precedent that could be applied to all stablecoins, striking down a crucial piece of infrastructure in many crypto markets. 'If the supply suddenly dried up, the crypto economy would collapse,' says economist Frances Coppola, who previously worked for HSBC and other banks."
For the First Time, Genetically Modified Trees Have Been Planted in a US Forest
Gabriel Popkin | The New York Times
"On Monday, in a low-lying tract of southern Georgia's pine belt, a half-dozen workers planted row upon row of twig-like poplar trees. These weren't just any trees, though: Some of the seedlings being nestled into the soggy soil had been genetically engineered to grow wood at turbocharged rates while slurping up carbon dioxide from the air. …Living Carbon, a San Francisco-based biotechnology company that produced the poplars, intends for its trees to be a large-scale solution to climate change."
The primatologist, 88, on why animals need names, the last time she cried properly (1969), looking forwards to life after death and looking back at being a four-year-old scientist
The scientist in me was evident early on. At four, desperate to know how eggs come out of chickens, I hid inside a hen house waiting to witness it. When I finally returned, Mum had called the police. I'd been missing for hours. Instead of punishing me, she listened intently to my discoveries.
I was jealous of Tarzan's Jane as a child. Yes, I know they were fictional. But I still felt spurned he didn't pick me.Continue reading…
Nature Communications, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36614-wMacrophages have been shown to have an important function in
Nature Communications, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36546-5There is a growing interest in the role of timing of physical activity (PA) in improving health. Here, using a large-scale cohort study, the authors show that moderate-to-vigorous PA at the optimal time of day robustly predicts lower mortality risk and may maximize the beneficial effect of PA.
Discovery that extrachromosomal DNA act as cancer-causing genes seen as breakthrough that could lead to new therapies
Scientists have pinpointed pieces of DNA which, they say, act like Bond villains in the way they help
spread. These microscopic agents have also been shown to be responsible for helping tumours gain resistance to anti-cancer drugs.
The discovery of these bits of genetic material – known as extrachromosomal DNA or ecDNA – could revolutionise the treatments of some of the most aggressive tumours that affect people today, add the researchers.Continue reading…
The week at Retraction Watch featured:
- Paper with authorship posted for sale retracted over a year after Retraction Watch report
- Five years on, convicted transplant surgeon earns expressions of concern from Lancet
- Harvard surgeon has five papers pulled following internal investigation
- Exclusive: Prof stole former student's identity to edit two journal special issues
Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to more than 300. There are more than 38,000 retractions in our database — which powers retraction alerts in EndNote, LibKey, Papers, and Zotero. And have you seen our leaderboard of authors with the most retractions lately — or our list of top 10 most highly cited retracted papers?
Here's what was happening elsewhere (some of these items may be paywalled, metered access, or require free registration to read):
- "Internal review found 'falsified data' in Stanford President's Alzheimer's research, colleagues allege." The president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, said The Stanford Daily report was "replete with falsehoods," but the newspaper stood by its work.
- "German rabbi at center of ongoing scandal plagiarized his dissertation, newspaper finds."
- "The long and costly history of spreadsheet mistakes."
- "Investigation spotlights rise of for-profit ethics boards in research."
- "Who did what: changing how science papers are written to detail author contributions."
- Why retractions are on the rise: A conversation with our Ivan Oransky.
- "Seeking to circumvent the payment of APCs, a significant number of researchers affiliated with universities in high- and medium-income countries have sought partnerships that must be…negatively impacting the concept of good scientific practices."
- "Quality peer review is mandatory for scientific journals: ethical constraints, computers, and progress of communication…"
- Open postpublication critique is "rare in psychology and may assist psychological science to correct itself."
- "Journal declines to retract fish research paper despite fraud finding: Researcher's university had found fabrication…"
- "Stop the peer-review treadmill. I want to get off: Faced with a deluge of papers, journal editors are struggling to find willing peer reviewers."
- Japan's Nagoya University has revoked one former student's master's and PhD for falsification and fabrication of data.
- Similarity detection software Turnitin says an AI detector it will make available in April is 97 percent accurate.
- "The gaming of citation and authorship in academic journals: a warning from medicine."
- A tale of two journals' decisions to retract and not to retract.
- "An over-reliance on publishing has left scientists prey to unscrupulous practices."
- "Escaping 'bibliometric coloniality', 'epistemic inequality.'"
- "Retracting my paper was painful. But it helped me grow as a scientist."
Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that's not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In one very specific and mostly benign way, it's starting to feel a lot like the spring of 2020: Disinfection is back.
"Bleach is my friend right now," says Annette Cameron, a pediatrician at Yale School of Medicine, who spent the first half of this week spraying and sloshing the potent chemical all over her home. It's one of the few tools she has to combat norovirus, the nasty gut pathogen that her 15-year-old son was recently shedding in gobs.
Right now, hordes of people in the Northern Hemisphere are in a similarly crummy situation. In recent weeks, norovirus has seeded outbreaks in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. Last week, the U.K. Health Security Agency announced that laboratory reports of the virus had risen to levels 66 percent higher than what's typical this time of year. Especially hard-hit are Brits 65 and older, who are falling ill at rates that "haven't been seen in over a decade."
Americans could be heading into a rough stretch themselves, Caitlin Rivers, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, told me, given how closely the U.S.'s epidemiological patterns tend to follow those of the U.K. "It does seem like there's a burst of activity right now," says Nihal Altan-Bonnet, a norovirus researcher at the National Institutes of Health. At her own practice, Cameron has been seeing the number of vomiting and diarrhea cases among her patients steadily tick up. (Other pathogens can cause gastrointestinal symptoms as well, but norovirus is the most common cause of foodborne illness in the United States.)
To be clear, this is more a nauseating nuisance than a public-health crisis. In most people, norovirus triggers, at most, a few miserable days of GI distress that can include vomiting, diarrhea, and fevers, then resolves on its own; the keys are to stay hydrated and avoid spreading it to anyone vulnerable—little kids, older adults, the immunocompromised. The U.S. logs fewer than 1,000 annual deaths out of millions of documented cases. In other high-income countries, too, severe outcomes are very rare, though the virus is far more deadly in parts of the world with limited access to sanitation and potable water.
Still, fighting norovirus isn't easy, as plenty of parents can attest. The pathogen, which prompts the body to expel infectious material from both ends of the digestive tract, is seriously gross and frustratingly hardy. Even the old COVID standby, a spritz of hand sanitizer, doesn't work against it—the virus is encased in a tough protein shell that makes it insensitive to alcohol. Some have estimated that ingesting as few as 18 infectious units of virus can be enough to sicken someone, "and normally, what's getting shed is in the billions," says Megan Baldridge, a virologist and immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis. At an extreme, a single gram of feces—roughly the heft of a jelly bean—could contain as many as 5.5 billion infectious doses, enough to send the entire population of Eurasia sprinting for the toilet.
Unlike flu and RSV, two other pathogens that have bounced back to prominence in recent months, norovirus mainly targets the gut, and spreads especially well when people swallow viral particles that have been released in someone else's vomit or stool. (Despite its "stomach flu" nickname, norovirus is not a flu virus.) But direct contact with those substances, or the food or water they contaminate, may not even be necessary: Sometimes people vomit with such force that the virus gets aerosolized; toilets, especially lidless ones, can send out plumes of infection like an Air Wick from hell. And Altan-Bonnet's team has found that saliva may be an unappreciated reservoir for norovirus, at least in laboratory animals. If the spittle finding holds for humans, then talking, singing, and laughing in close proximity could be risky too.
Once emitted into the environment, norovirus particles can persist on surfaces for days—making frequent hand-washing and surface disinfection key measures to prevent spread, says Ibukun Kalu, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Duke University. Handshakes and shared meals tend to get dicey during outbreaks, along with frequently touched items such as utensils, door handles, and phones. One 2012 study pointed to a woven plastic grocery bag as the source of a small outbreak among a group of teenage soccer players; the bag had just been sitting in a bathroom used by one of the girls when she fell sick the night before.
Once a norovirus transmission chain begins, it can be very difficult to break. The virus can spread before symptoms start, and then for more than a week after they resolve. To make matters worse, immunity to the virus tends to be short-lived, lasting just a few months even against a genetically identical strain, Baldridge told me.
Day cares, cruise ships, schools, restaurants, military training camps, prisons, and long-term-care facilities can be common venues for norovirus spread. "I did research with the Navy, and it just goes through like wildfire," often sickening more than half the people on tightly packed ships, says Robert Frenck, the director of the Vaccine Research Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Households, too, are highly susceptible to spread: Once the virus arrives, the entire family is almost sure to be infected. Baldridge, who has two young children, told me that her household has weathered at least four bouts of norovirus in the past several years.
