Nature Communications, Published online: 09 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36993-0Arboviruses and symbiotic viruses can be paternally transmitted by male insects to their offspring, but the mechanism remains largely unknown. Here, the authors identify the sperm-specific serpin protein HongrES1 of the leafhopper Recilia dorsalis as a mediator of paternal transmission of the reovirus rice gall dwarf virus and of a previously undescribed symbiotic virus of the Virgaviridae family, Recilia dorsalis filamentous virus, via direct binding of virions to leafhopper sperm surfaces and subsequent paternal transmission via interaction with both viral capsid proteins.
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36929-8Quantum sensors based on NV centers in diamond are well established, however the sensitivity of detection of high-frequency radio signals has been limited. Here the authors use nanoscale field-focusing to enhance sensitivity and demonstrate ranging for GHz radio signals in an interferometer set-up.
Millennia ago, early humans walked out of Africa and spread across the world in a way that few other species have. In this eBook, we examine how and why this happened, tracing insights from genome analyses as well as studies of footprints, tools, cave art and oral histories. We also look at the forces driving current human migration and where our journey might take us in the future.
I've heard several times that a true holodeck is hundreds of years from development, but what about having one in a vr headset?
As far as the capabilities, since a basic version of this already exists, it would need to have the ability to fully control the environment to anything you could imagine (I would think you would need a suitable AI to be able to map environments out based on specified parameters) and also be able to simulate conversation for people. Basically like a truly open world game within this world or any other, like the Oasis in Ready Player One or "Roy: A Life Well Lived" in Rick and Morty.
The film Everything Everywhere All at Once has enjoyed critical acclaim and awards success. Ahead of the Oscars, where it's tipped to sweep the board, Ian Sample speaks to theoretical physicist and philosopher Sean Carroll about why we seem to be drawn to the idea of multiple worlds, and what the science says about how the multiverse might actually work
Clips: Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24), Independent Spirit Awards, Critics' Choice AwardsContinue reading…
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36864-8An exome wide association study of UK Biobank data revealed 158 variants and 105 genes significantly associated with kidney function traits and disease. The findings are supported by functional evidence for a previously unreported mutation in CLDN10.
Nature, Published online: 09 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00701-1House Republicans kick off investigation into how the pandemic began with witnesses who largely favour a lab origin.
|submitted by /u/Apart_Shock
|submitted by /u/jwright100
To better understand what I mean. Sooner or later grocery stores won't even need people anymore. Factories will have no need for people. Same thing with truck driving.
So many things will be taken over with automation. So, right now I'm only 24 years old. But what type of world will I be living in when I'm 45? 50? Obviously we can't predict the future perfectly. But are there any particular skills and things I should be taking seriously and learning now that will become extremely relevant in the future?
I just applied for a part time job at a grocery store near by. But sooner or later. People won't be able to do that anymore.
So I guess my main question is, what should we all be learning to stay "relevant" in the work force 20-30 years from now?
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|submitted by /u/ethereal3xp
Nature, Published online: 08 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00694-xSince 2004, the French organization has co-led the Pasteur Institute of Shanghai with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Nature, Published online: 07 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00622-zThe number of acute liver injuries tied to paracetamol—opioid painkillers fell after a US mandate to limit pills' active ingredients.
Kari Lake, who's still trying to overturn her November election loss in Arizona, is one of four women Trump is considering for VP, according to a new report from Axios. Lake is flirting with another possibility too.
But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.
- A view of American history that leads to one conclusion
- Arnold Schwarzenegger's last act
- Prepare for the textpocalypse.
Seeing What Sticks
You might remember Kari Lake from the November midterms, when she lost the Arizona governor race to Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes and proceeded to cry foul for weeks (and weeks). Well, the former local news anchor is still at it—with an obvious eye toward the future.
To catch you up: After the Arizona election, Lake sued Hobbs (in her capacity as then-secretary of state) and Maricopa County officials to overturn the results, claiming that the election process was corrupt. (At the time, I wrote about the widespread problems at polling places in Maricopa County that helped fuel Lake's false claims of malfeasance.) She lost the initial suit, and last month, she lost her appeal. Now Lake is waiting to hear whether the state supreme court will take up her case. We should know more in early April at the latest.
Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter. Lake's battle to unseat Governor Hobbs will almost certainly be fruitless, given that there is no evidence to support her claims of fraud. But, just as she'd always intended, her lawsuits are keeping her on everybody's radar. And like Trump, Lake has taken her election-fraud show on the road.
She's reportedly been raising money for her legal bills and delivering paid speeches, and last month, she went to Iowa. There, she spent two days complaining about rigged elections, and laughed off but didn't exactly reject a suggestion that she could be Trump's running mate. Yesterday, Axios reported that Lake was among four women Trump is considering for his ticket, should he become the GOP's nominee.
A few days ago, Lake was a featured speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where Republicans with national ambitions often take the stage. When Lake won CPAC's straw poll for vice president, her team tweeted out a cheeky rejoinder: "We're flattered, but unfortunately our legal team says the Constitution won't allow for her to serve as Governor and VP at the same time."
Meanwhile, Lake has also reportedly met with officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, fueling suspicion that she might make a run for Kyrsten Sinema's seat as the senior senator from Arizona.
The woman clearly has national ambitions, as I wrote in my profile of Lake last year. At this point, it seems like she's throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.
Lake is a plausible VP choice for Trump for one big reason: She has demonstrated unflagging loyalty to the former president. She kissed a painting of him. She vacuumed his carpet! But for Trump, there are also a few downsides to picking Lake. The first is that she's comparatively young, attractive, and charismatic. By choosing her, Trump would run the risk of being completely outshone. He famously does not enjoy this. Plus, Lake, unlike Trump, has never won an election, and, fraud claims aside, Trump may be hesitant to associate himself with a Big Loser. Finally, even though Lake might bring in a few more women to Trump's side, it's not clear at all that she would help shore up his support among suburbanites more broadly, which is what Trump would really need as the 2024 nominee.
Politically, it would make more sense for Lake to make a go for the Senate in 2024. Of course she'll wait for the Arizona Supreme Court's decision on her lawsuit, "but the team is gearing up for a Senate race," a Republican strategist familiar with the campaign's plans told me. In a primary, "she (and other candidates) know she would start as a heavy favorite," the strategist said. That's probably true; Lake had more support from the GOP base than any other candidate in the Arizona Republican primary for governor last year, defeating the establishment pick by more than 40,000 votes.
She might have a good shot at winning, too, if the cards fall exactly right: If Sinema, an independent, decides to run for reelection, and Ruben Gallego runs as a Democrat, it would be a three-way race, likely benefiting the Republican candidate.
Alternatively, "a creative solution would be to not run and instead 'bless' someone as the nominee—like Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb," the strategist said. That way, Lake could stay on the campaign trail as a surrogate for Trump and other MAGA candidates and leave open the chance for a VP tap, as well as the chance for a rematch with Governor Hobbs in a few years.
Despite the recent midterm failures of election deniers and Trump-endorsed candidates, Lake still has a few options. As I wrote in October, she's politically agile in a way that other MAGA types aren't. She's polished and charismatic enough to make even the wildest conspiracy theories sound at least sort of plausible. She could represent the future of Trumpism—now that Trump himself has gotten a bit stale. Like I said last fall: Whatever happens, Kari Lake is here to stay.
- After an investigation prompted by the police shooting of Breonna Taylor, the U.S. Justice Department found that Louisville, Kentucky, police have engaged in a pattern of violating constitutional rights.
- California officials are warning residents of a powerful storm later this week. About 16 million people across Central and Northern California are under flood watches.
- In the budget he will release tomorrow, President Joe Biden is reportedly set to propose measures to reduce federal-budget deficits by $3 trillion over the next 10 years.
- The Weekly Planet: You should build a frog pond, Emma Marris advises.
- Work in Progress: We're missing a key driver of teen anxiety, Derek Thompson writes.
Explore all of our newsletters here.
Milk Has Lost All Meaning
By Yasmin Tayag
You overhear a lot of strange things in coffee shops, but an order for an "almond-based dairy-alternative cappuccino" is not one of them. Ditto a "soy-beverage macchiato" or an "oat-drink latte." Vocalizing such a request elicited a confidence-hollowing glare from my barista when I recently attempted this stunt in a New York City café. To most people, plant-based milk is plant-based milk.
But though the American public has embraced this naming convention, the dairy industry has not. For more than a decade, companies have sought to convince the FDA that plant-based products shouldn't be able to use the M-word. An early skirmish played out in 2008 over the name "soy milk," which, the FDA acknowledged at the time, wasn't exactly milk; a decade later, then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb pointed out that nut milk shouldn't be called "milk" because "an almond doesn't lactate."
