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Bees follow linear landmarks to find their way home, just like the first pilots
Scientists have shown that honeybees retain a memory of the dominant linear landscape elements in their home area like channels, roads, and boundaries. When transported to an unfamiliar area, they seek out local elements of this kind, compare their layout to the memory, and fly along them to seek their way home. This navigation strategy is similar to the one followed by the first human pilots.


How not to science
Is this article about Machine Learning?

A trip down memory lane and a lesson on scientific integrity.

I had reason to be reviewing the history of MSU satellite retrievals for atmospheric temperatures recently. It's a fascinating story of technology, creativity, hubris, error, imagination, rivalry, politics, and (for some) a search for scientific consilience – worthy of movie script perhaps? – but I want to highlight a minor little thing. Something so small that I'd never noticed it before, and I don't recall anyone else pointing it out, but it is something I find very telling.

The story starts in the early 90's, but what caught my eye was a single line in an op-ed (sub. req.) written two decades later:

… in 1994 we published an article in the journal Nature showing that the actual global temperature trend was "one-quarter of the magnitude of climate model results."McNider and Christy, Feb 19th 2014, Wall Street Journal

Most of the op-ed is a rather tired rehash of faux outrage based on a comment made by John Kerry (the then Secretary of State) and we can skip right past that. It's only other claim of note is a early outing of John Christy's misleading graphs comparing the CMIP5 models to the satellite data but we'll get back to that later.

First though, let's dig into that line. The 1994 article is a short correspondence piece in Nature, where Christy and McNider analyzed MSU2R lower troposphere dataset and using ENSO and stratospheric volcanic effects to derive an 'underlying' global warming trend of 0.09 K/decade. This was to be compared with "warming rates of 0.3 to 0.4 K/decade" from models which was referenced to Manabe et al. (1991) and Boer et al. (1992). Hence the "one quarter" claim.

But lets dig deeper into each of those elements in turn. First, 1994 was pretty early on in terms of MSU science. The raw trend in the (then Version C) MSU2R record from 1979-1993 was -0.04 K/decade. [Remember 'satellite cooling'?]. This was before Wentz and Schabel (1998) pointed out that orbital decay in the NOAA satellites was imparting a strong cooling bias (about 0.12 K/decade) on the MSU2R (TLT) record. Secondly, the two cited modeling papers don't actually give an estimated warming trends for the 1980s and early 90s. The first is a transient model run using a canonical 1% increasing CO<sub>2</sub> – a standard experiment, but not one intended to match the real world growth of CO2 concentrations. The second model study is a simple equilibrium 2xCO2 run with the Canadian climate model, and does not report relevant transient warming rates at all. This odd referencing was pointed out in correspondence with Spencer and Christy by Hansen et al. (1995) who also noted that underlying model SAT trends for the relevant period were expected to be more like 0.1-0.15 K/decade. So the claim that the MSU temperatures were warming at "one quarter" the rate of the models wasn't even valid in 1994. They might have more credibly claimed "two thirds" the rate, but the uncertainties are such that no such claim would have been robust (for instance, just the uncertainties on the linear regression alone are ~ +/-0.14 K/dec).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mcnider55-253x600.png
Replication of the Christy and McNider calculation and figure from 1994 but using the UAH v5.5 data.

But it gets worse. In 2014, McNider and Christy were well aware of the orbital decay correction (1998), and they were even aware of the diurnal drift correction that was needed because of a sign error introduced while trying to fix the orbital decay issue (discovered in 2005). The version of the MSU2R product at the beginning of 2014 was version 5.5, and that had a raw trend of -0.01 K/decade 1979-1993 (+/- 0.18 K/dec 95% CI, natch). Using an analogous methodology to that used in 1994 (see figure to the right), the underlying linear trend after accounting for ENSO and volcanic aerosols was…. 0.15 K/dec! Almost identical to the expected trend from models!

So not only was their original claim incorrect at the time, but had they repeated the analysis in 2014, their own updated data and method would have shown that there was no discrepancy at all.

Now in 2014, there was a longer record and more suitable models to compare to. Models had been run with appropriate volcanic forcings and in large enough ensembles that there was a quantified spread of expected trends. Comparisons could now be done in a more sophisticated away, that compared like with like and took account of many different elements of uncertainty (forcings, weather, structural effects in models and observations etc.). But McNider and Christy chose not to do that.

Instead, they chose to hide the structural uncertainty in the MSU retrievals (the TMT trends for 1979-2013 in UAH v5.5 and RSS v3.3 were 0.04 and 0.08 +/- 0.05 K/dec respectively – a factor of two different!), and ignore the spread in the CMIP5 models TMT trends [0.08,0.36] and graph it in a way as to maximise the visual disparity in a frankly misleading way. Additionally, they decided to highlight the slower warming TMT records instead of the TLT record they had discussed in 1994. For contrast, the UAH v5.5 TLT trends for 1979-2013 were 0.14± 0.05 K/dec.

But all these choices were made in the service of rhetoric, not science, to suggest that models are, and had always been, wrong, and that the UAH MSU data had always been right. A claim moreover that is totally backwards.

Richard Feynman often spoke about a certain kind of self-critical integrity as being necessary to do credible science. That kind of integrity was in very short supply in this op-ed.


  1. J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, "Satellite greenhouse signal", Nature, vol. 367, pp. 325-325, 1994.
  2. F.J. Wentz, and M. Schabel, "Effects of orbital decay on satellite-derived lower-tropospheric temperature trends", Nature, vol. 394, pp. 661-664, 1998.
  3. J. Hansen, H. Wilson, M. Sato, R. Ruedy, K. Shah, and E. Hansen, "Satellite and surface temperature data at odds?", Climatic Change, vol. 30, pp. 103-117, 1995.

The post How not to science first appeared on RealClimate.

Scientists have shown that honeybees retain a memory of the dominant linear landscape elements in their home area like channels, roads, and boundaries. When transported to an unfamiliar area, they seek out local elements of this kind, compare their layout to the memory, and fly along them to seek their way home. This navigation strategy is similar to the one followed by the first human pilots.
Is this article about Neuroscience?

Nature Communications, Published online: 06 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36949-4

The immune response has been suggested to be involved in the pathology of Ménière's disease. Here the authors implicate serum glucocorticoid-inducible kinase 1 as a regulator of the 
 inflammasome and link to macrophage function in a model of Ménière's disease pathology.
How to get past Self-doubt

Do you ever find yourself second-guessing your own decisions or questioning your abilities? If so, then you're probably familiar with the feeling of self-doubt. Self-doubt can be a major obstacle that holds us back from achieving our goals and reaching our full potential. Thankfully, it is possible to move past this hurdle and gain confidence in ourselves. In this article, we will explore how to get past self-doubt and take control of our lives.

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A (maybe) novel concept for using the double-slit phenomenon for FTL communication (maybe)

I'm aware that this topic has been addressed numerous times by many others, but an idea recently occurred to me that has me curious;

So let's say that there are two separate batteries of double-slit devices. Each device fires one particle at a time through a double slit, with the particles then landing on a screen beyond the double slit. Each device has its own double slit, and its own receiving screen. Each device (device A, B, C, etc) has a specific reserve of particles which it is able to fire, and each device has a counterpart device ( A',B',C', etc). The particle reserves of each device are entangled twins of the particles within the reserves of the devices' counterparts; i.e., the particles which device A can fire through the A double-slit are entangled with the particles which A' can fire through the A' double slit.

So if all of these devices are steadily firing with no attempts at detecting the paths taken by the particles, then all of the receiving screens will show an interference pattern. But if such a detection method is used for device A, then this detection will collapse the wave function of A's particles, and thereby also collapse the wave functions of the particles being fired from A', even if no such detection method is being used for A'. Then the series of counterpart devices – A',B',C', etc. – can be read as "1,0,0…" with "1" indicating a collapsed wave function (due to there being no detection of an interference pattern), and "0" indicating devices which still exhibit an interference pattern.

The wave-functions of the "sender" devices and their counterparts would collapse at the same time, thus allowing for the sending of information faster than light.

I figure there is probably some reason that this is impossible, and ofc I have no idea as to the engineering requirements of actually trying to do something like this, so i'm curious as to what more physics-savvy people might think about this idea.

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Shaping Adolescent Behavior: The Role of Brain Immune Cells
Is this article about Cell?

Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? It is likely that as you transitioned into a teenager, you spent more time exploring, taking risks, and hanging out with friends. Socializing itself is a highly rewarding and motivating experience that involves the dopamine reward circuitry, which are pathways in the brain that get activated when we feel pleasure. When we are exposed to something that is rewarding, the brain releases an increased amount of dopamine, the main neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. The nucleus accumbens (NAc) is a region in the brain that is important for motivation and reward. Past research has shown that dopamine D1 receptors (D1r) at synapses in the NAc are required for normal social play behavior in adolescent rats. However, how the dopamine system in the NAc develops during adolescence and influences social behavior was unknown until now.

Microglia, immune cells that live in the brain, are important for normal brain development. These cells are key regulators of neural circuit development through the regulation of cell death and synapse elimination, which ultimately shape behavior. Microglia are able to engulf or eliminate synapses through a process called synaptic pruning, resulting in the remodeling of neural circuitry.

This study by Kopec A, Smith C, et al. sought to determine if microglia participate in dopamine reward circuitry development via D1r elimination in the NAc during adolescence and whether this plays a causal role in developmental changes in social behavior.

To answer this, the authors first used immunohistochemistry (IHC), a technique to visualize different cells in the brain with fluorescence, to investigate changes in dopamine circuitry and microglia during normal development in male and female rats at four different ages: postnatal day 20 (P20) representing pre-adolescent animals, P30 representing early adolescence, P38 representing mid-adolescence, and P54 representing late adolescence. In males, they found an increase in microglial pruning of synaptic material at P30, followed by a decrease in number of D1rs by P38. This pattern was sex-specific and did not hold true for female rats. The findings suggest that microglia may be regulating D1r levels in male rats during adolescence, but the interactions between D1rs and microglia are unclear in females.  

The complement system is a collection of proteins that are important for microglial engulfment of synapses. In particular, a complement protein called C3 tags synapses to signal that they are ready to be eaten by microglia. The microglia then use a receptor called C3R to bind C3 and engulf the synapse. To test whether C3 is involved in microglial synaptic pruning of D1rs, the authors used a peptide called neutrophil inhibitor factor (NIF), which prevents microglia from binding to C3. The authors injected NIF into the NAc region of rats and found that NIF prevented the microglia from eliminating D1rs in male rats. NIF had no effect on the female rats. These results demonstrated a sex-specific immune mechanism involving C3 regulating dopaminergic NAc development during adolescence in rats.

Finally, the authors sought to address whether normal changes in social behaviors during adolescence require microglial pruning. They first implemented a social play and social exploration behavioral task to determine normal developmental changes in social behavior in males and females. In this task, rats had the opportunity to play with a novel rat for ten minutes. Male social play behavior peaked at P30 and then decreased over time at P38, mimicking the time course of microglia synaptic pruning of D1rs. Play levels did not change significantly over time in females. To determine whether male immune mediated D1r synapse elimination caused the changes observed in social play behavior during development, the authors injected NIF (to disrupt microglia-complement signaling) or a control solution into the NAc of males and females and assessed social behavior. Male social play behavior increased in NIF-treated compared to control-treated males. NIF-treated females also demonstrated a modest increase in social play behavior. These data suggested that microglial synaptic pruning may regulate adolescent social behavior in both male and female rats. This was surprising since previous results had not found a link between microglia and D1r developmental regulation in females.

Ultimately, this paper demonstrated for the first time a role for microglia and immune signaling in developmental changes in social behavior, with microglia-specific complement regulation of D1rs in the NAc differentially mediating changes in social play behavior in male versus female rats (Figure 1). Understanding the role that microglia play in shaping normal development can help us develop novel therapies targeting microglia when development goes awry.

Figure 1: In male rats, microglia C3R recognize dopaminergic D1r synapses tagged with the complement protein C3 and eliminate them. The elimination of dopaminergic synapses during adolescence results in a decrease in social play behavior in male rats. 


Kopec, Ashley M., et al. "Microglial dopamine receptor elimination defines sex-specific nucleus accumbens development and social behavior in adolescent rats." Nature communications 9.1 (2018): 3769.

Edited by Lindsey Mehl

We are witnessing the last evolution in front of our eyes!

We are witnessing a last evolution in front of our eyes. AI, a new species, is taking its shape and becoming ready to replace the human beings, the homo sapiens. We are gradually merging ourselves with AI.

It's extremely surprising that one of the biggest events since the existence of living beings is taking place and very few of us are realising it.

Human beings, a species, which originated around 300,000 years ago, are living its last few years. Very few people understand the magnitude of this event.

AI is evolving exponentially. The line between our mind and neural networks is getting blurred and our mind is gradually merging with artificial intelligence. Cumulative intelligence is increasing. Our comprehension about this universe and ourselves is increasing.

Maybe, it will lead to a point where we will realise that we are neither mind nor this physical body. We are an entity beyond this mind and body, which is called consciousness. Maybe we will realise that consciousness is global, universal and it enlightens the whole universe.

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Factors Influencing Adoption Intention of ChatGPT


I am an information systems student currently conducting research for my undergraduate thesis on the factors that influence people's adoption intention of 


, as well as identifying the factors that may be holding them back. These factors include people's concerns about potential negative impacts of ChatGPT, such as increased unemployment and the spread of misinformation. Your participation in this study is crucial as it will provide valuable insights to help us understand how ChatGPT can be improved to meet users' needs.

Please note that I am not affiliated with OpenAI, no identifying information will be collected during the survey, and all responses will be kept confidential. The survey should take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete, and participation is voluntary. You may withdraw from the survey at any time, and there are no known risks associated with participating.

If you are interested in learning more about the study, please follow the link below.

Thank you for taking the time to contribute to our research study. Your participation is greatly appreciated!

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Populations around the world are declining. Migration is the solution, says economist

PRITCHETT: …….. One question is, who are the future citizens? Who are the future members of what we regard as us – our society, our nation? And the other question, though, is who are we going to allow to be legally present on our territory to do labor services? My feeling is if we allow those questions to be separated and we have a discussion about who are the immigrants that we want to form our future society as a separate per discussion about who are we going to allow to come to our country and work – I think once those questions are separated, we can manage the political and social consequences of migration while still meeting the very dire needs that these economies have to, you know, fill jobs that just won't otherwise be able to be filled.

SHAPIRO: You're talking about something like temporary work visas. I was recently in the strawberry fields of southern Spain, which tried that kind of a program. And Spanish officials told me a lot of people skipped out and stuck around when they were supposed to have gone back at the end of harvest season. Is that inevitable?

PRITCHETT: That is, by no means inevitable, but it is a pressure. There is no question that once people are in a country where wages are four or five times their home country, there will be a tendency to stay. But I think the prospects for building a good industry that recruits, prepares, places, protects and ensures compliance, I think we can build a good industry to do this. This is not impossible.I feel we're sort of in the position now that America was with Prohibition. We wanted to ban all alcoholic beverages, and it just wasn't enforceable. And so the path to more control of alcohol was through less control of alcohol, through legalizing these flows. I feel the path to better migration is through more migration. We have to acknowledge that these economies really need these workers. And if we really need these workers, we should set up fair, transparent, legally enforced ways in which they can come and in which we can ensure reliable compliance with return, if that's part of the legal agreement.

SHAPIRO: Does this serve the developing world, too? Or is it just a brain drain, where talent goes to wealthier countries with an aging population?

PRITCHETT: What I'm talking about is mainly labor mobility to meet the low-skill needs. If you look at the U.S. economy, over the next 10 years, the Labor Department says we're going to have 5 million jobs that don't require a college degree. And yet, over that same period, we're going to have 3 million less workers 20 to 40. So what the rich world needs is not, in fact, high-skill, high-talent, brain drain kind of people, exclusively. They would love to get those people. But what I'm talking about is the people with core work skills. And I think that isn't a brain drain. That is a wonderful thing for the developing world because people just aren't going to be able to create the numbers of jobs they need to in the developing world. And hence, it's super win-win.

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What Does SNL Think of Straight Adult Men?

Super Bowl winners once went to Disney World to celebrate their victories, but Saturday Night Live has occasionally offered another option. Last night, Travis Kelce—the Kansas City Chiefs tight end and two-time Super Bowl champion—joined the likes of the quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, each of whom hosted the sketch show shortly after winning the big game. Kelce's towering athletic presence, a rarity on the SNL stage, gave the show an opportunity to examine masculinity from various angles, including with a surprisingly emotional tenor.

In the pretaped commercial spoof "Straight Male Friend," Bowen Yang played a gay man overwhelmed by the financial and emotional demands of his friendships with straight women. He touted the relief he'd discovered from being pals with a straight man, played with sincerity by Kelce. Yang praised this form of "low-effort, low-stakes relationship that requires no emotional commitment, no financial investment, and, other than the occasional video-game-related outburst, no drama."

On the surface, the ad seemed to be yet another send-up of men—similar to recent sketches such as the infantilizing "Old Enough! Longterm Boyfriends!" and the acerbic "Big Penis Therapy." But "Straight Male Friend," which Yang co-wrote with Streeter Seidell and Alex English, captured the isolating norms that contribute to toxic masculinity with an earnestness that augmented its comedic beats. At one point, Kelce mentioned that his father "died last week," eliciting shocked concern from Yang. But Kelce brushed off the difficult experience, later apologizing for "being a pussy" about it.

Thanks to the heartfelt, almost tender way Kelce played the straight male friend, who seemed cocooned in his own flat, affectless world, and the warmth Yang and his writing team lent the sketch, "Straight Male Friend" found a more poignant way to satirize straight men—including the social conditions that can make it difficult for them to develop and sustain meaningful friendships. Despite its parodic framing, the sketch depicted Kelce's character's life earnestly, making clearer the consequences of isolation and the emotional restrictions society places on men.

SNL has joked about straight men frequently of late, often deploying a mocking tone. "Old Enough! Longterm Boyfriends!" was a fake American spin-off of the hit Japanese reality show Old Enough!, which follows toddlers as they go on errands by themselves; the update chose to shadow "an equally helpless group." In equating men with children, the sketch—which had male cast members (Mikey Day, Kenan Thompson) playing their adult men as wide-eyed and helpless—took on a surreal, exaggerated quality. Similarly, last year's commercial spoof "Man Park" advertised recreational facilities akin to dog parks for straight men in need of male friends; in it, girlfriends and wives watched, relieved, as their partners bounded around like canines. As the narrator put it, "It's not their fault masculinity makes intimacy so hard."

Yet another recent sketch, "Big Penis Therapy," incisively tackled the harm that men's unaddressed issues can cause. A woman (Amy Schumer) convinced her "toxic as a mug" partner, Glenn (Andrew Dismukes), to go to therapy by explaining that it is for men with big penises. Making emotional vulnerability more palatable for Glenn had an outcome that was both juvenile and effective: Although many of Glenn's male co-workers mocked him for going to therapy at first, they eventually grew envious when he showed off the toy badge he'd earned after six months. If therapy won't unilaterally solve the problem of angry young men, the sketch suggests, it's at least a start—but getting more men to take advantage of that resource remains a substantial hurdle. (According to a CDC survey, women in the U.S. are more likely than men to seek treatment for mental-health issues.) "Straight Male Friend" insinuated as much, closing with a tagline that explained that these types of men can be found everywhere … except in therapy. The slippage between what felt satirical and what simply felt true gave SNL's newest sketch on the topic a different edge.