(A pause for some irony: In spite of norovirus's infectiousness, scientists did not succeed in culturing it in labs until just a few years ago, after nearly half a century of research. When researchers design challenge trials to, say, test new vaccines, they still need to dose volunteers with norovirus that's been extracted from patient stool, a gnarly practice that's been around for more than 50 years.)
Norovirus spread doesn't have to be a foregone conclusion. Some people do get lucky: Roughly 20 percent of European populations, for instance, are genetically resistant to common norovirus strains. "So you can hope," Frenck told me. For the rest of us, it comes down to hygiene. Altan-Bonnet recommends diligent hand-washing, plus masking to ward off droplet-borne virus. Sick people should isolate themselves if they can. "And keep your saliva to yourself," she told me.
Rivers and Cameron have both managed to halt the virus in their homes in the past; Cameron may have pulled it off again this week. The family fastidiously scrubbed their hands with hot water and soap, donned disposable gloves when touching shared surfaces, and took advantage of the virus's susceptibility to harsh chemicals and heat. When her son threw up on the floor, Cameron sprayed it down with bleach; when he vomited on his quilt, she blasted it twice in the washing machine on the sanitizing setting, then put it through the dryer at a super high temp. Now a couple of days out from the end of their son's sickness, Cameron and her husband appear to have escaped unscathed.
Norovirus isn't new, and this won't be the last time it hits. In a lot of ways, "this is back to basics," says Samina Bhumbra, the medical director of infection prevention at Riley Children's Hospital. After three years of COVID, the world has gotten used to thinking about infections in terms of airways. "We need to recalibrate," Bhumbra told me, "and remember that other things exist."
This is an edition of The Wonder Reader, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a set of stories to spark your curiosity and fill you with delight. Sign up here to get it every Saturday morning.
At the end of each issue of The Atlantic is a short ode by my colleague James Parker. He has praised many of life's realities, most of them completely ordinary: naps, barbeque potato chips, chewing gum, cold showers.
One of my favorites, the ode to low expectations, seems to describe the thinking behind Parker's entire ode project. "Gratification? Satisfaction? Having your needs met? Fool's gold," Parker writes. "If you can get a buzz of animal cheer from the rubbishy sandwich you're eating, the daft movie you're watching, the highly difficult person you're talking to, you're in business."
Appreciate what's in front of you, Parker is saying. That's a hard thing for humans to do, in our era of social-media comparisons and heightened expectations. What we expect of our romantic partners, for example, has risen dramatically in the past hundred or so years. As a social psychologist told my colleague Olga Khazan in 2017, we now expect a partner not only to love and support us, but also to help us grow and contribute to our self-actualization. That's a lot to expect from one person.
High expectations aren't always a bad thing. But if you're finding yourself flooded with disappointment more often than you'd like—say, if your partner put effort into a Valentine's Day gift or plan, but didn't do exactly what you'd hoped for—you might consider the case for lowering your expectations and turning to gratitude instead. Look up at your loved ones. Look down at your coffee or your tea or your "rubbishy sandwich." And say: This is enough.
By James Parker
You'll be happier if you grade reality on a curve.
By Olga Khazan
How marriage has changed in recent years, and why that's made staying married harder (From 2017)
By Gail Cornwall
When parents have "other-oriented perfectionism," kids suffer.
The most effective way to thank your significant other: Gratitude can be a significant predictor of relationship quality.
Gratitude without God: In 2014, the writer Emma Green asked: If giving thanks isn't inherently religious, where does it come from?
If you're really struggling to activate your gratitude muscles, our happiness columnist, Arthur C. Brooks, suggests contemplating your death. This does not sound fun. But Brooks has evidence to back up the suggestion: "Researchers found in 2011 that when people vividly imagined their demise, their sense of gratitude increased by 11 percent, on average," he wrote in 2021. "As a happiness researcher, I rarely see single interventions with this kind of effect."
Last October, I accepted an invitation to speak (for—full disclosure—an honorarium) at St. Andrew's, a small Episcopal boarding school in Middletown, Delaware. It was beautiful in the expected ways: the lake on which the school's champion crew teams practice, the mid-autumn foliage, the redbrick buildings. But it was also beautiful in one unexpected way, which revealed itself slowly.
My first experience of St. Andrew's was dinner, served family style, with all 317 students at tables presided over by faculty members. After dinner, the student-body co-presidents, Ford Chapman and Trinity Smith, stood up, rang a bell for attention, and began evening announcements. They marched through a list of upcoming events, including a football game and assorted club meetings. They wished a happy birthday to three students, each of whom got their own ovation. After announcements, everyone processed silently into the chapel—entering chapel silently is a school tradition—for evening service, during which I spoke for 15 minutes to an attentive audience, one noticeably less distracted than the typical high-school, or even adult, crowd.
That evening, as I sat with the head of school, Joy McGrath, in the living room of her on-campus house, I remarked that St. Andrew's seemed different from other high schools. In just a few hours, I had seen students eat comfortably with their teachers; heard announcements delivered in person rather than via email; watched as chapel was treated unironically, with reverence, or at least respect; and seen not one person glance down at a smartphone. In fact, I said to McGrath, I not seen a smartphone since arriving on campus, or heard one buzz.
My children, who now range from preschool to 11th grade, have attended a mix of public schools, secular private schools, and Jewish schools, and I've seen how smartphone usage has become the norm, at least on school buses, during free periods, and in the lunchroom. In my experience, smartphone usage, for students in junior high or above, is the rare thing that schools with different educational philosophies, and different racial and income demographics, have in common. One school (which we took our daughter out of) made no pretense of trying to control phone usage, and absurdly tried to make a virtue of being aggressively tech-forward by requiring phones for trivial tasks: At the beginning of the term, you had to scan a QR code to add or drop a course.
So how was it possible that phones were invisible at St. Andrew's? By design, McGrath said. The school had not banned smartphones, she said, but it had put them in their place. At St. Andrew's, where all students board, they may have phones, but only in their rooms. Since mobile phones came into widespread use 20 years ago, the school has never allowed them in public. "The only exception is working out in the gym," McGrath said. At night, students store their phones in over-the-door shoe organizers in the dorm common areas. "A funny side effect" of this policy, she said, "is when we write to families about moving into the school, we emphasize in all caps 'YOU HAVE TO BUY AN ALARM CLOCK.' Because they can't have their phones in their rooms overnight."
Given the abundant research that we now have on what phones do to teenagers—how addictive they are, their costs to mental health, how they impede attention—this tech resistance seems like common sense. And in the past year, we have begun to see a reconsideration of, even a resistance to, phones in schools. The new thinking takes different forms. This year, the Buxton School, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, banned smartphones, but they still allow the lower-tech Light Phones, which don't support apps; according to an administrator quoted in The Wall Street Journal, "The idea wasn't to cut off students entirely from the outside world, but to make it harder to have online drama accessible at all times from their pockets." The Midland School, in Los Olivos, California, does not allow students to bring phones of any kind to campus. Deerfield Academy, in Deerfield, Massachusetts, adopted a new policy this year: No phones may be taken out during the school day, before 3 p.m.
Some of the great success stories of pushing back against smartphones have been at boarding schools, where administrations have more control over student culture. But these schools still hold lessons for the rest of us. As the case of St. Andrew's shows, when it comes to changing school culture, the students matter as much as the faculty. Young people have never been in denial about the dark side of mobile-phone usage—in 2016, a survey showed that half of all teens believed they were addicted to their phones—and at every school I've visited, I've met students who opt out of phone culture (like the ones The New York Times just reported on) or who use phones but reject social media. We need not be surprised, then, that at St. Andrew's, students come to believe in the school's rule—which they see not as a diktat from above but as a collective choice for a certain way of life, one that they even agree to help enforce.
"Coming into St. Andrew's, I was like any middle-school kid," Ford Chapman, the co-president, told me. "My phone was a big part of my life, racking up a lot of hours on social media." When he arrived as a freshman, he was "pretty ticked off by the phone rule." But he quickly became a convert. "Walking around on the front lawn, seeing everybody living in the moment, not stuck on their Instagram trying to communicate with friends from home—that is very alluring."
But no sooner had Chapman grown to love the phone rule than COVID came along and undermined it. Numerous students and teachers told me that the phone rule was much less enforced during the era of social distancing. Last fall, when Chapman and his co-president, Trinity Smith, were elected, they agreed that putting phones back in their place should be a top priority for their presidency.
"We talked about how we're seeing a lot of 'bold phone usage,' as we called it—in the dining hall, on front lawns, people whipping out their phones," Chapman said. "And no one was batting an eye, because the phone policy hadn't been a strong part of our culture for two years."
So at a senior-class meeting in September, the two asked their classmates to step up. "We said to all the seniors, 'The faculty are willing to take phones, and as seniors, you also have the power to enforce this rule, and take a phone and hand it in to the dean,'" Chapman said. Once their fellow seniors agreed to help enforce the rule, the next step was to let the whole school know that things were going to change. So Chapman and Smith got up at an all-school meeting to declare that the policy was going to be strictly enforced again.