More From The Atlantic
Read. These books can help us come to terms with death.
Watch. Get in the Oscars spirit by watching (or rewatching) some classic acceptance speeches online.
Last week, I toured the National Zoo's new walk-through aviary, which was even more delightful than I'd hoped. Instead of exotic creatures with colorful plumage and long fantails, the revamped Bird House shows off the migratory birds of North America—the skinny-legged avocets, black-and-white buffleheads, indigo buntings, and lemon-colored palm warblers. The new ethos of the exhibit is to celebrate the extraordinary beauty of ordinary birds, and I think that's lovely. Read my story about the new Bird House, which opens on March 13. Then go meet the birds for yourself.
Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.
Pandemic resulted in 'minimal' changes in symptoms, according to review led by McGill University researchers
-19 may not have taken as great a toll on the mental health of most people as earlier research has indicated, a new study suggests.
The pandemic resulted in "minimal" changes in mental health symptoms among the general population, according to a review of 137 studies from around the world led by researchers at McGill University in Canada, and published in the British Medical Journal.Continue reading…
The historic High Seas Treaty aims to preserve marine biodiversity in what has been considered the "Wild West" of the oceans while still encouraging research
In 2015, an intense atmospheric river in Sitka, Alaska, triggered a series of landslides, one of which took the lives of three locals. Sitka chose to respond — with science.
Ninety-nine percent of the global population — practically everyone in the entire world — is exposed to harmful air pollutants known as PM 2.5, according to a massive study recently published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.
Conversely, it found that only 0.001 percent of the global population live in areas with levels of PM 2.5 below the safe threshold recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), which accounts for less than 0.18 percent of available land on the planet.
"Almost no one is safe from air pollution," study lead author Yuming Guo, a professor at the Monash University School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, told The Washington Post. "The surprising result is that almost all parts of the world have annual average PM 2.5 concentrations higher than air quality guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization."
PM 2.5 is a fine air particulate that's no more than 2.5 microns in width — over thirty times smaller than a grain of sand — allowing it to easily invade our lungs and bloodstream. Lung cancer is an obvious fear, but PM 2.5's potential to cause and exacerbate heart disease should not be overlooked, either.
According to research by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to PM 2.5 as brief as a few hours can be enough to trigger "cardiovascular disease-related heart attacks and death." Long-term exposure can lead to an "increased risk of cardiovascular mortality and decreases in life expectancy."
In 2021, the WHO revised its air quality guidelines, bringing the PM 2.5 threshold down from ten micrograms per cubic meter to just five, in response to new understandings of how air pollution affected the human body. The next year, the UN agency conducted similar research to Guo's and also found that 99 percent of the global population is exposed to high PM 2.5 levels, exceeding its guidelines.
Unlike the WHO's study, however, Guo's is the first to provide insights on the daily levels of the pernicious particulate worldwide. His team accomplished this by combining ground data from countries across the globe, satellite-based meteorological data, as well as "an innovative machine learning approach" to integrate all of the above, Guo explained in a press release.
He and his team found that while daily levels have dropped in North America and Europe over the past two decades, it continues to climb in other regions, including Southern Asia, Latin America, and Australia.
The researchers also found that the global average level of PM 2.5 was extremely high between 2000 and 2019 at 32.8 micrograms per cubic meter, over six times the recommended threshold.
Such an alarmingly pervasive presence echoes the ominous death tolls found in other studies, such as a 2022 study published in The Lancet that determined air pollution was responsible for nine million premature deaths in 2015.
In spite of these deaths, many environmental bodies around the world, including the EPA, maintain PM 2.5 thresholds that still exceed the WHO's.
Guo hopes that armed with the information learned in his study, "policymakers, public health officials, and researchers can better assess the short-term and long-term health effects of air pollution and develop air pollution mitigation strategies," he said in the release.
More on air pollution: Air Pollution May Be Lowering Sperm Counts, Scientists Say
The post Shocking Study Finds 99 Percent of the World Population Is Breathing Harmful Air appeared first on Futurism.
We're closer than ever to a dystopian future in which corporations can read our thoughts without our permission — and a leading legal theorist thinks we should head that eventuality off before it becomes a reality.
In an interview with The Guardian, Duke Law professor and brain-hacking "neurotechnology" critic Nita Farahany said that although brain-computer interface tech "can't literally read our complex thoughts" as of yet, it comes close enough to give her major pause.
"There are at least some parts of our brain activity that can be decoded," Farahany told the British newspaper. "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," she added.
Speaking on the futuristic concept of "freedom of thought," the legal expert emphasized that we should start thinking about our rights before brain-hacking technologies like Elon Musk's Neuralink have a chance to become mainstream.
"Applications around workplace brain surveillance and use of the technology by authoritarian governments including as an interrogation tool I find particularly provocative and chilling," Farahany told The Guardian. "We do see the technology starting to be used in some ways that are more like involuntary neural surveillance."
To avoid the most Orwellian of outcomes, the professor proposes the creation of a new civil right, or "cognitive liberty," that should be accompanied by updates to other integral freedoms like "privacy, freedom of thought and self-determination."
Given both that the digital surveillance of workers is already becoming a more common business practice and that current brain-monitoring tech already can detect "your level of fatigue, engagement, focus, boredom, frustration and stress… with high accuracy," according to recent research, more dystopian outcomes are becoming increasingly plausible.
Cognitive liberty standards would, Farahany told The Guardian, "protect our freedom of thought and rumination, mental privacy, and self-determination over our brains and mental experiences."
"It would change the default rules so we have rights around the commodification of our brain data," she added. "It would give people control over their own mental experiences and protect them against misuse of their brain activity by corporate and government actors, weighed against societal interests."
As freaky as that kind of future sounds, it's one that we need to seriously take into consideration — especially given the corporations' vested interest in getting inside of our heads.
More on brain-computer interfaces: Brain Chips Like Neuralink Cause Strange Cognitive Changes, Doctors Say
The post Legal Expert Proposes "Cognitive Liberty" to Avoid Corporate Brain Spying appeared first on Futurism.
The Third International Summit on Genome Editing concluded Monday with ethicists warning scientists to slow down efforts to use gene-editing to enhance the health of embryos.
(Image credit: Mark Schiefelbein/AP)
In our family, my aunt Burnette was the designated photographer. Or at least that was what I thought when, as a child, I'd page through the family photo albums at her home. Her beautiful portraits—of my cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and great-grandparents in southeastern Wisconsin—captured silly faces, warm cuddles, flawless stunting. She documented the fact of us. I wasn't aware at the time that I was studying composition, depth of field, mood, and intimacy when looking at her pictures. Only now is it clear to me that those books provided an early visual literacy for the extraordinary in ordinary Black life.
I was reminded of those lessons when reading Black Archives: A Photographic Celebration of Black Life, by the multidisciplinary artist Renata Cherlise. The book expands on a long-standing project of Cherlise's, which began in 2011 as a Tumblr page and then developed into its own website. Black Archives is a tangible and intimate artifact that widens the idea of Blackness in the United States, bridging past, present, and future through familial archiving practices. The book honors the craft and contribution of the amateur family photographer, an unsung figure who has for generations captured and preserved the most delicate moments of Black life.
With Cherlise's astute curation, Black Archives shows charming patterns present in family snapshots, the bulk of which are from the early 1940s to the late '90s. She prioritizes photos that show tenderness and pride in the subjects' quotidian life: parents posing with their children on their porch, Christmas mornings, grand evenings out, birthdays, weddings. "Black mediocrity is still exceptional, right?" Cherlise said in 2021 of the project. "It's still worthy of documentation and still worthy of being highlighted from an archive." Much of the imagery of Black people in the U.S., especially imagery circulated during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, objectified and dehumanized them. Consequently, representations of Black life in the collective American memory exist largely on opposite sides of a spectrum—extreme degradation or extreme representations of excellence to counter that degradation. Cherlise's work asks, What, then, of the middle ground?
[Read: The dark underside of representations of slavery]
The selection of images in Black Archives includes Cherlise's own family photos and crowdsourced pictures from the public. It also features striking portraits from institutional archives, such as the Lower Roxbury Black History Project at Northeastern University. Cherlise has said that this project began when she searched historical archives in Jacksonville, Florida, for images of Black people around the public-housing complex where she spent the first three years of her life; instead, she mainly found documentation of blight and disrepair. Her observation is similar to one I made when I searched the Milwaukee County Historical Society for archival images of my Bronzeville neighborhood, and encountered scant photos of buildings and intersections before they were cleared for interstate-highway construction. Ultimately, Cherlise's endeavor led her to the private photo collections of Black families.