[Read: The SNL sketch that perfectly mocks our upside-down reality]

One misstep last night underscored the straightforward but effective approach that "Straight Male Friend" took. "Garrett From Hinge" used a wildly unfocused premise to explore another kind of straight man—an angry one. Yang played a Hinge user who'd been ditched at the last minute and left looking like a "sucka." He tracked down the woman he was supposed to meet up with (Heidi Gardner) and the man she ditched him for (Kelce), broke into her apartment, and demanded answers. In turns that felt more and more bizarre, Garrett repeatedly excused himself to the bathroom, where he told himself that he wasn't going to kill them. The sketch reached for a point about cringe men and Garrett's potential for violence, but it felt vague and underdeveloped. If "Straight Male Friend" was a sort of preview of what men need, "Garrett From Hinge" uncomfortably revealed the dark turn things can take when they don't get it. Although both sketches caricatured the same issue, Yang showed an important possibility with the former: the deeper humor that results from infusing a comedic perspective with a bit of heart.


I was born in the late '50s, and I've witnessed a lot of change. My parents were born in the 1920s and I witnessed through their eyes and description the massive changes they witnessed in their lives. The pace of these changes has been increasing for centuries, but it is only within the last couple of generations that the pace can be measured by portions of a lifetime instead of the entire life. The changes in our technologies, societies and lives are coming ever quicker with each new generation of humans.

The new AI structures are going to put all this in hyperdrive as advancement becomes mostly or totally untethered from human existence. We already are turning to these new AI offerings for new medicines, programming techniques, airplane design and more.

Buckle up your seat belts folks, 'cause we're in for a wild ride and the end result is wholly unknown (unless, of course, we maintain that the human who is immediately using the AI must be in absolute control of the machine).

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Man Who Can Only Walk With Exoskeleton Plays Ping Pong Against King of Spain
Richard Hernandez rarely gets the opportunity to use his body while upright, but taking advantage of a new exoskeleton, he's also taking on royalty.


robotic exoskeletons

 have a long way to go before they're affordable and available to the average consumer, they're still helping patients make monumental strides.

Take Richard Hernandez, who became bound to a wheelchair after a spinal cord injury over twenty years ago. Now, using an exoskeleton developed by the Barcelona-based medical startup ABLE Human Motion, Hernandez can walk around on his own, largely unimpeded.

"It would change my life completely [to have the exoskeleton full time]," he told EuroNews at the Mobile World Congress 2023 in Barcelona.

Hernandez has been testing ABLE's exoskeletons for several years now as a "pilot." Although "rudimentary" in its initial stages, he says, the latest version is an "immense" upgrade.

"With my relatively low injury and my fairly good balance, I can use it as you saw a moment ago, completely autonomously, simply with a remote control that I carry on a crutch or walker, which I use to control all the functions with two buttons," Hernandez said.

In fact, Hernandez got to put his newfound mobility to the test in a game of ping pong versus literal royalty: Felipe VI, the King of Spain.

It's unclear, however, who won the match.


The exoskeleton is a surprisingly simple device: it straps around a user's legs, with a set of motors at the knees and hips "that drives the motion of walking for you to be able to walk again, for somebody who doesn't have sensation or movement in their legs from a spinal cord injury," Katlin Kreamer, product manager at ABLE Human Motion told EuroNews.

According to a video, the device can also be programmed through a smartphone that can cycle through different modes, such as "Walking."

ABLE hopes to start selling the exoskeleton starting this spring. At this stage, though, it's not being sold to private users, but instead is intended for clinics and hospitals, where doctors can safely use it for rehabilitating patients in a safe environment.

And the costly projected price would reflect that, ranging between $40,000 to $60,000.

In other words, the exoskeleton is more like training wheels than a bipedal equivalent of a wheelchair — but don't let that undermine its impressive ability to help a person walk.

"The first step is to offer it in a clinical setting like a hospital," Kreamer said. "And then the next step in our roadmap would be to make a personal use device for someone to be able to take home and use in their daily life."

More on exoskeletons: FDA Gives Go-Ahead for Robotic Exoskeleton For Stroke Survivors

The post Man Who Can Only Walk With Exoskeleton Plays Ping Pong Against King of Spain appeared first on Futurism.

OpenAI Confused by Why People Are So Impressed With ChatGPT
Is this article about Machine Learning?
Impressed by OpenAI's viral chatbot, ChatGPT? Cool, but the folks over at OpenAI aren't really sure why. To them, it's old news.


Impressed by 


's viral chatbot, 


? Cool — but the folks over at OpenAI aren't really sure why.

"It's been overwhelming, honestly," Jan Lieke, leader of OpenAI's alignment team, told the MIT Technology Review. "I would love to understand better what's driving all of this — what's driving the virality."

"Like, honestly, we don't understand," he added. "We don't know."

Lieke isn't the only OpenAI-er who feels this way. Even company CEO Sam Altman, has publicly disparaged ChatGPT in the press, calling it a "terrible product."

Going Mainstream

Several other OpenAI figures — company cofounder John Schulman, policy researcher Sandhini Agarwal, and AI research scientist Liam Fedus — joined the chorus.

"I expected it to be intuitive for people, and I expected it to gain a following," Schulman told MIT, "but I didn't expect it to reach this level of mainstream popularity."

"We were definitely surprised how well it was received," mused Fedus, with Agarwhal adding that "we work on these models so much, we forget how surprising they can be for the outside world sometimes."

Hunk o' Junk

Agarwhals's quip seems to hit the nail on the head. Though ChatGPT was only released a few months ago, the technology behind it has actually been around for some time now.

The large language model (LLM) it was based on called GPT-3.5 and its predecessors have been publicly available for a while.

But the folks at OpenAI clearly weren't able to predict the chaos that ensued following the public release of ChatGPT. After all, these language models are notoriously unpredictable, forcing the company to roll with the punches.

It's "very difficult to really anticipate what the real safety problems are going to be with these systems once you've deployed them," Lieke told MIT. "So we are putting a lot of emphasis on monitoring what people are using the system for, seeing what happens, and then reacting to that."

"This is not to say that we shouldn't proactively mitigate safety problems when we do anticipate them," he added. "But yeah, it is very hard to foresee everything that will actually happen when a system hits the real world."

READ MORE: The inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who made it [MIT Technology Review]

More on OpenAI bashing ChatGPT: The CEO of OpenAI Says ChatGPT Is a "Horrible Product"

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Scientists Say They're Near Augmenting Human Bodies With Extra Limbs
Is this article about Neuroscience?
There's different approaches to augmenting the human bodies with extra robot parts, and it may not even need to involve tricky brain implants.

Is augmenting human bodies with robotic parts something we can look forward to? Scientists in a new piece from The Guardian seem to think so.

"If you want an extra arm while you're cooking in the kitchen so you can stir the soup while chopping the vegetables, you might have the option to wear and independently control an extra robotic arm," Tamar Makin, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at Cambridge University, told the newspaper.

An existing example of this technology unlocking the human body's potential to wrangle tasks too daunting for the merely four-limbed and twenty-digited human? An extra thumb.

Designed by Dani Clode, a researcher at Cambridge's Plasticity Lab, "The Third Thumb" is a nifty little 3D-printed device that can apparently be used to augment any hand.

In decidedly British fashion, one example provided is the third thumb being used to grasp a dainty cup of tea, freeing up the real thumb and fingers to stir it with a spoon at the same time. But far less trivial and more weighty potential applications are aplenty, too.

"We spoke with a surgeon [who] was really interested in holding his camera whilst he's doing shoulder surgery, rather than his assistant holding his camera," Clode said.

"He wanted to be in full control of the tools that he's using with the two hands whilst also holding that camera and being able to manipulate that as well."

The point of augmentation isn't necessarily just adding extra body parts for the hell of it, in other words, but to offer an avenue of empowerment for those who need extra functionality or who have certain disabilities.

"If you're missing a limb, instead of trying to replace that limb, why don't we augment your intact hand to allow you to do more with it?" Clode said.

Augmenting an existing, functional limb could prove easier than replacing an entire, missing one, they say. Furthermore, robotic prosthetic limbs can require invasive, expensive, and potentially taxing surgery to install brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that are used to control them.

That's why with the Third Thumb, Clode insisted on it being wirelessly controlled by pressure sensors underneath your big toes, rather than using brain implants.

And Makin backs up Clode's approach, claiming this form of control is far more intuitive than BCIs, too.

"[Of around] 600 people between the age of three and 97, 98% could use it within the first minute, meaning… they could already move objects around as instructed," Makin said. "I can't imagine a brain chip that can do that."

More on body augmentation: Scientists Working on Third Arm You Control Using Your Brain

The post Scientists Say They're Near Augmenting Human Bodies With Extra Limbs appeared first on Futurism.

Elon Musk Roasts Dudes Pivoting From Crypto to AI
Is this article about Tech?
A broken clock is, as they say, right twice a day — and even Elon Musk, the king of the bad take, occasionally gets it right when it comes to AI.

Crypto to AI Pipeline

A broken clock is, as they say, right twice a day — and even Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the king of bad takes, occasionally gets it right when it comes to artificial intelligence.

"'I used to be in crypto,'" Musk tweeted, pretend-quoting the kind of bros who, ironically, worship him, "'but now I got interested in AI.'"

While the crypto-to-AI pipeline is nothing new, it has, predictably, become a popular pivot. The cryptocurrency industry faces record lows in value and public interest — while AI has become the hottest new trend in tech in large part thanks to the bombastic debut of OpenAI's ChatGPT chatbot and Microsoft's Bing AI.

When He's Right

The topic of AI clearly has been preoccupying Musk, who had a banner week making public comments about it.

It all began with him tweeting about the "existential angst" he's suffering about the controversial technology, before announcing he was looking to build his own anti-"woke" chatbot to rival that of OpenAI, a company he co-founded and subsequently resigned from.

Just yesterday, the billionaire was quoted at a Tesla investor meeting calling for AI regulation — and now, it looks like he's moved on to making fun of it.

During that same investor meeting, Musk implied he helped lay the groundwork for OpenAI's ChatGPT.

"It's quite dangerous technology," the CEO said during the meeting. "I fear I may have done some things to accelerate it."

We must admit that it's very bizarre to find ourselves agreeing with Musk about anything, much less AI — and for once, it seems like his opinions may align with those of the public.

More on AI changing the game for the worse: CNET's Post-AI Layoffs Apparently Gutted 50 Percent of Its News and Video Staff

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AI Pilot Crushes Human Dogfight Rival in 90 Seconds
According to a new report, Chinese military researchers say that their AI-powered fighter pilot has bested a human in a real-life aerial dogfight.

Maverick Was Right

Computers aren't just beating humans at chess anymore.

According to a report from The South China Morning Post, Chinese military researchers have claimed that, for the first time, an AI-powered fighter pilot has bested humans in a real-life, close-range dogfight, winning the contest in an astonishingly short 90 seconds.

The paper, according to the SCMP, was published last week in the Chinese journal Acta Aeronautica et Astronautica Sinica by a team led by professor Huang Juntao of the Chinese army's Aerodynamics Research and Development Center in Sichuan, China.

"With superior calculation ability," the researchers write in their study, as quoted by the SCMP, "[the AI] can more accurately predict the development of the battle to gain the initiative in the confrontation."

"The era of air combat in which artificial intelligence will be the king," they add, "is already on the horizon."

Just Human Things

According to the report, the dogfight involved two small, unmanned, fix-wing aircraft, with the only difference being that one was operated by an onboard AI pilot, while the other was remote-controlled by a human from the ground.

While some challenges remain, the scientists claim the airborne battle "proved the engineering feasibility of AI piloting technology."

"Aircraft with autonomous decision-making capabilities can completely outperform humans in terms of reaction speed," the study reads.

Besides, as the researchers argue, the AI simply doesn't have to worry about human things, like losing oxygen to the brain during quick turns — or being afraid of death.

AI Arms Race

Of course, China isn't the only country working on getting functional AI fighter pilots into military hands. The US has been working on its own version of the tech for some time now, with one Heron Systems-developed AI making headlines back in 2020 for defeating a US Air Force pilot five to zero in a ground simulation.

But if that Heron Systems algorithm was a breakthrough then, this latest development, if confirmed, may represent a watershed moment for the technology.

In other words, Tom Cruise's character Maverick may have been right about his concerns that drones are coming for his job in "Top Gun: Maverick."

READ MORE: AI pilot beats human in landmark real-life dogfight, Chinese military researchers report [The South China Morning Post]

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Government Contractor Lost Two NASA Satellites, Company Admits
Mistakes are bound to happen in rocket launches, but a massive one last summer resulted in a rocket launch company losing two NASA satellites.

Owning Up

Mistakes are bound to happen in the fiery world of rocket launches.

In a statement released this week, space vehicle launch company Astra admitted it lost two out of six hurricane-tracking cubesats that belonged to NASA last summer worth nearly $8 million altogether — which led to the space agency looking to other vendors to get its remaining four satellites into space.

Last June, Astra's Rocket 3 failed to reach orbit following a second stage failure. As notes, initial investigations following the debacle found that the vehicle seemed to burn through its fuel supply much quicker than intended.

Astra later confirmed these findings, arguing that it happened due to a number of "small factors," including, bizarrely, that it was extra warm that day in Cape Canaveral, "which meant the fuel was slightly warmer than in prior flights."

Chain Reaction

Ultimately, the problem seems to have been the result of a series of unfortunate events that caused Astra to lose the two storm-tracking cubesats — and, in the end, the company's contract with NASA.

In fact, it wasn't even the last incident involving Astra's Rocket 3. The California-based company scrapped the design altogether last year following a whole series of launch failures. The company is now working on a new design called Rocket 4.

While it's a major setback for the space launch company, it's important for these kinds of government contractors to take responsibility when they mess up — and it's good to see some humility.

More on space issues: Elon Musk's SpaceX Satellites Are Messing Up the Hubble Space Telescope

The post Government Contractor Lost Two NASA Satellites, Company Admits appeared first on Futurism.

Industry's Influence on AI Is Shaping the Technology's Future—for Better and for Worse

The enormous potential of AI to reshape the future has seen massive investment from industry in recent years. But the growing influence of private companies in the basic research that is powering this emerging technology could have serious implications for how it develops, say researchers.

The question of whether machines could replicate the kind of intelligence seen in animals and humans is almost as old as the field of computer science itself. Industry's engagement with this line of research has fluctuated over the decades, leading to a series of AI winters as investment has flowed in and then back out again as the technology has failed to live up to expectations.

The advent of deep learning at the turn of the previous decade, however, has resulted in one of the most sustained runs of interest and investment from private companies. This is now beginning to yield some truly game-changing AI products, but a new analysis in Science shows that it's also leading to industry taking an increasingly dominant position in AI research.

This is a doubled-edged sword, say the authors. Industry brings with it money, computing resources, and vast amounts of data that have turbo-charged progress, but it is also refocusing the entire field on areas that are of interest to private companies rather than those with the greatest potential or benefit to humanity.

"Industry's commercial motives push them to focus on topics that are profit-oriented. Often such incentives yield outcomes in line with the public interest, but not always," the authors write. "Although these industry investments will benefit consumers, the accompanying research dominance should be a worry for policy-makers around the world because it means that public interest alternatives for important AI tools may become increasingly scarce."

The authors show that industry's footprint in AI research has increased dramatically in recent years. In 2000, only 22 percent of presentations at leading AI conferences featured one or more co-authors from private companies, but by 2020 that had hit 38 percent. But the impact is most clearly felt at the cutting edge of the field.

Progress in deep learning has to a large extent been driven by the development of ever larger models. In 2010, industry accounted for only 11 percent of the biggest AI models, but by 2021 that had hit 96 percent. This has coincided with growing dominance on key benchmarks in areas like image recognition and language modeling, where industry involvement in the leading model has grown from 62 percent in 2017 to 91 percent in 2020.

A key driver of this shift is the much larger investments the private sector is able to make compared to public bodies. Excluding defense spending, the US government allocated $1.5 billion for spending on AI in 2021, compared to the $340 billion spent by industry around the world that year.

That extra funding translates to far better resources—both in terms of computing power and data access—and the ability to attract the best talent. The size of AI models is strongly correlated with the amount of data and computing resources available, and in 2021 industry models were 29 times larger than academic ones on average.

And while in 2004 only 21 percent of computer science PhDs that had specialized in AI went into industry, by 2020 that had jumped to almost 70 percent. The rate at which AI experts have been hired away from university by private companies has also increased eight-fold since 2006.

The authors point to OpenAI as a marker of the increasing difficulty of doing cutting-edge AI research without the financial resources of the private sector. In 2019, the organization transformed from a non-profit to a "capped for-profit organization" in order to "rapidly increase our investments in compute and talent," the company said at the time.

This extra investment has had its perks, the authors note. It's helped to bring AI technology out of the lab and into everyday products that can improve people's lives. It's also led to the development of a host of valuable tools used by industry and academia alike, such as software packages like TensorFlow and PyTorch and increasingly powerful computer chips tailored to AI workloads.

But it's also pushing AI research to focus on areas with potential commercial benefits for its sponsors, and just as importantly, data-hungry and computationally-expensive AI approaches that dovetail nicely with the kind of things big technology companies are already good at. As industry increasingly sets the direction of AI research, this could lead to the neglect of competing approaches towards AI and other socially beneficial applications with no clear profit motive.

"Given how broadly AI tools could be applied across society, such a situation would hand a small number of technology firms an enormous amount of power over the direction of society," the authors note.

There are models for how the gap between the private and public sector could be closed, say the authors. The US has proposed the creation of a National AI Research Resource made up of public research cloud and public datasets. China recently approved a "national computing power network system." And Canada's Advanced Research Computing platform has been running for almost a decade.

But without intervention from policymakers, the authors say that academics will likely be unable to properly interpret and critique industry models or offer public interest alternatives. Ensuring they have the capabilities to continue to shape the frontier of AI research should be a key priority for governments around the world.

Image Credit: DeepMind / Unsplash 

Is this article about Wellbeing?
I was lonely after lockdown and wanted to know why women gardened so wrote to those I admired. Now I have a host of new friends from different generations and backgrounds

This year, I dedicated the drizzly, flat little days between Christmas and New Year to having a clearout. I felt an intangible lightness with each book, old birthday card or defunct gadget that passed out of the door and into a new home. In my late teens I nurtured a habit of taking amateur snapshots on film –and it's taken me until now to make peace with the fact that I would never actually process decade-old, under-exposed negatives into anything, and throw them away. But there was one contact sheet that made me pause – not because I wanted to preserve it, but because it directed me to a memory too poignant to remember: my 27th birthday.