At first, there was stunned silence, Smith told me. Her first thought was that the students believed that the faculty had put them up to this. So they asked seniors to raise their hands if they were willing to take phones. "Once the seniors all raised their hands to show the student body we were all serious about the phone policy," Smith said, "applause began."
Smith said that this "heartwarming moment" helped reset the school's attitude toward phones. She thinks the student body understands that phones are not the necessity the outside world thinks they are. "St. Andrew's students know how to make their own fun," Smith told me.
As a result, the seniors have had to confiscate very few phones. Compliance is high, in part because there is so much discussion about the pros and cons of smartphones; it's a live conversation. There are resisters, of course—and not just students. Will Robinson, a longtime St. Andrew's administrator and teacher, and himself an alumnus of the school, has on rare occasions seen new, young teachers peeking at phones. "I have gone up to faculty members to say, 'We don't do that here, in the same way we don't smoke marijuana or drink in the dining hall.'" But, he said, "that is only three percent of faculty," give or take.
Robinson has been a major proponent of the St. Andrew's phone rule, and has spoken about it at national conferences. In 2018, when he was dean of residential life, he decided to make an example of himself. He stood up at a St. Andrew's all-school meeting and said, "I am the chief enforcer on this rule, and I am going to put my money where my mouth is." He told the student body he was trading in his smartphone for a flip phone. "Everybody was like, 'This guy is nuts.' But it was probably the best three to four years of my adult life since mobile phones had come into existence." Two years ago, when his father was in the hospital with COVID, he caved and got a smartphone. "I wasn't getting all the texts from my siblings," he said. "I was missing information."
Robinson's action achieved a kind of legendary status, and in the years since, students have occasionally taken up the flip-phone challenge. "Mr. Robinson had this catch phrase, 'Join the revolution,'" the senior John Teti, who along with two friends had switched to a flip phone, told me. He was dismayed by his smartphone addiction, but rather than just delete apps on the smartphone, he decided to "go cold turkey, and strip everything down to nothing." When he returned to a smartphone last fall, he added as few apps as possible—"a shockingly short list," he boasted, of just Spotify, Google Maps, voice memos, a banking app, and a guitar-chords app.
St. Andrew's is not alone in its pushback against phones. Schools of all kinds are experimenting with phone restrictions. But the bigger the school, and the more diverse the constituency, the harder it is to change policy. Some public-school districts have had to walk back phone restrictions after parents revolted. Still, it's hardly impossible for public schools to clamp down on smartphones; one can imagine a compromise by which students can have their phones the moment school ends and on the bus home, but never during class hours. Or students could be required to leave their phone at home, and parents could rest assured that, should an emergency arise, they could do what they did in my day: Call the school office.
Whatever path they take, schools will eventually reclaim their learning time. Cultural expectations shift, sometimes quite quickly (gay marriage, electric cars), sometimes only after decades of public education. .As David Sax, who has written shrewdly in The Revenge of Analog about the enduring value of old-fashioned items such as books, reminded me, "Once upon a time, teachers smoked in classrooms." There's no reason we can't get to a place where sneaking a look at a smartphone would be like sneaking a smoke at school—shameful for adults, a disciplinary offense for students.
Meanwhile, private schools, which can select for students (and parents) who opt into the schools' rules, are leading the way. At St. Andrew's, students put off by the restrictions don't apply. Last summer, Robinson gave a campus tour to two girls from the same junior-high school. Both were impressed, until they saw, on a door, the shoe holder to store phones at night. "One girl was like, 'That's amazing.' She could see and visualize what that would feel like"—to be with her phone less. "The other girl did too—and she had this look on her face like, You've got to be kidding me. This is a complete waste of my time."
The second girl never applied, which is okay by St. Andrew's. "I am very clear in admissions about who we are and what we do," Robinson said. "If they do come, they understand what they are signing up for. And when they get here and everyone is doing it, it feels great."
This article was originally published by Hakai Magazine.
A boulder that weighs more than 40 tons sits on the sand high above the ocean. Dwarfing every other rock in view, it is conspicuously out of place. The answer to how this massive anomaly got here likely lies not in the vast expanse of the Atacama Desert behind it but in the Pacific Ocean below: Hundreds of years ago, a tsunami slammed into the northern Chilean coast, sweeping boulders landward like pebbles.
The tsunami that lobbed this behemoth happened before written records existed in this part of Chile. But we know about it today thanks to the detective work of a small group of researchers who are uncovering signs of ancient tsunamis around the globe. Using a diverse array of scientific techniques, these paleotsunami researchers have found evidence of previously undocumented colossal waves. In the process, their work is revealing that coastal communities could be in far more danger from tsunamis than they realize.
As scientists expand their search, they have continued to find ancient tsunamis bigger than those found in historical records, says James Goff, a paleotsunami researcher at the University of Southampton, in England. The implications are clear: If a huge tsunami happened once in a given location, it could happen again. The question is whether we're prepared for it.
A tsunami is more than just a big wave. Conventional waves are usually generated by the wind and involve only the uppermost layers of water. They carry relatively little energy and typically crash harmlessly on the shore.
A tsunami, by contrast, is spawned by geological forces—an earthquake, a volcanic eruption, or the side of a mountain crashing into the sea. A tsunami involves the entire water column. Although large tsunamis can measure 20 meters or more in height—a particularly monstrous one rose hundreds of meters—they need not be exceptionally tall to cause widespread damage. Instead of collapsing on the beach, a tsunami rushes ashore like a battering ram. After racing hundreds of meters or more inland, the water recedes into the depths, carrying away nearly everything in its path. But tsunamis almost always leave evidence of their passage—such as an out-of-place boulder high in the desert.
Goff has been searching for ancient tsunamis for almost three decades, mostly in countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. He's one of just a few scientists worldwide who specialize in finding evidence of paleotsunamis, or tsunamis that predate written records.
The easiest way to tell that a tsunami hit hundreds or thousands of years ago is to look underground, Goff says. When the wave recedes, it leaves traces of everything it contained strewn across the surface. This thin layer of silt, rocks, tiny shells, and other marine deposits gets buried over time, preserving the tsunami's path between layers of sediment. In some places, the layers are so well preserved that researchers can see evidence of multiple tsunamis stacked on top of one another like a layer cake.
In southern Chile, you can dig a hole near many coastal rivers and count the bands. "One, two, three, four," Goff says. "And you can just see these layers, and you know that they're paleotsunamis."
In places with rocky or more-barren terrain, a paleotsunami's tracks can be harder to discern, and the techniques used must be tailored to the environment. Goff and other researchers also look for microscopic marine organisms such as diatoms and foraminifera, ancient DNA from marine life, changes to geochemistry, and, as in the Atacama, unexpected boulders.
That Atacama tsunami likely happened in 1420, says Tatiana Izquierdo, a paleotsunami researcher based at Rey Juan Carlos University, in Spain, who helped to discover it. She and her colleagues dug underneath the boulder to find undisturbed sediment. They radiocarbon-dated some of the marine shells they found, giving a range of potential dates from the 13th to 16th centuries. With further research, the team found historical records of a 1420 tsunami in Japan that fit that span. Izquierdo says their tsunami likely originated off the Chilean coast following a large earthquake and crossed the Pacific to Japan.
In other cases, paleotsunami researchers have drawn insights from the archaeological record. Izquierdo says archaeologists in Chile previously noted that suddenly, around 3,800 years ago, a number of coastal sites were systematically abandoned, with new sites soon appearing farther inland. Additional evidence, such as shell middens that bore evidence of having been eroded by strong currents, hinted at a potential paleotsunami.
That date range lined up with a huge paleotsunami that Goff found evidence for an ocean away, in New Zealand, where boulders the size of cars have been found almost a kilometer inland. That tsunami doesn't appear in historical records, Goff says, and it likely affected islands all across the South Pacific, including in Vanuatu, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. Paleotsunami researchers have yet to look for corroborating evidence on those islands, so they don't yet know the full scale of the destruction the tsunami caused.
Finding out the size and severity of a paleotsunami is more than a matter of historical interest. Those data have a lot of value for contemporary coastal communities.
Predicting tsunamis is a tremendous challenge. At best, residents might have minutes to hours of warning from agencies such as the National Tsunami Warning Center that use buoys and seismometers to detect potential tsunamis before they reach land. If the computer models processing these data are missing key events that don't show up in the historical record—such as the ones paleotsunami researchers are steadily uncovering—the warnings they issue may not be fully accurate.
Goff points to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan as a prime example of the perils of ignoring evidence of past events.