Black Archives conveys the idea that family snapshots and portraits can serve as a respite from the outside world and its gaze. Whether it's a shirtless father holding his newborn, couples leaning into each other, or children frolicking in winter's first snowfall, the subjects are all seemingly comfortable in their skin. The vulnerability that each photo telegraphs connotes trust between the photographer and the subject. Of this sort of documentary, bell hooks once wrote, "To enter black homes in my childhood was to enter a world that valued the visual, that asserted our collective will to participate in a noninstitutionalized curatorial process … Photographs taken in everyday life, snapshots in particular, rebelled against all those photographic practices that reinscribed colonial ways of looking and capturing the images of the black 'other.'" As a result, these depictions reflect family members with a softness and whimsy.
Contemporary Black photographers' work has also been significant in heralding the familial snapshot. Fine artists such as LaToya Ruby Frazier and Deana Lawson, for instance, have expanded the American consciousness with photography that counters dominant visual narratives. Frazier's portraiture of her family in Braddock, Pennsylvania, upends canonical fiction about working-class Americans. And Lawson's portraits depict the raw glamour of Black families of modest means. The amateur family photographer, however, is less interested in what a photo has to say about Blackness in America. They are principally concerned with photography that communicates the fact and delight of simply existing, the enduring hope being that relatives will remember and relish the feeling behind the picture. Still, Black Archives asserts that these family snapshots viewed in the aggregate become a fine art of sorts—in conversation with the work of professional artists—because their composers broker power and agency in each shot.
The pleasure of viewing photographs in Black Archives derives mainly from the fact that none of the images are abstract, and they don't engage in righteous protest, defending, or rebelling against cultural and social erasure. The book's pages are dedicated to familiar joys and listless days, to the sense of personhood that remained intact while the war for civil rights continued just outside the frame. Audiences can bear witness to loving moments across decades and generations, perhaps recognizing themselves and the bonds they carry in these shared memories of home.
Remember that dystopian, Big Box VR shopping video? It was dull and boring and filled me with dread.
How would you make this more fun? (assuming the tech is there, which feels increasingly likely given the acceleration in the space with Oculus Pro and Samsung re-entering the hardward game)
My idea, as gleaned from this short video, is a gamified experience. One where Supermarket Sweep meets Twisted Metal meets Escape from Tarkov.
Imagine an extraction bonus for items collected, or a discount health meter where each hits knocks your discount down all the way to zero. There's so many directions this could go.
And, honestly, it feels like all retail verticals will become increasingly gamified as we move into the digital space.
Need access to blocked social media accounts or confidential information? I'm a professional hacker ready to help. I can restore any social media account and find the information you need. Contact me through my Instagram account hacktech_48.
|submitted by /u/Nonofyourdamnbiscuit
|submitted by /u/Earth0fL0ve
Making living cells blink fluorescently like party lights may sound frivolous. But the demonstration that it's possible could be a step toward someday programming our body's immune cells to attack cancers more effectively and safely. That's the promise of the field called synthetic biology. While molecular biologists strip cells down to their component genes and molecules to see how they work…
A group of gifted elementary school students has discovered that EpiPens, life-saving devices that inject epinephrine in the case of a severe allergic reaction, can turn poisonous after being launched into space — more evidence of the harrowing effects space radiation can have on the health of astronauts.
The students helped researchers at the University of Ottawa in Canada investigate whether the devices could be safely used in space by astronauts.
But there's some bad news: just relatively small amounts of space radiation caused the epinephrine to break down, turning it into a health hazard instead of a lifesaver — something that was previously unknown to NASA, Live Science reports.
The students from St. Brother André Elementary School's Program for Gifted Learners (PGL) had samples of epinephrine, both by themselves and inside of EpiPens, launched into space as part of NASA's Cubes in Space program.
The University of Ottawa's Faculty of Science then analyzed the returned samples and found that the epinephrine was only 87 percent pure due to cosmic radiation, according to a statement.
The remaining 13 percent turned into benzoic acid derivatives, which are extremely poisonous.
"As part of the Cubes in Space, two cubes were put together by the students, with one going on a rocket and the other on a high-altitude balloon," said University of Ottawa chemistry professor Paul Mayer in the statement. "The 'after' samples showed signs that the epinephrine reacted and decomposed."
"In fact, no epinephrine was found in the 'after' EpiPen solution samples," he added. "This result raises questions about the efficacy of an EpiPen for outer space applications and these questions are now starting to be addressed by the kids in the PGL program."
The experiment could have lasting effects on how we treat allergic reactions in space.
"This result raises questions about the efficacy of an EpiPen for outer space applications and these questions are now starting to be addressed by the kids in the [Program for Gifted Learners] program," Mayer said.
Fortunately, not all is lost. There may be a way to package EpiPen solutions in a way that doesn't expose them to cosmic radiation — an invention that could save an astronaut's life in the future.
READ MORE: Elementary schoolers prove EpiPens become toxic in space — something NASA never knew [LiveScience]
More on space radiation: Mars Astronauts Would Get Horrifying Dose of Radiation, Study Finds
The post NASA Surprised When School Children Discover That EpiPens Become Toxic in Space appeared first on Futurism.
- The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed strengthening a rule aimed at reducing polluted wastewater from coal-burning power plants that has contaminated streams, lakes and underground aquifers across the nation.
The humble mussel and other faunal organisms often play an underappreciated yet important role in protecting and building coastal ecosystems, according to a new study.
"As sea levels rise, coastal ecosystems have to adapt and evolve to changing conditions," says lead author Sinéad Crotty, associate director of science at the Carbon Containment Lab at the Yale University School of the Environment.
"This study shows that small and innocuous animals that live within an ecosystem can play a critical role in helping coastal systems persist in the face of climate change."
Mussels (Geukensia demissa) serve as "ecosystem engineers"—organisms that directly or indirectly drive habitat construction and control the availability of resources to other organisms, according to the study in Nature Communications.
Mussels are considered indicators of water quality, helping to keep streams and rivers clean by absorbing heavy metals and filtering harmful silt and particulates as they feed and breathe in aquatic ecosystems. Their shells also provide habitat and nesting sites for insects, small fish, and plants.
In addition to these valuable characteristics, mussels also deposit large volumes of material on marsh surfaces through their feeding process. This contribution of sediment helps marshes grow through a process called accretion, which is the natural action of sand, soil, or silt washing up to the land from the seashore or river.
For the study, researchers focused on 750,000 acres of expansive salt marsh systems in the US along the coastal area known as the South Atlantic Bight, a region stretching over 150 miles from Cape Fear, North Carolina to Cape Canaveral, Florida and examined research on a variety of fauna including crabs, lugworms, and ghost shrimp.
Field research for the study included surveys of mussel cover across the South Atlantic Bight. The researchers took more detailed field measurements on Sapelo Island, a barrier island off the coast of central Georgia.
In addition to measurements taken across seasons and tidal phases, the researchers deployed three experiments designed to test mussels' impact on accretion from small, local scales to whole landscape scales. The largest experiment involved moving over 200,000 mussels by hand from one landscape to another and measuring changes to the marsh elevation over three years.
"We found that, in reality, the effects of mussels are far greater than predicted by the models, and occur at large, landscape scales," Crotty says.
Similar trends are likely to occur with other fauna engineers, such as bioturbating crabs or worms, the authors note. Including these ecosystem engineers in future modeling and ecosystem management will be important as sea levels continue to rise, the study's authors say.
"This study can help us think through how we prioritize certain marsh areas for protection," Crotty says. "Given that mussels are disproportionately important in driving accretion and other ecosystem functions, we should prioritize their protection, or outplanting, as a means to promoting all of their associated benefits."
The study provides important data on salt marshes and climate change, says coauthor Tjeerd J. Bouma, senior scientist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.
"The present study provides new insight into the mechanisms by which coastal ecosystems that are highly valuable for flood defense, such as salt marshes, can cope with sea-level rise," he says.
Additional coauthors are from the University of Florida, the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, and Utrecht University.
Source: Ken Best for Yale University
The post Mussels act as ecosystem engineers to keep coasts healthy appeared first on Futurity.
The success of shifting to remote work depends on a company's flexibility to adjust to individual employees and the technology available to them, according to a new study.
While more businesses continue to shift to remote work, some well-known CEOs remain steadfast against the movement.
Offering remote work as an option to employees can serve as a powerful recruitment tool and one that can be easily implemented by organizations with the right resources, says Naresh Khatri, an associate professor of health management and informatics in the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri.
The key is providing strategic and effective human resource and information technology departments.
"Regardless of where employees are working, these two departments are vital to a healthy workforce," says Khatri, coauthor of a guest editorial in Personnel Review. "Many businesses are embracing this newer option because it opens up the potential for more applicants and workers."