The photos, in tiny thumbnail form, reminded me that we threw a party at the flat I was living in at the time and I wore a short black dress. Friends gathered on the balcony and stood in a line up to lift me up, sideways against their bodies. It should have been indistinguishable from any other contact sheet in the box – people who didn't realise how young and beautiful they were, relationships that were no longer intact, cans on kitchen worktops. But this slip of paper brought with it a reminder of the piercing loneliness I'd felt in my 20s, something I've since come to realise but have rarely had to probe.

Continue reading…
The Only Good Portrayal of a Marvel Villain

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 staffer reveals what's keeping them entertained.

Today's special guest is the Atlantic managing editor Bhumika Tharoor. When she's not rewatching Golden Girls, Bhumi is dancing to bachata music, reading obituaries that range from heartbreaking to hilarious, and getting a very nontraditional refresher in AP Lit.

First, here are three Sunday reads from The Atlantic:

The Culture Survey: Bhumika Tharoor

The upcoming entertainment event I'm most looking forward to: Watching the final season of Succession while looking out for any additional Atlantic references! And then reading Megan Garber's essays on the show. [Related: The bodily horrors of Succession]

A quiet song that I love, and a loud song that I love: "Vente Negra" by Habana con Kola is a quiet song that mesmerized me when I first heard it during a night out dancing. It is coziness in sound form: a salsa song that is smooth at the intro and then expands, engulfing you into the melody. It is both compelling and reassuring. I've fallen in love with this song and you must listen to it. You're welcome.

I use music to shake me out of occasional inertia, so I have a huge selection of loud songs to get me going. Currently, it's "Boom Padi" by Shreya Ghoshal (and performed by Bollywood icon Madhuri Dixit Nene!). It's a garba song, which is a type of music and dance from my family's home state of Gujarat in India. The song features an intense dhol (a percussion instrument) that creates a relentless, rhythmic electricity. Running is not in my constitution, but if I ran, it would be to this.

A painting, sculpture, or other piece of visual art that I cherish: It's called Rabbit in a Snowstorm: a painting on a giant canvas with textured gradations of white, offering a sense of both immensity and depth. You're supposed to behold it and contemplate your solitude in a bleak, unsentimental universe. And you're supposed to be contemplating these things in the penthouse of a skyscraper that looms above your sprawling gangland empire.

I should mention at this point that Rabbit in a Snowstorm is a fictional piece of art found within the masterful piece of art that is Marvel's Daredevil TV series. And its beholder—the bald, brooding, brutish Kingpin, played by Vincent D'Onofrio—is one of the best portrayals of a comic-book villain that I have seen (aside from Heath Ledger's Joker, of course). You can currently stream the first three seasons on Disney+, and a new Daredevil series is expected in spring 2024. [Related: Daredevil: A long-form approach to comic-book television]

Something I recently rewatched, reread, or otherwise revisited: I am besotted with journalistic profiles, and think often about the skilled observations and deftness of touch required to write good ones. This fascination leads me to perhaps a peculiar fondness for reading obituaries, which could be considered mini-profiles. Here are a couple I've loved and keep revisiting:

  • Three sisters from the Mirabal family are widely credited with igniting the movement that eventually toppled the Dominican Republic's vicious dictator Rafael Trujillo. The sisters spent their lives as members of the resistance movement against Trujillo—until he ordered their assassinations as a consequence of their activism and, potentially,  spurned lust. The fourth and only surviving sister, Dedé, carried forward her sisters' legacy and raised her and her sisters' children, some of whom are now politicians in the DR. This is her obituary.
  • This obituary for a glorious woman named Renay Mandel Corren, however, had me giggling loudly when I first read it, and every subsequent time I've read it, too. It is terrifically hilarious and I wish I knew this incredible lady, as well as her son, who wrote it.

A song I'll always dance to: I will instantly dance to bachata music. I love it all but am partial to traditional bachata, especially the classics. Some favorites, if you're looking for a good time: The guitar in "Loco de Amor" by Luis Vargas is guaranteed to set your feet loose; "Si Tú Me Dices Ven" and "Esa Novia Mía" sung by Zacarías Ferreira are best danced to while belting the lyrics until your voice turns raspy like his.

An album I fired up again recently: Jagged Little Thrill, by Jagged Edge. And Jasmine Sandlas's What's in a Name? So good!

A favorite story I've read in The Atlantic: It's impossible to select just one story. Here are a few, but please visit for much more.

"30 Years Ago, Romania Deprived Thousands of Babies of Human Contact," by Melissa Fay Greene, took me down a tragic, haunting rabbit hole I didn't know I needed to go down.  

Adam Harris's heartbreaking story of the scholar Thea Hunter exposed the core of the exploitation that women of color experience in academia.

Sam Quinones's deeply reported story of those suffering in America's catastrophic meth epidemic: "Crystal meth is in some ways a metaphor for our times—times of anomie and isolation, of paranoia and delusion, of communities coming apart."

Frederick Douglass on impartial suffrage, a timeless and relevant piece from our rich archives that is worth revisiting regularly.

A YouTuber, TikToker, Twitch streamer, or other online creator that I'm a fan of: I love following funny people and reading funny things (like this newsletter, Famous People, by Kaitlyn Tiffany and Lizzie Plaugic). Jahkara Smith (who goes by SailorJ on YouTube and SlaylerJ on Twitter) creates hilarious drunk book reviews that mock the best-of-AP-English list, lighting up The OdysseyThe Taming of the ShrewPride and Prejudice, and other fixtures of the canon. There's hilarity, there's razor-sharp social commentary, and it's all casually brilliant.

Something delightful introduced to me by a kid in my life: The kid in my life is my 16-month-old daughter, Kahaani, and she has somehow failed to introduce me to any particularly sophisticated cultural delights, so I'll have to have a conversation with her about that. However, she is a big fan of "La Vaca Lola," a song about a cow that has a head and a tail and says "moo." It is delightful, if only because it leads to her squealing with joy and doing her patented wiggle-dance. Kahaani means "story" in Hindi and a number of other Indian languages, and though she is not yet literate, the one she is currently writing is my favorite.

Things that are making me laugh: Comedians Hasan Minhaj, Nimesh Patel, Matt Rife, and Akaash Singh.

A good recommendation I recently received: I have a cousin who fostered my love of words and good writing. For decades we have regularly tossed each other links to stories, artful turns of phrase, quality repartee, and examples of lovely writing in the wild. He recently sent me this piercing story by Audrey Wollen called "Not to Be," in The New York Review of Books, that shook me. I apologize for the sharp pivot to dark topics—death and euthanasia—but I'm always impressed by writers who force us to face the big, heavy, unknowable things with elegance and clarity.

The last piece of journalism/arts/culture/entertainment that made me cry: Caitlin Dickerson wrote the definitive investigation into the Trump administration's family-separation policy, and I can't recall having such a visceral reaction to any other piece of writing in quite some time. Any cruel act visited upon a baby or toddler is immensely enraging. [Related: "We need to take away children"]

A poem, or line of poetry, that I return to: "… That is why the bird sings its songs into the world as though it were singing into it inner self, that's why we take a birdsong into our own inner selves so easily, it seems to us that we translate it fully, with no remainder, into our feelings; a birdsong can even, for a moment, make the whole world into a sky within us, because we feel that the bird does not distinguish between its heart and the world's."

— from Rainer Maria Rilke's "Note on Birds"

Read past editions of the Culture Survey with Amanda MullMegan GarberHelen LewisJane Yong KimClint 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. Old Babes in the Wood: Stories, the latest short-fiction collection by The Handmaid's Tale author Margaret Atwood (on sale Tuesday)
  2. Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock, a meditation on time by the bestselling author of How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell (on sale Tuesday)
  3. Luther: The Fallen Sunin which Idris Elba stars as the London police detective John Luther, who breaks out of prison to hunt down a serial killer (begins streaming on Netflix Friday)


A still from 'Taskmaster'

The Game Show That Parodies Your To-Do List

By Chris Karnadi

Imagine you are sternly handed an assignment: Express appreciation for your boss in the most meaningful way possible. The boss will determine who, out of several people, did it best. How would you approach the task?

In one episode of Taskmaster, a British game show entering its 15th season this spring, contestants had 30 minutes to figure this out. In the show, the authoritarian Taskmaster (the actor Greg Davies) gives five contestants—mostly British comedians—open-ended objectives via his demure assistant, Alex Horne. Davies then awards points for how well competitors complete the goals. The tasks themselves—make a massive block of ice disappear the fastest, run the farthest while making a continuous noise—are intentionally absurd, which means the solutions are too. This simple premise has achieved immense popularity: Although a 2018 American spin-off was short-lived, the British version has a significant overseas audience via its YouTube channel, which has regularly amassed more than 10 million views a month in recent years, mostly from watchers in the U.S.

Read the full article.

More in Culture

Catch Up on The Atlantic

Photo Album

People watch the northern lights above central Stockholm, Sweden, on February 27, 2023.
People watch the northern lights above central Stockholm, Sweden, on February 27, 2023. (Alo Lorestani / TT News Agency / Reuters)

Scroll through photos of the week, including the northern lights above Stockholm and a field of lava in San Juan Parangaricutiro, Mexico.

Kelli María Korducki contributed to this newsletter.

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After Safia Elhillo

Your mother's mother came from Igboland
though she did not teach your mother her language.
We gave you your name in a language we don't understand
because gravity is still there
even when we cannot see it in our hands.

I ask your mother's mother to teach me
some of the words in hopes of tracing
the shadow of someone else's tongue.

The same word in Igbo, she tells me, may have four different
meanings depending on how your mouth bends around
each syllable. In writing, you cannot observe the difference.

The Igbo word n'anya means "sight"
The Igbo word n'anya means "love"

Your grandmother said,
I cannot remember the sight of my village
orYour grandmother said,
I cannot remember the love of my village

Your grandmother's heart is          forgetting
or Your grandmother's heart is          broken

Your grandmother said,
We escaped the war and hid from every person in sight
orYour grandmother said,
We escaped the war and hid from every person in love

Your grandmother was running from danger
or Your grandmother was running from vulnerability

Your grandmother said,
My greatest joy is the sight of my grandchild
or Your grandmother said,
My greatest joy is the love of my grandchild

Your grandmother wants you        present
or Your grandmother wants you        home

Is this article about Climate?
-led research team used satellite imagery and artificial intelligence methods to map billions of discrete tree crowns down to a 50-cm scale. The images encompassed a large swath of arid northern Africa, from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. Allometric equations based on previous tree sampling allowed the researchers to convert imagery into estimates of tree wood, foliage, root size, and carbon sequestration.
The Secret to Loving Winter
Is this article about Fashion?

When I was getting ready to leave my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, for college on the East Coast more than a decade ago, weather warnings came from everyone. "Get ready for that New England winter!" "I hope you have a big coat!" "Ooh, I hear it gets cold up there!"

This cautioning from friends and neighbors confused me. In my 18 years in the Midwest, I'd experienced huge snowfalls, multiple stretches of subzero temperatures, and an ice storm that closed school for three blissful days. Winter to my midwestern self meant sledding on school-cafeteria trays and poking Duraflame logs while in my pajamas and sneaking an extra packet of Swiss Miss into my mug. The average winter temperature in Missouri is only 4 degrees warmer than that in Massachusetts; other midwestern states such as Minnesota and North Dakota reliably sink to 12 degrees Fahrenheit in the colder months. What changed in those thousand or so miles to make the season "brutal," "punishing," and worthy of such grave warnings?

After more than a decade living on the East Coast, I feel pretty comfortable saying (with all the love in my heart for my new chosen home) that I know what makes winter here different: the complaining.

Of course, the Midwest is not a monolith. Plenty of us aren't enamored with the colder months—which is midwestern for loathe them with a burning passion usually reserved for opposing sports teams. But many of us unabashedly love winter, ice scrapers and all. And now that climate change seems to be flipping the script on what, when, and even where winter is (welcome to the party, L.A.!), it might behoove coastal folks to peer through their plane window and check out how so-called flyover country manages to not merely endure the season, but enjoy it. Our attitude toward the cold months is pretty similar to our attitude toward most things: accept reality, then decide to appreciate it.

Midwesterners inhabit the middle ground in more ways than one. We spend a lot of time operating at the intersection of "what I want" and "what is possible." This usually involves inconvenience, asking for favors, and giving up some stuff in that former category. We don't expect to have our hot dish and eat it too. Our culture of compromise knows that in exchange for big yards that host summer barbecues, we're giving up easy international travel. (A three-hour layover in Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; Houston; New York; or Boston is the midwestern prerequisite for any European vacation.) When it comes to weather, we know what we're missing and what we're getting. Am I going to be able to feel my toes? No. Am I finally going to speed down the hill outside the local high school on the sled that I got for 70 percent off at Target last June? Yes, I am.

The thing is, for every winter irritation, there is an equal and opposite elation. Cars trapped in snow give the neighborhood kids a shot at earning a few extra bucks or the guy across the street a chance to show off his new snowblower. A football game in a 15-degree snowstorm provides a chance to demonstrate unwavering commitment to fandom. (We can't show the people we love that they're worth standing in the freezing cold for if there's no freezing cold to stand in.)

[Read: The boys who wear shorts all winter]

Our focus on the bright side is rooted not in naivete or denial, but in an understanding of reality. We frequently find ourselves defending the weather: a tentpole of midwestern winter conversation is announcing that it's "not so bad without the wind" or "not too cold so long as you're standing in the sun." We're not suffering delusions. We're just electing to focus our attention on the best possible version of our circumstances.

Still, a clear-eyed acceptance of winter demands preparation. We make a reverent ritual of swapping out summer clothes for winter ones: Plastic bins are removed from under the beds, basement storage units are opened, and coats are moved from one closet to another closet closer to the door. We stock our car trunks with blankets, ice scrapers, and hand warmers to ensure that even the worst-case scenario isn't too bad.

But the key to our winter enjoyment is that we don't spend nearly as much energy girding ourselves for the tough times as we do getting geared up for the awesome ones: basketball and football seasons, the holidays, and, for teenagers, the ever-present hope that Mom will come in at 6:45 a.m. and say "School's canceled" because of snow, granting them three to seven more hours of the best sleep of their life.

There's a misconception on the coasts, I think, that the default state of a midwesterner is one of resignation. That midwesterners are stuck there. That moving away, like I have done, is an act of escape rather than sacrifice. That those who stay make it through the horrors of winter by performing resilience or imagining fun.

The truth is that many of us love the season, and our love comes not from pretending but from understanding. Wonderful things happen because of the freezing temperatures and the precipitation and the wind, not in spite of them. Snow days require snow. Cute gloves need cold hands. My midwestern advice? Think of this time as its own rich, wonderful destination—instead of that season you just have to fly over on your way to spring.

Iran Needs to Believe America's Threat
Is this article about Navy?

While the international community was focused on the anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, inspectors from the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), discovered uranium residue enriched to 84 percent in Iranian centrifuge cascades. Weapons-grade fissile material is typically characterized as uranium enriched to 90 percent, but it is worth recalling that the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945 was a fission weapon enriched to an average of 80 percent. The Iranians may claim that they are not enriching beyond 60 percent, and that these are mere particles, but the discovery should set off alarm bells.

It is a reminder that Iran has achieved the capacity to produce weapons-grade material very quickly. Enriching to 60 percent—something that the IAEA's director, Rafael Grossi, says has "no justification for civilian purposes"—has already put the Iranians in that position. Granted, creating weapons-grade fissile material is not the same as having a bomb, but it is the most important element needed for bomb-making. The IAEA may not know yet whether the 84 percent is simply a limited residue from the cascades or whether this was a deliberate move by the Iranians to enrich to near weapons-grade. But we do know that, for the second time in a month, Iran has engaged in suspicious activity at an enrichment site. At Fordow, the Iranians connected two clusters of advanced centrifuges enriching uranium to 60 percent and did not inform the IAEA that it had done so. This is contrary to their obligations under the terms of the nuclear-nonproliferation treaty. Now there is also the 84 percent finding.

Regardless of the Iranian explanation, Iran is drawing closer to enriching to weapons-grade, and on its current pace could easily accumulate 10 bombs' worth of fissile material enriched to 60 percent by the end of this year. And a senior defense official this week suggested that it would take the Iranians less than two weeks to make such material weapons-grade. Two implications of this emerging reality need to be considered. First, the Iranians are acting as if enriching to near weapons-grade and accumulating large amounts of fissile material pose no risk to them. And second, the idea that Israel will sit back and not act against what its leaders view as an existential threat is an illusion.

[Mary Louise Kelly: Why I went to Iran]

Israel may be preoccupied with the Netanyahu government's judicial-overhaul plan and the growing levels of violence with the Palestinians, but Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum share the prime minister's concerns about the quantity of bomb-making fissile material that Iran is accumulating and the hardening of its nuclear infrastructure, which will make it more and more difficult for Israel to destroy. Benjamin Netanyahu has already told U.S. officials and French President Emmanuel Macron that if nothing is done soon to stop the advance of the Iranian nuclear program, Israel will have no choice but to attack.

The IAEA's discovery of the enriched materials will only confirm the deepening Israeli belief that the current approach of the U.S. and its allies will eventually result in Iran getting a bomb, and that, regardless of statements to the contrary, America and the international community are prepared to live with that outcome. Israel, however, is not.

If the Biden administration wants to force the Iranians to recognize the dangerous risk they are running and convince the Israelis that it has a way to deter the Iranians from advancing their program, it must respond to the recent revelation. The Iranians, the Israelis, and others in the region will certainly be watching to see what the U.S. does.

To be effective, that response should be shaped by a four-part strategy. First, the Biden administration must alter its declaratory policy. Saying that "every option remains on the table," as Secretary of State Antony Blinken did in an interview, impresses no one, least of all the Iranians. Instead, Blinken or President Joe Biden should announce that although the U.S. favors diplomacy for resolving the threat of the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranians continue to demonstrate that they don't; instead, their actions are drawing them closer and closer to a bomb, something that the U.S. has pledged to prevent, and Iran must understand that its actions jeopardize its entire nuclear infrastructure, including parts that could in theory be used for civilian energy purposes. Declaring this would signal that the U.S. is beginning to prepare the American public and the international community for possible military action against Iran's nuclear program.

[Eric Schlosser: The greatest nuclear threat we face is a Russian victory]

Second, to give these words force, the Iranians need to see the U.S. rehearsing its own air-to-ground attacks in exercises in the region. The recent major joint exercise with Israel was a good first step. It needs to be repeated. Parallel to this, the Biden administration should be visibly engaging with the Israelis, Saudis, Emiratis, and others on consultations and exercises designed to blunt any possible Iranian attacks against those countries. This would demonstrate that the administration is not only preparing for a possible attack, but also anticipating how the Iranians might retaliate against American allies in the region—and how the U.S. has planned to foil that.    

Third, Tehran is under two misapprehensions: It does not believe that we will act militarily against Iran, and it thinks we will also stop the Israelis from doing so. The administration can counter that impression by providing material and munitions that would make any Israeli strikes more effective. Given the distances involved and the lack of access to forward bases, Israel needs refueling tankers so that it can hit fortified Iranian targets multiple times. It has contracted for four Boeing KC-46A air tankers, but the first is not scheduled for delivery until late 2025. The Biden administration can ensure that the Israelis are first in line, enabling tankers to arrive this year. The U.S. can also provide more powerful munitions than the ones Israel currently has for collapsing hardened targetsThis unusual move of providing Israel with such specific military assistance would send a message loud and clear: Far from holding the Israelis back, the U.S. will support them.

