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It's not a darning tool, it's a very naughty toy: Roman dildo found

Two thousand-year-old object found at Roman fort in Northumberland in 1992 has been reassessed by archaeologists

Archaeologists believe they may have found the only known lifesize Roman dildo, discovered in a ditch in what were the farthest northern fringes of the empire.

If it was not used as a sexual implement then the 2,000-year-old object may have been an erect penis-shaped pestle, or it could have been a feature from a statue that people touched for good luck.

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You can't watch Earth spin in real time because it rotates so slowly, but there are ways to see the effects of the planet's rotation.
How Citizen is trying to remake itself by recruiting elderly Asians

This story was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center's AI Accountability Network.

When it's dark outside and Josephine Zhao has to walk even a few blocks home in San Francisco, she will sometimes call in an extra set of eyes—literally. 

After opening the Citizen app on her phone, Zhao connects with one of the platform's agents through a feature called "Live Monitoring." This allows a human on the other end to track Zhao's GPS location and, with the tap of another button, access her phone's camera so they "can see what I see," Zhao says. Often she won't even speak to the agent, but knowing that "someone will walk with me" offers a little peace of mind. 

It's one of the latest security measures Zhao has embraced: she also avoids public transportation and walks around the city with a long pointed device attached to her keychain, a baby-pink piece of plastic that can be turned into a weapon in her fist. 

But she feels Citizen, a hyperlocal app that allows users to report and follow notifications of nearby crimes, is one of her best means of protection—the kind of data-powered DIY security measure that can help a community she says has been rendered invisible for so long. 

"Our needs are not being met in education, in public safety, in housing, in transportation—nothing, really. Like we don't matter," says Zhao, a substitute teacher and community liaison for various educational NGOs. "Our needs are not respected. Our needs are not being met. And people discount us left and right." 

"I genuinely believe Citizen is a social justice and racial justice tool."

"We have to do things for ourselves to protect our community," she adds. "Citizen is the perfect tool." 

Many members of the Bay Area's Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community who spoke with MIT Technology Review have similarly welcomed the app as a means to address anti-Asian hate and mitigate their anxieties during a period of ongoing race-based attacks in the region and across the US—and following a string of mass shootings affecting Asians, most recently in nearby Half Moon Bay. 

Citizen has become a way for people in one of the most traumatized populations to find information that puts them at ease. 

Citizen's reinvention

This positive reception may seem odd for an app that has long been criticized for amplifying paranoia around crime and helping white residents to practice racial gatekeeping. Citizen, originally called Vigilante, has indeed had a checkered history: the Apple App Store banned it within a week of its launch in 2016 for violating the Developer Review Guidelines that keep apps from encouraging physical harm. The company made headlines in 2021 when its CEO asked his staff to put out a $30,000 reward for a man whom he incorrectly identified as the person who started a brushfire in Los Angeles. And its users have frequently been criticized for racist comments.

It's in this context that the app is now actively trying to win users like Zhao. Starting in September of last year, Citizen has been recruiting people of Chinese and other Asian descent in the Bay Area, many of them elderly, at events organized with area institutions like the Oakland Chamber of Commerce and the Chinese American Association of Commerce in San Francisco, asking them to join the service and receive a free one-year premium subscription worth $240. (While the free version of the app sends users alerts of noteworthy incidents, the premium version is needed to connect with Citizen agents for live monitoring.) Zhao, in fact, worked directly with Citizen to help translate onboarding materials into Chinese and spread them among her network. 

The end goal is to recruit 20,000 new users from the region's AAPI community, which translates to roughly $5 million worth of paid-for year-long premium subscriptions. Darrell Stone, Citizen's head of product, says 700 people have already signed up.

The Bay Area project is also something of a test for an even broader revamping of the app—an appeal to a number of vulnerable groups that may often avoid the police, from the Black trans community in Atlanta to gang violence interrupters in the Chicago area. "I genuinely believe Citizen is a social justice and racial justice tool," says Trevor Chandler, who led the Bay Area pilot program last year when he was Citizen's director of government affairs and public policy. 

But some advocates who work with Asian communities in the Bay Area, as well as experts focused on misinformation in vulnerable populations, wonder whether embracing this technology and the hyperspeed with which it can deliver information really solves the problem at heart—whether it can actually make people safer rather than just make them feel a little safer. And beyond that, they are asking whether Citizen may actually make things worse—amplifying paranoia among a group that, particularly since the start of the pandemic, has experienced unrelenting trauma on a local and a national level. 

"Almost on a daily basis, you can go on any social media and the way that crowdsourced information kind of spreads and moves throughout the technological ecosphere is totally unhinged, in my opinion," says Kendall Kosai, vice president of public affairs at OCA, a nonprofit with 40 chapters across the country that advocates for the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian communities. 

He says he has Citizen on his own phone and has been taken aback by how biased some user-generated comments submitted around certain incidents were. "What kind of impact does that really have on the psyche of our community?" he asks. "And it's clear that this can get out of hand really quickly." 

Getting "the right information"

"I'm so excited to use it," says Alice Kim, 49, who runs Joe's Ice Cream with her husband in the Richmond District, a neighborhood in northern San Francisco where roughly a third of the population is Asian and where the Kims say they have seen an increase in vandalism and car break-ins. 

Like many other Asian-Americans, the Kims feel that concerns for their safety have fallen on deaf ears for a long time, largely ignored by local politicians. It "feels like they're living in some other world," says Sean Kim, Alice's husband. 

There were three attempted break-ins at their shop in the span of a couple of months in 2021, and people even threw trash at Alice a few times or started altercations when she says she asked people not to use its bathroom.

"I started having kind of anxiety whenever I come to work in the morning—if my store [was] gonna be okay, if I'm gonna see another broken window," Alice tells me. "During the pandemic, I felt very nervous and unsafe."

Alice had Sean install Citizen on her phone last fall, though he had been telling her about what he saw as the benefits for a while. He'd been using Citizen before the company started to court the AAPI community, but he upgraded when Zhao, a friend, told him about the promotion code to receive a free premium account. 

He finds Citizen more reliable than other apps following local goings-on, like NextDoor, because he says that it seems to have verified information. (Besides relying on information about emergencies reported to authorities from a variety of public data sources, Citizen employees say they review user-reported crimes before posting them.)

"We're trying to ask people [to] be careful how you're sending out [information from the app] to the WeChat group" because "you're scaring off people."

"I think more people are using [Citizen] because a lot of people verify [the information]," he explains. "So at least I know, Oh, that's not a gunshot. But otherwise … I hear the 'gunshot,' I don't know what's going on. I feel like it is an efficient tool. I know the right information; that feels safe." 

For Alice, being able to connect to an agent through Citizen's premium function seems like one way of addressing issues that may not meet the threshold of a real crime, but nonetheless make her feel unsafe. On the app's map, red dots show reports of serious incidents, like a person being struck by a car or physically assaulted with a weapon; yellow dots show milder concerns, like a report of an armed person or the detection of gas odor, and gray dots represent issues that are noteworthy but not threatening, like a lost pet. 

Like the Kims, many Asian people in the Bay Area have actively embraced surveillance because they feel invisible. Members of the AAPI community have organized patrols through Chinatowns in San Francisco and Oakland (though the Kims haven't participated in them). The couple supported a controversial bill that allows police to access private security-camera footage for up to 24 hours if the owner allows it. Sean and Alice also talked to other small-business owners about installing private cameras, a measure that Chinatown business owners in nearby Oakland did too. To them, Citizen is just another tool to keep tabs on what's happening around them. 

Chandler thinks that much of the negative discourse around Citizen misses this perspective—and that some of the app's core users, like the Kims, rely on the tool because they are living with crime on their doorsteps. 

"Citizen, and the premium version, is not the panacea. It will not fix the world's problems. It will not stop crime from happening all over the world. It's not that," Chandler says. "But it is a very powerful way for marginalized communities to make their voices heard." 

"Unfortunately, they don't have a Chinese helper" 

"While the idea of Citizen is brilliant … I do come to this with a healthy dose of skepticism because of the uniqueness of our community," says OCA's Kosai. "One of the things that I'm always thinking about is, how accessible is it to members who are most vulnerable?" 

He notes that the Asian community in the US encompasses "50 different ethnicities and 100 different languages spoken" and that "different communities interact differently with local law enforcement around these kinds of public safety issues." 

Currently, Citizen is only available in English. To be truly effective, it must offer its services in Chinese or other Asian languages, says Jessica Chen, executive director of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. (In an email, Citizen's Stone said it is "actively investing" in natural-language processing that "will enable us to translate the app into different languages in real time," but did not offer specifics or a timeline on those efforts.) 

And on a purely logistical level, it can be difficult to help a group adopt a technology when its members have varying levels of technical and news literacy—even more so when English is not their first language. Senior citizens in particular are also likely to need help navigating anything from signing up for the platform to interpreting the information it brings to their attention. 

"Do I have time to teach them? Am I the right person teaching them?" asks Chen. 

Josephine Hui, a 75-year-old who has lived in Oakland for four decades and regularly commutes to Chinatown to work as a financial educator, was among several elderly people who recently learned about the app at a Citizen-sponsored event cohosted by the Asian Committee on Crime, a nonprofit concerned with safety issues in Oakland,  and the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. She was there to see public safety presentations by the  Oakland Police Department. 

Josephine Josephine Hui, 75, at a local security event in Oakland sitting in a gymnasium as an audience member at a community meeting
Josephine Hui, 75, at a local security event in Oakland

"I think [Citizen] is a wonderful app for any people walking on the streets," she told me there. "Unfortunately, they don't have a Chinese helper yet."

Still, she said she was eager to learn how to use the app. She says she felt isolated during the pandemic, stuck at home and worried about her safety as attacks on Asians increased.

But before she could use the app, she hit a snag: when she tried to install it, she couldn't remember the password for her Apple account. 

Mixed signals

As president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, Carl Chan has been pushing for more security measures to protect Chinatown residents and was grateful for the outreach from Citizen.

Nevertheless, he often finds himself helping elder community members navigate systems that aren't in their native language, and he worries that without translation into languages like Chinese or Vietnamese, some people may misunderstand Citizen's alerts. He also worries that without proper training on how to use the app, community members may mistakenly pass alerts from one location to other platforms, falsely claiming that incidents are happening in other areas—in turn spreading both misinformation and unnecessary fear. 

"We're trying to ask people [to] be careful how you're sending out [information from the app] to the WeChat group," says Chan, because "you're scaring off people."

Diani Citra, who works for PEN America on issues surrounding misinformation in Asian communities, also worries about whether this kind of barrage of information about crime may have the opposite of its stated effect, boosting paranoia among an already traumatized population.

Citra says that apps like Citizen can help fill an information gap or "data void" that is created when a group of people is in a news desert, maybe because they are not addressed by mainstream media or because they do not receive information in the right language for them. 

"For a lot of marginalized communities, knowing about crime is a necessity. We don't get information about our community that relates to our safety. We can't tell them not to get their information needs met there, because there's none offered," she says. But using the app could still create an "amplified sense of danger."

While Chandler says that Citizen is continuously verifying its content, the information Asian populations receive through the app is coming into a media ecosystem that is fractured across many news sites and social platforms, like WhatsApp, WeChat, and Viber, some of which may already be polluted with divisive information and false or misleading narratives around anti-Asian attacks. 

"Things that are supposed to be anecdotal may be seen as trends."

For instance, according to an August 2022 report about disinformation from the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and the Disinfo Defense League, a growing number of news aggregators gather information about crime incidents in which the perpetrators were Black and the victims were Asian. These outlets would sometimes rewrite news articles with more provocative headlines or present old incidents as evidence that mainstream media had underreported anti-Asian crimes perpetrated by Black people, often with the goal of promoting anti-Black narratives and weaponizing the victimhood of Asians, the report states. 

"The documented lack of coverage about Asians and Asian Americans in mainstream media and news have left voids filled by sources and online hubs … with a singular emphasis on 'pro-Asian' identity," the report reads. "These spaces foster problematic narratives that pivot on existing structures of misogyny, anti-Black racism, and xenophobia." 

While there's no evidence yet that a storyline like this has taken hold on Citizen or as a result of its use, Citra says it's quite possible such a thing could happen when elderly Asian individuals, who are already more vulnerable to misinformation and divisive narratives, see crime information without context. (Citizen did not respond to a list of follow-up questions, including about the potential for misinformation on the app.)

"Things that are supposed to be anecdotal may be seen as trends," Citra warns. 

Can Citizen change?  

Citizen is courting the AAPI community at a time when tensions about the role of policing in the United States are already running high. Many of the marginalized communities that Citizen is trying to work with distrust police departments or are otherwise unwilling to work with them. (Indeed, several organizers told me that many Asian community members would avoid calling the police to report incidents.) 

"We're sometimes so excited about creating an immediate solution that makes things a tiny bit better, but we don't think enough about structural long-term solutions."

Theoretically, technologies like Citizen can represent a helpful stepping stone for people who typically feel let down by official government institutions but nevertheless face a lot of safety issues. 

Still, it wasn't long ago that Citizen was criticized as creating a "culture of fear," encouraging vigilantism, and having what a former employee once described as a user base that would leave "insanely racist" comments on the app. 

Chandler argues that these portrayals overlook what is a significant user base of apps like Citizen: people who may need the service to keep tabs on crime in their neighborhood because they simply face a lot of it. In his mind, the app could be a powerful distributor of information for users who do not have the "privilege," he says, of living without crime. 

By way of example, Chandler cites his work in Chicago. He says some people on the South Side, an area that is statistically less safe than the North, have to live with the reality of crime every day. Citizen users there have told him they rely on the app to make sure their families stay safe—for example, to find out whether there's been a shooting or a car accident, which could escalate into larger conflicts. 