Additionally, Khatri analyzed several studies and found companies with effective HR and IT departments become even stronger when employees are allowed to work from anywhere because the option offers more flexibility.
The end result shows that work completed by employees from home is not statistically different from work produced by employees in the office. In fact, no matter where they are working, employees are able to complete collaborative tasks with a similar level of quality and quantity.
"Past research has shown that the performance of remote and in-person workers were not significantly different, even when employees were working on collaborative tasks that depended upon work from other employees," he says. "In fact, research has also shown that the people working from home exhibit no decline in their ability to collaborate."
By supporting HR and IT with funding and labor, businesses are better prepared to face issues such as motivation and technical glitches that employees might encounter while working from home, Khatri says.
"To help prevent burnout and inefficient hours, HR practitioners should tailor their motivational practices to ensure they meet the unique needs of their employees, including employees who need to or would like to work from home," he says.
"That takes time and effort, but prior research shows that this support ultimately leads to mutual gains or benefits for both the employees and the company."
Research also shows that HR offices that continuously explore new ways to implement innovative practices to inspire employees tend to have more success in creating favorable mindset and attitudes in their employees, which Khatri says could help prevent burnout and uncover best practices for individual employees.
"People are different," he says. "Some are more efficient when working from home, and some are more efficient being around people in the office. Either way, the workforce is changing. Industries are changing, and if companies are preventing people from working from home, they are missing out on a valuable way to expand their profits, their personnel, and company health as a whole."
Source: University of Missouri
The post 2 factors make shifts to remote work successful appeared first on Futurity.
Worried about the plausible BS — also known as machine "hallucination" — that Large Language Models (LLMs) are known for spitting out? Not to fear. According to one high-profile AI entrepreneur, machine hallucination doesn't exist… but alternate realities apparently do.
"LLMs don't hallucinate," Stability.ai CEO Emad Mostaque — whose buzzy AI firm is in the throes of a fundraising effort that might put his company's valuation at about four billion beans — wrote in a Monday night tweet. "They're just windows into alternate realities in the latent space."
"Just broaden your minds," he added. Right on.
It's certainly a poetic means of addressing the phenomenon of machine hallucination, and could even be a somewhat helpful means of understanding, or at least beginning to understand, the concept of latent space — put very simply, a concept in deep learning used to describe the "hidden," compressed space between an input and output image.
Still, regardless of whether a machine hallucination is perceived as a doorway to another reality or simple, straight-up machine-hawked BS, the fact remains: such isn't actually our reality.
If you ask the machine to, say, write you a bio, and that bio is riddled with inaccuracies and embellishments, you can't pass that off and say "oh, well, that's just who I am in the latent space." (It would be a hell of a rebrand for "lying," though.)
We'd also be remiss not to note that, in a more dangerous turn, trusting that all machine hallucinations are really just a doorway to alternate realities — literally, and not just as a metaphor for lossy compression — also seems like a quick road to new-new-age conspiracy hell, where flawed tech is simultaneously deified and mystified as an all-knowing seer when it's really just… wrong about stuff.
As you might imagine, other Twitter users had some thoughts about Mostaque's whimsical suggestion.
"The noosphere incarnate. The Akashic Records in silicon. The collective unconscious," tweeted one particularly enthusiastic respondent. "Call it what you will, that's the thing we are extracting, mind juice."
The fairest — and perhaps most insightful — response of them all, however, was the most concise.
"LLMs perceive training data," another user wrote back, "not reality."
More on versions of reality: Professor Insists That We Actually Don't Live in a Simulation
The post Stable Diffusion CEO Suggests AI Is Peering Into Alternate Realities appeared first on Futurism.
Fed Up Feds
You'd better hope
's Full Self-Driving feature is all CEO Elon Musk makes it out to be, because as a Tesla driver, you may suddenly find yourself deprived of a steering wheel while on the road.
Following two accounts of Tesla vehicles exhibiting such a shocking lack of quality control, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now stepping in to launch an investigation into the automaker's 2023 Model Y SUV, The Associated Press reports.
According to an agency document filed on March 4, the investigation involves a little over 120,000 vehicles.
The culprit in both cases was a missing retaining bolt that connects the steering wheel to the steering column, the agency said — a clumsy and highly dangerous oversight.
Out of Control
An incident made its rounds on social media last month when a distressed owner of a brand new Tesla Model Y tweeted that his steering wheel fell off while driving down a highway only after five days of owning it.
Fortunately, with no car trailing him, the owner was able to stop the vehicle safely. But the damage had been done: his faith was understandably shattered.
Customer service didn't prove to be much help and actually wanted to charge him for repairs, so the owner tweeted directly at Musk, pleading for a refund.
"It's not even week and getting [a] bill for faulty steering wheel," he wrote. "Isn't it [the] company's responsibility to fix it?"
"I would greatly appreciate [a] refund and keep the car as we lost trust and family is not feeling safe driving it back."
In the end, Tesla offered to replace the vehicle, but clearly, the incident did not go unnoticed by the feds.
A lack of a simple bolt may be a relatively easy issue to amend, but the production line mishap has only added to the mounting piles of investigations that Tesla is under.
The NHTSA is already investigating Tesla's Autopilot driver assistance system after dozens of vehicles crashed into emergency vehicles with the feature turned on.
The company has also incurred the scrutiny of the California DMV, and reportedly the Justice Department, over the marketing of its misleadingly named "Full Self-Driving" feature.
Loose steering wheels are only the latest in a string of controversies the Elon Musk-led EV company has been embroiled in over the last couple of years. But Tesla is unlikely to respond to these latest reports as it disbanded its communications department years ago.
More on Tesla: Tesla Has Totally Paused New Installations of "Full Self-Driving" After Safety Concerns
The post Tesla Is Being Investigated Over Steering Wheels That Fall Off While Driving appeared first on Futurism.
- Since then, some countries, including the UK, have introduced laws to tackle microplastic pollution, such as banning the use of plastic straws and curtailing demand for single-use carrier bags.
It can be tough on our bodies when we spring forward to daylight saving time. A sleep expert offers strategies to help you adjust.
There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who love daylight saving time, and those who don't.
University of California, Davis Health sleep medicine expert Heinrich Gompf is not a big fan of the clock change—or at least not the way we currently do it in the United States.
In this episode of the podcast Unfold, he explains why it's so darn difficult for our bodies to adjust to the time change (the suprachiasmatic nucleus!) and offers tips to help you prepare and adapt when we do spring forward:
You can find the transcript for this podcast here.
Source: UC Davis
The post Is 'springing forward' bad for your health? appeared first on Futurity.
Writer Sally Adee says scientists are looking into ways to manipulate the body's natural electrical fields to try and treat wounds, depression, paralysis, and cancer. Her new book is We Are Electric.
Our solar system is suspended in a delicate balance of massive forces.
Introduce a new terrestrial planet into that equation between Mars and Jupiter, and it could jettison the Earth out of the solar system and end life as we know it, according to a new study published in The Planetary Science Journal, findings that could help us identify other Earth-like exoplanets that can harbor life.
Why Mars and Jupiter? The space between them could better be described as a gap, with Jupiter being unusually far away from the Sun compared to most other gas giants found in other systems. In fact, the gap to Jupiter is so notably large and empty that you might expect to find another world there.
"Planetary scientists often wish there was something in between those two planets," said study author Stephen Kane, an astrophysicist at the University of California, in a press release. "It seems like wasted real estate."
Kane's research addresses another notable gap: the size of terrestrial worlds versus that of gas giants in our solar system. Earth is the largest terrestrial planet orbiting the Sun, but even it pales in comparison to the most meager Jovian planet, Neptune, which is 17 times more massive.
Oddly, this is somewhat unique to our system.
"In other star systems there are many planets with masses in that gap," Kane explained. "We call them super-Earths."
Kane was determined to find out if these gaps were significant to our understanding of the solar system's architecture. Using dynamic computer simulations, he filled in the gap with hypothetical super-Earths of varying masses and locations to see how it would affect other planets.
The influence of just one super-Earth, it turns out, could catapult multiple worlds out of orbit. The problem is not the super-Earth directly tugging on those other worlds, but its tug on Jupiter.
That's because Jupiter's gravity is so influential that even a slight perturbation to its orbit from a nearby super-Earth would be felt by every other planet. Earth, Mercury, and Venus would all be tossed out of the solar system, and potentially Uranus and Neptune, too.
Obviously, Earth's ejection would be catastrophic to life, if not ending it entirely. But even if the super-Earth only slightly affected our orbit, the impact could still be drastic.