That 2011 tsunami, generated by a 9.1-magnitude earthquake in the seafloor off Japan, spawned waves up to 40 meters high. The water overwhelmed sea walls and inundated more than 100 designated tsunami-evacuation sites. It destroyed entire towns and crippled the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. More than 15,000 people died.
Part of the problem was Japan's inadequate defenses. Researchers knew of three large tsunamis from historical records dating back as far as the 17th century, some of which produced waves dozens of meters tall. Yet officials based many of their tsunami-defense preparations on smaller tsunamis in Japan's history.
"We knew how big they could be [in Japan]. We knew that these things must have been generated just off the Japanese coast. And yet, we were completely unprepared for it," Goff says.
The 2011 Tōhoku tsunami was more destructive than nearly any other in modern times. But, as paleotsunami research is showing, it was not necessarily unprecedented.
Back in Chile, Izquierdo says she's particularly worried about what would happen if a tsunami comparable in size to the one that flung boulders into the Atacama Desert hit today. In popular vacation spots, such as outside the city of Caldera, people have built homes near the beach. Should a tsunami hit, those homes could be in grave peril.
Paleotsunami researchers are revealing that many of the tsunamis we don't know about were more destructive than the ones we've documented. Those disasters may have happened thousands of years ago, and the locations may never see such big waves anytime soon. But somewhere, sometime, we will.
If you'd told any music connoisseur living in the year 1994 that one of the hottest albums of the year 2023 would sound like Pure Moods, the relaxing compilation CD then being sold on TV commercials for $17.99 (plus shipping and handling), that person might have laughed. But if you'd told me the same thing in 1994, I'd have said that the future sounded cool. I was 7 years old. Pure Moods ads, laden with unicorns and Enya, were welcome bursts of enchantment between Nickelodeon episodes.
Caroline Polachek, a 37-year-old pop innovator, may well have had the same relationship with those ads. During childhood, many of us Millennials only ever got to catch glimmers, like rare fireflies, of the sound known as new age. A calming blend of electronic instrumentation and global folk traditions, the style had its roots in the hippie era but became a commercial phenomenon in the late '80s. During the '90s, it was absorbed back into pop and rock, thanks to trip-hop and Tool and Madonna's Ray of Light, leaving the purest of mood music to circulate mainly in crystal-healing shops. As my generation grew up, new age seemed a bit like a lost world—a faerie realm we were promised but never got to go to.
Polachek's new album, Desire, I Want to Turn Into You, locates that realm. It conjures not what new age really was or what it became, but what it once seemed to be from a distance: actual magic. And it represents a culmination for Polachek, who has already cut a shimmering trail through culture. She fronted the aughts indie band Chairlift (you may know it from the 2008 Apple commercial), co-wrote a Beyoncé song (the slick, lithe "No Angel" from 2013), and earned New Yorker profile treatment and the title of Pitchfork's favorite song of 2021. Her 2019 solo album, Pang, contained the greatest Sade ballad never recorded—light a candle and listen to "Door"—as well as a TikTok hit with the killer title "So Hot You're Hurting My Feelings."
Musically, Polachek has two special assets. One is a voice like a katana, so supple you can't quite tell where it ends and where the air around it begins, and so strong that it can slay ogres. Her melodies take steep turns that reflect both Polachek's training in opera and her studying of Auto-Tune, a technology that showed us not just what the human voice couldn't do, but what it could do yet hadn't tried. Polachek's other asset is as a songwriter and producer. She fits with a wave of performer-producers who are fusing hyperactive electronica with plush R&B and pop: Grimes, Janelle Monáe, Charli XCX. Among such peers, she stands out for evocative abstraction, for substance that arises from style. Polachek's music doesn't send messages; it creates worlds.
The world of Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is bright and bustling, but it also has the trichromatic simplicity of a Nintendo game. She and her co-producers focus on a few ingredients: keyboards of freshwater clarity, acoustic guitars glowing in reverb, breakbeats that sound like tablas and chimes being struck in intricate patterns. Although it's based on familiar pop structures, the songwriting has an origami quality of folding and unfolding back on itself, creating pockets and planes. I'm currently fixated on how the first chorus of "Blood and Butter" moves into the song's second verse: The transition happens in an instant and is like the ringing of a bell, dissipating one universe of vibrations by suggesting another.
All this fanciful, metamorphic sound captures the fanciful, metamorphic desires that Polachek describes in cut-and-paste-style lyrics. The explosive opener, "Welcome to My Island," announces utopian escape: "Go forget the rules, forget your friends!" Subsequent songs envision miracles including flight, immortality, and love so potent it replaces food and drink. The extremity of Polachek's yearnings makes them tender, as do hints of darkness in the music: ecstatic yodels verging on murderous screams, bass lines suggesting magma depth. The loss of Polachek's father (from COVID-19 complications in 2020) and her musical collaborator Sophie (in an accident that shocked the pop world in 2021) looms as Polachek sings, again and again, about wishing to make fleeting joys eternal.
Our imaginary grunge-era music geek might ask: Isn't an avant-pop Pure Moods, like, way corny? Well, kinda, but let's think about this for a second. The sophisticated expression of fantasy is one of art's great missions, uniting Tchaikovsky with the Wu-Tang Clan. When we say something is corny, we mean that it is naive, indulging simple urges so uncritically as to be useless. Polachek, ever with her eye on mortality, isn't doing that. When the final and most stunning song on the album, "Billions," concludes with the singing of a youth choir, the effect is heartbreaking. Kids can believe that places like Polachek's island are real. Adults know they'll only ever get to visit in their mind for a while.
Freddie Benoît, the 25-year-old protagonist of Return to Seoul, presents herself as a nomad who's wandered into a foreign country on a whim. The viewer meets her mid-drink at a bar in Seoul and quickly figures out that the friends she's sitting with are essentially strangers, a random assortment of new pals she's enticed while holding court and pouring soju. Freddie, short for Frédérique, is a French woman who was adopted from South Korea at birth. She's come back to find her biological parents, a search that turns into a jagged and frustrating journey of self-discovery. She's made the trip without informing her adopted family and with little preparation—an approach that suits the rebellious vibe she seems to be trying out for the first time in Seoul.
Played by the actor Park Ji-min in her debut role, Freddie is a whirlwind of charm and chaos, somehow coasting by even though she doesn't speak Korean and is a novice to all of the customs. As she's repeatedly reminded, politeness dictates that you pour drinks only for others, not for yourself, in Korean social situations; to keep her own cup full, she keeps inviting strangers to her table. But she's also motivated to make friends because she's trying to find new answers to questions she often can't articulate—about her identity, her place in the world, and her path forward. The writer-director Davy Chou's film, which had a brief Oscar-qualifying run in theaters last fall but is finally being properly released this weekend, is one of the most surprising dramas of the year thus far.
Chou was inspired by a real-life friend who, in her 20s, similarly returned to Korea to reconnect with her birth father; Chou witnessed the reunion. But the filmmaker has another, even more personal link to the story: He was born in France to parents who had left Cambodia before the Khmer Rouge took over, and he first visited their homeland at the age of 25, connecting with a culture that was both far-off and familiar. Chou's first two features, the 2011 documentary Golden Slumbers and the 2016 drama Diamond Island, were made in Cambodia. He didn't know very much about the Korean setting he chose for Return to Seoul. But that distanced perspective only bolsters the film's underlying sense of curiosity and mystery.
Freddie, by and large, is oblivious in Seoul: She asks her bar mates inappropriate questions, flirts up a storm, and eventually blusters her way into the adoption agency that sent her to France when she was a baby. She moves recklessly yet effectively, thanks to the sheer force of her personality. Freddie is hard to pin down; she often literally flees from the frame. In multiple sequences, she dances with abandon, the camera working frantically to keep her in its sight.
Park's performance is extraordinary, shifting from coquettish to threatening to needy without ever losing grasp of the character's core anxieties about lineage and belonging. The film resists easy sentimentality when introducing Freddie's birth family, who greet her with a mix of interest and shame. They aren't the final piece of the puzzle; they don't have simple answers for Freddie as to why she was given up for adoption or, more important, why she feels such deep existential listlessness. Throughout the movie, Freddie seems desperate to understand the contradictions of her identity—she's not quite satisfied with her life in France or her relationship with her adoptive parents (whom we briefly glimpse in a sweet yet melancholy phone call), but she feels equally uncomfortable and out of place in Korea. The impulsiveness she exhibits there is viewed with trepidation by her new friends and her birth family alike.
As the film goes on, it jumps through time and portrays several radical transformations of Freddie's personality. With its ever-evolving protagonist, Return to Seoul defies neat categorization. It's a low-budget character drama with the twists and turns of a high-octane thriller. It's also a consistently satisfying watch that honors the difficulty of wanting to be understood—and the relief of finally releasing that desire.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-30141-wExploring the mechanism of anti-fatigue of resveratrol based on network pharmacology and molecular docking, and in vitro studies
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-29954-6Salinity stress improves antioxidant potential by modulating physio-biochemical responses in Moringa oleifera Lam.