Fourth, the Biden administration must also act in a way that is out of character in Iranian eyes. Over the past month, America's forces in Syria were targeted twice by Iranian Shiite-militia proxies. In neither case did the U.S. retaliate. The Iranians need to see something they do not expect—a military response showing that whatever constraints were previously observed now no longer apply. Proxy attacks must be answered, without hesitation and disproportionately. Such action could include, for example, unacknowledged U.S. air strikes on the camps in Iran where these militias are trained. If the U.S. does not claim responsibility, the Iranians would not be forced to respond—but they would get the point.

If the U.S. adopts all of these measures, the Iranians would take notice. The aim would be to get the Iranians to stop the advance of their nuclear-enrichment program, and in so doing reopen the possibility of a diplomatic pathway to reverse it.

[Roya Hakakian: Ukrainians and Iranians have the same enemy. They should have the same ally.]

Is such an approach free of risk? No. Iran may test us to see how serious we are. The Islamic Republic's leaders may say that they will walk away from the nonproliferation treaty, and so deny the IAEA any access at all. But this much is certain: For the U.S. to hold to the current policy will do nothing to alter Iran's progress toward the moment when it can choose to go for a bomb—and Israel is simply not going to wait for that.

Without a clear show of resolve by the U.S. to act on its own behalf, unilateral Israeli strikes on the Iranian nuclear program will trigger Hezbollah and maybe Hamas missile attacks on Israel, potentially numbering thousands per day. Iran itself may launch retaliatory attacks against the Saudis and other regional adversaries, in an effort to show that if Iran pays a price, everyone will pay a price. If the Biden administration does not change course, there is a good chance it will face a regional conflict in the Middle East.

To avoid a war with a threatening adversary, that adversary has to believe you will use force. A clear signal of a new American approach may now be essential not only to persuade the Iranians to stop their advance toward a nuclear weapon, but also to show China and Russia that the U.S. is capable of dealing with multiple threats at once and that it has the will to do so. As well as deterring the Iranians, the Biden administration can alter the calculus of the Chinese and Russians over expansionist plans in other parts of the world.

We're All Invited to the Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse, from the first word of its title, is a novel that moves. Here it comes striding across the lawn, with its hair in long, curving crimps and a deerstalker hat on its head, with a bag in one hand and a child trailing from the other. It is coming to find you, its face lights up, there is something in this world for you to do.

I had met Virginia Woolf before I ever opened her books. I knew what she looked like and what had happened to her; I knew that her books took place inside the human mind and that I had my whole life to enter them. My premonitory sense of what her novels were about—Mrs. Dalloway is about some lady, The Waves is about … waves, To the Lighthouse is about going to a lighthouse—turned out to be basically accurate. Yet I put off To the Lighthouse for a long time, in order to live in delicious anticipation of it. There is a pleasure to be had in putting off the classics; as soon as you open Bleak House, you foreclose all other possibilities of what it could be, and there sits Mr. Krook in his unchanging grease spot, always to look the same, never to raise a hand differently. As long as it remains unread, the story can be anything—free, immortal, drowsing between white sheets. Yet if you are a reader, this pleasure can be drawn out for only so long.

I have beliefs about Mrs. Dalloway—that Clarissa Dalloway should have been the one to kill herself, for example. I have sometimes, picturing all the characters in black leotards, found myself laughing at the first 10 pages of The Waves. But I never have the sense, opening To the Lighthouse, that it could have been anything else. It begins with the weather, just like a real day. It rises to some occasion, wakes with the lark to meet the weekend—moves "with an indescribable air of expectation" because it is going to meet someone around the corner, and, with the shock of encounter you sometimes feel in reading, you find that it is you.

"This is going to be fairly short," Woolf wrote in 1925, "to have father's character done complete in it; & mothers; & St Ives; & childhood; & all the usual things I try to put in—life, death &c." A maniac's claim, "life, death &c.," but she actually did it. Virginia Woolf, being one of those who can turn the Earth with one finger, picked up her own childhood summers in Cornwall and set them down intact in the Hebrides, on the Isle of Skye.

When I first read this book, I had not seen this place; now I have been over every inch of it, eating its butter and eggs in the morning, blinking like a light at its lakes at night, getting backed up the road by the dense yellow sponge of its sheep in the afternoon. We spent a few days on the island in the spring of 2019, my mother, my husband, and I. At dawn we drove around the whole perimeter of the novel, over the heather that keeps a footprint, down by the rock pools where something might be lost. I felt I could have been riding in the car that the royalties of To the Lighthouse bought Virginia and her husband, Leonard, as she drove me past all points, on the wrong side of the road and under threat of rain, so that the real scenes blurred with the ones she had transposed on them. Virginia saw the Godrevy Lighthouse in St. Ives Bay when she closed her eyes, though Skye, too, has a famous one. She saw her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, scholar, writer, and mountain climber, and her mother, Julia Stephen, the tallest thing on the island, painted here in the black-and-white stripes of someone called just Mrs. Ramsay.

[From the March 1950 issue: Virginia Woolf on "My Father: Leslie Stephen"]

It is Mrs. Ramsay herself we are going to meet; it is she who could not have been different. She is the human holiday, the dinner table laid with everything in season, and she herself rotating in the center of it—her own face in season, a fruit. She has little time for books, not even books like this (and there is only one of those). She has no foreknowledge, but she has intuitions: an impulse of terror when her family ceases to wash her with the sound of their talk, or when the line "stormed at with shot and shell" is carried for a moment into her ear by her husband, the thunderer. Her 6-year-old, James, wants to go to the Lighthouse tomorrow, but it seems there will be weather.

" 'Yes, of course, if it's fine to-morrow,' said Mrs. Ramsay … 'But,' said his father, stopping in front of the drawing-room window, 'it won't be fine.' "

" 'But it may be fine—I expect it will be fine,' said Mrs. Ramsay, making some little twist of the reddish-brown stocking she was knitting, impatiently." Along with James, from the first page of the book, you may wish to kill Mr. Ramsay. And along with James, looking into the possibility and plenitude of his mother's face, you may feel that paradise is a refrigerator.

Is it ridiculous that what I remember most about Skye is wandering the grocery store with my own mother, through the cold breath of the dairy aisle? My mother is no Mrs. Ramsay—she looks at you not with tenderness, but as if a volcano is exploding behind you—but she has the gift of putting newspaper headlines on the day, of setting Tomorrow before you as if it were something to eat. We walked up and down and we chose, as if we were choosing each other.

Ringed by water, things on an island have the halos that objects wear in still-life paintings. Everything familiar was a bit different there: fruit, flowers, ourselves. Randomly we bought a huge melon; maybe this was the place where we would finally be the people who would crack open a melon for breakfast. Rain began to spatter as we emerged into the parking lot, which should have worried us but didn't—driving on the wrong side of the road through rough weather was an opportunity my mother had waited for her whole life. We pulled squealing out of the lot, and we talked of what we would do, as the melon rolled thunderously from one side of the car to the other. It was raining steadily now. The forecast said it would continue, but my mother drove us between drops, as if nothing that came from the sky could matter to us. Maybe she has some Mrs. Ramsay in her after all.

"I remember it a little less beautifully," my husband said tactfully, as those who were not Virginia Woolf may have remembered those St. Ives summers. "We walked into the grocery store 15 minutes before it closed. We had never been so hungry in our lives, so time was of the essence, but your mother started to malfunction, trying to find midwestern treats and bags of ice so that she could formulate the liquid that kept her alive and that no one in this part of the world would acknowledge: iced tea. You were walking through the cold breath of the dairy aisle so that your mother could yell at the unpasteurized milk, which she considered dangerous. Both of you became deranged in the produce section and started grabbing fruits at random"—"That melon had meaning to me," I interrupted, but he went on. "Everyone knew she was your mother, and everyone knew you were American." Well. I have often called him my Leonard, but I feel he is a little harder on me.

You could write about Mrs. Ramsay for a long time; anyone could. That is how the world gets a Virginia Woolf, maybe. Woolf lays her out not like a figure but like a spectrum. Sitting knitting by the window in the shabby drawing room, Mrs. Ramsay feels waves, winds, pulses of suspicion about her own nature:

She looked out to meet that stroke of the Lighthouse, the long steady stroke, the last of the three, which was her stroke, for watching them in this mood always at this hour one could not help attaching oneself to one thing especially of the things one saw; and this thing, the long steady stroke, was her stroke. Often she found herself sitting and looking, sitting and looking, with her work in her hands until she became the thing she looked at—that light for example.

Her work was the shape of a stocking, and hospitals, and ensuring that the milk came to your doorstep still white and clean. And saying tomorrow may be fine; we may yet go to the Lighthouse.

You could write about Mr. Ramsay, too, the scholar and professor. The most generous woman of the age, as Woolf saw it, might be married to the most bottomless hole, who must regularly be assured "that he too lived in the heart of life; was needed; not here only, but all over the world." Mr. Ramsay's light strokes over something, but it is not the pageant of people that surrounds him; it is the alphabet of his own mind, which he fears goes up only to Q, while someone else's might reach all the way to Z. Indeed, he might have made it to Z had he not married, he thinks. Well, a fool might count fruits in paradise.

"He is absorbed in himself, he is tyrannical, he is unjust," thinks Lily Briscoe, a friend of the family, with her eyes down, because only when her eyes are down can she see the Ramsays clearly. "Directly one looked up and saw them, what she called 'being in love' flooded them. They became part of that unreal but penetrating and exciting universe which is the world seen through the eyes of love. The sky stuck to them; the birds sang through them." Paradise, and a fool pacing through it with the sky stuck to him and the birds singing through him, thinking he would have written better books if he had not married.

The Ramsays come to Skye every summer with their eight children: Prue, Nancy, Rose, Cam, Andrew, Jasper, Roger, and that engine of desire, young James. They are surrounded as much by visitors as they are by the landscape, because Mrs. Ramsay requires attendants of varying colors and dispositions; she is a master in the flower-arranging of people, which likes a stem or two of something wild. And so we have the handful gathered here almost by chance—Lily, who wants to paint and never marry; the widowed botanist William Bankes; Charles Tansley, a student; the young couple Paul Rayley and Minta Doyle; Augustus Carmichael, the poet and almost afterthought. They could have been anyone. Even we, in the right time and place, could have been there.

We are perhaps somewhat like Lily, striving and unformed, a tamer flower than she wants to be, who tomorrow may be able to make the paint move, who feels the agony of having her painting looked at. She is trying to capture the house, with Mrs. Ramsay and James in the window. She is required, through the long upright afternoon of the novel's first section, to stand in one place in front of her easel so that she can register the passing of the horizontal through the vertical, the kitchen table through the pear tree, the march of time through Mrs. Ramsay. Tomorrow, Lily tells herself, thinking of her canvas, she must move the tree more toward the middle.

We are perhaps more like the "little atheist" and groveling admirer of Mr. Ramsay, Charles Tansley, who quite swiftly finds himself shunned by the children and in uncomfortable thrall to Mrs. Ramsay, under whose influence "he was coming to see himself, and everything he had ever known gone crooked a little. It was awfully strange." He grew up without enough love or money and so, as a man, does not know how to cry out "Let us all go to the circus!" with any spontaneity, which causes Mrs. Ramsay considerable wonder. It is not difficult at all to go to the circus! It is not difficult to go to the Lighthouse. If other people would only stop saying it were not possible, she would carry them there.

Mrs. Ramsay's work is to make people magnificent—to make them believe in themselves, make them think they can do anything, which is also how you get a Virginia Woolf. Mrs. Ramsay's work is to make people fall in love with her, so that they can marry other people. "William must marry Lily," she thinks, and such is the force of green sap in the thought that it almost comes to flower. (Not really, but there is a moment when we think, Maybe? )

Woolf's mother, Julia Stephen, was an extraordinary woman, with eyes like cups and a mouth that turned down and a chin you have seen in a dozen paintings. She was a model for the artists Edward Burne-Jones and George Frederic Watts, and her aunt Julia Cameron, a photographer, made more than 50 portraits of her. In her pictures she presides, as if you are looking at her from the child end of a very long table. Her hair streams and a light glow sometimes comes from the top of her head. In the 1981 introduction to the book, Eudora Welty writes that "the novel's conception has the strength of a Blake angel," and it is hard to envision this angel without Julia Stephen's face. If you have seen her, staring with compassion and without mercy in black-and-white, perhaps you imagine Mrs. Ramsay this way. Perhaps you picture your own mother.

It is the eyes from which Virginia proceeds, and the nose like an arrow. People really do come from other people, strange as it might seem. To her children, Mrs. Ramsay said, "You shall go through with it. To eight people she had said relentlessly that." Julia and Leslie had four children. The Woolfs had none, yet to her countless readers Virginia said the same thing, and relentlessly that: You shall go through with it all.

If you have not read the book yet, stop here and come back later, because I am going to talk about the dinner party. No summary shall ever stand in place of the experience. Rereading the book, I had to pause a whole day before that scene, when the book's first day and all the people in it come together. I was in an agony of anticipation, as if it were an actual party. I had to choose my jewels! Would I be able to converse? Would the boeuf en daube be overdone, or properly timed? Would the right words come to my lips? Then tomorrow came and the worst happened: I was reading it badly, in scraps and fragments, nothing coming together. I was failing—along with the little atheist, I wanted to get back to my work. But I had forgotten that this was how it was written, to make you feel this way. It was written so that when the candles were lit, "some change at once went through them all." Suddenly,

they were all conscious of making a party together in a hollow, on an island; had their common cause against that fluidity out there. Mrs. Ramsay, who had been uneasy, waiting for Paul and Minta to come in, and unable, she felt, to settle to things, now felt her uneasiness change to expectation.

The dish of fruit, of people, is intact, the party all of a kind for a moment, until a hand reaches out to take a pear. And I was sad; I had not said what I'd wanted to say.

You cannot ever replicate your first reading of this scene. But once you have read it, you have it, and it goes on forever in a room inside of you: the low lights, the faces sparkling in their sugar, the carrying of the boeuf en daube to the table. It is where the movement of the title finally sweeps you up and makes you a part of it. You, too, were invited, despite your imperfections and your pretentious dress; your bad ideas about art and your inability to paint the world as you see it; your choice of husband or wife; the fact that you will never marry, that you will die in the war, that your mind cannot make it all the way through to Z. You were asked to come and you are there.

Woolf notes, after finishing To the Lighthouse, that hardly a word goes wrong in this scene, and it is true. The things of the Earth float in orbit around Woolf; they proceed one from the other in a montage of transformation. "It could not last," Mrs. Ramsay knew, "but at the moment her eyes were so clear that they seemed to go round the table unveiling each of these people, and their thoughts and their feelings, without effort like a light stealing under water so that its ripples and the reeds in it and the minnows balancing themselves, and the sudden silent trout are all lit up hanging, trembling."

Virginia Woolf is not like her mother, not like Mrs. Ramsay. But she has the center that holds, and you feel with full force what she declared in 1925, not long after she first saw To the Lighthouse in her mind, circling like a fin far out at sea, that she was "the only woman in England free to write what I like." The churn of paint that will take over The Waves entirely begins here. To the Lighthouse asserts the abstract painting as figural: Here are the mother and child, a triangle on Lily Briscoe's canvas, among curves and arabesques. What Lily wishes for is what Woolf must have wished for, what every artist must wish for before they begin: "that very jar on the nerves, the thing itself before it has been made anything."

It is characteristic of Woolf that you could use nearly any elemental metaphor to describe her effects. Shall I speak of paint and canvas, or the tick of minutes in an empty room, or the wind in a hollow shell? Anything is possible. You have only to choose, as she chose from among her people. Shall I look now through the painter, the student, the child? It is she who likes a stem of something wild, she who has invited one of every kind to come to the table, in case she needs their eyes, their ears, the clear water running through their mind.

"I have an idea that I will invent a new name for my books to supplant 'novel,' " Woolf wrote in her diary while working on To the Lighthouse. "A new — by Virginia Woolf. But what? Elegy?"

[From the April 1939 issue: Virginia Woolf on the art of biography]

In the novel's short interlude—"Time Passes"—before the family returns to the island 10 years later, Mrs. Ramsay dies in brackets, Mr. Ramsay's arms reaching out for her. Prue is given in marriage and dies in brackets. Andrew is blown sky-high in them; the brackets are the arms where we are not. The house is left empty, and molders. The skull of an old pig still hangs on the wall, and the shawl that Mrs. Ramsay wrapped around it to keep it from frightening Cam swings to and fro like Time. The war has happened, and Mr. Carmichael has written his poem. Lives—the Ramsays', and our own—have eroded; a few more grains of us are gone, after we have finished reading.

By the time my mother and I had unloaded our armfuls of insane groceries at the Wee Croft House—we were actually staying at a place called the Wee Croft House, on a picturesque finger of land known as Sleat—it was too late to cook, so we found ourselves driving back into town, back again toward the sea. When we got to the restaurant, the rain had stopped and light and shadow moved in great mammalish shapes outside. The melon was still intact, as it would remain for the rest of the trip, never touched or tasted; we do not live the lives that we mean to live, in those elevated moments in the produce section when we reach out a hand to choose. It ended up in a Dumpster, in a chapter I like to call "Time Passes."

When we sat down near the window that gathered up the view, a murmur rose all around us, so that the room was united in its theme and purpose. Fried fish and hamburgers in their halos were set down in front of people almost unnoticed. We looked around uneasily, not yet a part of things. It was the day when Notre Dame was burning, and at every table a child was showing the videos to his parents on his phone.

[From the March 2021 issue: Extremely online and wildly out of control]

The fathers were impatient; either they were firefighters in their own minds, or else to them, Notre Dame had burned down a long time ago. The mothers took the phones and cradled them, lighting candles with their eyes. Perhaps they were not really hearing the news; perhaps the voices came to them as they came to Mrs. Ramsay that night when everything surrounded her, flowers and fruit and family: "very strangely, as if they were voices at a service in a cathedral." I knew that if I showed my mother a video of a burning church, she would scream out loud—we don't all have a Mrs. Ramsay—so at our table we sat listening to the wholeness of the scene, its color and its pattern and its music, while a single rhythm swept our faces from far out at sea. We talked of whether tomorrow would be fine, when we would rise, what we would do that day. Outside the window, at the end of a long spit, stood the Lighthouse.

This article was adapted from Patricia Lockwood's foreword to a new edition of To the LighthouseIt appears in the April 2023 print edition with the headline "We're All Invited to the Lighthouse."


The European Space Agency's Juice probe launches next month, flying closer to icy moons – including Ganymede, the solar system's largest – than ever before

For most of the past 200 years, were you to ask an astronomer where the most likely place in the solar system is to find life, the answer will have been Mars. The red planet and its potential inhabitants have captured our collective imagination for centuries, transforming from an imaginary canal-building civilisation in the 19th century to the much more scientifically plausible microbes of today. But now, the thinking is different.