These users in Chicago "don't need to be told to be scared [by Citizen]," Chandler says. "They are scared."

Trevor Chandler at a safety event for the AAPI community in Oakland
Trevor Chandler at a safety event for the AAPI community in Oakland

Chandler spent the fall and winter of last year working with Bay Area politicians and community organizers, and he was talking to another local mayor and nearby organizations to bring free accounts to the Hmong and Vietnamese communities in their areas. Before the end of the year, he pushed for Citizen to expand to Sacramento County, an area that the app previously did not service and that has a high Asian population. 

But looking ahead, it is unclear how much the company will continue to put into the program. In early January, Chandler was laid off, along with 33 other employees. 

"​​I'm incredibly proud of how we were able to work with community partners to not only raise awareness of the increase in hate crimes against the AAPI community but also provide a tangible solution to push back," Chandler recently texted me. "I'm sad I won't be able to be a part of it moving forward as a Citizen employee." 

Chandler says the company will stand by its promise to provide Asians in the Bay Area with 20,000 free premium subscriptions, and Stone confirms that it "will continue to market and support the program." But Chandler also says he was also told they would not be replacing him, and he is unsure whether anyone else will continue to work on the program. 

To Kenji Jones, president of Soar Over Hate, an organization that regularly provides self-defense classes to New York City's Asian population, the continued commitment to the community is important. He is encouraged by Citizen's outreach in the Bay Area; in particular, he says the idea of having an agent on standby with the app's users is "pretty good." But he also worries that the subscription will last only for one year and that many low-income Asians may not be able to renew. 

"What comes after that year? This is a for-profit company. So this is to make more money. And they're profiting off of a community that, particularly right now, feels really in danger. And so I think that to me, the fact that it's only a one year subscription is pretty unethical," says Jones. 

"We're sometimes so excited about creating an immediate solution that makes things a tiny bit better, but we don't think enough about structural long-term solutions," he adds. 

Jones also points out that some of the most important lessons his organization offers are focused on confidence and empowerment. These are feelings that he worries could be undermined by using the app, which may make people "more on edge and anxious and fearful for their safety." 

As Asians, "I think so many of us have been conditioned to feel small," he says. "I think that confidence is really what so many people need, and that's not what an app can bring to you." 

Lam Thuy Vo is a journalist who marries data analysis with on-the-ground reporting to examine how systems and policies affect individuals. She is currently an Information Futures Fellow at Brown University, an AI Accountability Fellow for the Pulitzer Center, and a data-journalist-in-residence at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.

How AI can actually be helpful in disaster response
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We often hear big (and unrealistic) promises about the potential of AI to solve the world's ills, and I was skeptical when I first learned that AI might be starting to aid disaster response, including following the earthquake that has devastated Turkey and Syria.

But one effort from the US Department of Defense does seem to be effective: xView2. Though it's still in its early phases of deployment, this visual computing project has already helped with disaster logistics and on the ground rescue missions in Turkey.

An open-source project that was sponsored and developed by the Pentagon's Defense Innovation Unit and Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute in 2019, xView2 has collaborated with many research partners, including Microsoft and the University of California, Berkeley. It uses machine-learning algorithms in conjunction with satellite imagery from other providers to identify building and infrastructure damage in the disaster area and categorize its severity much faster than is possible with current methods.

Ritwik Gupta, the principal AI scientist at the Defense Innovation Unit and a researcher at Berkeley, tells me this means the program can directly help first responders and recovery experts on the ground quickly get an assessment that can aid in finding survivors and help coordinate reconstruction efforts over time. 

In this process, Gupta often works with big international organizations like the US National Guard, the United Nations, and the World Bank. Over the past five years, xView2 has been deployed by the California National Guard and the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation in response to wildfires, and more recently during recovery efforts after flooding in Nepal, where it helped identify damage created by subsequent landslides. 

In Turkey, Gupta says xView2 has been used by at least two different ground teams of search and rescue personnel from the UN's International Search and Rescue Advisory Group in Adiyaman, Turkey, which has been devastated by the earthquake and where residents have been frustrated by the delayed arrival of search and rescue. xView2 has also been utilized elsewhere in the disaster zone, and was able to successfully help workers on the ground be "able to find areas that were damaged that they were unaware of," he says, noting Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, the World Bank, the International Federation of the Red Cross, and the United Nations World Food Programme have all used the platform in response to the earthquake.

"If we can save one life, that's a good use of the technology," Gupta tells me.

How AI can help

The algorithms employ a technique similar to object recognition, called "semantic segmentation," which evaluates each individual pixel of an image and its relationship to adjacent pixels to draw conclusions. 

Below, you can see snapshots of how this looks on the platform, with satellite images of the damage on the left and the model's assessment on the right—the darker the red, the worse the wreckage. Atishay Abbhi, a disaster risk management specialist at the World Bank, tells me that this same degree of assessment would typically take weeks and now takes hours or minutes. 

Marash, Turkey: Satellite imagery (left) from earth imaging company Planet Labs PBC and the output from xView2 (right) attributed to UC Berkeley, the Defense Innovation Unit, and Microsoft.


This is an improvement over more traditional disaster assessment systems, in which rescue and emergency responders rely on eyewitness reports and calls to identify where help is needed quickly. In some more recent cases, fixed-wing aircrafts like drones have flown over disaster areas with cameras and sensors to provide data reviewed by humans, but this can still take days, if not longer. The typical response is further slowed by the fact that different responding organizations often have their own siloed data catalogues, making it challenging to create a standardized, shared picture of which areas need help. xView2 can create a shared map of the affected area in minutes, which helps organizations coordinate and prioritize responses—saving time and lives. 

The hurdles

This technology, of course, is far from a cure-all for disaster response. There are several big challenges to xView2 that currently consume much of Gupta's research attention. 

First and most important is how reliant the model is on satellite imagery, which delivers clear photos only during the day, when there is no cloud cover, and when a satellite is overhead. The first usable images out of Turkey didn't come until February 9, three days after the first quake. And there are far fewer satellite images taken in remote and less economically developed areas—just across the border in Syria, for example. To address this, Gupta is researching new imaging techniques like synthetic aperture radar, which creates images using microwave pulses rather than light waves. 

Second, while the xView2 model is up to 85 or 90% accurate in its precise evaluation of damage and severity, it also can't really spot damage on the sides of buildings, since satellite images have an aerial perspective. 

Lastly, Gupta says getting on-the-ground organizations to use and trust an AI solution has been difficult. "First responders are very traditional," he says. "When you start telling them about this fancy AI model, which isn't even on the ground and it's looking at pixels from like 120 miles in space, they're not gonna trust it whatsoever." 

What's next

xView2 assists with multiple stages of disaster response, from immediately mapping out damaged areas to evaluating where safe temporary shelter sites could go to scoping longer-term reconstruction. Abbhi, for one, says he hopes xView2 "will be really important in our arsenal of damage assessment tools" at the World Bank moving forward. 

Since the code is open source and the program is free, anyone could use it. And Gupta intends to keep it that way. "When companies come in and start saying, We could commercialize this, I hate that," he says. "This should be a public service that's operated for the good of everyone." Gupta is working on a web app so any user can run assessments; currently, organizations reach out to xView2 researchers for the analysis. 

Rather than writing off or over-hyping the role that emerging technologies can play in big problems, Gupta says, researchers should focus on the types of AI that can make the biggest humanitarian impact. "How do we shift the focus of AI as a field to these immensely hard problems?" he asks. "[These are], in my opinion, much harder than—for example—generating new text or new images."

What else I'm reading

Teenage girls are not all rightNew research from the CDC shows that mental health for high school girls has significantly worsened recently—a crisis experts think has been intensified by social media and the pandemic. 

  • Almost 1 in 3 reported that they seriously considered suicide in 2021, which is up 60% from 2011. Girls fared worse than boys in almost every measure that the CDC tracked, including higher levels of online bullying. 
  • This reminds me of several reports from recent years that show visual social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and SnapChat have had an outsize negative impact on how girls deal with an image-obsessed culture. 
  • Last year, I investigated the effects of augmented-reality technologies like face filters on young girls: there are real risks, like the increase of anxiety and challenges to healthy identity formation. 

Russia has moved thousands of children out of Ukraine, according to new research based on open-source intelligence (OSINT) from the Humanitarian Research Lab based at the Yale School of Public Health.

  • The lab's Conflict Observatory project identified the "systematic relocation of at least 6,000 children from Ukraine" to a network of 43 facilities in Russia, including summer camps and adoption centers that appear to conduct "political re-education."
  • OSINT, the process of gathering publicly accessible information from sources like social media sites and satellite imagery, has been massively important in chronicling war crimes throughout the now year-long conflict. The lab used a combination of firsthand accounts, photographs and information about the camps from the web, and high-resolution satellite imagery to document and research onsite activities. 

What I learned this week 

Speaking of Russia, I recently learned about an obscure government office called the Main Radio Frequency Center that attempts to control how the country and its occupied areas use the internet. This is the unit that the Kremlin relies on to run its sweeping efforts to censor and surveil digital spaces, and it uses surprisingly manual and blunt tools.

In an investigation published earlier this month, Daniil Belovodyev and Anton Bayev of RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty's Russian Investigation Unit reviewed more than 700,000 letters from the unit and 2 million internal documents that were obtained by a Belarusian hacker organization in November 2022. They reveal how the office scours Russian social networks like VK and Odnoklassniki, as well as YouTube and Telegram, to run daily reports on user-generated content and look for signs of internal dissent among Russian citizens (which the center eerily calls "protest moods"). The office has ramped up its efforts since the beginning of the Ukrainian invasion. The Main Radio Frequency Center has invested in bots in an attempt to automate its censorship, but the office also coordinates directly with engineers at web hosting companies and search engines based in Russia, like Yandex, by flagging sites it deems problematic. The investigation reveals just how much effort Russia is putting into its attempt at a great firewall, and how unsophisticated and patchy its tactics can be.  


This piece has been updated since it was sent as part of The Technocrat to more clearly reflect xView2's level of precision and the technology's development process.

Finding forgotten Indigenous landscapes with electromagnetic technology


Jarrod Burks opened the rear cargo door of his van and pointed to an array of strange equipment tangled inside. White PVC tubes were locked together, forming an expandable, fence-like grid, with large, rugged wheels attached beneath. Beside it all, on a layer of soft blankets, were a tablet computer, many yards of cables, and a GPS antenna, held in a small protective case. Properly assembled, Burks explained, this was a magnetometer—a device for measuring tiny fluctuations in Earth's magnetic field. It is a tool so finicky that interference from a cell phone in his jeans pocket can ruin an entire day's data, so sensitive that it can pick up traces of ancient campfires extinguished more than a thousand years ago. 

Burks, 50, sporting a closely trimmed, graying beard and a pair of rectangular eyeglasses, began hauling his mix of parts outside, where he would piece them together on the dew-covered grass. Emblazoned on the side of his van was the logo of Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc. (OVAI), a privately owned cultural-resource management firm based in Columbus, the state capital. Burks has worked full time at OVAI since 2004, shortly after earning his PhD in archaeology from Ohio State University; he is now its director of archaeological geophysics. In addition to performing site surveys throughout the Midwest and abroad—including congressionally funded trips to map overseas battlefields, where he searches for the remains of US soldiers—Burks is president of the Heartland Earthworks Conservancy, dedicated to "advancing the preservation of ancient earthworks in southern Ohio." By using one of the most advanced geophysical tools on the market, Burks is helping to reveal—and thus preserve—forgotten monuments of explosively creative cultures, groups that not only were capable of large-scale architectural engineering but thoroughly reshaped the North American landscape. 

The fertile river valleys of the American Midwest hide tens of thousands of indigenous earthworks, according to Burks: geometric structures consisting of walls, mounds, ditches, and berms, some dating back nearly 3,000 years. They can take the form of giant circles and squares, cloverleafs and octagons, complex S-curves and simple mounds. Some are so enormous that, ironically, they are difficult to spot, more closely resembling natural landforms than works of architecture. Others are so small they at first seem to be little more than unkempt mounds of grass. Many of these structures also appear to be aligned with significant constellations or celestial events such as lunar cycles, implying the existence of sophisticated, multigenerational astronomical knowledge as well as a large, politically organized workforce dedicated to realizing a set of beliefs in physical form. Archaeologists now believe that the earthworks functioned as religious gathering places, tombs for culturally important clans, and annual calendars, perhaps all at the same time. 

portrait of Jarrod Burks in the field with magnetometric equipment
Using magnetometry, archaeologist Jarrod Burks is mapping the lost cultures of southern Ohio.

Although monumental earthworks can be found from southern Canada to Florida and from Wisconsin to Louisiana, Ohio has the largest known collection of these structures in the United States—despite the fact that Ohio has no federally recognized Native American tribes. Their creators have been lumped together under a vague term, "Hopewell Culture," named after the family on whose farmland one of the first mounds to be studied was found. Cultural activities associated with the Hopewell are thought to have ended in the Ohio region around 450 to 400 BCE. Tribes such as the Eastern Shawnee, the Miami Nation, and the Shawnee—who, historians believe, are the mound builders' most likely modern descendants—were violently displaced by the European genocide of the continent's native population and now live on reservation lands in Oklahoma. 

Glenna Wallace, chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe, is one of those descendants. When we spoke, Wallace was on her way to Washington, DC, to meet President Joe Biden for the White House Tribal Nations Summit. These annual events were first convened in 2009 by President Barack Obama but were discontinued during the Trump administration. Wallace had only recently returned from southern Ohio, where she had been visiting sites associated with her tribe's ancient roots. "The Native American voice has not been very strong in Ohio. The things that our people accomplished there have not necessarily received the best protection that should be possible," she told me. "The people have been forced to leave, and our mounds have not been taken care of." 