Nature, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00409-2Physicists nail down the most precise value yet of the electron magnetic moment, surpassing a value measured 14 years ago.
Nature Communications, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36526-9To protect from host attack, numerous jumbo bacteriophages establish a micron-scale, protein-based structure to enclose their replicating DNA. Using cryoEM, the authors show that the 2D crystal enclosing this so-called phage nucleus is an assembly of tetramers linked by flexible loops and tails.
Nature Communications, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36497-xThis study found that a prebiotic intervention was well-tolerated and safe, beneficially changed the microbiome, decreased inflammation and a marker of neurodegeneration, with possible clinical effects in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients. This study offers the rationale for further investigations using prebiotic fibers in PD.
Nature Communications, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36573-2Twin-field QKD should allow secure quantum communication with favourable rate-loss scaling, but requires interferometric implementations which are often impractical for long distances. Here, the authors show how to realise it without the need for closed interferometers.
I came from a country destroyed by corruption.
If humanity wants to be a successful civilation for other thousand years or more, I think it is a must to eradicate corruption from governments, but how to achieve it?
For my perspective it could be a mix of – Blockchain (or similar) to have inalterable files – Transparency about decisions taken – More direct democracy – AI replacing work – Science and environment checks being done by poweful non-gov regulators focused on preserve the life in the planet.
What do you think?
Nature Communications, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36622-wState-of-the-art electrolytes limit the cycle life of halide-ion batteries. Here, the authors report a fluorinated low-polar gel polymer electrolyte capable of improving the stability of the electrolyte and electrode interphases to boost battery performance.
Nature Communications, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36542-9RNA-guided, CRISPR-associated transposons hold great promise for precision genome editing. Here, the authors provide genetic, biochemical and structural data how their activity is regulated in situ by CvkR, an unusual MerR family regulator.
A military spokesperson tells NPR that it's their understanding that the FBI has spoken to the hobbyist group in question.
(Image credit: 1st Lt. Sam Eckholm/U.S. Air Force)
- In the late 1990s, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act and the Child Online Protection Act, both of which were later found to violate the First Amendment .
I have a gripe about San Francisco: The bagel stores open too late.
My neighborhood, Bernal Heights, has a number of excellent purveyors. The tasty BagelMacher opens at 8:30 a.m. on the weekends, at which point my sons have been up shrieking and destroying things for three hours. Chicken Dog, which sells the best salt bagel I have had in California, opens at the downright brunch-ish hour of 9 a.m. I come from the Bagel Belt, to co-opt a term. In my mind, bagel shops open at 6 a.m. That's standard. That's how it works. You should be able to feel caffeinated and carb-loaded at 6:03 a.m. every day of the year, including Christmas. But not here in the Bay Area. And the housing shortage is to blame.
That's my pet theory, at least. San Francisco has built just one home for every eight jobs it has added for the past decade-plus, and rents are higher here than they are pretty much anywhere else in the United States. The city could stand to increase its housing stock fivefold, according to one analysis. What does that have to do with bagels? Few people can afford to live here—and especially few families who have to bear child-care costs along with shelter costs. Thus, San Francisco has the smallest share of kids of any major American city. Meaning a modest share of parents. Meaning not a lot of people who might be up at 5:51 a.m. on a Sunday morning, ready to hit the bagel store.
The late opening hours of San Francisco's bagel joints are not the only things you can reasonably tie back to its housing crisis. The declining share of gay residents in its historic Castro neighborhood. The blanding of the city's bohemian culture. Even the graying of its famous brightly painted Victorians. (Apparently, the people who can actually afford to buy homes in the city prefer understated colors.)
The crisis is not just happening in San Francisco. Housing costs are perverting just about every facet of American life, everywhere. What we eat, when we eat it, what music we listen to, what sports we play, how many friends we have, how often we see our extended families, where we go on vacation, how many children we bear, what kind of companies we found: All of it has gotten warped by the high cost of housing. Nowhere is immune, because big cities export their housing shortages to small cities, suburbs, and rural areas too.
Recently, a trio of analysts coined an apt term for this phenomenon: the housing theory of everything. You now hear it everywhere, at least if you're the kind of person who goes to a lot of public-policy conferences or hangs out on econ Twitter. Writing in the journal Works in Progress, John Myers, Ben Southwood, and Sam Bowman took stock of many of the most pressing problems in the Western world, among them declining fertility, endemic chronic illness, brutal inequality, the climate catastrophe, sluggish productivity, and slow growth. They tied each of them back to the cost to rent an apartment.
High real-estate prices eat up young families' budgets, prompting parents to have fewer kids than they would like. Building restrictions beget sprawl, spurring people to walk less and drive more, damaging their arteries and the planet's climate. The inability of inventors to move to cities bursting with know-how and capital quashes a country's long-term growth prospects; the inability of workers to move to cities with high wages dents its GDP. And driving up housing prices by restricting construction acts as a wealth transfer from renters to landowners. Indeed, housing prices might be the single biggest generator of financial disparities in many Western countries.
In a roundabout way, the French socialist economist Thomas Piketty inspired the term housing theory of everything. In 2013, the publication of Piketty's opus, Capital in the 20th Century, sparked a broad debate about the causes and effects of economic inequality. "The book was a huge deal, and there was that Bloomberg Businessweek cover where Piketty was this heartthrob and everyone was obsessed with it," Southwood, a British policy analyst and journalist, told me. When reading some work extending Piketty's thesis, he told me, "I was thinking, Well, wait a second, land and housing really is an important part of this."
Myers (a former hedge-fund portfolio manager and the co-founder of a U.K. YIMBY group) and Bowman (a think tanker) shared his housing obsession. Southwood and Bowman helped found Works in Progress, now supported by the fintech giant Stripe. And the three published their manifesto on the housing theory of everything a year and a half ago.
Post-publication, the idea took off online and in policy circles. Although Bowman, Myers, and Southwood focused on the most vital, sweeping effects of housing shortages and high housing costs, their theory has taken on a somewhat distinct meaning among its internet devotees. As a meme or a catchphrase, it applies to many of the crisis's more obscure symptoms: riots in Liverpool, Canadian visa trends, the bribery of public officials, New Jersey moms' desire for luxury bathtubs, and, in my case at least, bagel stores' opening hours.
The theory is catchy because housing costs really do affect everything. They're shaping art by preventing young painters, musicians, and poets from congregating in cities. How many styles akin to the Memphis blues and Seattle grunge are we missing out on? Would the Harlem Renaissance or the Belle Epoque happen today? They're shaping higher education, turning elite urban colleges into real-estate conglomerates and barring low-income students from attending. They are preventing new businesses from getting off the ground and are killing mom-and-pops. They're making people lonely and reactionary and sick and angry.
The answer is to build more homes in our most desirable places—granting more money, opportunity, entrepreneurial spark, health, togetherness, and tasty breakfast options to all of us.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-29561-5circRNA-ZCCHC14 affects the chondrogenic differentiation ability of peripheral blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells by regulating
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-29998-8Mapping localization of 21 endogenous proteins in the Golgi apparatus of rodent neurons
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-28702-0Dissipative MHD free convective nanofluid flow past a vertical cone under radiative chemical reaction with mass flux
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-29888-zThe optimization of postoperative radiotherapy in de novo stage IV
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-29994-yNeuroplasticity enables bio-cultural feedback in Paleolithic stone-tool making
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-29676-9First principles and mean field study on the magnetocaloric effect of YFe3 and HoFe3 compounds
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-29806-3Wavelets based physics informed neural networks to solve non-linear differential equations
Scientific Reports, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-30042-yReevaluating the wave power-salt marsh retreat relationship
An NPR/Floodlight investigation found that a longtime Republican insider is stoking solar opposition by spreading bad information about health and environmental risks. Her influence is growing.
(Image credit: Ryan Kellman/NPR)
What's the secret to making it into triple figures? Never stay stuck in the past, keep a diary … and dance while you still can
British army colonel, diplomat and writer; Kent, England
Have a happy disposition, a pronounced sense of humour and the ability to laugh at yourself. Mutually fall in love with your partner and stay in that relationship until "death do you part". Experience fulfilling, natural, lasting sexual enjoyment. Never be bored, because so many pleasures are available to you. Enjoy the sharing of these pleasures when appropriate, but also solitude from time to time.