The point of the study, though, wasn't to envision yet another possible doomsday for humanity. Instead, it could help determine the viability of exoplanets harboring life, if they had a relatively isolated gas giant like Jupiter in their system like we do, providing a stable counterbalance to other gravitational influences.
Scientists have long debated the existence of a hypothetical ninth planet secretly lurking in the far reaches of our system. If this study is to be believed, maybe we should be glad we haven't found it yet — at least not near Jupiter.
More on space: Would You Still Love the Moon If It Was a Worm?
The post If There Was a "Super-Earth" In Our Solar System, It Would Probably Kill Us All appeared first on Futurism.
This week marked the passing of one month since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep on February 6, followed by dozens of powerful aftershocks. More than 50,000 deaths have been reported across southern Turkey and northwestern Syria. Rescue and recovery efforts have wound down, and the work of removing rubble and demolishing damaged buildings has begun. The United Nations estimates that 1.5 million people were made homeless by the quake, and local groups, charities, and government agencies are working to care for them, setting up tent cities, repurposing passenger-train cars, and opening up mosques and hotels. Gathered below are images from across the quake-hit region over recent weeks.
What if, in the end, we are done in not by intercontinental ballistic missiles or climate change, not by microscopic pathogens or a mountain-size meteor, but by … text? Simple, plain, unadorned text, but in quantities so immense as to be all but unimaginable—a tsunami of text swept into a self-perpetuating cataract of content that makes it functionally impossible to reliably communicate in any digital setting?
Our relationship to the written word is fundamentally changing. So-called generative artificial intelligence has gone mainstream through programs like ChatGPT, which use large language models, or LLMs, to statistically predict the next letter or word in a sequence, yielding sentences and paragraphs that mimic the content of whatever documents they are trained on. They have brought something like autocomplete to the entirety of the internet. For now, people are still typing the actual prompts for these programs and, likewise, the models are still (mostly) trained on human prose instead of their own machine-made opuses.
But circumstances could change—as evidenced by the release last week of an API for ChatGPT, which will allow the technology to be integrated directly into web applications such as social media and online shopping. It is easy now to imagine a setup wherein machines could prompt other machines to put out text ad infinitum, flooding the internet with synthetic text devoid of human agency or intent: gray goo, but for the written word.
Exactly that scenario already played out on a small scale when, last June, a tweaked version of GPT-J, an open-source model, was patched into the anonymous message board 4chan and posted 15,000 largely toxic messages in 24 hours. Say someone sets up a system for a program like ChatGPT to query itself repeatedly and automatically publish the output on websites or social media; an endlessly iterating stream of content that does little more than get in everyone's way, but that also (inevitably) gets absorbed back into the training sets for models publishing their own new content on the internet. What if lots of people—whether motivated by advertising money, or political or ideological agendas, or just mischief-making—were to start doing that, with hundreds and then thousands and perhaps millions or billions of such posts every single day flooding the open internet, commingling with search results, spreading across social-media platforms, infiltrating Wikipedia entries, and, above all, providing fodder to be mined for future generations of machine-learning systems? Major publishers are already experimenting: The tech-news site CNET has published dozens of stories written with the assistance of AI in hopes of attracting traffic, more than half of which were at one point found to contain errors. We may quickly find ourselves facing a textpocalypse, where machine-written language becomes the norm and human-written prose the exception.
Like the prized pen strokes of a calligrapher, a human document online could become a rarity to be curated, protected, and preserved. Meanwhile, the algorithmic underpinnings of society will operate on a textual knowledge base that is more and more artificial, its origins in the ceaseless churn of the language models. Think of it as an ongoing planetary spam event, but unlike spam—for which we have more or less effective safeguards—there may prove to be no reliable way of flagging and filtering the next generation of machine-made text. "Don't believe everything you read" may become "Don't believe anything you read" when it's online.
This is an ironic outcome for digital text, which has long been seen as an empowering format. In the 1980s, hackers and hobbyists extolled the virtues of the text file: an ASCII document that flitted easily back and forth across the frail modem connections that knitted together the dial-up bulletin-board scene. More recently, advocates of so-called minimal computing have endorsed plain text as a format with a low carbon footprint that is easily shareable regardless of platform constraints.
But plain text is also the easiest digital format to automate. People have been doing it in one form or another since the 1950s. Today the norms of the contemporary culture industry are well on their way to the automation and algorithmic optimization of written language. Content farms that churn out low-quality prose to attract adware employ these tools, but they still depend on legions of under- or unemployed creatives to string characters into proper words, words into legible sentences, sentences into coherent paragraphs. Once automating and scaling up that labor is possible, what incentive will there be to rein it in?
William Safire, who was among the first to diagnose the rise of "content" as a unique internet category in the late 1990s, was also perhaps the first to point out that content need bear no relation to truth or accuracy in order to fulfill its basic function, which is simply to exist; or, as Kate Eichhorn has argued in a recent book about content, to circulate. That's because the appetite for "content" is at least as much about creating new targets for advertising revenue as it is actual sustenance for human audiences. This is to say nothing of even darker agendas, such as the kind of information warfare we now see across the global geopolitical sphere. The AI researcher Gary Marcus has demonstrated the seeming ease with which language models are capable of generating a grotesquely warped narrative of January 6, 2021, which could be weaponized as disinformation on a massive scale.
There's still another dimension here. Text is content, but it's a special kind of content—meta-content, if you will. Beneath the surface of every webpage, you will find text—angle-bracketed instructions, or code—for how it should look and behave. Browsers and servers connect by exchanging text. Programming is done in plain text. Images and video and audio are all described—tagged—with text called metadata. The web is much more than text, but everything on the web is text at some fundamental level.
For a long time, the basic paradigm has been what we have termed the "read-write web." We not only consumed content but could also produce it, participating in the creation of the web through edits, comments, and uploads. We are now on the verge of something much more like a "write-write web": the web writing and rewriting itself, and maybe even rewiring itself in the process. (ChatGPT and its kindred can write code as easily as they can write prose, after all.)
We face, in essence, a crisis of never-ending spam, a debilitating amalgamation of human and machine authorship. From Finn Brunton's 2013 book, Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet, we learn about existing methods for spreading spurious content on the internet, such as "bifacing" websites which feature pages that are designed for human readers and others that are optimized for the bot crawlers that populate search engines; email messages composed as a pastiche of famous literary works harvested from online corpora such as Project Gutenberg, the better to sneak past filters ("litspam"); whole networks of blogs populated by autonomous content to drive links and traffic ("splogs"); and "algorithmic journalism," where automated reporting (on topics such as sports scores, the stock-market ticker, and seismic tremors) is put out over the wires. Brunton also details the origins of the botnets that rose to infamy during the 2016 election cycle in the U.S. and Brexit in the U.K.
All of these phenomena, to say nothing of the garden-variety Viagra spam that used to be such a nuisance, are functions of text—more text than we can imagine or contemplate, only the merest slivers of it ever glimpsed by human eyeballs, but that clogs up servers, telecom cables, and data centers nonetheless: "120 billion messages a day surging in a gray tide of text around the world, trickling through the filters, as dull as smog," as Brunton puts it.
We have often talked about the internet as a great flowering of human expression and creativity. Nothing less than a "world wide web" of buzzing connectivity. But there is a very strong argument that, probably as early as the mid-1990s, when corporate interests began establishing footholds, it was already on its way to becoming something very different. Not just commercialized in the usual sense—the very fabric of the network was transformed into an engine for minting capital. Spam, in all its motley and menacing variety, teaches us that the web has already been writing itself for some time. Now all of the necessary logics—commercial, technological, and otherwise—may finally be in place for an accelerated textpocalypse.
"An emergency need arose for someone to write 300 words of [allegedly] funny stuff for an issue of @outsidemagazine we're closing. I bashed it out on the Chiclet keys of my laptop during the first half of the Super Bowl *while* drinking a beer," Alex Heard, Outside's editorial director, tweeted last month. "Surely this is my finest hour."
The tweet is self-deprecating humor with a touch of humblebragging, entirely unremarkable and innocuous as Twitter goes. But, popping up in my feed as I was writing this very article, it gave me pause. Writing is often unglamorous. It is labor; it is a job that has to get done, sometimes even during the big game. Heard's tweet captured the reality of an awful lot of writing right now, especially written content for the web: task-driven, completed to spec, under deadlines and external pressure.
That enormous mid-range of workaday writing—content—is where generative AI is already starting to take hold. The first indicator is the integration into word-processing software. ChatGPT will be tested in Office; it may also soon be in your doctor's notes or your lawyer's brief. It is also possibly a silent partner in something you've already read online today. Unbelievably, a major research university has acknowledged using ChatGPT to script a campus-wide email message in response to the mass shooting at Michigan State. Meanwhile, the editor of a long-running science-fiction journal released data that show a dramatic uptick in spammed submissions beginning late last year, coinciding with ChatGPT's rollout. (Days later he was forced to close submissions altogether because of the deluge of automated content.) And Amazon has seen an influx of titles that claim ChatGPT "co-authorship" on its Kindle Direct platform, where the economies of scale mean even a handful of sales will make money.