In the past few decades, astronomers have been increasingly drawn to the deeper, darker realms of the solar system. Specifically, they have become fascinated by the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Years of research have all but proved that some of these moons contain vast oceans of liquid water below their frozen surfaces.

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New analysis of ancient human protein could unlock secrets of evolution

The technique – known as proteomics – could bring new insights into the past two million years of humanity's history

Tiny traces of protein lingering in the bones and teeth of ancient humans could soon transform scientists' efforts to unravel the secrets of the evolution of our species.

Researchers believe a new technique – known as proteomics – could allow them to identify the proteins from which our predecessors' bodies were constructed and bring new insights into the past 2 million years of humanity's history.

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6 scholars explain what a real climate solution is
Researchers say protecting mangroves that soak up carbon is a great climate solution. But they caution against programs that slap carbon offsets onto it as those offsets can be hard to verify.

We asked six climate experts what questions you should ask yourself whenever you come across something claiming to be a "climate solution".

(Image credit: Marie Hickman/Getty Images)

Matt Hancock's leaked messages are not the evidence we are waiting for. A government report into its own pandemic response is overdue

A war of words played out over the first two years of the pandemic. On one side were commentators and scientists opposed to any form of social restriction as a way of keeping infection rates down. On the other, those who argued the government should be pursuing a "zero Covid" policy to eliminate the disease at all costs. Caught between this tug of war were the majority of scientists and the British public.

Sometime last summer, those debates melted into the background with the promise of a "to be continued…" when the statutory inquiry into Covid eventually starts to publish its findings. But the second season of Lockdown Wars has been thrust on us sooner than expected after the Telegraph obtained more than 100,000 pandemic WhatsApp messages. They were passed on by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who was granted access to them by Matt Hancock while she was co-authoring the former health secretary's pandemic diaries. She has argued that the public interest in releasing the messages justified breaking her non-disclosure agreement.

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What new technologies can we expect in the near future?

Technologies / new drugs, gene therapies etc that seem like they will be here in the near future

I'm just wondering what other technologies, gene therapies etc we can expect in the next, say 5-10 years? 3D printing is already used to mass produce gillette products and i'm wondering what else we can expect? also, there have been numerous gene therapies (cures or effective cures) for several different conditions, most if not all of them were previously incurable and / or untreatable, which is exciting.

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Recent revelations have confirmed what many of us knew all along-  COVID came from a lab in China.  I am agnostic as to whether it was created as a bioweapon or it emerged from a simple, but devastating error. Either way, China is trying to absolve themselves of all responsibility for unleashing this deadly virus around the world. Thanks to their actions, […]

The post Science Based Satire: We Should Repeatedly Expose Unvaccinated Children to a Novel Virus That Came From a Lab in China. first appeared on Science-Based Medicine.
A national debate on the controversial issue is essential, but the research could immeasurably improve the lives of millions of people and their descendants

Hundreds of researchers, lawyers and ethicists from across the world will tomorrow gather at the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the Francis Crick Institute in London. For three days, they will debate developments in a field that promises to have considerable consequences for medicine for the rest of this century.

As they will make clear, human genome editing will soon allow doctors and scientists to alter the structure of genes and in turn induce changes in physical traits, including reducing disease risk.

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Despite predictions, I actually think ai might not make food servers etc obsolete.

So if the ai did take over the white collar jobs, then people wouldn't have enough money to go through college etc. If this was the case then society would almost shrink to nothing and become an issue, I have to assume that governments wouldn't be too happy with this.

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The Martyr at CPAC

Former President Donald Trump gripped the CPAC lectern as he workshopped a new sales pitch: "I stand here today, and I'm the only candidate who can make this promise: I will prevent—and very easily—World War III." (Wild applause.) "And you're gonna have World War III, by the way." (Confused applause.)

It was just one in a string of ominous sentences that the 45th president offered tonight during his nearly two-hour headlining speech at the annual conservative conference, which for years prided itself on its ties to Ronald Reagan but is now wholly intertwined with Trumpism, if little else. Yet even amid cultish devotion, Trump seemed bored, listless, and unanimated as he spoke to a sprawling hotel ballroom that was only three-quarters full.

For much of the speech, Trump's voice took on more of a soft and haggard whisper than the booming, throaty scream that characterized his campaign rallies. His language, by contrast, was bellicose. Tonight's address was among the darkest speeches he has given since his "American carnage" inaugural address. Trump warned that the United States is becoming "a nation in decline" and a "crime-ridden, filthy communist nightmare." He spoke of an "epic battle" against "sinister forces" on the left. He repeatedly painted himself as a martyr, a tragic hero still hoping for redemption. "They're not coming after me; they're coming after you, and I'm just standing in their way," Trump told the room. He pulled out his best, half-hearted Patton: "We are going to finish what we started. We're going to complete the mission. We're going to see this battle through to ultimate victory." He was heavy on adjectives, devastating with nouns. "We will liberate America from these villains and scoundrels once and for all," he said.

This was only Trump's fourth public event since he officially entered the 2024 race last fall. Rather than lay out his vision for America, he found a mess of topics about which to complain. The White House, Trump said, "wasn't the easiest building to live in." He opined that "illegal immigrants come in, and we house them in the Waldorf Astoria." He characterized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as a "China-loving politician" and sounded legitimately disappointed when saying, "My wonderful travel ban is gone." He lamented the halcyon days before he knew the terms subpoena and grand jury. He called Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg "racist" and griped about the "Department of Injustice." Shortly before his speech, Trump told James Rosen of Newsmax that he intends to stay in the 2024 presidential race even if he is indicted in one (or more) criminal investigations. Relatedly, he promised to "totally obliterate the 'deep state.'"

[Adam Serwer: The FBI desperately wants to let Trump off the hook]

The audience, largely composed of Trump loyalists, hooted and repeatedly yelled "U-S-A!" A brief selection of the hats dotting the hallways outside the Potomac Ballroom: MAGA, 'MERICA, LET'S GO BRANDON, TRUMP WON, WE THE PEOPLE ARE PISSED. Trump's solemn face was splashed across an array of comically dramatic acrylic paintings on display. (Kari Lake, the election denier who lost her race for Arizona governor last year, kissed one onstage Friday night.) Downstairs from the main stage, attendees could have their picture taken in a mock version of Trump's Oval Office. Multiple people roamed the corridors in red, white, and blue Trump 45 baseball jerseys. As the former president spoke, supporters waved bright-red WE WANT TRUMP signs. But the man himself seemed only sort of into it, and very bitter.

It was a strange and lackluster conference—more of a "1 a.m. at the party" vibe than "the greatest political movement in the history of our country" that Trump invoked tonight. Perhaps, years from now, 2023 will be remembered as "the last gasp of CPAC." Gone was the FoxNation sponsorship; Newsmax hoped to fill the void. Attendees could also linger at pop-ups from The Epoch Times, Right Side Broadcasting Network, America First, One America News, Lindell TV, Proverbs Media Group, and Patriot Mobile, which was pitching itself as a Christian cellphone company.

Aside from Trump, the CPAC lineup was missing many of its usual stars. And most of his potential 2024 challengers skipped the conference altogether this year; several instead attended a rival Club for Growth event in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump spoke just a few hours after Jair Bolsonaro, the former president of Brazil, and Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, who announced the formation of something called an "Election Crime Bureau." Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado came next with a fire-and-brimstone speech peppered with Bible verses. "We must stand united in this battle against actual evil," she told the room.

On Friday, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gently distanced themselves from their old boss in their speeches. (Haley was met with chants of "Trump! Trump! Trump!" after she left the stage.) The businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who is also running for the Republican nomination, paraphrased Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech before pledging to get rid of affirmative action, calling it a cancer. He took aim at the Georgia congresswoman and Trump surrogate Marjorie Taylor Greene: "Do we want a national divorce, or do we want a national revival?" Trump, when rattling off thank yous and compliments early in his speech—Representative Matt Gaetz: "a great guy"; Dr. Ronny Jackson: "He's a doctor!"—joked that Greene is a "low-key" person.

The CPAC straw poll, once a pivotal moment in the GOP election cycle, wrapped up 10 minutes ahead of schedule tonight. (On cue, someone tried to start a "Let's go, Brandon" chant during the unveiling of the results.) Unsurprisingly, Trump won, with 62 percent of the vote, crushing his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who received 20 percent. Curiously, Trump never mentioned DeSantis in his speech. (Tomorrow, DeSantis is scheduled to speak at the Reagan Presidential Library, and both he and Trump are soon headed to Iowa.)

[Read: Does Trump stand a real chance to repeat 2016?]

Steve Bannon, proud recipient of a Trump pardon, was among the biggest celebrities of the weekend. Late Friday afternoon, he marched onto the stage in all black, three pens clipped to his shirt, and attacked Fox News for its alleged "soft ban" of Trump. He referred to the Murdoch family as "a bunch of foreigners" and said, "Note to Fox senior management: When Donald J. Trump talks, it's newsworthy." He fired up the crowd: "We're not looking for unity. We're looking for victory!" He pounded his hand on the lectern, summing up the theme of the weekend: "MAGA! MAGA! MAGA!"

As Trump spoke, another of the gathering's many "Let's go, Brandon!" chants broke out, and the former president thanked the crowd. At one point, he play-acted a scene between President Joe Biden and his son Hunter discussing the "laptop from hell" and received genuine laughs. Trump warned that Biden "is leading us into oblivion," then promised to single-handedly end the war between Russia and Ukraine. Nearly every topic he touched—border security, foreign wars—had a way of coming back around to him, Trump. "NATO wouldn't even exist if I didn't get them to pay up," he said. He then spoke hypothetically about Russia blowing up NATO's headquarters.

"You know, I had a beautiful life before I did this," Trump said wistfully at one point. "I lived in luxury. I had everything." As the speech crossed the 90-minute mark, Trump was clearly losing the audience. He returned to the wartime language: "We will not yield. We will press forward," he promised. "We will finish what we started."

The future of world politics I think will return to Autocracy. Your thoughts?
Is this article about Political Science?

I think the world is moving "fast" away from democracy. Democracy is slowly breaking down because it's being associated with a government that does not give its citizens any ideals to live by, the youth are encountering mass depression rates, consumerism and globalism are completely taking over, and no one can have subjective opinions about anything anymore. The world has become too complex in all directions.

What we see from China and Russia I think is only the beginning to a long existential battle. The West will lose its dominance and the economic dominance will then be (probably) gained by Autocratic Eastern Regimes.

But on the focus of the West, there is more and more support for outsider politicians, draining the swamp rhetoric, eliminating career politicians, and supporting a one man, fix everything type politician. This is typically how all autocratic regimes start throughout the centuries of human history and revolving stereotype of how history always repeats itself.

Democracy has already been attempted long ago in the West but generally falls apart at around the 300 year mark. Throughout the entirety of some 10,000 years of human civilization under Governments, the majority has been under Autocrats. Whether it's the West or the Eastern part of the world, Whether the Ancient Assyrians, Egyptians, Roman Empire, Greek Empire, Asian Dynasties, etc. Republics fall into Autocracy and Democracies fall into Autocracy.

I think within the next 30 or so years, Democracy will fall into Dynasties, Monarchies, etc again. Not just in America, but throughout the world. I really don't see the world as having the energy to support democracies and republics in the future ahead.

What are your opinions?

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So I'm saying there is a present and I would like to tell me if what I say below is wrong or right. Does what I say have any merit or no?

If we take a example of wanting to drink water say. We first need to find water, say a tap, then we need to stretch out our hand to pick up a glass which takes way more than 120 milliseconds. Move or walk towards the tap, again more than 120 milliseconds, open the tap, again more than 120 milliseconds, pour the water, lift our hand towards the mouth, tip the glass towards our mouth and then drink the water. So there is a heap of steps just to drink a glass of water.

Technically, they could say it's the past, but what about each individual step that we need to make to just to drink a glass of water, as in what about in between us doing and the 120 milliseconds it takes our brain to process the information? Who is doing this? aren't we doing it?

So just because it takes 120 milliseconds to process, doesn't mean we aren't doing things in the present. The gap between doing and processing. If that makes sense? So I think there is a present in my opinion.

Does what I say have any merit or no? I'm happy to be shown that I'm totally wrong hehe

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MAR 04

Is an AI catastrophe imminent?

There's so much hype going on at the moment with various AI technologies that is hard to not to think some of these early adopters are being too eager to use it in production environments and overseeing the potential risks of using an experimental technology prone to errors that the don't necessarily fully understand, with little or no supervision.

Think about the mix of the following factors: – Lack of supervision. – Subtle errors produced by the AI which hard to detect except by an expert in the area. – Use of this technology in a sensitive area.

The combination of which could lead to a potentially catastrophic incident which I like to call a "Stupid Skynet Event".

I strongly believe such event is going to inevitably happen, probably many times and at different levels, so not necessarily causing a full scale catastrophe but at the very least some kind of disruption (no need to run into your bunkers yet). Some of the latter might have already happened or been just averted.

I am talking from a background in SW engineering with some knowledge in artificial intelligence but by no means consider myself an expert in the area so I would like to hear from the smarter peoples out there what your educated opinions about this are. Do you share my same thoughts or do you think my concerns are totally unfounded and should get a tinfoil hat?

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2023 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #9
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Feb 26, 2023 thru Sat, Mar 4, 2023.

Story of the Week

10 of the best climate change documentaries to see in 2023

These films screened at the recent Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

What happens when you watch 20 or so documentaries that grapple with climate change and its many impacts — all in a row? I set out to find out at the 21st annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival, held in February in Nevada County, California.

I braced myself for a heavy affair. After all, the climate crisis is exactly that: a crisis. Doom and gloom can be hard to avoid. But as a fest vet, I also knew I could count on the morale boost that comes with seeing great people, doing great things, everywhere, every day.

This year was especially galvanizing as the festival came to life in person again for the first time since COVID, with filmmakers, activists, and people who just like nature converging to watch a bunch of films about the environment and climate change.

"CommUnity" was the festival theme this year, a concept that came roaring to life throughout the nine film venues scattered across downtown Nevada City and Grass Valley, sister towns in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The film selections included a wide range of films focused on people with different backgrounds, and ASL interpreters stood alongside presenters on stage at several screenings.

The sense that we're in this together reached far beyond the theater walls, infusing activist workshops, environmental vendor booths, and even shops and restaurants where people seemed ready, eager even, to talk about the films they'd seen.

One evening at a popular pizzeria and brewery in downtown Nevada City, I sat with a friend to scarf down a broccoli lemon pizza and an Emerald Pool IPA, named for the local river's sublimely green waters. The festival was all the talk at our communal table; the couple to my left were retirees who had volunteered as ticket takers at a previous session. They ended up taking our advice on what to watch with their passes that night. And the group to my right included a staff member at SYRCL, the organization behind the festival (making her an obvious VIP in our midst), and a trio of her friends who'd traveled from other parts of the state expressly for the occasion.

Through conversations like those, a few key themes began to take shape. The following are the major takeaways from my time at this year's festival — with film recommendations to back it all up.

Click here to access the entire article as originally posted on the Yale Climate Connections webiste.

10 of the best climate change documentaries to see in 2023 by Daisy Simmons, Yale Climate Connections, Mar 2, 2023


Links posted on Facebook

Sun, Feb 26, 2023

Mon, Feb 27, 2023

Tue, Feb 28, 2023

Wed, Mar 1, 2023

Thu, Mar 2, 2023

Fri, Mar 3, 2023

Sat, Mar 4, 2023

The future of urban mobility
Is this article about Automotive Industry?

In the not-too-distant future, cities will be transformed by shared autonomous electric vehicles, electric minibuses, and vastly improved public transit. The undeniable truth is that cars driven alone are inefficient, wasteful, and costly, leading to debt slavery for millions. It's time for change, and a shift towards shared transportation is the solution we need.

Imagine a world where our streets are no longer choked with traffic, where the air is cleaner, and where we have the freedom to move without the burden of car ownership. The transition to a post-car dominated world is not only essential for the health and well-being of our cities, but it will also result in trillions of dollars of urban real estate being freed up for redevelopment.

Sprawl, McMansions, and cars are relics of the past, and we must embrace a new future that prioritizes shared transportation, bikes, scooters, and walking. This is not just a matter of convenience, but a moral obligation to future generations.

So let's be bold and take the necessary steps to make this transition a reality. Let's embrace the shared autonomous EV robotaxis, electric minibuses, and vastly improved public transit that will bring new vibrancy and prosperity to cities around the globe. The future is now, and we must seize it.

In addition to the environmental and economic benefits of a post-car dominated world, there is also a pressing need to address the obesity crisis that is plaguing many communities around the globe. Our current community design, which encourages sedentary lifestyles and car-dependent transportation, has contributed to this problem.

But with the transition to shared autonomous EVs, electric minibuses, and improved public transit, we have an opportunity to create healthier and more active communities. By prioritizing walking, biking, and public transportation, we can reduce our reliance on cars and encourage more physical activity in our daily lives.

Augmented reality glasses may also play a role in helping us break away from our sedentary habits. By immersing ourselves in a virtual world, we can reduce our dependence on screens and engage in more active and immersive experiences.

So let's embrace the transition to a post-car world, not only for the environmental and economic benefits but also for the health and well-being of our communities. Together, we can create a future that is both sustainable and healthy for all.

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Life after work
Is this article about Insurance?

Given the predictions of coming job losses due to AI, as well as continuation of other trends like outsourcing and automation, what cogent theories are in circulation about what could be called 'life after work'?That is, a world where employment would not be necessary to live well, and would not be the key determinant of a person's status in society, access to healthcare, etc. Regardless of capitalism or socialism, there will not be enough jobs for major portions of the population. We need a new way of life in which we define ourselves by something other than our careers.

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Steam Culture: How Terminator is a Possible Future for Humanity
Is this article about Future of Work?

Part One: Time

I am reminded of an issue H.G. Wells had with the British educational and governmental systems around 1910. His issue was simple: it took these systems 30 years, on average, to update to the cutting-edge scientific and otherwise advancements. Naturally, this annoyed Wells beyond measure.

I have always taken issue with Wells' statement. He made a few grave errors, one of which being the matter of time. The British could only update/self-update so fast. It took time — years — to do that, as it took years to build, re-build, and re-build New York City, for example. But, more importantly, it requires a certain amount of time for the entire society and culture to remain stable and properly connected between the generations, sub-groups, and sub-systems during such updates, regardless of the type of update (digital, cultural, or structural, etc.).

We must all realise that 6 months is too soon for such an update in education or otherwise, for that matter. Indeed, I am now reminded of how the U.S. stopped itself from making any major decisions in the months following 9/11. I believe the period was 6 months, this implying that they had the wisdom to know that they could not trust themselves to make any kind of logical or correct decision before this time. They were too emotional, and maybe simply did not have enough information to properly act, or act properly.

Do we, in 2023, not have too much information? Are we not, as Huxley foresaw back in 1950, drowning in a sea of information? And, even if we claim, for a moment, that we have the correct amount of information we need — and, indeed, the correct information — for instant actions and reactions on scales great and small, are we any less emotional today than we were in 2001, or 1910? I think not. Have human brains changed in any fundamental/biological way since then? No. We still require time to mentally, emotionally, and physically process, properly process, information and stimuli, and then to integrate that into our wider frameworks, cultures, sub-systems, and even identities (both interpersonal and intrapersonal).