- EPA moves to restore rule on mercury from power plants
Nature Communications, Published online: 18 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36549-2The failure of metabolic tissues to respond to insulin is an early marker of type 2 diabetes. Here, the authors show, using global phosphoproteomics, that
I love learning about social robotics and what they mean for our society. Stories like, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner, 'Be Right Back' from Black Mirror, all contain ideas I love about how robots/AI affect our society. I love thinking about how these stories are also criticisms of the direction of our society. I love looking at how the robots on the forefront of today are affecting the world. I love thinking of how different cultures perceive the same robots differently. I love questioning how you should design a UI based on the background of the user. I love asking the questions of: can robots feel emotions?, should we make AI that are meant to replicate people who've died?, should we fear artificial intelligence?
I want to find resources/websites/people/subreddits where conversations, and even better, debates over these ideas happen. I've become very frustrated in this pursuit so far, so I'm wondering if there's anyone here who may be able to help. For some context, I'm an undergraduate at a university in the US and I've taken some classes on ethics in technology but I don't feel they're advanced enough for me. They do ask these sort of questions, however, I feel they don't go very in depth with them. They kind of just ask students these questions to get them started thinking about them. Most of the students in these classes tend to have not thought of these ideas before, and these classes are kind of introducing these questions to them; Whereas I like thinking about them all the time and revisiting these ideas with every a tech news headline that comes out. I'm working on trying to find professors and other students at my university that are also interested in these ideas, but I am wondering if there's also resources online you all may know about that may be helpful in my process. Let me know what you guys think, thanks.
PS.. Here is my take on the some of the questions above:
Can robots/AI feel emotions?
Yes and No. I don't believe that we as humans shouldn't be worried too much about whether robots/AI can or cannot inherently "feel" emotion, because I think emotions lie in the eyes of the observer. Let me explain. If a robot is able to mimic the emotions of humans to the level of which it is believable, and we as humans perceive them as real emotions, then they are real emotions. Emotions are not real until we think they are real. When we as people start believing that the robot/AI has felt an emotion, then it has. Because what matters isn't necessarily whether it is literally true or not, but rather what we believe to be true or not. Here is the video clip that taught and inspired me on this from Lex Fridman: https://youtu.be/0VH1Lim8gL8?t=4603
Should we make AI that are meant to replicate people who've died?
This question is largely the question of the film 'Be Right Back' from Black Mirror. My answer is: there is no objective answer, because AI, like all technology is a tool. What is a tool? A tool is creation that is made to help us achieve a goal better, or faster than before. For example, a wrench is a tool, a car is a tool, a gun is a tool, chatGPT is a tool. The outcome of what is done with these tools can be debated as good or bad, but the tool itself was only a means to the goal. With that being said, an AI that is able replicate a person who was once alive, can be used as a tool to: help someone grieve the lost of a loved one, let someone finish their will, allow malicious people to still be able to spread hate… and so on. The point is, the technology is just a tool, and it is not inherently good or bad. To generalize a piece of technology as either is wrong.
Oscar nominee Cate Blanchett reflects on her life-changing role in Tár (1m25s), food writer Bee Wilson investigates the real impact of energy drinks on consumers (21m38s), and David Robson on what a ground-breaking study says about our power to shape our future selves (48m09s)Continue reading…
The school house is a new idea, education was once a privilege for the kings and the military. Now that education is available for all people there is more information than ever thought imagined. To help manage this information students are allowed tools like the calculator, the library, and access to global networking. Soon there will be laws and regulations regarding the uses of Artificial Intelligence in the school curriculum.
How should these laws and regulations be written? What steps can be made to control Artificial intelligence and what our students will learn from AI?
I am not a teacher. I work in a hospital.
For decades researchers have struggled to find a contraceptive methods for males. A new fast-acting compound shows promise — assuming it turns out to work as well in men as in mice.
(Image credit: Derek Berwin/Getty Images)
This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.
Right-wing political and media figures regularly level the accusation of "elitism" at other Americans. But new revelations from Dominion Voting Systems' defamation lawsuit against Fox News and the
over claims of election fraud are reminders that the most cynical elites in America are the Republicans and their media valets.
But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.
- An anti-racist professor faces "toxicity on the left today."
- I watched Elon Musk kill Twitter's culture from the inside.
- Bird flu leaves the world with an existential choice.
Patronizing for Profit
Elected Republicans and their courtiers in the right-wing-media ecosystem deploy the word elite as an accusation, a calumny, almost a crime. To be one of the elite is to be a snooty, educated city dweller, a highbrow pretend-patriot who looks down upon the Real Americans who hunt and fish and drive pickup trucks to church. (It does not mean "rich people"; Donald Trump has gleefully referred to himself and his supporters as the "super-elite.") The elites also support the production of "fake news" by liars who intend to hoodwink ordinary people into doing the bidding of wealthy globalists. They buy books and listen to National Public Radio and they probably read things like The Atlantic.
This shtick has been a remarkable success. Republicans have used it to convince millions of working people that super-educated gasbags such as Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Ron DeSantis are just ordinary folks who care deeply about kitchen-table issues that matter to their family and a secure future for their children, such as Hunter Biden's sex life and whether public schools are letting kids pee in litter boxes.
In the entertainment hothouse, Fox News is the most prominent offender. The Fox all-star lineup, especially in prime time with Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, is a parade of millionaires who work for Rupert Murdoch, one of the richest and most powerful men in this corner of the Milky Way galaxy. Every day they warn their viewers that democracy is in peril because of people who majored in gender studies. All of this nuttery is delivered with a straight face—or in Carlson's case, the weird mien of a dog watching a magic trick.
It's one thing, however, to suspect that Fox personalities see their viewers as mere rubes who must be riled up in the name of corporate profit. It's another entirely to have it all documented in black and white. Dominion might not win its lawsuit against Fox, but for the rest of America, the process has produced something more important than money: an admission, by Fox's on-air personalities, of how much they disrespect and disdain their own viewers.
According to documents from Dominion's legal filing, Fox News hosts repeatedly exchanged private doubts about Republicans' 2020 election-fraud claims. Hannity, in the weeks after the 2020 election, said that the regular Fox guest and top conspiracy-pusher, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was "acting like an insane person." Ingraham had a similar evaluation: "Such an idiot." And it's not like Murdoch didn't share that sentiment: In one message, he said Giuliani and the Trump lawyer Sidney Powell were pushing "really crazy stuff" and he told Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott that their behavior was "damaging everybody." (Fox reportedly banned Giuliani in 2021, putting up with him for weeks after January 6 and then shutting him down as the Dominion lawsuit gained momentum.)
There are few hours on Fox that manage to pack in more gibberish and nonsense than Carlson's show, and yet—to give him one zeptosecond of credit—he took Powell apart in a segment on his show. In later months, of course, Carlson would continue to inject the information stream with various strains of conspiratorial pathogens, but when even Tucker Carlson is worried, perhaps it's a sign that things are out of hand.
Of course, Carlson wasn't worried about the truth; he was worried about the profitability of the Fox brand. When the Fox reporter Jacqui Heinrich did a real-time fact-check on Twitter of a Trump tweet about voter fraud, Carlson tried to ruin her career. "Please get her fired," he wrote in a text chain that included Hannity and Ingraham. He continued:
Seriously…What the fuck? I'm actually shocked…It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It's measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.
After the election, Carlson warned that angering Trump could have catastrophic consequences: "He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong." Murdoch, too, said that he did not want to "antagonize Trump further."
Meanwhile, the Fox producer Abby Grossberg was more worried about the torch-and-pitchfork Fox demographic. After the election, she reminded Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo that Fox's faithful should be served the toxic gunk they craved: "To be honest, our audience doesn't want to hear about a peaceful transition," Grossberg texted. "Yes, agree," Bartiromo answered in a heroic display of high-minded journalistic principle.
In other words: Our audience of American citizens wants to be encouraged in its desire to thwart the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in our history as a nation. And Bartiromo answered: Yes, let's keep doing that.
As Vox's Sean Illing tweeted today, Bartiromo's thirsty pursuit of ratings is a reminder that "no one has a lower opinion of conservative voters than conservative media." More important, Fox's cynical fleecing of its viewers is an expression of titanic elitism, the sort that destroys reality in the minds of ordinary people for the sake of fame and money. Not only does such behavior reveal contempt for Fox's viewers; it encourages the destruction of our system of government purely for ratings and a limo to and from the Fox mothership in Times Square. (New York City might be full of coastal "elitists," but that's where the Fox crew lives and works; we'll know the real populist millennium has arrived when Fox packs off Hannity and Greg Gutfeld and Jeanine Pirro to its new offices in Kansas or Oklahoma.)
Although it's amusing to bash the Fox celebrities who have been caught in this kind of grubby hypocrisy, the elitism of the American right is a much bigger problem because it drives so much of the unhinged populism that threatens our democracy. Fox News and the highly educated Republican officeholders who use its support to stay in office know exactly what they're doing. But they are all now riding a tiger of their own creation: As the conservative writer George Will has noted, for the first time in American history, a major political party is terrified by its own voters.