Burks and I had driven roughly 70 miles southeast from Columbus, along meandering highways lined with creeks and roadkill, to reach a small family farm in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The trees around us were crisp with autumn leaves. A herd of cattle wandered past, their muscular backs framed against rolling hills in the distance. As Burks completed the 20-minute process of assembling his magnetometer—once complete, it would form a pushcart nearly seven feet wide, weighing roughly 30 pounds—he emphasized that the vast majority of the artificial hills and mounds he spends his time looking for were physically dismantled long ago. In only a few cases were those earthworks first excavated or studied; instead, they were simply plowed over; bulldozed to build roads, homes, and shopping malls; or, in one infamous case, incorporated into the landscaping of a local golf course. 

Archaeologists believe that these earthworks functioned as religious gathering places, tombs for culturally important clans, and annual calendars, perhaps all at the same time.  

Until recently, it seemed as if much of the continent's pre-European archaeological heritage had been carelessly wiped out, uprooted, and lost for good. "People see plowing and think it's completely destroyed the archaeological record here," Burks said, "but it's still there." Traces remain: electromagnetic remnants in the soil that can be detected using specialty surveying equipment. Here, in this very pasture, he added, were once at least three circular enclosures. Our goal that morning was to find them. 

Magnetometry—Burks's specialty—is capable of registering even tiny variations in the strength and orientation of magnetic fields. When pushed across the landscape, a magnetometer can detect where those fields in the soil below have changed, potentially indicating the presence of an object or structure such as old walls, metallic implements, or filled-in pits that might be graves. Magnetometry is also extremely good at finding hearths or campfires, whose heat can permanently alter the magnetism of the soil, leaving behind a clearly detectable signature. This means that even apparently empty pastures—or, of course, community golf courses and suburban backyards—can still contain magnetic evidence of ancient settlements, invisible to the naked eye. 

Given such a context, knowing where to begin scanning is the first hurdle. Luckily for archaeologists and tribal historians alike, Ephraim George Squier and Edwin Hamilton Davis—a two-man team working in the middle of the 19th century—mapped as many earthworks as they could find, motivated to learn more about these artificial landforms before they were destroyed or permanently forgotten. Explaining their project's rationale, the authors wrote that the earthworks had received only passing descriptions in other travelers' logs and, they thought, "should be more carefully and minutely, and above all, more systematically investigated." Doing so, they hoped, was their way of "reflecting any certain light upon the grand archaeological questions connected with the primitive history of the American Continent." 

An 1847 map of indigenous earthworks in Athens County, Ohio, from Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley by Ephraim George Squier and Edwin Hamilton Davis.
The vast majority of the artificial hills and mounds Burks spends his time looking for were physically dismantled long ago.


The result was an 1848 publication called Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. That book has the distinction of being the first major publication of the Smithsonian Institution, founded a mere two years earlier, in 1846. While it lacks the rigor and precision of a modern survey, the book is historically invaluable, offering a snapshot of where the grandest earthworks once stood. 

One of those was Shriver Circle, named after Henry Shriver, a 19th-century landowner, and located just north of Chillicothe, Ohio. One of only four known "great circles"—enormous enclosures, as wide as 1,300 feet in diameter—it could once have held thousands of people. Squier and Davis wrote that the circle "has a mound, very nearly if not exactly in its center, which was clearly a place of sacrifice." Today, a four-lane highway runs through it and a medium-security correctional facility smothers its outer rim. While this is archaeologically tragic, it was also, for Burks, a great opportunity to push magnetometry to its limit. He received permission to bring his equipment into the prison, scanning the ground beneath cell blocks and concrete exercise yards for magnetic evidence of one of North America's largest indigenous architectural feats. The effort was successful: most of Shriver Circle may be invisible on the surface, but its deeper roots remain.

Burks continues to uncover and map new sites throughout Ohio and Indiana, regularly convening with a small group of colleagues to pore through aerial photos taken over many decades by the US Department of Agriculture. One attendee of these informal research meetings has risen to the task so enthusiastically that he often texts Burks late at night, claiming to have found something—a shadow, a ridge, an unexpected form—in the old images. "He has earthworks fever, like I do," Burks joked. He credits this colleague with identifying only the fourth known great circle in the state of Ohio, a landform unknown even to Squier and Davis. 

Back in the field outside Columbus, Burks ran a few diagnostic tests, ensuring that his gear was up and running. Then we set off, pushing his magnetometry cart between groups of baffled cattle, hoping to find electromagnetic ghosts of indigenous archaeology trapped in the ground below. 


One of the unforeseen consequences of archaeology's electromagnetic turn is that the makers of technical equipment such as Burks's magnetometer now have immense influence over the kinds of archaeological sites that can be found—even how they can be seen. Those firms thus also steer what we can know of human history. A seemingly minor decision made while designing antennas or producing new software can cause certain architectural ruins to remain unknown or undetected—if, for example, the equipment is badly shielded, and thus vulnerable to interference—or, conversely, can lead to breakthroughs at sites once thought worthless, thanks to increased computational power that makes it possible to analyze noisy data. 

To see how magnetometry equipment is designed and made, I traveled to the global headquarters of Sensys, makers of Burks's own device. Sensys is located in a converted East German telephone building on a wooded plot of land roughly 25 miles from Berlin. A large promotional sign mounted on one wall says, in English, "We measure. Detect. Protect." A decommissioned satellite dish remains intact atop the circular building, which was in the midst of an extensive upgrade and renovation when I visited. I was met by Gorden Konieczek, a technician specializing in archaeological applications. As we sat down at a table generously stocked with coffee, spring water, and German sweets, Konieczek joked that the company's headquarters are so remote employees are out of luck if they forget to bring lunch; but it is precisely this isolation, largely free from electromagnetic disturbance, that makes it ideal for producing magnetometers. 

"When people see these earthworks, they begin to understand that these were incredibly intelligent people who did amazing things." 

Diane Hunter, tribal historic preservation officer

Nevertheless, Konieczek said, even a location such as this has its own magnetic environment, with background levels that must be accounted for and controlled. When Sensys installed a new emergency fire staircase on the back of the building, he explained, it sent the company's instruments into a brief tailspin, throwing off readings until technicians could trouble­shoot the cause. The equipment itself must also be calibrated outside the main facility, inside a purpose-built structure resembling an Alpine hunting lodge in design. This hut—or "Abgleich Haus," as it's known, roughly translated as calibration house—was constructed using all-wooden joints and nonmagnetic nails, so as not to interfere with sensitive equipment readings. 

Magnetometric survey equipment in The Plains
hands holding a cellphone with research app

Burks's magnetometer measures tiny fluctuations in Earth's magnetic field. The tool is so finicky that interference from a cell phone in his jeans pocket can ruin an entire day's data and so sensitive that it can pick up traces of ancient campfires extinguished more than a thousand years ago.

Sensys is one of a handful of technology firms making magnetometry equipment both sensitive and rugged enough to use in difficult field circumstances, but the firm's customer base skews overwhelmingly toward detection of unexploded ordnance. The forests, fields, and city streets of Europe are still haunted from below by these bombs, a problem that is now very much global—and not necessarily limited to land. Konieczek showed me how in one of the firm's assembly rooms, watertight magnetometers in titanium cases were being prepared for use at underwater sites, sometimes at depths approaching four miles, where they would scan shipwrecks and sunken submarines. 

Konieczek pulled up a series of images to show me how magnetometry works. He clicked from an aerial photo of an empty meadow to the visual results of a magnetic scan, revealing in its black-and-white pixelated grain the clear outlines of architectural shapes hidden in the ground. Although Sensys is a global pioneer in magnetic technology, magnetometry itself has existed for nearly two centuries; the earliest known device was invented in Germany by the experimental physicist and mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss in 1832. As the technology improved over time, eventually becoming both portable and ruggedized, it was adopted for use in archaeology. 

Two geophysicists—Helmut Becker and Jörg Fassbinder—are perhaps most notable for pushing this technology transfer. Employed by Germany's State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments, they famously brought magnetometry gear to map the ruins of Troy in the 1980s, discovering deep, previously unknown fortifications. Fassbinder has since used magnetometry to map the Sumerian city of Uruk, in what is now Iraq, described in the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh, and is currently experimenting with so-called SQUID magnetometry. The "superconducting quantum interference device" is so sensitive it can also be used for advanced medical imaging. 

As we clicked through more magnetic survey images resembling floor plans—Greek ruins, Roman temples, medieval villas—Konieczek pointed out that the tool works better in some parts of the world than others; the ground itself can be a limiting factor in whether magnetometry is even usable. In much of Ohio, as Jarrod Burks would also later explain to me, mile-thick Ice Age glaciers once sculpted the ground, breaking entire mountain chains down to gravel and sand. As they melted, thousands of years' worth of erosion and vegetation transformed the landscape, leading to a thick, highly fertile layer of soil. This had at least two effects. The land—mostly mud—became an ideal, infinitely malleable building material for later construction projects, such as monumental earthworks; and Ohio's post-glacial topography became an ideal medium for magnetometry. Those deep layers of nonmagnetic gravel and sand offer an immediately obvious contrast to the magnetic soils—and archaeological remains—above. 

On one image, I asked Konieczek to stop. There was a strange feature, a kind of pinwheel structure, like the petals of a rose. That's lightning, Konieczek said, adding that this particular image had been made by Burks. By changing the magnetic charge of anything it hits, lightning, too, leaves archaeological traces. Burks later showed me several examples of this, including the path of a barbed wire fence struck years earlier: electricity had traveled the length of the wire, leaving a straight, linear magnetic feature in the soil below. In other cases, water concentrated in the compacted clay of old mounds and ditches, exactly following the geometric foundations of those structures, can steer a lightning strike, helping to reveal architectural forms in the resulting magnetic data. This idea—that lost architecture, shining with lightning, is waiting underground for someone to find it—adds an elemental surreality to the hidden worlds archaeologists are able to see with this technology.

Although the majority of Sensys customers are not archaeologists, Konieczek explained, the firm welcomes feedback from clients such as Burks. This has resulted in such refinements as improved waterproofing and larger wheels to use in rutted landscapes. Back in Ohio, I would learn, the white PVC cart we pushed, weaving around cattle for hours, had been adapted partly in response to Burks's own feedback and shipped to him by Sensys as a gesture of support. 


Eight groups of Ohio earthworks are currently under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage status. This entails a multi-year application process that will likely lead to resolution in the next several years. The earthworks were submitted for recognition in two categories, one for sites that "bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared" and the other for those "directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance." 

The earthworks complexes encompassed by the UNESCO bid, most quite well known, include Serpent Mound and the Newark Earthworks roughly 40 miles east of Columbus. The Newark site is a truly spectacular collection of embankments, deep moats, and geometrically aligned walls, all designated, in 2006, as the "official prehistoric monument" of Ohio. But Ohio contains many thousands of other indigenous structures, and as Burks emphasized again and again, we still don't know where all of them are. To help address this problem, Burks, as president of the Heartland Earthworks Conservancy, has been spearheading an effort to locate, survey, and purchase sites that might otherwise face destruction.

The Hartman Mound in The Plains, OH on October 30, 2022.
Eight groups of Ohio earthworks are currently under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage status.

Before I left Ohio, Burks drove me an hour south of Columbus to see Snake Den, as it's known. Snake Den is a hilltop property owned by brothers Dean and James Barr; it has been in their family for generations. Once completely obscured by a dense thicket of trees, it got its name because, according to local lore, hundreds of snakes used to hibernate there every winter, taking advantage of warm nooks and crannies inside the three earthen mounds. Every spring, the serpents would reemerge in huge numbers. At the time Burks got involved, the mounds were all but invisible beneath tree growth and shrubs; today, they are accessible for visits, so well maintained that they earned a 2020 Ohio History Connection award for preservation. 

To reach the site, Burks drove us up an unpaved farm road skirting the edge of two properties to the edge of a small meadow, where we parked. An expansive, panoramic view of southern Ohio opened up to our north; above, ravens and hawks circled, squawking and calling. Although we were only about 200 feet above the surrounding plains, the glass towers of Columbus were visible in the distance, and the landscape formed a picturesque quilt of post-harvest farmland and autumn trees. 

For Burks, Snake Den is a clear-cut example of how modern technology, private philanthropy, and local family ties can come together to preserve an orphaned site. Burks has had similar success at other locations, such as the Junction Earthworks Preserve in Chillicothe. "That they were not designed for defense is obvious," Squier and Davis wrote about these works back in 1848, "and that they were devoted to religious rites is more than probable. They may have answered a double purpose, and may have been used for the celebration of games, of which we can have no definite conception." Although the mounds themselves are now gone, indicated only by geometric shapes carefully mowed through the tall grasses, the site has become a public park thanks to the efforts of people such as Burks. 

As tools like magnetometry peel back the planet's surface, they reveal just how culturally rich and archaeologically exciting the region's history can be. Magnetometry might seem like little more than a shiny new tool, but it holds the promise of revealing to people all over the world that thousands of years of architectural ingenuity, cultural expression, and religious belief have shaped the country's heartland. "When people see these earthworks, they begin to understand that these were incredibly intelligent people who did amazing things," Diane Hunter, tribal historic preservation officer for the displaced Miami tribe of Oklahoma, told me. "They weren't ignorant, primitive people, which is how they've always been described. As people learn about the truth of our ancestors, they begin to understand the truth of who we are today." 

Geoff Manaugh is a Los Angeles–based architecture and technology writer. Research for this article was supported by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.