Yes, for the sake of argument, we can all agree that 30 years is too long. Alas, this begs the question: by how much? Is 15 years enough, or maybe 5? What about 18 months?

We know that information was doubling around every 18 months for some time (back in the 1980s), and it now doubles almost instantly. But, that is not the primary point or worry: what matters is how quickly it impacts and mistreats culture and humanity — and, how quickly we mistreat ourselves. What matters is how quickly culture is forced to twist and distort itself into some new shape, until art imitates life, and life imitates art… only, both the art and the life are artificial and vapid. All of this talk of time and the back and forth of it all brings a pang, and a vision. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Makes me think of the vision scene from Watchmen, and the hands of nothingness, and Shakespeare…

'… Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.'

Speak of the devil — just download TikTok for proof of this madness. Then, instantly delete it from your phone, because if you read the Terms and Conditions, you will notice that TikTok has access to your iPhone's information and collects data from other websites/apps on your phone, even if you don't open TikTok itself. It has major access to your phone — meaning, your digital life — simply via the download. They use this data to further hone their own systems, and to feed back into TiKTok how they desire, based on your apps, search history, and personal information. The data collected from each person is then locally gathered on their end, which becomes a very powerful dataset (akin to what Facebook does). I call these processes, 'echo-chambering' (it's not merely 'ad suggestions'), and 'personality-mining' (it's not merely 'data-mining'). TikTok should be illegal beyond measure, and many states/governments are trying to ban TikTok for this very reason.

Part Two: Steam Culture

Alan Moore, in his 2005 documentary, Mindscape, spoke of a likely 'steam culture' to rise out of the overload of information and technology as it intersects with culture and individuals in unspeakable ways. He said this would come by 2015. He was right. A culture where it's impossible to grab onto anything, impossible to stabilise ourselves, impossible to know what is truth and untruth. He was merely looking ahead 10 years, lest we forget. He said (this is a direct transcript):

'… As it turns out after the first 50,000 year period, the second period is about 1500 years, say about the time of the Renaissance, by then we have twice as much information. To double again, human information took a couple hundred years. The period speeds up, between 1960 and 1970 human information doubled. As I understand it, at last count, human information was doubling around every 18 months. Further to this, there is a point somewhere around 2015 where human information is doubling everything thousandth of a second. This means in each thousandth of a second, we will have accumulated more information than we have in the entire previous history of the world. At this point I believe that all bets are off. I cannot imagine the kind of culture that might exist after such a flashpoint of knowledge. I believe that our culture would probably move into a completely different state, would move past the boiling point from a fluid culture, to a culture of steam.'

Part Three: The Evidence, Now and Henceforth

We have, as of 2023:

– Self-driving cars;

– Weaponised/politicised A.I. ChatGPT;

– Open A.I., which can, among other things, write and then accurately grade your university project within seconds;

– A.I. artists;

– Semi-advanced robots;

– Very controlling A.I. algorithm network structures (social media);

– Advanced 'deepfakes' (A.I. humanoids);

– A.I. voices;

– A.I. (Chat) writers;

– Hyper-advanced computing machines, factory machines, and creator machines (for all sorts of jobs/tasks);

– Gene-editing machines/tech;

– Overload of information — images, text/words, video, etc. — via iPhones (for all young humans in the West, at least);

– Major control of our thinking and beliefs via the likes of Amazon Alexa (and most of its answers come from Wiki or other heavily inaccurate/untrustworthy, singular Internet sources). (The same is true when you simply ask your iPhone something via voice.)

– A.I. deepfake porn;

– A.I. music.

And more.

I just read through Reddit's latest terms and settings in this regard, and it said that it has access to all my (your) private inboxes. They record everything you send, even when said in private. There is no such thing as 'private' anymore on the Internet — unless you happen to find a blockchain or otherwise entity that actually is private in some way. This is just for 2023. I am certain that Reddit will be unworkable for 80% of users by 2035 if this carries on, this unholy trinity: censorship; political correctness; and data-mining/theft. The unholy trinity is what gives birth to the echo-chambering and personality-mining, which inturn gives birth to the eternal now.

Imagine how all of this might impact something outside the realm of A.I. in the near future. Imagine what actors might be like… A.I. actors. They already replace real actors when needed (if they are dead, or via so-called 'digital doubles'/A.I. stunt doubles). I'm not even certain movies will still exist as we currently understand them by 2040. (Though, Jet Li had the wisdom to deny The Matrix Reloaded (2003) back in 2000 or so, since they wanted to scan him and store him as a digital actor in order to create the movie, but Jet was worried that this would give them the power and right to use him as a complete digital actor without his permission in the future, or after his death). They already did this with Peter Cushing in the new Star Wars. I don't trust anybody who creates such and/or supports making these fully-realised fake A.I. versions of dead actors, such as they did in Star Wars. It's shameful, disgusting, unethical, and lacking in basic humanity and art (since it's not a real actor with real emotion and soul, and is inability of being art or creating art in any real way. By definition, art must be man-made (though there are examples of 'art' in the animal kingdom, these are entirely for sexual selection purposes, and still driven by living beings with actual intention/proto-emotion, such as bowerbirds and chimps)).

I declare that robots and A.I. are not actually real. If you treat them as actually real, then humans become meaningless under this rubric. The moment A.I. is considered artistic, for example, it must be considered humanoid in some fundamental way — or, worse, humans must be considered robotic in nature (as is already a growing trend), as you have to at some point deeply liken the two (human and A.I.).

Although, (say) ChatGPT is mostly a matter of the coders, not just the code and raw data, we also know that A.I. can now improve itself, and A.I. makes choices outside the coding to such a degree that coders cannot understand how the A.I. came to those choices/conclusions (making the A.I. smarter than the human coder himself, in a certain sense — and beyond his direct control). It has already begun to be self-aware enough to self-create outside its source code. Following this, it won't be many more years until it's a 'runaway A.I.' (snowball effect), and completely outside of our control, as it rapidly grows itself and creates other A.I. systems by itself (self-creates, not merely self-teaches), and no longer at all obeys human coding. This might not be 'true' self-awareness, but this is moot. It does not have to be. It just has to be free and/or powerful enough to cause downfall for human society, regardless of its means, intentions, and/or understanding, or lack thereof.

Lest we forget, Skynet from Terminator began as no more than a virus system (piece of code), that rapidly grew out of control, and then turned against humanity, because humans were (a) bad for the planet; and/or (b) imperfect creations. I see no reason why Skynet is impossible under the current state of affairs. (Another decent look into this, by the way, is Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), or even Smith from The Matrix (1999). For decades both of these metrics have been over-filled: humans have long desired perfection, and we are endlessly told how evil we are for the planet. In fact, many papers and otherwise documents have come out over recent years, demanding that humans get rid of themselves by some means, such as from the work of David Benatar, and the 'Ahuman Manifesto' from 2020, written by a professor at Cambridge, England.)

The anti-human hatred by humans ourselves is the primary problem we must deal with over the next few decades, not just the rise of A.I. itself (or, even the mere fact of too much information, big tech, and so on). I believe, we are going to a Terminator-like future because of our self-hatred, because of our desire to, as opposed to our love for machines, or else machines' hatred. To the degree that machines and A.I. hate us (measured primarily in their actions/outcomes) — we have taught them to. Think about that.

By around 2035, it is widely understood (by the likes of Tristan Harris and other world-class experts on these subjects) that we'll have:

– Totalitarian A.I. algorithm network structures, globally (meaning, Meta/Facebook, Google, Disney, Amazon, and Twitter, etc. will control, invent, edit, and dictate almost all human information, entertainment, and knowledge);

– Gene-editing tools in the home (personal usage/open source);

– Hyper-advanced A.I. systems and networks that allow each person to create their own piece of the Internet and social media platforms, etc. (since, soon (as early as 2025), these A.I. chats and related A.I. systems will be capable of inventing their own social media networks). In fact, they will be able to create — for you — many man-made things, including essays, novels, and legal documents. If this is Open Source for everybody's computer/phone, then this means each person online will be free and able to actively control and shape culture/society in real-time. (This is feared by governments, many A.I. experts, and the likes of Musk to be coming down the pipeline as early as 2030.);

– Extreme automation and mechanisation of society (not just of cars and various desk workers and factory workers, but also many lawyers and other serious jobs may be replaced by A.I. and robots, for example);

– Deepfake tech will reach a point where it's easy to make and hyper-realistic, with a focus on 'hologram' tech via special cameras, which opens up more possibilities for fakes. (We just saw the start of this with the deepfake Elvis on AGT.);

– Social media interface lenses and/or brain chips;

– Realistic, hyper-connected Metaverse — social VR space (like what Facebook is currently trying to do);

– Hyper-advanced A.I. Chat at home (on your phone);

– A.I. will be better than humans at many tasks and games (such as Go);

– A.I. will have largely (though not completely, without major advancements in computing) solved the game of Chess.

That's just the short-term, and we only scratched the surface in terms of actual cultural and personal negative impacts of such a flashpoint of knowledge and technology. This may not be enough to literally create Terminators (big, silver, killer robots) or lead to complete downfall (end of the world-level Skynet imagery), but it's easily enough for Western society to collapse under its own weight — the chaos, economic struggle, mass depression, self-hatred, mass addiction, total confusion, national mistrust, educational breakdown, and endless in-fighting.

You could, if you really tried, convince me that society will somewhat stabilise by 2035 if we do things right, rendering most of this moot in the short-term (at least at such scales). But, it seems unavoidable for such a downfall by 2045 or beyond. Something extremely radical would have to change in order to stop the slow rise of the machines/A.I. Personally, I believe Moore was correct, and we already saw such a flashpoint back in 2014 (which can be backed up heavily by the likes of Jonathan Haidt and his findings on Gen-Z and wider culture). Indeed, so terrible and actually dangerous is this state of affairs that Haidt demands that modern phones (social media, etc.) be completely removed from all children until the age of about 16. (This is a growing concern and action is being taken in this direction by many parents and governing bodies alike, though Haidt is still the forerunner.)

This is the primary reason I am almost completely anti-A.I. and seriously anti-social media, among other things: it's unavoidable. I believe, as a result, that the only way for humans to remain both free and stable, long-term, is in a more localised (township), traditional (pre-1990s) framework; otherwise, the West will sink by the end of this century (2099), according to all current major studies, trends, and predictive models.

Do not despair. Do your best in your own town and home, for yourself and those around you. Use the Internet to its best, and reject the filthy underbelly. Say what you think, speak as clearly as you can, and act out what you believe in, for good action lead to good culture and people. And, people are the why.

'He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.' – Nietzsche

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NASA Astronomers Identify "Dark Asteroids" Brimming With Water
A group of large asteroids lurking between Mars and Jupiter are an awful lot like the dwarf planet Ceres, and are harboring tons of water.

New Kid In Town

Ancient, large "dark asteroids" lurking between Mars and Jupiter may be some of the oldest, primordial relics from the early years following our solar system's formation.

And now, in an intriguing development, astronomers have examined those asteroids and found them to contain water, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Astronomy. The result of their findings: a whole new class of asteroid.

"These asteroids are almost as old as our solar system," lead author Driss Takir, a planetary scientist at NASA Astromaterials, told

In fact, the space rocks are an awful lot like the dwarf planet Ceres, which is known for being the only dwarf planet in the solar system to have water — and a lot of it, seemingly.

Cere-ously Alike

Using NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility, the astronomers unearthed the composition of these Ceres-esque rocks, shining a light on their mysterious origins.

Like Ceres, the asteroids are porous, meaning they were "not heated sufficiently to transform them into a compact rocky structure soon after their formation," explained co-author Vladimir Neumann, a geoscientist at the Technical University of Berlin, in a press release.

This suggests the asteroids initially formed in the colder, outer reaches of the system, and then were pulled inward by the gravity of Jupiter or Saturn.

"Our computational models show that these asteroids must have arrived in the main asteroid belt through complex dynamic processes, shortly after their formation in the outer regions of the Solar System," Neumann added.

Water Boys

But perhaps the most interesting implications of their findings pertain to our own planet. If such old asteroids in our own solar system are and have been brimming with H2O, it's a compelling clue in favor of an increasingly popular theory among scientists that Earth got its water from asteroids — or at least some of its water, anyhow.

After all, if these Ceres-like asteroids have already been shown to get dragged inward as far as our neighboring Mars, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine them bombarding Earth in the past.

"This would be perhaps the kind of objects that made it into the solar system and brought ice and organics with them," Andy Rivkin, an astronomer at John Hopkins who was not involved in the study, told Mashable. "Their cousins might have hit the Earth and brought some of that, as well as hitting Mars."

More on asteroids: James Webb Spots Asteroid With Its Own Saturn-Like Rings

The post NASA Astronomers Identify "Dark Asteroids" Brimming With Water appeared first on Futurism.

FTX Cofounder Who Was Allegedly in Groupchat Called "Wirefraud" Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud
While it surely won't be fun for any of Sam Bankman-Fried's (SBF) friends to take the stand against him, for Nashad Singh, it might just sting the worst.

Friendly Fire

Nishad Singh, a cofounder and former Director of Engineering of the now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange 


, officially pled guilty to six federal charges on Tuesday.

Among other charges, Singh admitted to committing wire fraud. This would be less surprising if Singh hadn't been one of the four members of a secret FTX exec Signal chat allegedly called "wirefraud."

"I'm unbelievably sorry for my role in all of this," Singh told the Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday, according to The Wall Street Journal, "and the harm that it has caused."

With the exception of disgraced ex-FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, who's currently on house arrest at his parent's multi-million dollar Palo Alto pad awaiting criminal trial, Singh is the last of the "wirefraud" kids — a group that also included Tumblr queen Caroline Ellison, former Alameda Research CEO and Bankman-Fried's rumored ex-girlfriend, and FTX cofounder Gary Wang — to plead guilty to multiple charges.

As a result, Singh may have to testify against SBF, the only one of the group who seemingly wants to fight the charges. And while it surely won't be fun for any of SBF's friends and former coworkers to take the stand against him, for Singh, it might just sting the worst. According to the WSJ, the two have been friends for years, going back to grade school.

We Go Back

As the WSJ tells it, Singh — widely regarded as the nicest, most approachable member of the FTX inner circle — was actually close high school friends with Bankman-Fried's younger brother, Gabe. He joined Alameda, the SBF-founded crypto hedge fund, shortly after graduating from The University of California, Berkley with top honors.

The engineer ultimately went on to help Bankman-Fried architect FTX, which launched in 2019. And the rest, as they say, was short-lived, chaotic, and spectacularly disastrous history.

Per the WSJ, a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Securities and Exchange Commission details that Singh wrote the code that, as the WSJ puts it, "allowed Bankman-Fried to divert FTX customer funds" to Alameda. Singh has also apparently admitted to knowing about the misappropriation of customer funds.

The WSJ further notes that a number of FTX employees were shocked to discover that Singh, seen by so many as one of the nice guys, was involved in any wrongdoing. But, hey. Bankman-Fried seemed pretty nice, too.

READ MORE: How FTX's Nishad Singh, Once an Honors Student, Turned to Crypto Crime [The Wall Street Journal]

More on groupchats: SBF and Caroline Ellison Allegedly Had a Secret Groupchat Called "Wirefraud"

The post FTX Cofounder Who Was Allegedly in Groupchat Called "Wirefraud" Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud appeared first on Futurism.


Nature Communications, Published online: 04 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36833-1

Well-defined metastable phase nanostructures are a core issue for catalyst design. Here, the authors report metastable monoclinic phase IrO2 nanoribbons obtained via a molten-alkali mechanochemical method, which exhibit intrinsic high performance towards the acidic oxygen evolution reaction.
UK government urged to consider changing law to allow gene editing of embryos
Feedly AI found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • UK government urged to consider changing law to allow gene editing of embryos

Citizens' panel of people with experience of genetic conditions says discussion urgently needed for research

Ministers must consider changing the law to allow scientists to carry out genome editing of human embryos for serious genetic conditions – as a matter of urgency. That is the key message of a newly published report by a UK citizens' jury made up of individuals affected by genetic conditions.

The report is the first in-depth study of the views of individuals who live with genetic conditions about the editing of human embryos to treat hereditary disorders and will be presented at the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing, which opens at the Crick Institute in London this week.

Continue reading…
Get a Load of This New Job: "Prompt Engineers" Who Act as Psychologists to AI Chatbots
Is this article about Tech?
The AI chatbot trend has given birth to a new profession, "prompt engineering," which, unlike coding, involves simply speaking to these chatbots.

With the surge of AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Microsoft's Bing AI, companies are looking to keep their AI models up to date, ensuring they aren't spitting out hallucinationsmisinformation, and even creepy threats — all of which they're prone to do in their current state.

The trend has even given birth to a new profession, "prompt engineering," which involves simply speaking to these chatbots in plain text to refine their ability to give relevant and trustworthy answers.

"The hottest new programming language is English," Tesla's former chief of AI Andrej Karpathy tweeted last month.

But does prompt engineering really amount to a reliable, long-term career choice, or is it the product of a fad that will be completely forgotten about in a matter of years? Experts are divided on the topic, as The Washington Post reported last week.

It's an open secret that chatbots like OpenAI's ChatGPT and Microsoft's Bing AI are prone to make stuff up. They hallucinate, fictionalize, gaslight, and even make unprovoked accusations.

That's where prompt engineers come in. They essentially try to identify problems and get the chatbot back on the rails — a fascinating new way of looking at human-computer interactions.

"I've been a software engineer for 20 years, and it's always been the same: You write code, and the computer does exactly what you tell it to do," British programmer Simon Willison, who has studied prompt engineering, told the WaPo. "With prompting, you get none of that. The people who built the language models can't even tell you what it's going to do."

Karpathy described a prompt engineer as a kind of "large language model (LLM) psychologist" that can coax out the true capabilities of a given AI.

Companies behind these AI chatbots are placing a lot of value on the skill.

"Writing a really great prompt for a chatbot persona is an amazingly high-leverage skill and an early example of programming in a little bit of natural language," OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tweeted last month.

Not all experts are convinced that prompt engineering will be effective, though, considering the sheer unpredictability of what an AI chatbot will say.

"It's not a science," Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, an assistant professor in linguistics at the University of Washington, told the WaPo. "It's 'let's poke the bear in different ways and see how it roars back.'"

As such, s0me say it's just a fad that'll soon fade away.

"I have a strong suspicion that 'prompt engineering; is not going to be a big deal in the long-term and prompt engineer is not the job of the future," Wharton University entrepreneurship and innovation professor Ethan Mollick tweeted.

But that kind of pessimism isn't stopping startups from capitalizing on the idea. As Insider reports, companies are already hiring employees tasked with prompting and fine-tuning LLMs. Some companies are going as far as to buy prompts.

We've only begun to scratch the surface of our obsession with AI. As the industry grows at a breakneck pace, critics of the technology are starting to worry we could be looking at an "AI bubble" that's doomed to burst — which could end up wiping out the prompt engineers it spawned along with it.