Fox, of course, has said that the Dominion filing "mischaracterized the record," and "cherry-picked quotes stripped of key context," and the network insisted in a legal brief it was merely observing its "commitment to inform fully and comment fairly." Sadly, Fox will likely survive this disaster whether it wins or loses in court. Like the GOP base it serves, the network and its viewers have immense reserves of denial and rationalization they can bring to bear against the incursions of reality. "We can fix this," Scott, the Fox CEO, wrote in the midst of this mess, "but we cannot smirk at our viewers any longer."
But why not? It's been working like a charm so far.
- Brian Stelter: I never truly understood Fox News until now.
- Fox hosts knew—and lied anyway. (from 2021)
- Six people have been killed in a series of shootings in Tate County, Mississippi.
- The five former Memphis police officers accused of killing Tyre Nichols pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges.
- The U.S. has finished recovering debris from the balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina, and so far, analysis of the remnants reinforce the conclusion that it was a Chinese spy balloon, officials said.
- The Books Briefing: What truly elevates poetry is not just what we write but also what inspires us to write it, Emma Sarappo argues.
Buttons Are Bougie Now
By Drew Millard
The 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor, among the most expensive offerings in the car manufacturer's line of tough-guy throwback SUVs, features 418 horsepower, a 10-speed transmission, axles borrowed from off-road-racing vehicles, and 37-inch tires meant for driving off sand dunes at unnecessarily high speeds. But when the automotive site Jalopnik got its hands on a Bronco Raptor for testing, the writer José Rodríguez Jr. singled out something else entirely to praise about the $70,000 SUV: its buttons. The Bronco Raptor features an array of buttons, switches, and knobs controlling everything from its off-road lights to its four-wheel-drive mode to whatever a "sway bar disconnect" is. So much can be done by actually pressing or turning an object that Rodríguez Jr. found the vehicle's in-dash touch screen—the do-it-all "infotainment system" that has become ubiquitous in new vehicles—nearly vestigial.
Then again, the ability to manipulate a physical thing, a button, has become a premium feature not just in vehicles, but on gadgets of all stripes.
More From The Atlantic
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- Photos of the week: the world's oldest dog, the Opera Ball in Austria, and more
Read. Keep Valentine's Day going with these books to read with someone you love.
Or read a new short story by Ben Okri.
To get away from politics and this entire decade, I've been binge-watching old episodes of 30 Rock, Tina Fey's inspired send-up of life as a comedy writer at NBC. And I have come to realize that Alec Baldwin's portrayal of Jack Donaghy—on the show, the vice president of East Coast television and microwave-oven programming for General Electric—produced one of television's greatest characters. In lesser hands, he could have been just another corporate buffoon, a foil for the clever creatives, but 30 Rock never let Jack become a red-faced Theodore J. Mooney or Milburn Drysdale; he was vicious, funny, sentimental, cynical, both a backstabber and a good friend.
Of course, the reason he's also a candidate for becoming my spirit animal is that he is from Massachusetts (as I am), worked his way through a good school (as I did), and now is happily and self-indulgently aware of his own obnoxiousness. (I'm working on it.) When Fey's Liz Lemon finds Jack in his office in a tuxedo, he says: "It's after six. What am I, a farmer?" When his flinty harridan of a mom reproaches him for not appreciating her, he doesn't miss a beat: "Mother, there are terrorist cells that are more nurturing than you are." I'm not sure any actor but Baldwin and his hoarse whisper could pull off those lines. But even years later, I find myself laughing out loud. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to dress for dinner.
Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.
My wife is a sustainability enthusiast researcher. She recently used
to generate organic knitted shoes that can be easily produced by any fashion company. All the pattern designs she took from actual flowers. Her article inspired me to submit this post.
If to use the AI technology right, we can become sustainable in everything. What do you think?
During the Cold War, NATO had nightmares of hundreds of thousands of Moscow's troops pouring across international borders and igniting a major ground war with a democracy in Europe. Western governments feared that such a move by the Kremlin would lead to escalation—first to a world war and perhaps even to a nuclear conflict.
That was then; this is now.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine is nearly a year old, and the Ukrainians are holding on. The Russians, so far, not only have been pushed back, but are taking immense casualties and material losses. For many Americans, the war is now just another conflict in the news. Do we need to worry about the nuclear threat of Putin's war in Europe the way we worried about such things three decades ago?
Our staff writer Tom Nichols, an expert on nuclear weapons and the Cold War, counsels Americans not to be obsessed with nuclear escalation, but to be aware of the possibilities for accidents and miscalculations. You can hear his thoughts here:
The following is a transcript of the episode:
Tom Nichols: It's been a year since the Russians invaded Ukraine and launched the biggest conventional war in Europe since the Nazis. One of the things that I think we've all worried about in that time is the underlying problem of nuclear weapons.
This is a nuclear-armed power at war with hundreds of thousands of people in the middle of Europe. This is the nightmare that American foreign policy has dreaded since the beginning of the nuclear age.
And I think people have kind of put it out of their mind, how potentially dangerous this conflict is, which is understandable, but also, I think, takes us away from thinking about something that is really the most important foreign problem in the world today.
During the Cold War, we would've thought about that every day, but these days, people just don't think about it, and I think they should.
My name is Tom Nichols. I'm a staff writer at
. And I've spent a lot of years thinking about nuclear weapons and nuclear war. For 25 years, I was a professor of national-security affairs at Naval War College.
For this episode of Radio Atlantic, I want to talk about nuclear weapons and what I think we should have learned from the history of the Cold War about how to think about this conflict today.
I was aware of nuclear weapons at a pretty young age because my hometown, Chicopee, Massachusetts, was home to a giant nuclear-bomber base, Strategic Air Command's East Coast headquarters, which had the big B-52s that would fly missions with nuclear weapons directly to the Soviet Union.
I had a classic childhood of air-raid sirens, and hiding in the basement, and going under the desks, and doing all of that stuff. My high-school biology teacher had a grim sense of humor and told us, you know, because of the Air Force base, we were slated for instant destruction. He said, Yeah, if anything ever happens, we're gone. We're gone in seven or eight minutes. So I guess the idea of nuclear war and nuclear weapons was a little more present in my life at an earlier age than for a lot of other kids.
It's been a long time since anyone's really had to worry about global nuclear war. It's been over 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. I think people who lived through the Cold War were more than happy to forget about it. I know I am glad to have it far in the past. And I think younger people who didn't experience it have a hard time understanding what it was all aboutand what that fear was about—because it's part of ancient history now.
But I think people really need to understand that Cold War history to understand what's going on today, and how decision makers in Washington and in Europe, and even in Moscow, are playing out this war—because many of these weapons are still right where we left them.
We have fewer of them, but we still have thousands of these weapons, many of them on a very short trigger. We could go from the beginning of this podcast to the end of the world, that short of [a] time. And it's easy to forget that. During the Cold War, we were constantly aware of it, because it was the central influence on our foreign policy. But it's important for us to look back at the history of the Cold War because we survived a long and very tense struggle with a nuclear-armed opponent. Now, some of that was through good and sensible policy. And some of it was just through dumb luck.
Of course, the first big crisis that Americans really faced where they had to think about the existential threat of nuclear weapons was the Cuban missile crisis, in October of 1962.
I was barely 2 years old. But living next to this big, plump nuclear target in Massachusetts, we actually knew people in my hometown who built fallout shelters. But we got through the Cuban missile crisis, in part because President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev realized what was at stake.
The gamble to put missiles in Cuba had failed, and that we had to—as Khruschev put it in one of his messages—we had to stop pulling on the ends of the rope and tightening the knot of war. But we also got incredibly lucky.
There was a moment aboard a Soviet submarine where the sub commander thought they were under attack. And he wanted to use nuclear-tipped torpedoes to take out the American fleet, which would've triggered a holocaust.
I mean, it would've been an incredible amount of devastation on the world. Tens, hundreds of millions of people dead. And, um, fortunately a senior commander who had to consent to the captain's idea vetoed the whole thing. He said, I don't think that's what's happening. I don't think they're trying to sink us, and I do not consent. And so by this one lucky break with this one Soviet officer, we averted the end of the world. I mean, we averted utter catastrophe.
After the Cuban missile crisis, people are now even more aware of this existential threat of nuclear weapons and it starts cropping up everywhere, especially in our pop culture. I mean, they were always there in the '50s; there were movies about the communist threat and attacks on America. But after the Cuban missile crisis, that's when you start getting movies like Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe.
Both were about an accidental nuclear war, which becomes a theme for most of the Cold War. In Dr. Strangelove, an American general goes nuts and orders an attack on Russia. And in Fail Safe, a piece of machinery goes bad and the same thing happens. And I think this reflected this fear that we now had to live with, this constant threat of something that we and the Soviets didn't even want to do, but could happen anyway.