Scientific Reports, Published online: 20 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-30211-z

Environmental and pathological factors affecting the hatching success of the two northernmost loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nests

Nature Communications, Published online: 20 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36695-7

The most widely used density functional approximations for heterogenous catalysis has limited accuracy. Here, the authors propose a hybrid scheme to accurately describe Cu surface for CO2 electroreduction, facilitating the rational design of catalysts.
Is this article about Advertising?
When it comes to being an influencer on Instagram and other social media platforms, women rule the roost. But, social media isn't the only domain where women lead—they can also be the drivers of change in their local communities and lead the implementation of new sustainability and development initiatives, according to a new study published today in Agriculture and Human Values.
Want to be influential and drive change? Be a woman (on a farm in Indonesia)
Is this article about Advertising?
When it comes to being an influencer on Instagram and other social media platforms, women rule the roost. But, social media isn't the only domain where women lead—they can also be the drivers of change in their local communities and lead the implementation of new sustainability and development initiatives, according to a new study published today in Agriculture and Human Values.
Starwatch: Jupiter and Venus meet for spectacular conjunction

Two of the brightest planets will be visible on western horizon – if weather cooperates

If the weather cooperates and you can find a clear western horizon, this week will treat you to a spectacular evening conjunction.

The two brightest planets, Jupiter and Venus, will meet in the western sky just after sunset. As an added bonus, the space between the two planets will play host to the tiny sliver of a crescent moon. The chart shows the view looking west from London at 1800 GMT on 22 February. The constellations are marked but no other stars will be visible at this time in that part of the sky. The planets, however, will stand out brightly against the gathering twilight. The moon will also look beautiful with slightly more than 8% of its surface illuminated. Stargazers around the world will be able to see the conjunction.

Continue reading…
Science Falls Behind as Syphilis Stages Another Comeback
Despite being one of the oldest known 
sexually transmitted infections
, with possible origins in the 14th century — as well as intense public health initiatives over many decades — 
 receives little attention from researchers. But new lab techniques are allowing scientists to take a closer look.
Magnetically boosted 1D photoactive microswarm for COVID-19 face mask disruption

Nature Communications, Published online: 20 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36650-6

Most single-use face masks are made of synthetic plastics, thus their disposal poses a direct threat to wildlife as well as potential ecotoxicological effects in the form of microplastics. Here, the authors introduce a 1D magnetic photoactive microswarm capable of actively navigating, adhering to, and accelerating the degradation of the polypropylene microfiber of single-use face masks.

The Brownstone Institute's Gabrielle Bauer claims vindication for the Great Barrington Declaration, the October 2020 document that advocated a "natural herd immunity" pandemic strategy, with an ill-defined "focused protection" strategy to protect those most at risk of death. In the fine print, however, Bauer tacitly admits that its core assumption was badly mistaken, minimizing it as not getting all the "details" right.

The post Brownstone Institute admits that the Great Barrington Declaration was wrong without admitting it was wrong first appeared on Science-Based Medicine.

Nature Communications, Published online: 20 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36653-3

There is growing interest in controlling and manipulating molecules using external field. Here the authors demonstrate microwave induced transient enantiomeric excess in a state-selective benzyl alcohol using microwave six-wave mixing.

Nature Communications, Published online: 20 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36560-7

Delineating the cellular composition of tumour boundaries in spatial transcriptomics (ST) data is challenging. Here, the authors develop Cottrazm to integrate ST with histological imaging and single-cell data, identify the malignant and non-malignant tissue boundaries, deconvolute cell-type composition, and reconstruct cell type-specific gene expression profiles.
Open-circuit and short-circuit loss management in wide-gap perovskite p-i-n solar cells

Nature Communications, Published online: 20 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36141-8

A mismatch between quasi-Fermi level splitting and open-circuit voltage is detrimental to wide bandgap perovskite pin solar cells. Here, through theoretical and experimental approaches, the authors optimize n- and p-type interfaces to achieve open-circuit voltage of 1.29 V and T80 of 3500 h at 85 °C.
'There may still be surprises': Jeremy Farrar warns of pandemic perils ahead

As the former Sage adviser leaves Wellcome to join WHO, he talks about exhausted health workers, the UK's sluggish response to Covid and the danger of conspiracy theories

Masks are a rarity now on streets and trains. We don't leave empty seats in theatres or limit how many people browse in our shops. It seems like it's all over – but Prof Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, once a key member of the government's scientific advisory body Sage and an enormously influential figure in global health, says the Covid pandemic could still have unpleasant surprises in store.

Farrar is not a doom-monger. But from where he is sitting, with long experience of epidemics from flu to Sars to Ebola, we are still in a risky place. We need to be ready for what this – or quite possibly another – bug could do to us.

Continue reading…
What can one person do to give us a better future?

Apologies ahead of time for the rant, but this is something I've needed to get out of my head for some time now. I consider myself to be a generally hopeful person when it comes to the future. I genuinely think and hope that humans will become a great intergalactic civilization one day, and that when that day comes we could finally create a utopia. But every time I turn on the news, or open social media, or fucking wake up I can't help but think our current system will never allow for such advancement. Rising tensions between the east and the west once again. The war in Ukraine. Prices going up for everything, while wages stagnate. Corporate greed. Have we not learned anything in the ~7000 years civilization has existed? How backwards are the people in charge of our society? It is estimated that the construction of a lunar base would cost roughly 50 billion dollars. The U.S. spent ~1 trillion dollars on defense in 2022, which would be enough to build 20 lunar bases.

Why do we live in a world where profit comes above all? Why do we continue to fight, kill, enslave, and oppress our own species? Why can't we just love our fellow humans? I find it mind boggling how hunters and gatherers managed to construct a more equal society than the one we exist in today. Does advancement really only come packaged with corruption and evil? All I dream of is a world where we can forget these stupid petty disagreements and turn our collective efforts towards the advancement of the human race, but every day we seem to stray further from that goal. I feel like we, as a species, have pushed important things to the side in the name of the dollar, if that makes sense. It makes me angry, knowing what could be, but it seems like there is no real way for the average person to make a change big enough to set us on a better trajectory. It seems that if the world keeps going the way it is right now, we'll never even make it off this planet.

What can the average Joe do to change this? I honestly can't see anything short of a full scale revolution working to set our priorities straight, but I'm interested to hear thoughts and advice on how we can save our world. Apologies for the rant, but it really does make me so mad knowing the great things we could be doing if we just treated each other like human beings and focus on the actual important things.

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The Best Moon Lamps of 2023
The best moon lamps bring a bit of cosmos into your home.

Transform any space into an ethereal sanctuary with the soothing light of a moon lamp. These glowing orbs have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years due to the calming, relaxing light they provide by simulating the luminescence of the sun reflected from the moon's surface. But while the intensity of traditional moonlight varies depending on the lunar phase, it's always a full moon with one of these soothing lamps in the home.

In addition to adding a creative element to a room, moon lamps offer versatile and helpful lighting. Whether functioning as a basic night light or simply giving off a relaxing ambiance, they make a great addition to any home, office, or college dorm room. Many models can also project different colors, mimicking the optical phenomenon that causes the real moon to sometimes appear different colors. Here are some tips for selecting the best moon lamps and our recommendations.

— Best Overall: Brightworld Moon Lamp
— Best for White Noise: Hotekme Moon Lamp with Built-in Speaker
— Best Customizable: CPLA Custom Moon Lamp
— Best Levitating: VGAzer Levitating Moon Lamp
— Best Budget: Mind-Glowing Mini 3-D Moon Lamp

How We Picked the Best Moon Lamps

To narrow down our list to five selections, we considered customer reviews as vital to the process. Not all moon lamps are created equal, and it can be a challenge to sort through lesser quality products to find the gems. 

We chose a variety of lamps with features that would meet the unique needs of individual consumers. For example, someone looking for a small, stylish bedside table lamp may not want a levitating orb or a moon lamp that projects a light show.

Other factors we considered were tech specifications such as power and battery life. Since many of the products we chose are rechargeable, we steered clear of any moon lamps with reviews complaining of poor or insufficient battery life. If the lamp included an AC adapter, we made sure that it was easy to set up or install and that the power cord wasn't bulky or distracting.

The Best Moon Lamps: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Brightworld Moon Lamp

Brightworld makes the best moon lamp overall.

Why It Made The Cut: Vibrant color changes and an authentic, 3-D surface based on accurate astronomical data from NASA satellites sets this stunning moon lamp apart from the pack.

— Color: Multiple
— Size: 5.9 inches
— Materials: Metal, wood, polyvinyl chloride

— Wireless remote control functionality
— Battery lasts for up to 12 hours of use
— Adjustable brightness and color

— Power brick not included
— Emits a blue glow while charging

For the closest experience to actually gazing at the moon from the comfort of your own home, the Brightworld Moon Lamp uses astronomical data from NASA satellites to create an authentic 3-D recreation of the lunar surface. But the real moon's surface doesn't dazzle in rainbow colors like these.

There are two ways to control the lamp: Choose from 16 different colors and dimming options when using the wireless mini remote control, or simply touch the metal ring to toggle between seven colors. It's easy to become transfixed as the color and perspective changes, providing a mesmerizing and relaxing experience for kids and adults of all ages.

Charging the lamp is simple with the built-in USB polymer lithium rechargeable battery. Two or three hours of charging time can provide up to 12 hours of use, depending on how bright and how continuously the lamp is powered.

Although the lamp can be used while charging, some consumer reviews point out that the orb glows a dim blue color while charging, even when not in use. To avoid the charging light from interfering with sleep, it may be best to charge the lamp during the day or in a different room.

Best for White Noise: Hotekme Moon Lamp with Built-in Speaker

The Hotekme White House Night Light is the best moon lamp for white noise.

Why It Made The Cut: With three different lighting modes, white noise, and speakers, this versatile moon lamp does it all.

— Color: White/Multi
— Size: 6 inches
— Materials: Wood, PLA plastics

— Built-in speaker allows you to play music
— Comes with five white noise settings
— Timer setting turns off automatically

— Charging can be slow
— The orb itself is fragile if dropped

The Hotekme Moon Lamp is a triple threat, thanks to a built-in speaker that allows the user to listen to music or white noise along with the soothing glow of the lamp's surface. This lamp features three separate light settings and can function as a regular light, nightlight, or soft reading light with 18 vibrant colors to choose from. The variety of colors provide a calming ambiance that coordinates with virtually any room or decor style.

Choose from five natural white noise sounds, including pendulum, thunderstorm, drip irrigation, insects, and sea waves. Or, simply connect a phone or device through Bluetooth to listen to your favorite music as the surface colors of the lamp change to the beat.

Best of all, the remote control and timer setting make this lamp the perfect companion for a better night's sleep and an excellent addition for any nursery. The timer can be set to automatically shut off the light and speakers after 30, 60, or 90 minutes. Plus, the remote control makes it easy to adjust the audio and visual settings from anywhere.

Best Customizable: CPLA Custom Moon Lamp

The CPLA Custom Moon Lamp is the best moon lamp that's customizable.

Why It Made The Cut: For the perfect gift for a friend or loved one, choose a favorite photo or inspirational quote to display on this gorgeous, customizable moon lamp.

 Color: White, warm white, and yellow
— Size: 4.8 inches
— Materials: Plastic

— Customizes with the click of a mouse
— Makes a perfect gift
— Easy to install

— Takes a few weeks for delivery
— Some images may appear distorted

The CPLA Custom Moon Lamp makes the perfect gift for weddings, engagements, birthdays, graduations, and more. Simply upload a favorite photo, inspirational quote, or image, which is then printed on the realistic-looking surface of the moon lamp using the latest 3-D printing technology. It's as easy as that — no special tools or software are necessary.

The lamp's updated design features three color settings: white, warm white, and yellow. The lamp's glow provides a calming, relaxing atmosphere in any space with the added enjoyment of artwork customized for the owner. For added safety, CPLA moon lamps are the only ones on the market with a unibody, single-mold design, and triple FCC, CE, and RoHS certification (meaning they are compliant with U.S. and European standards for electronic devices).

Though most reviewers report satisfaction with their 3-D printed custom images, a few have complained that their photos come out distorted. Before ordering, it's imperative to carefully read the instructions and follow the recommended tips and tricks before submitting images.

Best Levitating: VGAzer Levitating Moon Lamp

The VGAzer Levitating Moon Lamp is the best moon lamp for levitating.

Why It Made The Cut: We love how cool this levitating moon lamp appears when it's suspended in mid-air with the power of electromagnetic force.

— Color: White
 Size: 6 inches
— Materials: Wood and plastic

— Touch control switch
— No batteries needed
— Powered by electromagnetic induction

— No brightness or dimmer settings
— LED bulb can't be changed

That's not an optical illusion, and no, your eyes aren't deceiving you. The VGAzer Levitating Moon Lamp features a patented design that uses electromagnetic force to power and levitate the glowing sphere. Watch mesmerized as the orb spins and rotates in mid-air without the need for strings or cords.

Each individual moon lamp is precision-crafted in a 3-D printing process that takes 24 hours. The moon's surface is replicated on the lamp using high-resolution astronomical data for an authentic lunar look and feel. To set up, just place the moon lamp and base on a flat, non-metallic surface and connect the included AC adapter to a power source to switch on and off the LED light.

The lifetime of the LED light is approximately 50,000 hours and should last most customers for many years. However, as some reviews have noted, there's no way to change the light if it goes out, since it's sealed inside. Finally, this light does have a heftier price tag than other, non-rotating moon lamps.

Best Budget: Mind-Glowing Mini 3-D Moon Lamp

The Mind-Glowing 3D Moon Lamp is the best moon lamp at a budget-friendly price.