Whether or not a fully automated textpocalypse comes to pass, the trends are only accelerating. From a piece of genre fiction to your doctor's report, you may not always be able to presume human authorship behind whatever it is you are reading. Writing, but more specifically digital text—as a category of human expression—will become estranged from us.
The "Properties" window for the document in which I am working lists a total of 941 minutes of editing and some 60 revisions. That's more than 15 hours. Whole paragraphs have been deleted, inserted, and deleted again—all of that before it even got to a copy editor or a fact-checker.
Am I worried that ChatGPT could have done that work better? No. But I am worried it may not matter. Swept up as training data for the next generation of generative AI, my words here won't be able to help themselves: They, too, will be fossil fuel for the coming textpocalypse.
Photographs by Ryan Pfluger
Arnold Schwarzenegger nearly killed me.
I had joined him one morning as he rushed through his daily routine. Schwarzenegger gets up by six. He makes coffee, putters around, feeds Whiskey (his miniature horse) and Lulu (his miniature donkey), shovels their overnight manure into a barrel, drinks his coffee, checks his email, and maybe plays a quick game of chess online. At 7:40, he puts a bike on the back of a Suburban and heads from his Brentwood, California, mansion to the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. From there he sets out on the three-mile bike ride to Gold's Gym, where he has been lifting on and off since the late '60s. The bike ride is his favorite part of the morning. It is also, I learned while following behind him on that foggy day in October, a terrifying expedition.
Schwarzenegger can be selective in his observance of traffic signals. He zipped through intersections with cars screeching behind him. I braked hard and, being neither an action hero nor a stunt double, barely stayed upright. Drivers honked and yelled at the speeding cyclist in the lead until they realized who he was. "Heyyyy, Mister Arnold!" the double-taking driver of a landscaping van shouted out his window.
Schwarzenegger does not wear a helmet and seems to enjoy being recognized, startling commuters with drive-by cameos. He describes his ride as a kind of vigorous nostalgia trip, a time when the former Mr. Universe, Terminator, Barbarian, Governor of California, etc.—one of the strangest and most potent alloys of American celebrity ever forged—can reconnect with something in the neighborhood of a pedestrian existence. "It's like a Norman Rockwell," Schwarzenegger told me. "We talk to the bus driver. We do the garbage man, the construction worker. Everyone's got their beautiful, beautiful jobs and professions." These days, Schwarzenegger's own beautiful profession is to essentially be an emeritus version of himself.
We made it intact to Gold's Gym in Venice, the birthplace of bodybuilding in the '60s and '70s, and a cathedral to the sport ever since. Schwarzenegger will always be synonymous with the place, and with the spectacle of specimens at nearby Muscle Beach. The Venice Gold's is a tourist attraction but also a serious gym—loud with the usual clanking and grunting, and redolent with the pickled scent of sweat.
"Say hi to Heide," Schwarzenegger told me, pointing to 82-year-old Heide Sutter, who was working out in a skintight tracksuit. "She is a landmark," he said. "She's actually the girl who is sitting on my shoulder in the Pumping Iron book. She was topless in the shot." Perhaps I recognized her? Not immediately, no. I didn't even realize that Pumping Iron was a book. I knew it only as a movie, the 1977 documentary about the fanatical culture of bodybuilding. "Everybody wants to live forever," went the opening refrain of the title song. Schwarzenegger, then 28, was the star of the film and a testament to the idea that humans could mold themselves into gods—bulging comic-book gods, but gods nonetheless.
"The most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump," he says in the movie. "It's as satisfying to me as coming is, as in having sex with a woman and coming … So can you believe how much I am in heaven?"
Now the aging leviathan jumped into a series of light repetitions. He likes to emphasize a different body part each day of the week. He was focused today (a Thursday) on his back and chest muscles. He did light bench presses, pectoral work on an incline chest machine, and some lat pull-downs. I did a few reps myself on an adjacent machine, to blend in.
For the most part, the muscled minions at Gold's left the king alone. "This is one of the few places where Arnold is treated normally," said Daniel Ketchell, Schwarzenegger's chief of staff, who hovered between us. A few tourists from Germany defied protocol and approached the bench, asking for selfies. "Don't worry about it," Schwarzenegger said, blowing them off. "We have a mutual friend," tried another intruder, and Schwarzenegger scowled, muttering indecipherably, possibly in German.
As someone who spent years perfecting his body, Schwarzenegger has always been attuned to the nuances of decline. Paul Wachter, a friend and business partner, first met him in 1981, when Wachter was about to turn 25. "Arnold said, 'Once you hit 26, it's all downhill with the body,' " Wachter recalled. "He said, 'You can still be in shape, but the peak is over at 26.' "
Schwarzenegger is now 75. He observed his birthday on July 30 by trying not to notice it. The only memorable thing about the milestone was that he tested positive for COVID that morning. He felt lousy for a few days and recovered.
I wanted to talk with Schwarzenegger because I was curious about what aging felt like for someone with a name, body, and global platform so huge that they hardly seemed subject to time. What does it feel like to be perpetually compared with your long-ago peak? "They play Pumping Iron in a loop in some of the gyms," Schwarzenegger told me, grinning at the idea of his souped-up old self still presiding over the pretenders. We all get soft and dilapidated, but it cuts much harder when you've been "celebrated for years for having the best-developed body," as he put it. "You get chubby. You get overweight, you get older and older." Just imagine, he added wistfully, "the change I saw."
As I watched him complete his workout, Schwarzenegger was barely clearing 120 pounds on the bench press. After decades of abuse, the man's shoulders are toast. His knees are shot, his back is sore, and he has undergone multiple heart procedures, including three separate valve-replacement surgeries, the last in 2020. Two of them devolved into 10-plus-hour ordeals that nearly killed him on the table. Still, let it be recorded that on a foggy October morning at Gold's Gym in Venice, I was lifting heavier weights than Arnold Schwarzenegger was.
After our workout, Schwarzenegger stood a few feet away and looked me over, paying particular attention to my bare legs.
"You have very good calves," he observed. "Very well defined." And calves are important, he added: "They are one of the muscles that the old Greeks used to idolize." Big deltoids are also coveted. In addition to abs and obliques. But he always takes note of a person's calves. This was easily the highlight of my day, if not my five decades among Earth mortals.
A couple of years ago, Howard Stern asked Schwarzenegger on the air where he thought we all go after we die. "The truth is, we're six feet under, and we're going to rot there," Schwarzenegger said. Some other authority gets to play the Terminator, and on a schedule of their choosing. Schwarzenegger wasn't afraid of death, he added. "I'm just pissed off about it."
Emotionally, Schwarzenegger has always been a padlocked gym. But he's felt a change lately, a more reflective shift. People close to him have noted a degree of openness, a desire to confide, that wasn't present back when he was young and invincible. Schwarzenegger told me that he recently attended the premiere of the new Avatar film (directed by his old friend James Cameron) and found himself crying in the dark. Someone will tell a story and he'll choke up out of nowhere. He asks himself: "Why did this have an impact on me today when it would have had none in the 1970s?"
The day before our helter-skelter bike ride, I had caught Schwarzenegger leaning against a doorway of the Chinese Theatre, on Hollywood Boulevard. He was waiting to give a brief speech in honor of Jamie Lee Curtis, who was about to get her hand- and footprints embedded in cement.
"I was trying to think of a big word," Schwarzenegger told me. "You know, a forever thing, or something like that." He kept landing on verewigt; German for "immortalized." "It means 'forever,' " he said. Ketchell encouraged the boss to not overthink it. "Just say 'immortalized,' " Ketchell told him. This is Hollywood—speak in the native platitude.
Curtis walked into the theater and greeted Schwarzenegger. They performed ritual Hollywood shoulder rubs on each other. The two go way back: Schwarzenegger once did a Christmas special with her father, Tony Curtis. They have houses near each other in Sun Valley. In 1994, Schwarzenegger and Curtis co-starred in True Lies, the Cameron action comedy. That was the same year Schwarzenegger's own massive hands and feet were set at the Chinese Theatre. He mentioned this more than once.
Schwarzenegger introduced me to Curtis, who told me how much she appreciated Arnold's "showing up" for her. "Showing up" was a big part of the job these days. Then Curtis headed to the stage, while Schwarzenegger stayed behind in the doorway, squinting out into the glare. He looked fidgety, maybe bored. He asked me whether I had seen the spot where his hands and feet were imprinted.