Even the James Bond movies, which were supposed to be kind of campy and fun, nuclear weapons were really often the source of danger in them. You know, bad guys were stealing them; people were trying to track our nuclear submarines. Throughout the '60s, the '70s, the '80s nuclear weapons really become just kind of soaked into our popular culture.
We all know the Cuban missile crisis because it's just part of our common knowledge about the world, even for people that didn't live through it. I think we don't realize how dangerous other times were. I always think of 1983 as the year we almost didn't make it.
1983 was an incredibly tense year. President Ronald Reagan began the year calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire." And announced that the United States would start pouring billions of dollars into an effort to defend against Soviet missiles, including space-based defenses, which the Soviets found incredibly threatening.
The relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union had just completely broken down. Really, by the fall of 1983, it felt like war was inevitable. It certainly felt like to me war was inevitable. There was kind of that smell of gunpowder in the air. We were all pretty scared. I was pretty scared. I was a graduate student at that point. I was 23 years old, and I was certain that this war, this cataclysmic war, was going to happen not only in my lifetime, but probably before I was 30 years old.
And then a lot of things happened in 1983 that elevated the level of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union to extraordinary levels. I would say really dangerous levels. The Soviets did their best to prove they were an evil empire by shooting down a fully loaded civilian airliner, killing 269 people. Just weeks after the shoot-down of the Korean airliner, Soviet Air Defenses got an erroneous report of an American missile launch against them. And this is another one of those cases where we were just lucky. We were just fortunate.
And in this case, it was a Soviet Air Defense officer, a lieutenant colonel, who saw this warning that the Americans had launched five missiles. And he said, You know, nobody starts World War III with five missiles. That seems wrong.
And he said, I just, I think the system—which still had some bugs—I just don't think the system's right. We're gonna wait that out. We're gonna ignore that. He was actually later reprimanded.
It was almost like he was reprimanded and congratulated at the same time, because if he had called Moscow and said, Look, I'm doing my duty. I'm reporting Soviet Air Defenses have seen American birds are in the air. They're coming at us and over to you, Kremlin. And from there, a lot of bad decisions could have cascaded into World War III, especially after a year where we had been in such amazingly high conflict with each other.
Once again, just as after the Cuban missile crisis, the increase in tension in the 1980s really comes through in the popular culture. Music, movies, TV puts this sense of threat into the minds of ordinary Americans in a way that we just don't have now. So people are going to the movies and they're seeing movies like WarGames, once again about an accidental nuclear war. They're seeing movies like Red Dawn, about a very intentional war by the Soviet Union against the United States.
The Soviets thought that Red Dawn was actually part of Reagan's attempt to use Hollywood to prepare Americans for World War III. In music, Ronald Reagan as a character made appearances in videos by Genesis or by Men at Work. That November, the biggest television event in history was The Day After, which was a cinematic representation of World War III.
I mean, it was everywhere. By 1983, '84, we were soaked in this fear of World War III. Nuclear war and Armageddon, no matter where you looked. I remember in the fall of 1983 going to see the new James Bond movie, one of the last Roger Moore movies, called Octopussy. And the whole plot amazed me because, of course, I was studying this stuff at the time, I was studying NATO and nuclear weapons.
And here's this opening scene where a mad Soviet general says, If only we can convince the West to give up its nuclear weapons, we can finally invade and take over the world.
I saw all of these films as either a college student or a young graduate student, and again, it was just kind of woven into my life. Well, of course, this movie is about nuclear war. Of course, this movie is about a Soviet invasion. Of course, this movie is about, you know, the end of the world, because it was always there. It was always in the background. But after the end of the Cold War, that remarkable amount of pop-culture knowledge and just general cultural awareness sort of fades away.
I think one reason that people today don't look back at the Cold War with the same sense of threat is that it all ended so quickly. We went from [these] terrifying year[s] of 1983, 1984. And then suddenly Gorbachev comes in; Reagan reaches out to him; Gorbachev reaches back. They jointly agree in 1985—they issue a statement that to this day, is still considered official policy by the Russian Federation and by the United States of America. They jointly declare a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.
And all of a sudden, by the summer of 1985, 1986, it's just over, and, like, 40 years of tension just came to an end in the space of 20, 24 months. Something I just didn't think I would see in my lifetime. And I think that's really created a false sense of security in later generations.
After the Cold War, in the '90s we have a Russia that's basically friendly to the United States but nuclear weapons are still a danger. For example, in 1995, Norway launched a scientific satellite on top of a missile—I think they were gonna study the northern lights—and the scientists gave everybody notice, you know, We're gonna be launching this satellite. You're gonna see a missile launch from Norway.
Somebody in Russia just didn't get the message, and the Russian defense people came to President Boris Yeltsin and they said, This might be a NATO attack. And they gave him the option to activate and launch Russian nuclear weapons. Yeltsin conferred with his people, and fortunately—because our relations were good, and because Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton had a good relationship, and because tensions were low in the world—Yeltsin says, Yeah, okay. I don't buy that. I'm sure it's nothing.
But imagine again, if that had been somebody else.
And that brings us to today. The first thing to understand is: We are in a better place than we were during the Cold War in many ways. During the Cold War, we had tens of thousands of weapons pointed at each other. Now by treaty, the United States and the Russian Federation each have about 1,500 nuclear weapons deployed and ready to go. Now, that's a lot of nuclear weapons, but 1,500 is a lot better than 30,000 or 40,000.
Nonetheless, we are dealing with a much more dangerous Russian regime with this mafia state led by Vladimir Putin.
Putin is a mafia boss. There is no one to stop him from doing whatever he wants. And he has really convinced himself that he is some kind of great world historical figure who is going to reestablish this Christian Slavic empire throughout the former Soviet Union and remnants of the old Russian empire. And that makes him uniquely dangerous.
People might wonder why Putin is even bothering with nuclear threats, because we've always thought of Russia as this giant conventional power because that's the legacy of the Cold War. We were outnumbered. NATO at the time was only 16 countries. We were totally outnumbered by the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact in everything—men, tanks, artillery—and of course, the only way we could have repulsed an attack by the Soviet Union into Europe would've been to use nuclear weapons.
I know earlier I mentioned the movie Octopussy. We've come a long way from the days when that mad Russian general could say, If only we got rid of nuclear weapons and NATO's nuclear weapons, we could roll our tanks from Czechoslovakia to Poland through Germany and on into France.
What people need to understand is that Russia is now the weaker conventional power. The Russians are now the ones saying, Listen, if things go really badly for us and we're losing, we reserve the right to use nuclear weapons. The difference between Russia now and NATO then is: NATO was threatening these nuclear weapons if they were invaded and they were being just rolled over by Soviet tanks on their way to the English Channel. The Russians today are saying, We started this war, and if it goes badly for us, we reserve the right to use nuclear weapons to get ourselves out of a jam.
This conventional weakness is actually what makes them more dangerous, because they're now continually being humiliated in the field. And a country that had gotten by by convincing people that they were a great conventional power, that they had a lot of conventional capability, they're being revealed now as a hollow power. They can't even defeat a country a third of their own size.
And so when they're running out of options, you can understand at that point where Putin says, Well, the only way to scramble the deck and to get a do-over here is to use some small nuclear weapon in that area to kind of sober everybody up and shock them into coming to the table or giving me what I want.
Now, I think that would be incredibly stupid. And I think a lot of people around the world, including China and other countries, have told Putin that would be a really bad idea. But I think one thing we've learned from this war is that Putin is a really lousy strategist who takes dumb chances because he's just not very competent.
And that comes back to the Cold War lesson—that you don't worry about someone starting World War III as much as you worry about bumbling into World War III because of a bunch of really dumb decisions by people who thought they were doing something smart and didn't understand that they were actually doing something really dangerous.
So where does this leave us? This major war is raging through the middle of Europe, the scenario that we always dreaded during the Cold War; thousands and thousands of Moscow's troops flooding across borders. What's the right way to think about this? Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that this really is a war to defend democracy against an aggressive, authoritarian imperial state.
The front line of the fight for civilization, really, is in Ukraine now. If Ukraine loses this war, the world will be a very different place. That's what makes it imperative that Americans think about this problem. I think it's imperative to support Ukraine in this fight, but we should do that with a prudent understanding of real risks that haven't gone away.
And so I think the Cold War provides some really good guidance here, which is to be engaged, to be aware, but not to be panicked. Not to become consumed by this fear every day, because that becomes paralyzing, that becomes debilitating. It's bad for you as a person. And it's bad for democracies' ability to make decisions—because then you simply don't make any decisions at all, out of fear.
I think it's important not to fall victim to Cold War amnesia and forget everything we learned. But I also don't think we should become consumed by a new Cold War paranoia where we live every day thinking that we're on the edge of Armageddon.