Why It Made The Cut: Ideal for small spaces and tiny hands, this affordable mini moon light can fit virtually anywhere and doesn't need to be connected to a power source to glow all night.

— Color: White and yellow
— Size: 3.5 inches
— Materials: PLA plastic and ceramic

— Small and compact
— Easy to set up
— Up to 15 hours battery life
— Budget-friendly

— Doesn't work well as a reading light
— No remote control Up to 15 hours battery life

They say good things come in small packages, and that's true of the Mind-Glowing Mini 3-D Moon Lamp, which also goes easy on the wallet. It shines nearly as bright as the real moon at just 3.5 inches in diameter. The tiny orb sits on a hand-shaped, ceramic stand, which elegantly holds the tiny sphere on bedside tables, desks, bookshelves, and more. In addition, rechargeable batteries mean the miniature lamp doesn't need to be plugged into a power source to glow all night long.

The 3-D printed design is surprisingly realistic compared to even standard-sized moon lamps; each and every crater is highly visible when illuminated. In addition, durable, PLA plastic construction makes this lamp ideal for young children and teens. Likewise, the simple tap controls make toggling between color settings even easier than flipping a switch. A few user reviews noted that these qualities make it the perfect lamp for a preschool classroom.

However, those looking for a reading light may want to consider a different option. Though bright, the small size may not provide optimal luminescence for reading small type in books and magazines, which is why many customers prefer to use the mini-moon in place of a night light.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Moon Lamp

Before purchasing a moon lamp for your home or office, there are a few things to consider. First of all, how big is the space you're looking to illuminate with a moon lamp? Standard moon lamps are an average of six inches in diameter, though you can find larger models on the market as well as smaller-sized lamps ideal for a bedside night light. These size considerations likewise may factor into your intended use for a moon lamp.

Battery life and power sources are likewise important tech specs to consider. Is there space to plug the lamp into a wall, or will a wireless rechargeable option make more sense? If you decide to go the wireless route, make sure to choose a model with ample battery life that won't run out after a few hours of use. Whether you'll want the convenience of remote control is another factor to weigh. Some models use a wireless remote to change color and brightness, while others operate solely by touch.

There's one more significant factor to consider when deciding if a moon lamp is suitable for you. Standard moon lamps come 3-D printed with an LED bulb inside, making it impossible to replace the bulb if it goes out. The good news is that most LED bulbs last for many years. But if the prospect of having to replace the lamp after a few years is unappealing, a moon lamp may not be the best choice of mood lighting for you.


Q: Do moon lamps have any health benefits?

Serotonin is the body's so-called "feel-good hormone." One thing that spurs the body to produce more serotonin is exposure to light, and some people even believe that serotonin levels increase during a full moon. A moon lamp may simulate the moon's light indoors and stimulate increased serotonin levels, promoting a feeling of well-being.

Q: Is it safe to leave a moon lamp on all night?

Leaving a moon lamp on through the night is generally regarded as safe. Moon lamps operate using low-voltage LED bulbs that don't get hot enough to burn wood, stone, or ceramic bases. However, some people may be concerned that the lamp's switch could potentially catch fire. If you choose a model that plugs directly into the wall, be sure that the control is UL-certified for safety, and read the tech specs and safety reviews before setting up your lamp.

Q: How long does a moon lamp last?

Most standard moon lamps can last approximately eight to 20 hours after being charged for two to three hours, depending on brightness settings and continuous use. Moon lamps use energy-efficient LED bulbs which will eventually go out and cannot be replaced. A typical LED bulb has a rated life of up to 50,000 hours (approximately 5.7 years), but some can last as long as 20 years.

Final Thoughts

Our best overall pick, the Brightworld Moon Lamp , comes in a spectrum of vivid colors and at a reasonable price tag compared to other models. But we believe people would be pleased with any of the highly-rated moon lamps on our list. Though each selection boasts unique qualities — from levitating to playing music — they all provide the same essential function of providing mood-setting, transformative lighting.

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. 

The post The Best Moon Lamps of 2023 appeared first on Futurism.

I built an AI-powered CTRL + F that works on any web page

For the last two months, I've been working on a scalable semantic CTRL + F.

You can check it out at

You may have seen Hebbia's Chrome Extension that launched in 2020 that archives something similar, but it looks like it's no longer available so I built my own. The idea is that you can search any text webpage with natural language queries instead of having to remember exact keywords.

You can imagine how this could be useful when reading through long articles or papers. Why not just use ChatGPT? You've probably seen that ChatGPT is unreliable in many contexts, spitting out wrong answers. It also doesn't cite how it derived its answers, making it hard to fact-check. Locus is meant to be a reading aid, rather than a reading replacement.

Right now, I'm the only one working on this. Would love to hear feedback from you all, and I'm looking for help in adding more features like PDF support so if interested in joining mr, please PM!

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Children's Books Illustrated By DALL -E AI, Thoughts?
Is this article about Art?

I recently purchased a children's picture book from Google Play titled Niko and Kai by Ahmet Khalil. The illustrations are created by Dall E, an AI system by OpenAI. I love the story and was impressed by the artwork. I began looking to see if there were more books illustrated by AI and I came across an article about a Dad who used a similar technique to make a book for his daughter. He said that he got hateful comments and people bought the book to give him low ratings. I understand the threat that illustrators face as AI advances. There are flaws but it is beautiful to see that a machine can create art like humans. What are your thoughts on AI illustrations for books?

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For example, the gaming industry didn't even exist 60 years ago, but today it employs almost 270k people with good wages in the US alone.

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Costs for developing an AI-supported program?

Hi guys, what do you think are the costs for developing a Program that is fully supported by an AI?

The AI will have to convert text to a function in the application…

It is a school project so if you have got any sources please attach them in your answer, because I don´t find anything to it.:)))))

Thanksss <3

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How long until we see a realistic version of "Westworld"?

With recent advances in AI chat technology, how long do you think it will be until someone uses this tech to create a real-life version of Westworld? In other words, a themed park filled with walking/talking AI chat bots acting as reasonably-convincing cowboys, knights, whatever.

At this point, I think the only real remaining technical hurdle is to find a power source for the bots. Until then, I guess the bots would need to be plugged into to some pretty long extension cords 🙂

**Submission Statement*\*

Discuss the timeframe of a potential robot-filled theme park.

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Fragments of 'Valentine's fireball' meteorite fall in southern Italy

Object hit balcony in Matera and remnants in pristine condition – 'almost as if we collected it directly from space', says expert

Residents of southern Italy's picturesque and ancient "city of stone" have been gripped by another rocky phenomenon after a meteorite crash-landed on the balcony of a home in Matera's suburbs.

The space object, which had been travelling at about 200mph, was spotted in the skies above the Puglia and Basilicata regions on 14 February, becoming known as "Valentine's fireball", before falling on to the balcony of the home of brothers Gianfranco and Pino Losignore and their parents.

Continue reading…
Why Fox News Lied to Its Viewers

 News lies to its viewers. Its most prominent personalities, among the most influential in the industry, tell their viewers things they know not to be true. This is not accusation, allegation, or supposition. Today, we know it to be fact.

Early in the Trump era, news organizations were torn over whether to refer to Donald Trump's false statements as lies, because it is difficult to know an individual's state of mind, to know what they know. In the throes of insecurity, ideological conviction, or carelessness, people can make statements that are false without malicious intent. The argument over what a person knows to be true or false can take on a metaphysical aspect.

Sometimes, though, you have proof that someone knew one thing and said another. With Fox News, examples of the network's commitment to knowingly misleading its viewers abound. There was the irresponsible hyping of anti-vaccine propaganda even as it imposed a vaccine mandate on its employees. There were the text messages from Fox hosts released by the January 6 committee showing that they saw Trump as responsible for inspiring the mob that sacked the Capitol, even as they defended him on air and downplayed the significance of the event.

Sometimes, defending itself in court, the network will argue that a reasonable person would not assume that everything its on-air personalities say are true. In 2020, the network successfully beat a defamation lawsuit by arguing that Tucker Carlson is "not 'stating actual facts' about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in 'exaggeration' and 'non-literal commentary.'"

The most compelling example of Fox News consciously lying to its viewers, however, arrived yesterday with the evidence in the defamation lawsuits filed by the voting-machine company Dominion, over claims aired on Fox News echoing Trump's lie that the 2020 election had been fixed by compromised voting machines. Dominion's latest filing argues that privately, Fox News hosts admitted that the allegations of election fraud being floated by Trump allies were baseless, but they kept airing them, in part because they feared another right-wing network, Newsmax, was stealing their audience. The filing shows that when Fox News reporters shot down the allegations publicly, the network's big personalities were livid, complaining internally that telling their viewers the truth was hurting the network's brand.

"It's remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things," the Fox News executive Bill Sammon wrote to a colleague about the network's coverage of the "fraud" conspiracy.

Fox News's lawyers have responded by arguing that they were merely covering newsworthy allegations, with a spokesperson dismissing the revelations in the Dominion filing as "cherry-picked quotes stripped of key context" to the New York Times. "Freedom of speech and freedom of the press would be illusory if the prevailing side in a public controversy could sue the press for giving a forum to the losing side," they said in a filing.

This is true, as far as it goes. But internally, the messages in Dominion's filing suggest that network officials  knew they were exercising editorial judgment that would lead their audience to see the fictitious election-fraud allegations not simply as newsworthy, but legitimate, which they properly understood to be irresponsible.

The Dominion filing drives home a few points. One is that there is a Fox News propaganda feedback loop: The network inflames right-wing conspiracism, but it also bows to it out of partisan commitment and commercial incentive. Another is that despite the long-standing right-wing argument that conservatives distrust mainstream media outlets because they do not tell the truth, Fox News executives and personalities understand that their own network loses traction with its audience when it fails to tell the lies that the audience wishes to hear. There are infinite examples of the mainstream press making errors of omission, fact, or framing. But as the private communications in the Dominion filing show, the mainstream media's unforgivable sin with this constituency is not lying, but failing to consistently lie the way conservative audiences want them to.

Looking at these internal messages however, the confident, implacable cynicism on the right about how mainstream media outlets work is easier to understand. It is a reflection of how some of their own media institutions function, combined with an assumption that everyone else operates in a similarly amoral way.

Internally, Carlson referred to Sidney Powell, the attorney who was spreading the false fraud allegations, as a "complete nut," while the Fox News host Sean Hannity said in a deposition that the "whole narrative that Sidney was pushing, I did not believe it for one second." But Carlson and Hannity also demanded that the Fox reporter Jacqui Heinrich be fired after she fact-checked one of Trump's tweets spreading the false election-fraud claims about Dominion, with one Fox executive fretting that viewers would be "disgusted." The offending tweet was deleted. In another email, a different Fox executive feared that what he called "conspiratorial reporting" at Newsmax "might be exactly what the disgruntled FNC viewer is looking for," later warning, "Do not ever give viewers a reason to turn us off. Every topic and guest must perform."

There is also a story here about how social media and analytics can compel even powerful media institutions to meet a strong demand for falsehoods. Fox News executives understood the election-fraud allegations were nonsense, and they also understood their audience wanted to hear them. Misinformation and propaganda are not novel problems, but modern technology renders the incentives to lie to an audience particularly clear, and the means to reach that audience particularly easy to access. There will always be a potentially profitable demand for self-flattering lies; ethical people and institutions resist supplying them. The ability of individual hustlers to amass an audience of sycophants by feeding them conspiracies puts pressure on more mainstream outlets to gently appease conspiracism, if not to fully capitulate to it.

Finally, if Fox News beats this lawsuit, it will be because of the very free-speech protections that the conservative movement has spent years railing against. The appropriately high "actual malice" legal standard, which holds that only statements about public figures that are knowingly false or show a reckless disregard for the truth are actionable, has protected public criticism of powerful figures for decades. Right-wing legal elites, including several Supreme Court justices, would like to destroy this standard, which would enable the rich and powerful to more easily silence criticism of their conduct.

The network may ultimately prevail; that's what all those fancy lawyers get paid for. But if consciously lying to your audience about election fraud in order to keep them watching your network doesn't meet the standard for actual malice, it's difficult to imagine what a powerful media company could do that would. And even if Fox News ultimately loses the Dominion lawsuit, I would not expect its audience to abandon it. After all, the network remains willing to tell them what they know to be true—even if it isn't.

Blue Origin Says It Can Make Solar Panels Out of Moon Dust
Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?

One of the biggest challenges for humanity as we move further out into the solar system will be learning to "live off the land" rather than lugging materials with us. 

Blue Origin

 now says it's made major progress in that direction by making solar panels out of moon dust.

Establishing a more permanent human presence beyond Earth's orbit will require huge amounts of material, both to build infrastructure and provide life support for astronauts. Given the enormous cost of space launches, using Earth-bound resources for this is likely to be unsustainable.

That's led to a growing focus on "in-situ resource utilization" (ISRU), which refers to making use of materials found in space or on other celestial bodies to do things like build sheltersgenerate oxygen, or provide water. One key challenge is generating enough electricity to support long-term settlements without having to ship bulky power equipment from Earth.

Blue Origin, the space technology company founded by Jeff Bezos, says it's closer to solving this problem after demonstrating that it can make solar cells out of simulated moon dust. The company's approach, which it dubs "Blue Alchemist," uses a process known as "molten regolith electrolysis" to generate all of the key ingredients needed for a working solar panel.

"To make long-term presence on the moon viable, we need abundant electrical power," the company said in a blog post. "Our approach, Blue Alchemist, can scale indefinitely, eliminating power as a constraint anywhere on the moon."