Yes, I'd seen it. I'll be back, Schwarzenegger had signed in the concrete—his signature line, first uttered in The Terminator, before his character circled back and murdered two dozen police officers. Schwarzenegger has been tossing out "I'll be back"s ever since. The phrase carries "intimations of the eternal return," an overheated critic once wrote in The Village Voice. But it lands a little differently now that the aging gargantuan is inching closer to the point of no return.
The reminders are everywhere, the worst one being that Schwarzenegger's friends keep dying. Jim Lorimer, a sidekick and business partner of more than 50 years, and an early promoter of bodybuilding in America, died in November (Schwarzenegger spoke at his funeral). George Shultz, the Reagan-era secretary of state who became a close mentor, died in early 2021. The hardest loss was the Italian champion Franco Columbu, another Pumping Iron icon, known as the "Sardinian Strongman," who died of an apparent heart attack in 2019. "I love you Franco," Schwarzenegger wrote in an Instagram tribute. "You were my best friend." Schwarzenegger listed a roster of other deaths, each depleting him more. "It's wild, because these are not just friends," he told me. "If people have a tremendous impact on your life, that means that a chunk of you is being ripped away."
On the morning when we went to Gold's, Schwarzenegger made a small detour afterward to show me the one-bedroom apartment he used to share with Columbu at 227 Strand Street, in Santa Monica. They lived there for about a year in the late '60s, not long after each had landed in the States, while they were both making a living laying bricks. The dwelling, a blue-and-beige box with institutional windows, betrayed no trace of the behemoths who'd once resided there.
Schwarzenegger stared up at the soulless space. "He was the best," he said of his friend.
For my ninth birthday, my parents got me a subscription to Sports Illustrated. One of the first issues I received featured photos from the 1974 Mr. Olympia contest, in New York. It was won, naturally, by the man SI called "enough of a legend for his first name to evoke a response wherever a barbell is picked up with purpose."
Schwarzenegger won Mr. Olympia seven times, and Mr. Universe four. But he is dissatisfied by nature, and from a young age not easily contained. At 21, he set out for America. He felt alienated by the complacency of his boyhood friends: They aspired to a government job with a pension, maybe; church on Sunday; the usual. "I say to myself, Are we really just clowns? And just do the same fucking things as the guy before? … And I'm like, What the fuck? I better get out of here." Standing on a stage in South Africa after winning Mr. Olympia yet again, Schwarzenegger felt the same old restlessness. "I looked around and said to myself, I've got to get out of this."
He charged into showbiz and became similarly huge, making $35 million a film at his peak. "But then I outgrew that," he said, mentioning Terminator 3, which brought in a burly $433 million at the box office in 2003. "And somehow I feel like I was standing on that stage again in South Africa."
Next? Politics! He'd always been intrigued by the business; he married a Kennedy, and George H. W. Bush appointed him chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (he claims to have presented 41 with a calf machine). And then, oh look, California was about to recall its pencil-necked governor, Gray Davis. Schwarzenegger jumped in and won his first attempt at elected office, also in 2003. He loved the job, telling me that of all the titles he has racked up, Governor is the one he cherishes the most.
Schwarzenegger was reelected by 17 points in 2006, though his popularity cratered by the time he left office, devoured by the usual bears of budgets, legislatures, and ornery voters. At that point he was not only term-limited by California law; he was also promotion-limited by Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. He has often said he would definitely run for president if he could, except he was born in Austria.
Instead, upon leaving Sacramento, Schwarzenegger was greeted by scandal. He admitted to fathering a son in the 1990s with Mildred Patricia Baena, a family housekeeper for 20 years. Mildred and Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver, had been in the house pregnant with his children at the same time.
After the story came out, Schwarzenegger retrenched for a while, tried to repair relations with his five kids, including his no-longer-secret teenage son, Joseph Baena. He and Shriver tried marriage counseling. It did not suit him, and it did not save the marriage. "I think I went two or three times," Schwarzenegger told me. He dismissed the therapist as a "schmuck" who was "definitely on her side." He admitted that he'd "fucked up" but did not believe the situation required any deeper exploration. "The fucking weenie gets hard and I fucking lose this brain and this happened," he said. "It's one of the biggest mistakes that so many successful people make, you know, so what am I going to say?"
What to do next? Susan Kennedy (no relation to Maria), Schwarzenegger's chief of staff during the Sacramento years, told me that he missed his position as governor. "He had to learn a new role as a senior statesman"—one who was no longer in office. He took on a few film projects and did his various events and causes and summits. His friends saw that he was struggling. "To wake up without a purpose is a dangerous place to be," Jamie Lee Curtis told me.
Meanwhile, another celebrity tycoon, Donald Trump, jumped into politics and landed in the White House on his first try, leaving Schwarzenegger with the dregs of The Celebrity Apprentice. Arnold's Apprentice went about as well as Trump's presidency.
"Hey, Donald, I have a great idea. Why don't we switch jobs?" Schwarzenegger tweeted in response to the president's taunting of the show's ratings, before it was killed in 2017.
During the scary early months of the pandemic, Schwarzenegger began posting homemade PSA videos on social media as a lark. They showed him drowsing around his 14,000-square-foot mansion in Brentwood, smoking cigars and sitting in his hot tub. He led exercise tutorials and taught proper hand-washing techniques. "I wash my hands a minimum of 50 times a day," he blustered into the camera from the kitchen sink. An ensemble of whimsical pets roamed in and out of the frame—Whiskey, Lulu, an assortment of tiny and massive (Twins style) Yorkies and malamutes.
[Arnold Schwarzenegger: Don't be a schmuck. Put on a mask.]
Suddenly, Schwarzenegger was enjoying one of those random social-media moments—quarantined and yet everywhere at once. He was a goofball colossus called back into action. People loved the role: Arnold in winter. Conan the Septuagenarian. I watched the clips again and again. Wear a mask! Don't party with your friends like a dumbass! Exercise! The videos were an escape from my remote-work quicksand. The protagonist looked unsettled but also purposeful. Or maybe I was projecting. I very well could have been projecting.
Then Schwarzenegger watched the ransacking of the U.S. Capitol by Trump's supporters on January 6, 2021. He was horrified, and felt moved to make a different kind of video. Flanked by American and Californian flags, he talked about coming as "an immigrant to this country." He compared January 6 to Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass," in 1938, which, he said, had been perpetrated by "the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys." According to Schwarzenegger's team, the video was viewed 80 million times. It was the biggest thing he'd done since he'd left office. "You never plan these things," he told me.
As he ended the message, Schwarzenegger brandished his famous Conan sword. Because of course he did.
"The more you temper a sword, the stronger it becomes," he said, suggesting that the same was true of American democracy. "I believe we will come out of this stronger, because we now understand what can be lost." I remember thinking this was a hopeful take.
Schwarzenegger was born two years after World War II ended and grew up, as he put it, "in the ruins of a country that suffered the loss of its democracy." His father, Gustav Schwarzenegger, was a police chief in Graz, Austria, and fought for the Nazis. Schwarzenegger has spoken more freely of late about his father's activities and his own attempts to reconcile with them. History need not repeat—that has been his essential theme. Hatred and prejudice are not inevitable features of humanity. "You don't have to be stuck in that," he told me. Humans "have the capacity to change."
When Schwarzenegger first made it big in Hollywood, he approached the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Holocaust research and human-rights group, seeking to learn about his father's complicity. Gustav's record came back relatively clean. He "was definitely a member of the Nazi Party, but he worked in areas like the post office," Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and CEO of the center, told me. Researchers there found "no evidence whatsoever about war crimes." But it may be more complicated than that. According to Michael Berenbaum, a Holocaust scholar at American Jewish University, records suggest that Gustav was "in the thick of the battle during the most difficult times," when some of the "most horrific military and nonmilitary killings" occurred.
Schwarzenegger rarely spoke publicly about his father's past until Trump became president and emboldened a new generation of white nationalists. "Arnold always told us the goal after he left office was to stay out of politics and focus on policy," Ketchell told me. "But when the president is calling neo-Nazis good people, it's hard to just focus on gerrymandering."
[Arnold Schwarzenegger: The America I love needs to do better]
After the violent march on Charlottesville, Virginia, by torch-bearing white nationalists in 2017, Schwarzenegger went hard at the neo-Nazis in a video. "Let me be just as blunt as possible," Schwarzenegger said. "Your heroes are losers. You're supporting a lost cause. And believe me, I knew the original Nazis." The video drew nearly 60 million views.