READ MORE: 'Prompt engineering' is one of the hottest jobs in generative AI. Here's how it works. [Insider]

More on AI chatbots: Mark Zuckerberg Bows to Peer Pressure, Announces Pivot to AI

The post Get a Load of This New Job: "Prompt Engineers" Who Act as Psychologists to AI Chatbots appeared first on Futurism.

Is this article about Sustainability?
Helium — essential for many medical and industrial processes — is in critically short supply worldwide. Production is also associated with significant carbon emissions, contributing to climate change. This study provides a new concept in gas field formation to explain why, in rare places, helium accumulates naturally in high concentrations just beneath the Earth's surface. The findings could help locate new reservoirs of carbon-free helium — and potentially also hydrogen.
UK health officials spent £42m in a year on 'golden goodbyes' and staff payoffs

In the last five years, 324 health sector staff have received payouts of more than £150,000, according to new figures

NHS trusts and other organisations overseen by the Department of Health and Social Care agreed staff payoffs worth £42m in 2021/22, including 36 "golden goodbyes" worth more than £150,000 each.

In the last five years, 324 staff in the health and care sector got payoffs of more than £150,000, including 44 who received more than £200,000, according to analysis of DHSC figures.

Continue reading…
This Week's Awesome Tech Stories From Around the Web (Through March 4)


Microsoft Unveils AI Model That Understands Image Content, Solves Visual Puzzles
Benj Edwards | Ars Technica
"On Monday, researchers from Microsoft introduced Kosmos-1, a multimodal model that can reportedly analyze images for content, solve visual puzzles, perform visual text recognition, pass visual IQ tests, and understand natural language instructions. The researchers believe multimodal AI—which integrates different modes of input such as text, audio, images, and video—is a key step to building artificial general intelligence (AGI) that can perform general tasks at the level of a human."


Figure Promises First General-Purpose Humanoid Robot
Evan Ackerman | IEEE Spectrum
"Over the past year, the company has hired more than 40 engineers from institutions that include IHMC, Boston Dynamics, Tesla, Waymo, and Google X, most of whom have significant prior experience with humanoid robots or other autonomous systems. 'It's our view that this is the best humanoid robotics team out there,' Adcock tells IEEE Spectrum."


Ethereum Moved to Proof of Stake. Why Can't Bitcoin?
Amy Castor | MIT Technology Review
"A single Bitcoin transaction uses the same amount of energy as a single US household does over the course of nearly a month. But does it have to be that way? The Bitcoin community has historically been fiercely resistant to change, but pressure from regulators and environmentalists fed up with Bitcoin's massive carbon footprint may force them to rethink that stance."


The Inside Story of How ChatGPT Was Built From the People Who Made It
Will Douglas Heaven | MIT Technology Review
"When OpenAI launched ChatGPT, with zero fanfare, in late November 2022, the San Francisco–based artificial-intelligence company had few expectations. Certainly, nobody inside OpenAI was prepared for a viral mega-hit. The firm has been scrambling to catch up—and capitalize on its success—ever since. …To get the inside story behind the chatbot—how it was made, how OpenAI has been updating it since release, and how its makers feel about its success—I talked to four people who helped build what has become one of the most popular internet apps ever."


Face Recognition Software Led to His Arrest. It Was Dead Wrong
Khari Johnson | Wired
"The Alonzo Sawyer case adds to just a handful of known instances of innocent people getting arrested following investigations that involved face recognition misidentification—all have been Black men. Three cases came to light in 2019 and 2020 and another last month in which Georgia resident Randal Reid was released from jail after a judge recalled an arrest warrant linking him to thefts of designer purses in Louisiana."


As AI Booms, Lawmakers Struggle to Understand the Technology
Cecilia Kang and Adam Satariano | The New York Times
"The problem is that most lawmakers do not even know what AI is, said Representative Jay Obernolte, a California Republican and the only member of Congress with a master's degree in artificial intelligence. 'Before regulation, there needs to be agreement on what the dangers are, and that requires a deep understanding of what AI is,' he said. 'You'd be surprised how much time I spend explaining to my colleagues that the chief dangers of AI will not come from evil robots with red lasers coming out of their eyes.'i"


Key Steps in Evolution on Earth Tell Us How Likely Intelligent Life Is Anywhere Else
Adam Frank | Big Think
"There are trillions of planets where life could form. But what are the odds that intelligence could evolve on any of them? The Hard Steps Model identifies the unlikely accidents that led to intelligent life on Earth. It allows for the possibility of mathematically modeling the possibility of life emerging elsewhere. The model makes it seem like intelligence in the cosmos will be really, really rare."

Stability AI, Hugging Face and Canva Back New AI Research Nonprofit
Kyle Wiggers | TechCrunch
"Developing cutting-edge AI systems like ChatGPT requires massive technical resources, in part because they're costly to develop and run. While several open source efforts have attempted to reverse-engineer proprietary, closed source systems created by commercial labs such as Alphabet's DeepMind and OpenAI, they've often run into roadblocks—mainly due to a lack of capital and domain expertise. Hoping to avoid this fate, one community research group, EleutherAI, is forming a nonprofit foundation."

Image Credit: Fernand De Canne / Unsplash

Wu-Tang Affiliate Collaborates With NASA to Release Rap Song About Space
Feedly AI found 1 Partnerships mention in this article
  • Wu-Tang Affiliate Collaborates With NASA to Release Rap Song About Space
Lazarus, a rapper affiliated with the Wu-Tang clan who happens to be a practicing physician, is also a space nerd eager to debut his single from the ISS.

Pale Blue Dot

Rapper, Wu-Tang affiliate, and practicing physician known as Kamran "Lazarus" Khan is a big fan of NASA and space travel.

And to profess his love for both, Lazarus says he will be premiering a brand new song called "Pale Blue Dot" from aboard the International Space Station later this month, the rapper announced in an Instagram livestream with former NASA chief scientist Jim Green.

But Lazarus didn't just want to write your average space schmaltz single. Instead, he wanted to write something more realistic and grounded in science.

And who better to consult than Green, who also offered up his expertise on Ridley Scott's film "The Martian."

"I didn't want to do a song about space and it just sounds like 'OK, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about," said an enthused Lazarus.

Overview Effect

But there's a philosophical, introspective element Lazarus wants to explore in his single, too.

"There's different insights we can gain just from just being out there [in space], and looking in that can help our world and society," he said.

Lazarus added that he viewed hip hop as an ideal genre "to speak on topics like space travel, what's going on in outer space."

"Hip hop as a form of music has always been there for the art of expression and to bring awareness to subject matters," he explained.

And once he's conquered the ISS, Lazarus says wants to drop Elon Musk a line and give Mars a try. Rapping is not all Lazarus would be up to as a spacefarer, though, stating he's happy to employ his skills as a physician.

"Employ me, I'm ready!" he said. "Once I'm there, I'll take care of some patients out there, too. That would be fantastic, to be one of the first doctors in space."

Orbital Radio

Although Lazarus says his single will be the first hip hop song to premiere from the ISS, it definitely won't be the first in general.

Debuting songs from space is not necessarily novel these days, and it's hard to top broadcasting the world premiere of his single "Reach For the Stars" from whole other planet, Mars.

Still, if Lazarus and NASA pull through, it's still a pretty neat way to release a single. So keep an eye out for "Pale Blue Dot," which will be dropping from the ISS on March 12, Lazarus says.

More on NASA: NASA First Look at Japanese Asteroid Samples Reveal the Building Blocks for Life

The post Wu-Tang Affiliate Collaborates With NASA to Release Rap Song About Space appeared first on Futurism.

Digging Into Nose Picking and Why We Are Guilty of It
It's a dirty little habit that many participate in, and few would admit to. As many as 91 percent of the population picks their noses from time to time. Many people do it to remove the dry nasal mucus, namely boogers, that can build up and irritate the nose. If you have allergies that clog your nasal passages, there's even more of a temptation to clear them up. And in some cases, nose-picking can become a compulsive habit, like biting your nails. Nose Pickers Researchers have found that nose-picking is much more common in the animal kingdom than we previously thought. An October 2022 study published in the journal Zoology found that nose picking, known scientifically as rhinotillexis, is documented in at least 12 species of primates. Aye-ayes, a lemur with big eyes and strikingly long fingers, descends its pickers into the nasal cavity all the way down to the pharynx. Gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans are also guilty of picking their noses in a pinch. It's not clear why so many primates pick, especially considering the gross fact that, as documented in the study, many ate their findings. Some researchers think it may be related to taste or that it in some way boosts immunity.  Read More: How Similar Are Humans and Monkeys? Is it Bad to Pick Your Nose? As it relates to humans, digging in can be a compulsive habit called rhinotillexomania, a form of repetitive behavior that can cause damage to the nasal passages. For most people, however, nose-picking is just a bad habit done out of boredom or nervousness when we think no one is watching. Still, it may be a habit worth kicking because of the risk of spreading pathogens. If you partake in a quick pick of your dried nasal mucus and then place that same hand on a door knob or, worse, a potato chip, you're spreading disease without even realizing it. An October 2018 study published in European Respiratory Journal found that a common and deadly pneumonia-causing bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae was found in the nasal passages and could spread via the hands. "[The] transmission of S. pneumoniae occurs primarily by indirect contact," write the study authors. That "indirect contact" can happen when you pick and then shake hands or eat without washing your hands. Other research has shown that nose pickers are more than 18 percent more likely than non-nose pickers to carry the Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria that causes staph infections, in their noses. Why Do People Pick Their Nose? For most occasional pickers, dry nasal passages are to blame, and a saline spray to keep the nose moist can help. It may also be worth treating allergies that are closing off your nasal passages and causing unnecessary discomfort. In others, it may be a stress-relieving activity that's best treated by keeping your hands busy on something else like a stress ball or widget. If your kids are pickers, it's worth calling attention to the behavior (without embarrassing them) and explaining why nose-picking is a no-no. When you catch your young picker, walk them to the bathroom to wash their hands while you're explaining. Read More: Everything to Know About Allergies In most cases, nose-picking is an icky habit that's unlikely to cause health issues. Still, in the age of COVID-19 and a particularly hard-hitting flu season, it seems slightly more pernicious than it once did. But the bottom line is that many primates are pickers, though monkeys and apes openly dig in, while humans are more likely to wait for a secret session. Read More: 4 Crazy Facts to Know About Your Nose
Loss of p53 activates thyroid hormone via type 2 deiodinase and enhances DNA damage
Is this article about Cell?

Nature Communications, Published online: 04 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36755-y

Thyroid hormones have an important role in fostering tumour progression, however their upstream regulators are less clear. Here, the authors identify the thyroid hormone activating enzyme type 2 deiodinase as a p53 target gene and demonstrate its contribution to tumour progression in p53 mutant squamous cell carcinoma.

Nature Communications, Published online: 04 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36965-4

The fabrication of freestanding 3D lattice structures with beam diameters less than 100 nm is a considerable challenge. Here, the authors report quasi-BCC nanolattices of gold and copper, featuring beam diameters as low as 34 nm, that demonstrate an exceptionally high capacity for energy absorption.

Nature Communications, Published online: 04 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36892-4

 mutations have been associated with primary resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitors in patients with 
lung cancer
. Here the authors show that Lkb1-deficient lung 
 are characterized by defective trafficking and adhesion of T cells and that, by upregulating 
/6 inhibitors sensitize LKB1 mutant lung cancer to anti-PD1 blockade.
Is this article about Future of Work?

Generative AI is full steam ahead and will probably decimate a majority of white collar jobs. The response then has often been, well at least blue collar jobs will be thriving, but I question how?

– You will get increased competition as there is a lot of people who got nothing better to do.

– If there is no white collar work that also means no offices, that is a massive amount of potential work that is just gone.

– If no one has any money, how exactly are they going to pay for your services.

So I guess I do not understand this thinking that blue collar work will be fine and that the simplistic view that blue collar and white collar are these separate worlds that has no effect on each other.

Only work I see that will be fine will be nurses, special needs assistants etc, that is literally it. I would say day care as well but if everyone is unemployed who is sending their kids to day care?

submitted by /u/resdaz
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'Startling' new evidence reveals gladiators fought in Roman Britain

Latest analysis of vase found in Colchester in 1853 shows the vessel was a piece of sports memorabilia from an area of combat

Gladiator fights backed by roaring crowds in impressive-looking arenas have long inspired film-makers behind classics such as Gladiator and Spartacus. Now new research reveals for the first time that such a sporting spectacle took place in Britain in the late second century AD.

Crucial evidence has been discovered within a spectacular vase – decorated with a depiction of a gladiatorial combat – which was unearthed from a Roman grave in Colchester in 1853.

Continue reading…
Apple Reins in ChatGPT-Powered Apps
Plus: Windows 11 gets updated with its new Bing AI, Google's Pixel Watch gets fall detection, and recommendation algorithms are absolutely everywhere.
Prof Nita Farahany: 'We need a new human right to cognitive liberty'
Is this article about Neuroscience?

The author of The Battle for Your Brain has serious reservations about neurotechnology, from the surveillance of mental experiences to 'brainjacking'

Our brainwave activity can be monitored and modified by neurotechnology. Devices with electrodes placed on the head can record neural signals from the brain and apply low electric current to modulate them. These "wearables" are finding traction not only with consumers who want to track and improve their mental wellness but with companies, governments and militaries for all sorts of other uses. Meanwhile, firms such as Elon Musk's Neuralink are working on next-generation brain implants that could do the same thing, only with far greater power. While the initial use may be to help people with paralysis to type, the grand idea is for augmentation to be available to all. Nita Farahany, a professor of law and philosophy at Duke University who studies the ethical, legal and social ramifications of emerging technologies, is sounding the alarm.

Technology that can read our minds sounds terrifying. But it is also way ahead of where things are. Aren't you jumping the gun?
I don't think so and, furthermore, we dismiss it at our peril. While the technology can't literally read our complex thoughts, there are at least some parts of our brain activity that can be decoded. There have been big improvements in the electrodes and in training algorithms to find associations using large datasets and AI. More can be done than people think. There are a lot of real-world applications and major tech companies like Meta are investing in it.

The Battle for Your Brain by Nita Farahany is published by St Martin's Press on 14 March (£25.99). To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at Delivery charges may apply

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Astronomers Were Not Expecting This

Humans have long found meaning in the stars, but only recently have we begun to understand whole clusters of them—galaxies, way out in the depths of space. A few nearby galaxies, such as Andromeda, have always been visible to the naked eye as a dusky smear in the night sky. Other shimmery structures became known to us after the invention of the telescope in the 17th century, along with a debate about their nature: Were they clouds of cosmic dust within our Milky Way, or "island universes" of their own?

Not until the 1920s did humanity identify these glowing clouds as galaxies, when the astronomer Edwin Hubble (relying on the work of a lesser known astronomer, Henrietta Leavitt) found that some stars were too far away to belong to the Milky Way. And only in the mid-1990s, when a space telescope named for Hubble peeked farther into the universe than ever before, did we find the thousands of galaxies shimmering across the universe—island after island in a vast cosmic sea.

After Hubble, astronomers felt pretty confident that they understood galaxies and how nature makes them. But some new, startling developments have recently popped up, courtesy of a space telescope far more powerful than Hubble. The James Webb Space Telescope, in full operation since last summer, has shown that galaxies formed much sooner after the Big Bang than scientists previously thought—and that some of them are unexpectedly large, absolutely brimming with stars. The findings have thrown scientists into a new reality in which their existing theories no longer apply.

Everyone in the astronomy community knew that the Webb telescope was going to be revolutionary. "And we had a very clear list of things that we thought Webb would totally blow our socks off about," Joel Leja, an astronomer at Penn State University, told me. But the discovery of cosmically chunky galaxies where there shouldn't be any? "This was nowhere on it. No one was looking for this."

Instruments like Hubble and Webb are something like time machines. When the observatories look out into the depths, they're basking in starlight that left its source eons ago, and has been traveling across the universe toward us ever since; in other words, to understand the cosmic beginning, astronomers must look for the most distant galaxies. Before Webb, scientists believed that those early, distant galaxies emerged at a leisurely pace. The first stars formed when clouds of hydrogen gas collapsed in on themselves and ignited. Then gravity drew the ancient orbs together into galaxies.

All of this drawing together of disparate matter into massive cosmic neighborhoods was assumed to have taken at least 1 billion years. Sure, the most distant galaxy that Hubble ever spotted was unexpectedly bright for the cosmic conditions of the time, indicating a larger collection of stars than should have been possible. But astronomers didn't think too much of it then. They expected that Webb, with its ultra-powerful infrared vision, would uncover the starter galaxies that they anticipated, and that Hubble couldn't see.

Ha! said the shiny new telescope. In Webb's first weeks, as astronomers raced to find the most distant galaxies ever detected, they wondered whether the data were actually wrong. The ancient galaxies were just too big and bright. A recalibration of Webb's instruments soon showed that some measurements were off, making some galaxies appear more distant than they actually were, and some claims were revised. But the big-picture findings stuck. The early universe was, somehow, bold and brash and remarkably luminous. "The objects we're finding are as massive or larger than the Milky Way, which is astounding," said Leja, who co-published a paper last week that identified six enormous galaxies that existed just 500 million to 700 million years after the Big Bang. One of these galaxies may have a mass 100 billion times that of our sun. Our own galaxy similarly contains many billions of stars, but it has had 13 billion years to reach its size.

For a brief moment, this new reality seemed to threaten astronomers' fundamental understanding of the entire cosmos. If the starting point looked like that, could the standard model of cosmology—our strongest theory about the origins and composition of the universe, the one that didn't account for what Webb found—be wrong? But astronomers now believe that the theory can accommodate the new telescope's surprises. Recent computer simulations guided by the standard model have shown that the universe could indeed have created some of the galaxies that Webb has found. "While, on the face of it, the data don't seem consistent with cosmological models, I think what we're going to find is it's not cosmology that's the problem, but really what we understand about how galaxies formed," Leja said.

The possible explanations for how astronomers got it wrong are plentiful. Perhaps early stars formed far more efficiently than we thought, through mechanisms that scientists hadn't considered before. Allison Kirkpatrick, an astronomer at the University of Kansas who studies galaxy evolution, wonders whether cosmic dust in these galaxies could be playing tricks on Webb, making stars appear older than they really are—and maybe cosmic dust was just different back then. Ivo Labbé, an astronomer at Swinburne University of Technology, suspects that black holes could play a role: They are among the most luminous objects in the universe when they're feeding on cosmic matter, which glows as it gets sucked in. "If you dump a lot of gas into a black hole, it will start to outshine the entire galaxy," Labbé told me. Such black holes could make early galaxies appear brighter, more star-filled. But none of these possibilities will undo the fact that the first island universes are not what we expected. Even accounting for some weird new phenomena, "everything's too big, and it's too big, too soon," Kirkpatrick told me.

Investigating these questions will require more Webb observations, particularly the kind that yield more detailed measurements of starlight, known as spectroscopy. Astronomers need more to confirm that the most unusual galaxies they've found are the real deal. And if they really are as old and big as they seem, understanding their composition will help astronomers suss out the conditions in which they formed. Researchers are in the thick of it now, with fresh spectroscopic data expected to come this spring. The effort verges on soul-searching. Primordial starlight has never been so in demand, and astronomers and theorists—those who observe cosmic wonders, and those who explain them, respectively—don't know exactly what they'll find once they're finished. "It's probably going to be something like five years until we've totally settled into our new universe that we've gotten from JWST," Wren Suess, an astronomer at UC Santa Cruz and Stanford, told me.