The idea isn't particularly new. The fine dust found on the surface of the moon, known as regolith, contains all of the key ingredients required for making solar panels, including silicon, iron, magnesium, and aluminum.

But moon dust isn't easy to come by, so to develop their approach the researchers first had to make their own. They created a simulated lunar soil that is chemically and mineralogically the same as the real thing, and even accounts for the variable size of grains.

They then used molten regolith electrolysis, which is an established process, to extract the key ingredients they were interested in. This involves first melting the lunar soil by heating it to above 1,600 degrees Celsius (2,912 degrees Fahrenheit) and then sticking a probe into it that passes a current through the molten mass.

This causes the iron to separate out first, followed by silicon and then aluminum. Because most of these metals are found as oxides in the regolith, it also creates oxygen as a byproduct, which could be used for both astronaut life support or to help power rockets.

Crucially, Blue Origin's approach produces silicon with 99.99 percent purity, which is critical if it is to be used in solar panels. Most interestingly though, they've found a way to use the byproducts of the molten regolith electrolysis process to create glass covers to protect the solar cells from the harsh lunar environment.

The blog announcing the news revealed that the company has been able to produce solar cells this way since 2021. And they aren't the only ones—space manufacturing company Lunar Resources told The Verge that they've been doing the same for several years now.

But while proving that the concept works using simulated moon dust on Earth is an impressive step, actually doing it in space presents a lot of other challenges. One of the biggest is simply getting the required equipment there in the first place. Lunar Resources chief technology officer Alex Ignatiev told The Verge that the reactor they use to heat the regolith weighs about a ton.

That's still likely to be much more weight-efficient than shipping hundreds of solar panels from Earth, though. So while it may take some time to get the idea off the ground, this could be a major step towards enabling a more sustainable human presence on the lunar surface.

Image Credit: NASA

Cursed Truck Hauls 80,000 Pounds of Radioactive Waste Cross Country
A truck containing literally 40 tons of government-sponsored nuclear waste recently made its way from Tennessee to California. 

Waste Not

Want to feel unsettled? A truck containing literally 40 tons of government-sponsored toxic waste recently made a cross-country drive from the mountains of Tennessee to New Mexico.

Tennessee's infamous Oak Ridge National Laboratory hosted the atomic bomb-building Manhattan Project back in 1942. Nowadays, as Knoxville's WATE reports, it's home to the Transuranic Waste Processing Center that oversaw the shipping of nearly 80,000 pounds of waste from the plant, including items contaminated by plutonium — which is used to build bombs like the Oak Ridge-crafted explosive that the US dropped on Nagasaki, Japan during World War II — and other radioactive elements.

Transuranic waste, as the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission explains, is any material that has been contaminated by any element that has a higher atomic number (or number of atoms in the nucleus of a cell) than uranium's, which is 92. Given that any element with an atomic number above 83 is considered radioactive, the kind of stuff that is being shipped out of Oak Ridge sounds pretty hazardous.

Defense Maneuvers

According to WATE's report, it took TWPC personnel two days to load the waste into three shipping casks that were filled with a total of 35 drums of hazardous waste, including soil, clothes, rags, tools, and other items that had been contaminated with small amounts of radioactive materials.

Two days and 10 staffers later, that toxic trash found its final resting place in an underground nuclear waste repository in Carlsbad, New Mexico, where it was dumped into a government-run "permanent disposal" facility.

As the report notes, most of the transuranic waste created at Oak Ridge comes from the lab's "defense-related activity" — which in regular English means that it was used in the creation of military technology, and although the exact nature of what they're currently making at the lab is above our pay grade, it seems likely that it's still weapons.

At the end of the day, it's probably better that the Oak Ridge National Laboratory dealt with its apparent piles of radioactive waste than just letting it continue to grow, but that doesn't mean it's comforting to know that so much nuclear waste was on America's highways with most of us none the wiser.

Updated to correctly identify the destination of the truck.

More on toxic chemicals: Residents Near Train Disaster Report Dying Animals, Sicknesses, Despite Officials Saying It's Safe

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Dicks Are Getting Longer and Scientists Don't Know Why
The average penis length has increased by almost a quarter — and the scientists who discovered this apparent growth spurt say it might not be a good thing. 

The average penis length worldwide has increased by 25 percent in recent decades — and the scientists who discovered this apparent growth spurt say it might not be a good thing.

In a paper published on Valentine's Day in the World's Journal of Men's Health, Stanford researchers observed that per their meta-analysis of decades of studies, the length of erect penises has increased 24 percent — from 4.8 inches to about six — over the past roughly 30 years, even as testosterone levels and sperm quality have declined.

To get there, the researchers sifted through 75 studies that went as far back as 1942 and comprised data on nearly 56,000 men. They were surprised to find that for the last 29 years of the period they studied, the reported length of erect penises began swelling.

What's more: this trend wasn't, as latent race science enthusiasts might speculate, isolated to any one part of the world, but seemed to be occurring all over the globe.

While the researchers were able to see the effect of this apparent trend, they're unsure as to its cause. That lack of clear causation is, as Stanford Medicine urologist Dr. Michael Eisenberg told USA Today, something of a red flag.

"The million-dollar question is why this would occur," said Eisenberg, who specializes in male fertility.

Given the underwhelming results of studies on sperm count and testosterone level trends in recent years, the Stanford research team behind the paper said in a school press release that they wouldn't have been surprised to see penis length declining alongside those data. Instead, they found the opposite.

"Given the trends we'd seen in other measures of men's reproductive health," the press release notes, "we thought there could be a decline in penile length due to the same environmental exposures."

While penis length isn't directly correlated to sexual health, the Stanford press release notes that it nevertheless is worthy of study because it's not positive on its face, either.

"The increase happened over a relatively short period of time," the school's update notes. "Any overall change in development is concerning."

It'll be fascinating to see where this line of inquiry goes next — and, of course, how the male enhancement industrial complex handles it.

More on dicks: Scientists Officially Link Sports Cars to Small Penis Size

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NASA Scientist Calls for Exploration of Uranus
The proposed NASA probe would "explore how Uranus formed; how much it migrated after formation; the planet's interior structure," and much more.

Gas Giant

In a new paper, a NASA scientist is calling on the agency to build and launch a new exploratory probe — one designed, to the delight of us all, to investigate the "mysteries of the Uranus system."

The proposed probe "will explore how Uranus formed; how much it migrated after formation; the planet's interior structure, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and ring system; and whether any moons have or once had subsurface liquid water oceans," writes NASA astrophysicist Kathleen E. Mandt, whose work was published in this month's edition of the journal Science.

"This mission will serve to inspire and educate multiple generations about solar system history," Mandt continues, "and the mysteries at its farthest reaches."

Cosmic Oddity

While Uranus, a pale blue ice giant which, depending on the time of the year, sits roughly 1.6 to 1.98 billion miles from our planet Earth, suffers the unique consequences of having the most undeniably humorous name in the solar system, an exploratory mission would actually be quite exciting from a scientific perspective.

Uranus, as Gizmodo points out, is a particularly bizarre planet. It's occasionally a little leaky, sits at a strange tilt, and has a boggling 27 moons, among other oddities. And yet, despite the fascinating eccentricities of our solar system's massive, frozen misfit, NASA hasn't sent a craft to visit since Voyager 2 conducted a fly-by back in 1986.

"The proposed Uranus Orbiter and Probe (UOP)," Mandt wrote, "will help to determine how Uranus formed and its migration since it formed — the planet's interior structure, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and ring system — and whether any moons have habitable liquid water oceans."

And at the end of the day, scientists in the field have long stressed the importance of understanding the planets around us — what they're made of, how they came to be, and whether they're capable of supporting life — in the quest to understand how our own world, and the life that exists on it, came to be.

Exploring Uranus will undoubtedly contribute to this deeper understanding of our solar system, and thus of ourselves. As such, according to Mandt, it's about time that NASA sets its sights — and cash — on going back.

"The space science community has waited more than 30 years to explore the ice giants," Mandt writes, "and missions to them will benefit many generations to come."

READ MORE: The first dedicated ice giants mission [Science]

More on Uranus: Here's What Uranus Scientists Think About Your Disgusting Jokes

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George Soros Comes Out in Support of Geoengineering the Climate
Is this article about ESG?
Billionaire philanthropist (and unfortunate right-wing target) George Soros has come out in support of geoengineering, an experimental Sun-dimming tech.

Bloody Sun-day

Billionaire philanthropist — and perennial right-wing target — George Soros has come out in support of solar geoengineering, a group of experimental technologies intended to dim the Sun and thus slow down the melting of polar ice caps.

As Fortune reports, Soros issued his call for investment in the controversial technology ahead of the Munich Security Conference, where he spoke this week.

And credit where credit's due, while there are many methods floating around the burgeoning field of solar geoengineering, the one Soros is backing seems to at the very least be more backed by environmental science than some others.

Albedo 'Bout It

In his prepared remarks that were published to his website, Soros notes that the Arctic Ocean "used to be covered by pristine snow and ice that reflected the sun in what is called the 'albedo effect,'" but rising global temperatures are such that the Greenland ice sheet has begun to melt.

Citing the royally-knighted British chemist David King, the billionaire proposed a process of "refreezing" the arctic via geoengineering: replicating the albedo effect "by creating white clouds high above the earth."

"With proper scientific safeguards and in consultation with local indigenous communities," Soros continued, "this project could help restabilize the Arctic climate system which governs the entire global climate system."

Billionaire Blues

The billionaire went on to warn that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet "poses a threat to the survival of our civilization" — a threat that he believes captains of industry and financial institutions can head off, if only they'd use some of their wealth to do it.

"We must reorient our international financial institutions, particularly the World Bank, to focus on climate change," Soros said in his speech.

As he pointed out, there's already been one small victory on that front: the resignation of the World Bank's climate-denying president, who announced that he was leaving the prestigious institution just a day prior to the Hungarian-American billionaire's remarks at the Munich Security Conference.

"The message is clear: human interference has destroyed a previously stable system," Soros said, "and human ingenuity, both local and international, will be needed to restore it."

More on geoengineering: Experts Fear Grim Repercussions of Geoengineering the Climate

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Meteor Explodes Over Texas, Causing Epic Noise and Scattering Debris
Residents in southern Texas were in for an awfully loud surprise when a meteor blew up midair, spurring a wave panicked 911 calls.

Lone Fireball State

Unwitting civilians in southern Texas were in for a loud surprise when a sizable meteor exploded in the sky.

The sonic space rock flew over McAllen around 6pm on Wednesday, barreling through the atmosphere as a wicked fireball bright enough to be detected by National Weather Service satellites, its Brownsville office tweeted.

NASA's Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science division estimates that the meteor weighed around 1,000 pounds and spanned two feet in diameter, according to an agency release.

"The angle and speed of entry, along with signatures in weather radar imagery, are consistent with other naturally occurring meteorite falls," NASA said.

No impact site has been found, making it unlikely that the meteorite hit the ground while intact, though NASA concluded that smaller meteorite chunks "did reach the ground from this event."


Cause for Alarm

The epic boom that blasted across the Texan landscape caused a panic among some residents, who were probably a little too paranoid about certain mystifying objects in US airspace in recent weeks, or the government blowing them up.

Mission Chief of Police Cesar Torres told reporters at a news conference that 911 dispatchers received several panicked phone calls that described hearing "explosions," and others that reported booms that shook the walls of their homes, as quoted by NBC Dallas News.

Even the local county cops were caught off guard, with Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra recalling at the conference that one of his officers almost fell over when they heard the boom during a jog.

Aside from that cheeky anecdote, Guerra also noted that he received reports from the FBI that two pilots in the area had also spotted the meteor.

It's an amusing story, but NASA, as well as local leaders, believe it to be an important reminder of the need for meteor monitoring infrastructure, and the means for disseminating information to civilians.

"The meteor seen in the skies above McAllen is a reminder of the need for NASA and other organizations to increase our understanding and protection of Earth," NASA said.

More on meteors: Incredible Videos Capture Meteor Burning Up Over European Skies

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AI – Artificial Intelligence

AI was always an interesting topic to me, but I haven't dug into the topic much before.
But I feel like it's time to change that now.

I think all of us should not consider AI as simple helping tools, that line is crossed when intelligence is involved, and that exactly is AI.
As a human society, I don't think we have applied the potential of our intelligence and abillities yet, not by far. AI can definitely stop us from evolving further on our own.
Of course I'm talking about powerful AI, and we are seeing more and more powerful AIs recently.

So there has to be a line where AI does not take up many tasks, it would be better if young people or people in general were taught how to do things that these new AIs are doing.
Economically we don't need AI to the extend that it's being developed.
So what is all this AI development? Just big time money making?
Is AI another peak of modernity which results in more economical and social imbalance?
Or is AI of even greater threat? Will it influence most people for a worse?
Is AI needed in the progressive history of humankind?

Imagine if we were created by aliens or a superior being. Would they have created us at a point when they themselves are struggling with their society and future?
One would like to imagine they would have created us at a solid, flawless state of being.
Obviously with the thought that superior beings have created us, they did not need us for their benefit? And surely they're not threatened that we would hinder their lifes or take over their society.
AI is a great invention, surely, but with such powerful creations they should educate all people in modern society about it. We can't let another great power that affects all of us slip out of the regular peoples grasps.

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The Body's River

I was born for betrayal—
When my mother left me in the orphanage,

I invented love with strangers.  
And if it wasn't there, I made it be there,

until the crash, the revelation.
They say blues is three chords and the truth—

And poetry is long-lined lies and a deep dive
into the body's costly river.

A Show About Mistaking Hype for Progress

A few months ago, I nearly ran over one of Uber Eats's delivery robots with my car. The little guy was trundling along a crosswalk when I made a left turn. As if startled by my presence, it stopped abruptly in the middle of the street, and its "eyes," two rings of lights, blinked. Even though its position now meant that I couldn't complete my turn and was stuck blocking oncoming traffic, I instinctively apologized. How could I not? It had a name emblazoned on its side: Harold, if I remember correctly. Sorry, Harry.

Robot technology seems just as sentient in Hello Tomorrow!, AppleTV+'s new dramedy set in a retro-futuristic society. In the first episode, a chipper delivery van greets passersby via a screen showing an animated stork. The cartoon bird recites cutesy messages: "Morning, friend!" "Hello, neighbor!" "Have a bright, smiling day!" But of course, there's nothing self-aware about the van: By the end of the scene, it has accidentally backed into a woman, crushing her against her garage door. And no, it doesn't apologize.

Hello Tomorrow! follows Jack Billings (played by Billy Crudup), a traveling salesman hawking time-shares on the moon, who wows new clients with grandiose visions of a better life off Earth. As an allegory for the illusory promise of the American dream, the show is rather inelegant. The characters are thin, the dialogue is painfully on the nose, and the plot—largely about whether there's really anything on the moon, and whether Jack can keep his customers' interest—goes in a predictably dark direction for everybody involved.

And yet, I was taken by the show's mid-century, Epcot-ian aesthetics. Nearly every scene bursts with beep-booping gadgets and Jetsons-y machinery: People commute using jet packs, get served drinks by sassy robot bartenders, and so on. These gizmos look cool, but they do little to actually improve people's experiences. Instead, they highlight the limits of technological advances: Innovation, the show suggests, can manifest as mere style over substance, marketing rather than mattering. The series's own stylishness, however, turns out to be its greatest strength.

Consider how almost everything in Hello Tomorrow! levitates. There are levitating cars, levitating briefcases, levitating dog walkers—all of which add little utility. The cars can't really fly; they just hover at the same height they would if they had wheels. The briefcases still have handles; they might as well be carried. As for the dog-walking, well, having a robot walk a dog frees up pet owners' schedules, but the show also includes a shot of a family trying to train a robot dog. What's the point of making both mechanical dogs and dog-walkers available? What are such advanced products for, aside from making a society seem advanced?

Subtly (and perhaps inadvertently), the show's elaborate production design illustrates the attractiveness of new models, no matter their futility. A machine stocking shelves at a grocery store still requires a human to monitor its work; otherwise, it might overstock, causing goods to come crashing down. A bureaucrat keeps his files impeccably organized with his floating briefcase, but he must shred them by hand once he's finished with an assignment in order to ensure privacy. Sometimes, what's state of the art is just a repackaged and renamed version of an existing item. In the fourth episode, Jack marvels at a microwavelike contraption that incorporates "aroma technology," as if food had never emanated smells. This infatuation with the latest inventions permeates everyone's thinking on Hello Tomorrow!, so much so that they don't notice they're chasing after a gussied-up variant of what they already have. The people enamored with Jack's pitch are on the extreme end of this obsession: Everything they have is so familiar that they need to leave the planet.

Unlike with other recent sci-fi series that take a more cautionary view of the future, the show's whimsical aesthetics match its characters' sunny optimism, making Hello Tomorrow! even more unsettling to watch. They've come to see anything new and (allegedly) improved as confirmation that the world they live in is getting better.

Eventually, the look of Hello Tomorrow! starts to come off as oppressive. Jack's quest gets trickier, characters' lives get complicated by melodramatic twists, but the series's bright aesthetics never dim. The supposedly innovative objects surrounding the ensemble do nothing to alleviate their problems. A self-tying tie cannot repair Jack's relationship with his son. A perfectly seared steak from a top-of-the-line, aroma-technology-assisted machine cannot patch up a marriage. Instead, most of the futuristic items on the show are ornamental at best—much like many updates in our own world. Hello Tomorrow! frustrates with its weak narrative, but the show does, in its visuals, hit on a bleak truth: We're often doing nothing more than reinventing the wheel—and then calling that a breakthrough.

The '90s Blockbuster That's Also a Symphony
Is this article about Art?

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.

Good morning, and welcome back to The Daily's Sunday culture edition, in which one Atlantic writer reveals what's keeping them entertained.

Today's special guest is Megan Garber, a staff writer who frequently writes about the intersection of pop culture and politics for The Atlantic. Megan wrote our March cover story on the ever-blurrier distinction between reality and entertainment, which is currently on newsstands. She's also the author of On Misdirection: Magic, Mayhem, American Politics, a collection of Atlantic essays on misinformation and America's fracturing political culture, one of the three inaugural titles from our new Atlantic Editions book imprint. Megan is a fan of the classicist Emily Wilson's literary translations and the artistry of Nicolas Cage, and she belly-laughed during the first episode of the "semi-satirical semi-documentary" HBO series The Rehearsal.

But first, here are three Sunday reads from The Atlantic:

The Culture Survey: Megan Garber

A favorite story I've read in The Atlantic: One of my all-time favorite Atlantic stories is also one of the earliest: the 1859 essay "Ought Women to Learn the Alphabet?" For a long time, I judged the piece by its headline and assumed, applying Betteridge's law, that the thing was a narrow-minded broadside against educating women. But you know what they say about the and me in assume (and so do I, fortunately, since I've been allowed to learn the alphabet). I was very wrong!

The essay is in fact an argument in favor of women's education. (Initially published anonymously, it was later revealed to have been written by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the activist and sometime mentor to Emily Dickinson.) The piece is erudite. It is also, somehow, whimsical: It doesn't make its argument so much as it unfurls it. And the observation that underscores all of its others—that talent is a historical contingency as well as an individual gift—remains insightful despite, and because of, its vintage.  [Related: But seriously, 'ought women to learn the alphabet?']

My favorite blockbuster and favorite art movie: I love this question, because I can answer both sides of it with one film: Face/Off. John Woo's masterpiece tells the story of two men whose faces are removed(!) and then swapped(!!)—two men who then … face off(!!!). I mean. In case you are tempted to argue that a movie whose plot revolves entirely around the trading of face skin perhaps does not deserve my devotion, I'd note that (1) Face/Off features everything that a great blockbuster should (transcendent set pieces, unapologetic maximalism, Nic Cage), and (2) it doubles, at alternate moments, as an opera and a symphony and a ballet. Oh, and it co-stars John Travolta at full-throttle camp. Face/Off is action distilled into John Donne-ian levels of poetic elegance. Only with more explosions.

Something I recently rewatched, reread, or otherwise revisited: George Santos represents the area of Long Island where The Great Gatsby was likely set; the coincidence led me, last week, to revisit F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic. The novel is as narratively sparse as it is semantically opulent—may we all find something to love as deeply as Fitzgerald loved his adverbs—and because of that, I find it to be one of those stories that can accommodate endless readings. Every reacquaintance with Nick and Tom and Daisy and the polite enigma named Gatsby allows for a new interpretation—of the book, and of the country for which many consider it a metaphor. (Another of my favorite Atlantic pieces: Rosa Inocencio Smith's beautiful and prescient essay about Tom Buchanan's resemblance to Donald Trump.) [Related: A new way to read Gatsby]

A poem, or line of poetry, that I return to: So many! But because I've found myself writing about the banality of mythology lately—about the stories we tell ourselves, as Joan Didion put it, in order to live—I keep finding the lines of Adrienne Rich's "Diving Into the Wreck" jangling around in my head. Its last ones, in particular:

We are, I am, you are

by cowardice or courage

the one who find our way

back to this scene

carrying a knife, a camera

a book of myths

in which

our names do not appear.

A still from 'The Rehearsal'
"The first episode of The Rehearsal made me laugh in a way that was as emotionally satisfying as it was physically humiliating," Megan says. Above: A still from the series. (HBO)

The last museum or gallery show that I loved: One of the best things about living in Washington, D.C., is the access it affords to museums that are epic in scope: summative treatments of facts, inspiring collections of art and culture. What I love the most, though, are museums that are wonderfully small: places dedicated to narrow subject areas, operating less as grand statements than as intimate labors of love. I seek them out whenever I'm visiting a new place (RIP, the Burt Reynolds and Friends Museum of Jupiter, Florida). But I discovered one of my favorites by accident: Driving outside of Providence, Rhode Island, with my mother and sister, we saw a sign advertising the Museum of Work & Culture. Its exit was just ahead; obviously, we took it.

The museum, overseen by the Rhode Island Historical Society and set in a restored textile mill, is compact but teeming with delights. Focusing on the mostly immigrant workers who labored in such factories in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, the museum's exhibits bring a three-dimensional intimacy to their lives. You can sit inside a typical home. You can experience how they spent their leisure time. You can learn about their efforts, some successful and some less so, to organize. The museum is a testament to the people who helped make the region—and the country—what it is. I think of it, too, as a wanderable reminder of the stories and histories that might be found at every exit.

The last thing that made me snort with laughter: I snort-laugh with horrifying ease, so take this with a grain of salt … but the first episode of The Rehearsal, Nathan Fielder's semi-satirical semi-documentary, made me laugh in a way that was as emotionally satisfying as it was physically humiliating. In the series, the comedian offers to help people who are preparing for big moments in their life: Under his guidance, he promises, they will rehearse the future into reassuring predictability. In the first episode, Fielder assists a man who is making a long-delayed confession to a friend; Fielder's game-it-all-out approach steadily—inevitably—builds in complication and absurdity. His efforts to outwit life's uncertainty culminate in a punch line that is as silly as it is poignant. I won't spoil it here, but I'll admit that it made the belly laughs I'd been emitting throughout the episode lose their last bit of dignity. [Related: You've never seen anything quite like The Rehearsal.]

The upcoming event I'm most looking forward to: Emily Wilson's forthcoming translation of The Iliad. The classicist's radically blunt rendering of The Odyssey is already in my personal canon ("Tell me about a complicated man," goes its first line, rejecting the florid Muse invocations of earlier versions and catapulting Odysseus into relatable modernity). Wilson's treatment of that other complicated man, Achilles, will be published in September—and I can't wait to reencounter Homer's epic, translated by a scholar who keeps finding new urgency in ancient stories. [Related: The Odyssey and the Other]

Read past editions of the Culture Survey with Helen LewisJane Yong Kim, Clint SmithJohn HendricksonGal BeckermanKate Lindsay, Xochitl Gonzalez, Spencer Kornhaber, Jenisha Watts, David French, Shirley Li, David Sims, Lenika Cruz, Jordan Calhoun, Hannah Giorgis, and Sophie Gilbert.

The Week Ahead
  1. Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat, and Tears, a lively dive into the history of Hollywood's biggest accolade by the New Yorker staff writer Michael Schulman (on sale Tuesday)
  2. Cocaine Bear, a movie loosely based on a real-life bear who ate a real-life brick of cocaine, after which chaos predictably ensued (in theaters Friday)
  3. The Consultant, a new, darkly comedic eight-episode series starring Christoph Waltz as a very bad boss (premieres Friday on Amazon Prime)

Photo illustration of performative parental bliss
(Tyler Comrie / The Atlantic; Getty)

Judging Parents Online Is a National Sport

By Stephanie H. Murray

To be a parent on the internet is to be constantly accused of false advertising. We make parenting sound "so freaking horrible," "messy, tedious, nightmarishly life-destroying," like it will "change everything, mostly for the worse." Or is it that we make it look "so easy," "aesthetically-pleasing" and "effortlessly beautiful," "miles from what motherhood looks like for many of us"?

People can't seem to agree on whether it's our soul-sucking complaints or our phony cheer that dominates the discourse. By some accounts, current discussions about the difficulties of motherhood are a pushback against a time when it was idealized. Others say the "mommy internet" used to be a place where moms could be "raw and authentic"; only recently has it become overrun with "staged, curated photos that don't show the messier part of life." Either way, it's irresponsible. What real-life mother could possibly measure up to a "vision of motherly perfection"? Who would choose to have children in an atmosphere that insists child-rearing is so bleak?

Read the full article.

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Rihanna performs on a suspended stage during last week's Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show. (Sarah Stier / Getty)

Browse snapshots of the world's oldest dog in Portugal, pre-Carnival festivities in Brazil, and much more in our editor's photos of the week.

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Why the Tesla Recall Matters

More than 350,000 


 vehicles are being recalled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because of concerns about their self-driving-assistance software—but this isn't your typical recall. The fix will be shipped "over the air" (meaning the software will be updated remotely, and the hardware does not need to be addressed).

Missy Cummings sees the voluntary nature of the recall as a positive sign that Tesla is willing to cooperate with regulators. Cummings, a professor in the computer-science department at George Mason University and a former NHTSA regulator herself, has at times argued that the United States should proceed more cautiously on autonomous vehicles, drawing the ire of Elon Musk, who has accused her of being biased against his company.

[Andrew Moseman: The inconvenient truth about electric vehicles]

Cummings also sees this recall as a software story: NHTSA is entering an interesting—perhaps uncharted—regulatory space. "If you release a software update—that's what's about to happen with Tesla—how do you guarantee that that software update is not going to cause worse problems? And that it will fix the problems that it was supposed to fix?" she asked me. "If Boeing never had to show how they fixed the 737 Max, would you have gotten into their plane?"

Cummings and I discussed that and more over the phone.

Our conversations have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Caroline Mimbs Nyce: What was your reaction to this news?

Missy Cummings: I think it's good. I think it's the right move.

Nyce: Were you surprised at all?

Cummings: No. It's a really good sign—not just because of the specific news that they're trying to get self-driving to be safer. It also is a very important signal that Tesla is starting to grow up and realize that it's better to work with the regulatory agency than against them.