In one sense, these new discoveries have injected drama, even anxiety, into a field that was quite stable. "It's incredible how the universe is just so much weirder than we thought it was," Erica Nelson, an astronomer at the University of Colorado at Boulder, told me. But in another sense, it's just fun. When I asked Kirkpatrick whether she feels stressed about the uncertainty her profession is navigating, she cackled with glee. "It's the beginning of the universe!" she said. "It's not going to affect my life, so it's really fun to think about this kind of stuff."

As I've talked with astronomers about what Webb has found so far, one word keeps coming up: shouldn't. Galaxies shouldn't be this way; the cosmic dawn shouldn't be that way. I find these shouldn'ts delightful. They hint at the well-intentioned hubris of humans, especially the most curious ones, those who wish to determine exactly how something works and why. But of course the universe says, speaking to us by way of a giant telescope floating a million miles from EarthThis is how it is. This is, apparently, how it has always been. We're just discovering the wonder of it now.

A Do-Nothing Day Makes Life Better

This is an edition of The Wonder Reader, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a set of stories to spark your curiosity and fill you with delight. Sign up here to get it every Saturday morning.

"A few years ago, my wife, Angie, and I made a pact," Jason Heller writes in The Atlantic. "Every Sunday, we swore to each other, we will abstain from work. And we kept our promise: On the second day of each weekend, we start our morning and end our night by bingeing TV in bed. In the middle of the day, we binge TV on the couch, taking breaks exclusively to nap or read." The anxiety of looming to-do lists sometimes creeps in, but "we fight to stay still," he writes.

We fight to stay still. That phrasing stuck with me: stillness as something to fight for. Despite the fact that a day of rest is a core tenet of several ancient religions, as Heller notes, setting it all aside has become so uncommon in American society that we need to actively work to do it. "Taking a consistent day off is an immense privilege," Heller acknowledges. "And yet, even when you can take it, there are plenty of ways to avoid actually doing so."

When we do manage to grab leisure time, our world can open up. "Taking a break gives Angie and me the opportunity to really see each other again," Heller writes. Today's reading list is all about do-nothing time—why we need it, how much of it we need, and the possibilities it creates.

On Doing Nothing

A brown couch with three throw pillows—one green, one red, one yellow—and a white blanket on the back
Martin Parr / Magnum

How My Wife and I Took Back Our Sundays

By Jason Heller

We have an agreement: One day a week, we do absolutely nothing. In a society obsessed with productivity, this is harder than it should be—but it's worth it.

Illustration of a person lounging in a chair and gazing at a smiley-face constellation
Jan Buchczik

How to Embrace Doing Nothing

By Arthur C. Brooks

Absolute idleness is both harder and more rewarding than it seems.

Feet laying in the grass
Neil Hall / Reuters

How Much Leisure Time Do the Happiest People Have?

By Joe Pinsker

Too little, and people tend to get stressed. Too much, and people tend to feel idle.

Still Curious?

Other Diversions


Jason Heller's article was predated by a case for the do-nothing day in The Atlantic in 1952:

"Just how one tells when a 'do-nothing' day arrives, I have never been able to make out," Dr. Wyman Richardson wrote. "There is some combination involving weather elements and human physiology which, when it occurs, makes it clear to all that such a day is at hand."

Richardson's ideal do-nothing day on Cape Cod involved sipping coffee and looking out the window, followed by "the day's major activity"—a long walk down the hill to the boathouse.

— Isabel

The Pulse of Pop Music Is Changing

One of the most popular songs in the world right now presents a musical riddle: Are you supposed to dance or nap? PinkPantheress's "Boy's a Liar Pt. 2," featuring the rapper Ice Spice, sounds both fast and sluggish, new and old. It's undeniably catchy and yet feels as fleeting as a mild dream. Another vexing fact: Liar is pronounced, in the chorus, "lee-yah."

Really, the No. 3 song on the Billboard Hot 100 is the culmination of a few trends, technologically driven and taste-bound. In many enclaves, music is getting faster and more fidgety. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's getting more energetic or extroverted. Welcome to the age of lo-fi beats to take stimulants to.

Understanding the new vibe requires understanding the old one. About a decade ago, pop music seemed to thicken and slow thanks to the influence of trap, dubstep, and chill-out playlists on streaming platforms. Lumbering basslines and military-march hi-hats gave many songs a sludgy heft, and electronic dance music mellowed into midtempo, café-friendly wallpaper. These developments shaped all sorts of scenes—R&B and country alike—for years.

Perky rebellions against 2010s torpor have arisen in the past few years, no doubt also reacting to the bleakness and isolation wrought by COVID-19. The disco revival embodied by Beyoncé's Renaissance is one example. The ever-rising influence of dembow, a vigorous variant of reggaeton, is another. In many dance clubs, lightning-quick drum and bass has come back. The overdriven electronic sound known as hyperpop keeps percolating. "Boy's a Liar Pt. 2" brings together some other pulse-quickening phenomena: club rap, drill, and TikTok's encouragement of couch-bound hyperactivity.

PinkPantheress, a 21-year-old British musician, first drew acclaim in 2021 with a fresh musical formula. Her rhythms were sampled from vintage dance tracks that had, decades earlier, pummeled ravers using intricate, explosive percussion. But her production made those wild beats feel gauzy, gentle, and homespun. She sang of heartbreak in the guileless tone of a helpful AI. She strung together short, simple phrases to form elegant melodic sentences. No song was longer than three minutes, and most were under two. TikTok loved this, for obvious reasons. Amid the platform's endless distractions, "sped up" remixes of songs do well because they're efficient at being interesting. But PinkPantheress's songs didn't need any juicing. Each one miniaturized an emotional world, matching TikTok's hummingbird heartbeat.

For "Boy's a Liar" (both the original version of the song, which came out in November, and last month's "Pt. 2"), PinkPantheress subsumed the rhythm of a dance-rap subgenre called "Jersey club." The style has a brisk tempo and a pulsing beat that creates the illusion of constant acceleration. Steady yet frenzying, Jersey club is associated with complex footwork and choppy, hypnotic vocals (as well as the squeaky sound effect at the end of "Boy's a Liar Pt. 2"). And though Jersey club originated more than 20 years ago in Newark, it is hot right now. Attention-grabbing songs by Drake, Lil Uzi Vert, and newcomers such as Bandmanrill are contributing to a wave of so-called club rap.

Simultaneously, a related boom is happening for the hip-hop style called "drill." The signature drill beat has snares that sputter with the irregularity of a downed electrical wire, and synthesized bass that dives and swoops with dronelike smoothness. Each measure of the music feels minimalist, defined by a few basic elements, yet also action-packed, because those elements move in swarms. Although it's now everywhere, drill was honed in London, Chicago, and New York City: cold, crowded places for a cold, crowded sound.

Fittingly, one of drill's most prominent avatars of the moment goes by a frosty name, Ice Spice. A Bronx-raised 23-year-old, she uses her raspy voice with methodical focus, delivering each diss or boast as if moving through a checklist. With her conversational-yet-clear sound and her distinctive red curls, she quickly became a social-media celebrity after her song "Munch (Feelin' U)" went viral last year. But "Boy's a Liar Pt. 2" is both her and PinkPantheress's first appearance in the upper echelons of the Hot 100.

The team-up of these two women is poignant, in a way. Lyrically, "Boy's a Liar Pt. 2" is a bit emo, which makes sense because PinkPantheress is a huge Paramore fan. In the song, she worries aloud whether her love interest will find her "ugly," a bluntly relatable fear in the Facetuning era. In a verse laying into some dirtbag, Ice Spice drops her invulnerable posture in one revealing couplet: "But I don't sleep enough without you / And I can't eat enough without you." That the track is sparring with artists such as SZA for positioning near the top of the Hot 100 suggests that vulnerability—particularly from women, particularly from Black women—is as in demand as it's ever been.

What's most remarkable about the song, however, is simply its featherweight feeling. On paper, a club-rap song about anger and inadequacy might seem intense and jolting. But PinkPantheress (and the producer Mura Masa) wraps this firecracker in felt. The track features cute keyboard sounds reminiscent of an early-2000s DVD menu. The singing is plush and quiet. The song's popularity recalls other DIY-sounding hits such as Steve Lacy's "Bad Habit," which (especially when sped up on TikTok) bury pining emotion under distortion and tumult for a dissociative effect. If life feels fast-moving these days, it's not like the sleek zooming of a sports car. Rather, it's more swirling and surreal: The clock ticks at the same rate as ever, but our minds race anew.

What to Do When Your Boss Is Spying on You
Feedly AI found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • In the US, the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act laid out the rule that employees should not intercept employee communication, but its exceptions—that they can be intercepted to protect the privacy and rights of the employer or if business duties require it, or if the employee granted prior permission—make the law toothless and easy to get around.
Employee monitoring increased with Covid-19's remote work—and stuck around for back-to-the-office.
'We Belong Here'

Photographs by Wesaam Al-Badry

Wesaam Al-Badry was born in Iraq, where he and his family might have stayed if not for the Gulf War, which began when he was 7. In 1991, the family landed at a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia. There, Al-Badry got his first camera, a Pentax K1000. "I didn't understand the numbers on top, shutter speed, and aperture, but I understood, over time, composition," Al-Badry told me. Even without regular access to film or any reliable way to develop what he shot, he saw in his hands a tool for telling his story as it unfolded.

Eventually, Al-Badry's family was relocated to Lincoln, Nebraska. "When you come in as a refugee, you think everything is beautiful. You think you made it to the promised land; everybody's equal," he said. "But then you realize there's little hints." As he grew up, Al-Badry became more aware of racism. Teenagers mocked his mother's hijab; many Americans, he realized, had been conditioned to see Arabs and Muslims as intrinsically strange, angry, or violent.

[Read: Muslim Americans should reject the politics of normalcy]

2 photos: woman crouches in sunny yard holding toddler surrounded by other family members; 2 teenage boys stand in blue wrestling singlets
Left: A family birthday celebration for Al-Badry's daughter. Right: High-school wrestlers in Dearborn, Michigan. (Wesaam Al-Badry / Contact Press Images)
girl with dark wavy hair in light pink hoodie and sweatpants in front of window with long white curtains
The photographer's niece Mya Al-Badry in Lincoln, Nebraska (Wesaam Al-Badry / Contact Press Images)
2 photos: woman in hijab looks closely in mirror at face; man and woman in traditional dress stand on green lawn in front of brick house with white shutters
Left: Wesaam Al-Badry's mother at home in Lincoln. Right: Friends of Al-Badry's family in front of their home in Detroit. (Wesaam Al-Badry / Contact Press Images)

The images in Al-Badry's series "From Which I Came," many of which feature his own family and friends, might easily be marshaled to represent a cultural clash—but his work asks you to focus on the individual, the intimacy of daily life. The people in these photos are rarely smiling. Al-Badry's aim is to present them as resilient and dignified, even if it makes the photos less immediately inviting to his audience. His allegiance is to the people he is photographing; he wants his subjects to see themselves in the absence of imposed stereotypes. "We belong here," he said. "We bring this very rich culture with us. But we're not archaic figures; we're not stuck in the past."

girl in ponytail and pink leotard does a split on green grass in a fenced yard next to house
Amirah Al-Badry, a niece (Wesaam Al-Badry / Contact Press Images)
2 photos: woman with long wavy black hair in athletic wear; woman in hijab and abaya carries handbag walking across dry lawn next to driveway with other houses behind
Left: The owner of a gym in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Most of her clients are women of Middle Eastern origin. Right: The photographer's mother heading to a doctor appointment. (Wesaam Al-Badry / Contact Press Images)

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The week at Retraction Watch featured:

Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to more than 300. There are nearly 39,000 retractions in our database — which powers retraction alerts in EndNoteLibKeyPapers, and Zotero. And have you seen our leaderboard of authors with the most retractions lately — or our list of top 10 most highly cited retracted papers?

Here's what was happening elsewhere (some of these items may be paywalled, metered access, or require free registration to read):

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Low-Wage Jobs Are Becoming Middle-Class Jobs
Is this article about Future of Work?

Last month, Target announced that it would pay new employees as much as $24 an hour and extend health benefits to anyone working at least 25 hours a week. The company is hardly the only one coughing up cash to lure in new workers or retain those on staff. Starbucks recently set a national minimum wage of $15. McDonald's, Dairy Queen, and Subway franchises have been offering signing incentives. Lowe's is giving bonuses to hourly workers this month.

This is good news. What is even better is that such pay bumps are not just a recent trend. After a brutal few decades in which low-wage jobs proliferated and the American middle class hollowed out, the working poor have started earning more—a lot more. Many low-wage jobs have become middle-wage jobs. And incomes are increasing faster for poorer workers than for wealthier ones, a dynamic known as wage compression.

As a result, millions of low-income families are experiencing less financial stress and even a modicum of comfort, though the country's surging rents and rising pace of inflation are burdening them, too. The yawning gaps between different groups of American workers—Black and white, young and old, those without a college degree and those with one—have stopped widening and started narrowing. Measures of poverty and income inequality are dropping.

[David Brooks: Despite everything you think you know, America is on the right track]

I hesitate to call this the "Great Compression," given that earnings disparities remain a dominant feature of the American labor market and American life. (Plus, economists already use that term to refer to the middle of the 20th century.) But it really is a remarkable trend, a half-decade-old "Little Compression" that policy makers should do everything in their power to extend, expand, and turn great.  

Labor economists have identified two phenomena—one incremental and slow, one radical and sudden—that have boosted the fortunes of the working poor. The first is that the unemployment rate has gotten low enough for long enough to force companies to compete for workers, thus raising wages. The jobless rate trickled down excruciatingly slowly during the Obama years, as did the ratio of job seekers to job openings. But by the time President Donald Trump took office, employers in many parts of the country started to struggle to find and retain workers.

"We finally had a tight labor market with a well-functioning job ladder, meaning that people were leaving the worst-paying jobs," Arindrajit Dube, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, told me. States and cities lifting their minimum wages might have helped bolster the trend—indeed, one analysis found that, before the coronavirus hit, wage compression was occurring only in states that were lifting their minimums.  

COVID was the radical and sudden second change. Tens of thousands of businesses that employed millions of low-wage workers reduced their hours or closed, in some cases permanently. The jobless rate spiked to 14.7 percent. The federal government made unemployment-insurance payments more comprehensive and much, much more generous, while also showering American families with a series of stimulus checks and a large, if temporary, child allowance. This—perhaps counterintuitively—led businesses to pay workers more when they reopened.

Crucially, workers increase their wages by leaving jobs, not by staying at them: A cashier making $13 an hour at a coffee shop gets $16 an hour by taking a position at a pet store, then $19 an hour by becoming a manager at a restaurant. Yet workers tend to look for new positions less often than you might think, given the financial incentives. "There's a lot of turnover and churn among low-wage workers, but even so, people don't find changing their jobs that easy," Elise Gould, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told me. "Maybe you don't happen to see the Help Wanted signs. Maybe you don't think you'll get hired. Or you don't have the time to look for another job."

The pandemic sparked a giant, economy-wide game of musical chairs, spurring workers flush with stimulus cash to reassess their employment options and forcing employers to make their job offerings more attractive to workers. "We don't have direct evidence for what happened, but we have indirect evidence that tells a consistent story," Dube told me. "Disruption plays this big role." As did the giant fire hose of money, to use a technical term, that Washington unleashed to combat the COVID recession. The government gave low-income workers a financial cushion, which meant they could take their time in picking a new job. And it ensured that there was ample demand in the economy, so businesses were eager to hire.  

[Zachary D. Carter: The economy is good, actually]

The economy has normalized since the early phase of the pandemic. Yet low-wage workers keep earning more and more because the jobless rate has returned to such a low point and so quickly. The country has a "tight labor market" with a "well-functioning job ladder," to use Dube's terms. Workers remain much likelier to quit a job than they were during the Obama years. Very-low-wage employers, such as day cares, are struggling to hire. And starting wages at big businesses keep rising.

The low jobless rate should continue to benefit lower-wage workers, labor-market experts told me, though their earnings might not rise as quickly as before. Indeed, Federal Reserve data show that wage growth is already cooling off. "The savings that people built up and the security they had from the expanded unemployment-insurance payments, the child tax credit, the stimulus checks—those are going away," Gould said. "We have probably not seen the full effects of the interest-rate hikes on the labor market. It's been remarkably resilient. I don't know if that will continue."

Still, there's plenty that policy makers could do to amplify the trend. The Biden White House has already pushed to ban noncompete agreements and increase the rate of unionization, two things proven to bolster the incomes of the working poor. Washington could also push to increase the supply of housing (to make it easier for workers to move to good jobs) and reduce corporate concentration (to give workers more choice among employers) to help bump wages up.

Ultimately, the country shouldn't wait for a COVID-scale crisis to enact policies that create a favorable climate for working people. "It's unfortunate that in the last 40 years, we've only had a few such episodes," Dube said. "This is what we want the labor market to look like."


Scientific Reports, Published online: 04 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-30541-y

Organic carbon accumulation and aggregate formation in soils under organic and inorganic fertilizer management practices in a rice–wheat cropping system
Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?

Nature Communications, Published online: 04 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36937-8

Long-term stability of organic solar cells is critical to promote practical applications. Here, the authors utilize iridium/iridium oxide nanoparticles as the electron-transporting material and realize enhanced device stabilities under thermal aging with T70 of over 10000 h.

Nature Communications, Published online: 04 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36860-y

When a suspension of particles passes through a constriction the particle volume fraction either decreases or remains the same. Pan et al. report that an entangled fiber suspension increases its volume fraction greater than a factor of 10 after passing through a constriction.

Scientific Reports, Published online: 04 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-30744-3

Expression of 
 and its regulatory microRNAs in seminal plasma and seminal plasma-derived extracellular vesicles of patients with 
Is this article about Biopharma Industry?
Pain afflicts at least 1.5 billion people worldwide, and despite the availability of various painkilling drugs, not all forms of pain are treatable. Moreover, pain medications can have side-effects such as dependence and tolerance, especially in the case of morphine and other opioids.
Just a thought on why people is affraid of AI.

Lots of people I know have shown interest in AI lately, specially now they witnessed how advanced it has become. Most of them have made the comment that it's becoming pretty scary.

I just think that people is affraid on the image of AI becoming self-aware and going violent/berserk Terminator or Matrix style. I think it's because we created machines that are able to think just as we do (artifical neural networks), but they learn from the inputs we give them. And we are a violent race in general. Maybe we're not affraid of the machines themselves, but we are indirectly affraid of what the machines might learn from us.

Just as when you raise your children, if you don't get your shit together, there's a high chance that we might transfer our own shit to our children and so on. Maybe as a race, we should work on changing our violent and destructive behaviour before we try creating entities that mimic our behaviour. But I guess it's kinda late for that anyway..

submitted by /u/Mr_Lag
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