Nyce: So you're seeing the fact that the recall was voluntary as a positive sign from Elon Musk and crew?

Cummings: Yes. Really positive. Tesla is realizing that, just because something goes wrong, it's not the end of the world. You work with the regulatory agency to fix the problems. Which is really important, because that kind of positive interaction with the regulatory agency is going to set them up for a much better path for dealing with problems that are inevitably going to come up.

That being said, I do think that there are still a couple of sticky issues. The list of problems and corrections that NHTSA asked for was quite long and detailed, which is good—except I just don't see how anybody can actually get that done in two months. That time frame is a little optimistic.

It's kind of the Wild West for regulatory agencies in the world of self-certification. If Tesla comes back and says, "Okay, we fixed everything with an over-the-air update," how do we know that it's been fixed? Because we let companies self-certify right now, there's not a clear mechanism to ensure that indeed that fix has happened. Every time that you try to make software to fix one problem, it's very easy to create other problems.

Nyce: I know there's a philosophical question that's come up before, which is, How much should we be having this technology out in the wild, knowing that there are going to be bugs? Do you have a stance?

Cummings: I mean, you can have bugs. Every type of software—even software in safety-critical systems in cars, planes, nuclear reactors—is going to have bugs. I think the real question is, How robust can you make that software to be resilient against inevitable human error inside the code? So I'm okay with bugs being in software that's in the wild, as long as the software architecture is robust and allows room for graceful degradation.

Nyce: What does that mean?

Cummings: It means that if something goes wrong—for example, if you're on a highway and you're going 80 miles an hour and the car commands a right turn—there's backup code that says, "No, that's impossible. That's unsafe, because if we were to take a right turn at this speed … " So you basically have to create layers of safety within the system to make sure that that can't happen.

[Emma Marris: Bring on the boring EVs]

This isn't just a Tesla problem. These are pretty mature coding techniques, and they take a lot of time and a lot of money. And I worry that the autonomous-vehicle manufacturers are in a race to get the technology out. And anytime you're racing to get something out, testing and quality assurance always get thrown out the window.   

Nyce: Do you think we've gone too fast in green-lighting the stuff that's on the road?

Cummings: Well, I'm a pretty conservative person. It's hard to say what green-lighting even means. In a world of self-certification, companies were allowed to green-light themselves. The Europeans have a preapproval process, where your technology is preapproved before it is let loose in the real world.

In a perfect world—if Missy Cummings were the king of the world—I would have set up a preapproval process. But that's not the system we have. So I think the question is, Given the system in place, how are we going to ensure that, when manufacturers do over-the-air updates to safety-critical systems, it fixes the problems that it was supposed to fix and doesn't introduce new safety-related issues? We don't know how to do that. We're not there yet.

In a way, NHTSA is wading into new regulatory waters. This is going to be a good test case for: How do we know when a company has successfully fixed recall problems through software? How can we ensure that that's safe enough?

Nyce: That's interesting, especially as we put more software into the things around us.

Cummings: That's right. It's not just cars.

Nyce: What did you make of the problem areas that were flagged by NHTSA in the self-driving software? Do you have any sense of why these things would be particularly challenging from a software perspective?

Cummings: Not all, but a lot are clearly perception-based.

The car needs to be able to detect objects in the world correctly so that it can execute, for example, the right rule for taking action. This all hinges on correct perception. If you're going to correctly identify signs in the world—I think there was an issue with the cars that they sometimes recognized speed-limit signs incorrectly—that's clearly a perception problem.

What you have to do is a lot of under-the-hood retraining of the computer vision algorithm. That's the big one. And I have to tell you, that's why I was like, "Oh snap, that is going to take longer than two months." I know that theoretically they have some great computational abilities, but in the end, some things just take time. I have to tell you, I'm just so grateful I'm not under the gun there.

Nyce: I wanted to go back a bit—if it were Missy's world, how would you run the regulatory rollout on something like that?

Cummings: I think in my world we would do a preapproval process for anything with artificial intelligence in it. I think the system we have right now is fine if you take AI out of the equation. AI is a nondeterministic technology. That means it never performs the same way twice. And it's based on software code that can just be rife with human error. So anytime that you've got this code that touches vehicles that move in the world and can kill people, it just needs more rigorous testing and a lot more care and feeding than if you're just developing a basic algorithm to control the heat in the car.

[Read: The simplest way to sell more electric cars in America]

I'm kind of excited about what just happened today with this news, because it's going to make people start to discuss how we deal with over-the-air updates when it touches safety-critical systems. This has been something that nobody really wants to tackle, because it's really hard. If you release a software update—that's what's about to happen with Tesla—how do you guarantee that that software update is not going to cause worse problems? And that it will fix the problems that it was supposed to fix?

What should a company have to prove? So, for example, if Boeing never had to show how they fixed the 737 Max, would you have gotten into their plane? If they just said, "Yeah, I know we crashed a couple and a lot of people died, but we fixed it, trust us," would you get on that plane?

Nyce: I know you've experienced some harassment over the years from the Musk fandom, but you're still on the phone talking to me about this stuff. Why do you keep going?

Cummings: Because it's really that important. We have never been in a more dangerous place in automotive-safety history, except for maybe right when cars were invented and we hadn't figured out brake lights and headlights yet. I really do not think people understand just how dangerous a world of partial autonomy with distraction-prone humans is.

I tell people all the time, "Look, I teach these students. I will never get in a car that any of my students have coded because I know just what kinds of mistakes they introduce into the system." And these aren't exceptional mistakes. They're just humans. And I think the thing that people forget is that humans create the software.

The Physics Principle That Inspired Modern AI Art
Is this article about Big Data?
Diffusion models generate incredible images by learning to reverse the process that, among other things, causes ink to spread through water.
Yes, Lab-Grown Meat Is Vegan
Is this article about Sustainability?
This new technology offers an opportunity to free animals from exploitation. So why are some vegans opposed to it?
Could Alzheimer's be caused by an infection?

Research into the disease has focused on plaques in the brain. But some scientists think viruses and bacteria play a role – and their work is gaining ground

As Davangere Devanand, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center, combed through the reams of scientific data on Alzheimer's, he stumbled across a surprising idea – could an 


 be involved in driving the disease?

"I was looking for an Alzheimer's treatment approach that had a reasonable shot of working," he says. "I found this old theory, going back 35 years, which linked herpes viruses to the disease, and there were all these indirect lines of evidence."

Continue reading…
Why we should be optimistic about the future

When we were younger we probably thought of a future of utopia. A world where anyone can be anything, where we harness technology to make the impossible possible. A world where we can travel the stars, a world without conflict or the immense suffering that exists today. However, the general sentiment in the sub today seems to be that we are headed towards a general collapse of civilization. With global warming, worker displacing AI, East Palestine disaster, etc it can sure seem that way. In this post I hope to convince you that we can and will in fact reach that star trek like future.

First of all, how did we get to where we are. Quite simply, capitalism, which for all intents and purposes has outlived its usefulness. While it once served as a powerful, while flawed, system of economic development it now means a devolving society where technological progression like the development of chatGPT and Stable Diffusion is reason for fear and worry instead of excitement and joy. In the modern capitalist system automation means that rather than having more time to do what we want, instead we lose our jobs. Capitalism has also brought upon us the existential threat of global warming. With our governments in the pockets of the same corps which are killing our planet and in/directly killing us.

Capitalism can seem inescapable and inevitable, it permeates anything and everything. From the ads motivating you to consume consume consume to most politics where both parties (speaking from a US pov) are heavily capitalist. Anything even hinting at an alternative to capitalism is dismissed as fantasy. This is by design. There are 2 ways of keeping people indifferent to the status quo, either they support it or they are too pessimistic to think of alternatives. To quote Mark Fisher, "It's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism."

Despite the feeling of capitalist inevitability it is anything but that and it is not nearly as stable as it would like to appear. Capitalism contains many contradictions but I would like to point out what I think is its most damning, the "Tendency of the rate of profit to fall" (TTRPF) a phenomena which economists from Adam Smith to Marx have observed.

To understand TTRPF one must first understand profit. Profit comes from greater revenue than expenses. For example, your expenses for a toy company may be plastic, machine maintenance, and worker pay. However, you can't underpay for the first two which means that profit has to come from the last. Meaning that you must pay workers less than the full value that they add to your product. Whether this is justified, by the owner providing capital/investment, or not does not matter to TTRPF and is a separate discussion. What this means is that corporations make their money from the value added by labor. The reason why the machines themselves do not generate value even though they increase productivity is illustrated by a simple example, if you had a machine that was infinitely productive at producing apple, then apples would cost nothing since apples would not be scarce and thus have no value, thus the machine while producing infinite apples produces no value. Now this kind of value is very specific, it is exchange value, the kind of value that markets run on, ofc apples still have value they are yummy after all but without scarcity they have no exchange value.

Now, what happens if this company find a way to improve their automation 10 fold, first they will be able to make massive profits but once the competition catches up their profits will be even lower than before. Why is this? Well by making automation a larger portion of their costs (machine maintenance), labor is a smaller part (less workers and less work needed). Which means that since their profits rely on the value added by labor their profit margin falls. Thus, the "Tendency of the rate of profit to fall." However, capitalism does try to fight back, methods of keeping profits up include wringing workers even more and war to destroy capital (this is the stated reason the nations in 1984 had forever wars).

This means that overtime as automation and technology continue to progress capitalism will become more and more rabid in its attempts to stay alive. This is why you see you life get worse even as technology improves. At this point I feel that people would simply fall into the idea that civilization is destined for collapse with an economic system destined for self destruction, however, like economic systems of the past, so will capitalism be surpassed. The solution is rather simple, socially owned production. While capitalism only produces apples because of the profit incentive, a socialist economy produces apples because people want apples. Capitalism will not produce something if there is no profit in it even if there is demand. This is the distinction between an economy run on the profit motive versus an economy run on democracy.

Thus, social economies will overtime be the only kind of economy that is able to continue to grow and expand and thus out compete capitalist economies. This I think is a great reason for hope and optimism. Nations which become socialist will become, with time, the most powerful nations there are as the only ones that can continue to grow. This will force all nations over time to a social mode of production as well. But what of global warming, catastrophic chemical spills, and ecological collapse. Well, the nice thing about a social economy is that it eliminates the kind of incentives politicians have to serve capital and not the people. No one will ever have the power or wealth to have a disproportionate influence. With this we will for the first time use the full power of our civilization to crush the problems we face. Instead of funding pointless wars we will fund carbon sequestration projects so large that we can beat the positive feedback loops already underway. We will be able to eliminate the incentives that drive people to destroy the amazon rain forest. And we will be able to implement regulations to not be careless with trains full of hazardous chemicals which would be the case if our society wasn't so profit driven. A social economy means one where automation is celebrated and not a tragedy for displaced workers. Take the issue with stable diffusion, in a social economy such a conflict wouldn't exist, instead of fearing for their livelihoods this would simply allow artists more time to do what they want. Capitalism takes the best of human ingenuity and turns it into a conflict between us who all just want a better future.

However, this social economy is only meant to be between capitalism and post scarcity society.

The idea of a post scarcity society is very old. In fact, the Marxist idea of communism is quite literally a post scarcity society. Communism is defined by being post scarcity, a society where you only work because you feel like it. When I read discussion of post scarcity societies in the sub I sort of find it funny as so often they lead to the same conclusions that were reached in the past. That the economy is meant to serve us, not the other way around, and that our right to life and happiness should not be tied to our ability to produce a specific kind of value that only exists in the context of a defunct economic system.

Remember, they want you to lose hope, to think that we are doomed and nothing can change. They have in a large part given up on making capitalism appealing so this is the next best thing. Have hope, and remember that change happens when you least expect it. We will get that star trek future, whether they like it or not.

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Again, an idea I read in a fictional book: The mental illnesses we all know today are basically not changed from Freud's time, for approximately a century. The BIG 3 group of psychotic disorders, schizophreniaparanoia, and manic-depressive psychosis existed back in those early days of the psychoanalysis movement and persisted to this very day. Yes, there were some new contenders added to the list in the past 100 years, like ADHD, Borderline Syndrome, or PTSP, but I am not talking about "small stuff". And I am also not talking about things like the alienation of millennials and Gen Z or their addiction to mobile phones and technology either.

What I am talking about is the new "major player" that has been added to the "big three" list. This player is already among us and is much more sinister or dangerous than its "big three" siblings. Schizophrenia, for instance, distorts reality, allowing the person to cope with it and find some hope and comfort. Paranoia does the same, as the person feels they are being followed by the entire world, which can be comforting in a way. This new "player" is the complete opposite; it leaves the person out in the cold providing no methods of living that could give them any solace.

Classifying this new mental illness and its importance will be the next big breakthrough in Psychology as a science. And it is coming sooner than you think.

Again, I want to be fair to the book and the author and not spoil the plot or reveal anything crucial, so, that was everything I could reveal. The book is a fine-grained psychological horror, 'Piaget's Last Fear', but it's not for everybody, that's for sure. Anyway, it's an interesting idea to wrap your head around, isn't it?

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What is the cutting edge of 2023 technology? – not necessarily software only.

I grew up watching discovery channel before it went all reality shows. Back then my source of what the new an future promising tech was just that, Discovery.

A benefit of the seemingly single source of old age was that it was all summarized in one, albeit biased, source. Whereas today in the age of fast information, it seems it's very fragmented and spread out.

Perhaps I'm just unaware of good sources spanning across the fields of the pinnacle of our capabilities, but my question remains. What is the wildest, newest, crazy-est new thing we are doing?

Also. I apologize in advance if this question seems too broad and simple. Pointers to relevant source outlets are very welcome too.

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