Schwarzenegger can be a bit of a brute and a pig and could easily have been canceled half a dozen times over the years. Just days before the special election for governor in 2003, several women came forward to say that Schwarzenegger had groped them, and a few other accusations of sexual misconduct followed. He denied some and didn't directly address others, but he issued a blanket apology for his behavior. "I have done things that were not right which I thought then was playful," he said at the time. "But I now recognize that I have offended people. And to those people that I have offended, I want to say to them, I am deeply sorry."
The stay-at-home Arnold character from the pandemic videos changed how people viewed him, he believes. "The whole fitness thing was mostly guys, the movie thing was mostly guys, the Republican thing was mostly guys," Schwarzenegger explained. "Then you had the fucking affair, and now of course the guys are on your side, and the girls are saying, 'Fuck this, fuck this, I'm out of here, this guy was a creep all along … I hope Maria leaves him,' and all that." But the videos—those turned things around. "Now, all of a sudden, I have all these broads coming up to me saying, 'Oh, you won me over with this video.' "
[Arnold Schwarzenegger: I have a message for my Russian friends]
After Russia invaded Ukraine, in early 2022, Schwarzenegger made a video urging Vladimir Putin to call off the war and the Russian people to resist their government. He said those who were demonstrating on the streets of Moscow were his "heroes." And he once again invoked his father, likening Gustav's experience fighting with the Nazis in Leningrad to that of the Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. His father "was all pumped up by the lies of his government" when he arrived in Leningrad, Schwarzenegger said. He departed a broken man, in body and mind.
After COVID restrictions were relaxed and the world reopened, Schwarzenegger receded again from the daily scenery. He had provided guidance and diversion during those rudderless months, and I had begun to miss him. I wanted to see how he was doing.
He was hard to get to, though. Beginning in May 2022, Schwarzenegger had cloistered himself in Toronto for several months filming a spy-adventure show for Netflix called FUBAR. While there, he was informed that he had won a prize for his work combatting prejudice. The first annual Award for Fighting Hatred was given by the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation (AJCF). Schwarzenegger is a sucker for such prizes and displays the biggies in his home and office alongside his gallery of bodybuilding trophies, sculptures of himself, busts of Lincoln, nine-foot replicas of the Statue of Liberty, and whatnot. He couldn't receive his AJCF award in person because he was tied up with FUBAR, but vowed to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland as soon as he could.
Filming wrapped in early September, and Schwarzenegger went home to Los Angeles for a few days before heading off to Munich to meet some people at Oktoberfest. From there, the plan was to make a quick day trip to southern Poland before returning to Germany to shoot an ad for BMW.
He would be at Auschwitz a few days after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Schwarzenegger's people encouraged me to be there.
I arrived at the town of Oświęcim, the site of the camp, with a group of donor and publicist types who were connected with AJCF. We were met at the entrance to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum by staff members, Arnold appendages, and a few strays, including a woman in a Good Vibes sweatshirt. No one seemed to know quite how to act. Distinct layers of surreal piled up before us.
Let's stipulate that celebrity visits to concentration camps can be tricky. Schwarzenegger appeared mindful of this as he rolled up in a black Mercedes. He stepped gingerly into a thicket of greeters, and tried to strike a solemn pose. Originally, the thought was to do a standard arrival shot for photographers. But the keepers of the site are sensitive to gestures that might convey triumphal stagecraft or frivolity. "There are better places to learn how to walk on a balance beam," management was moved to tweet after visitors kept posting selfies on the railway tracks leading into the camp. Every visit here is something of a balance beam, but especially for the son of a Nazi.
"Not a photo op," a staff member reminded everyone as Schwarzenegger began his tour. Photographers clacked away regardless. Schwarzenegger wore a blue blazer and green khaki pants, and appeared to have had his hair tinted a blacker shade of orange for the occasion. He flashed a thumbs-up—always the thumbs-up.
"No autographs please!" a random Voice of God from within the entourage called out. "Please be respectful."
Schwarzenegger was accompanied by his girlfriend, Heather Milligan; his nephew, Patrick Knapp Schwarzenegger; and Knapp Schwarzenegger's Texan wife, Bliss. They toured the grounds like students. "What happened here?" Schwarzenegger asked his guide, Paweł Sawicki, pointing up at a watchtower. Sawicki delivered a recital of unimaginables: 1.3 million people were exterminated at the 500-acre camp, about 1.1 million of them Jews. Victims were pulled from cattle cars and triaged by SS doctors deciding who among them was fit to work, who would be used as guinea pigs for Nazi scientists, and who would be murdered immediately.
Nearly all of those "spared" upon arrival would eventually die of starvation, exhaustion, hypothermia, or random beatings. They were gonged awake at 4:30 a.m., then fed rations of moldy bread, gray soup, and dirty water. "The word I will use a lot today is dehumanization," Sawicki said.
Schwarzenegger viewed the gallows where the camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, had been hanged. He asked questions about the complicit enterprises—whether the firm that made the crematoria ovens had known what they would be used for (it had). His retinue was led into Block 4A, to a room that contained eyeglasses, dishes, and prosthetics that had belonged to the victims. Another exhibit featured piles of their hair.
The last thing Schwarzenegger did before he left was step toward a black desk where a guest book awaited his inscription. Visitor registers can present a special hazard for celebrities. Some have committed egregious faux pas. Donald Trump at Yad Vashem, for instance: "It's a great honor to be here with all my friends," the then-president wrote breezily at the Israeli Holocaust memorial and museum in 2017. "So amazing and will never forget!" This was judged to lack gravity.
But it was not nearly as bad as Justin Bieber's blunder at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. "Anne was a great girl," the pop star wrote in 2013. "Hopefully she would have been a Belieber." Hopefully Schwarzenegger would attempt nothing like this.
Schwarzenegger has worked hard to place himself on the right side of the genocide. Auschwitz officials were glad to have him visit, because he brought with him media attention and the gift of global awareness. "I have been fighting this cause … for years and years and years," he said in a brief statement to the Polish press at the end of his tour. "I've been working with the Jewish Center of Los Angeles … I celebrated Simon Wiesenthal's 80th birthday in Beverly Hills. We all have to come collectively together and say 'Never again.' "
Photographers positioned themselves around the register as Schwarzenegger approached. Clearly, the safe play would be to simply sign his name. Please be respectful. Nothing cute, if only as a humanitarian pausing of The Brand. But no.
"I'll be back," Schwarzenegger scrawled.
After leaving the complex, Schwarzenegger visited a small synagogue in Oświęcim, an otherwise charming village if not for, you know, the history. There, he met an 83-year-old Jewish woman, Lydia Maksimovicz, who as a toddler had spent 13 months at the camp as a "patient" of the notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. She told him about how Mengele had performed experiments on her: drained her blood, and injected her with solutions in an effort to change the color of her irises. Mengele apparently had taken a liking to young Lydia and privileged her life above the other children's. Now, eight decades later, Arnold Schwarzenegger was engulfing her in a bear hug.
"People like Lydia show us how important it is to never stop telling these stories about what happened 80 years ago," Schwarzenegger said in brief remarks. "This is a story that has to stay alive." He vowed to "terminate" hate and prejudice once and for all. "I love being here!" he gushed. "I love fighting prejudice and hatred!" A woman connected with the AJCF tried to hand him a special box of cigars, but was intercepted by an aide. He reiterated that he would be back.
The Auschwitz visit left Schwarzenegger feeling depressed. He stopped off in Vienna afterward to receive a lifetime-achievement award from some Austrian sports outfit, and the friends who saw him there kept wondering if he was okay. He seemed dazed.
"We were sitting on the plane, and we both just shook our heads and were like, 'Wow, can you imagine?' " Knapp Schwarzenegger, his nephew, told me. "It was a somber mood for sure."
Knapp Schwarzenegger is an entertainment lawyer in Beverly Hills, and was the only child of Schwarzenegger's only sibling, his older brother, Meinhard, who died in a drunk-driving accident when Patrick was 3. Schwarzenegger brought Patrick to America as a teenager and effectively adopted him; they remain exceptionally close.
Knapp Schwarzenegger said their family history added a fraught dimension to the experience of visiting Auschwitz. They'd been particularly struck by the tour guide's stories of how the Nazis committed atrocities at the camp and then went home to their families. "That was the hard part," Knapp Schwarzenegger said, thinking of Gustav, "the loving grandfather," who died when Knapp Schwarzenegger was 4. "How can ordinary people like that do such a thing? … It hits much closer to home when you've had personal experience with that."
Gustav was haunted by the war, his body racked with shrapnel and his conscience with God only knows what. He "would come home drunk once or twice a week, and he would scream and hit us and scare my mother," Schwarzenegger said in the January 6 video. Somehow, Schwarzenegger emerged intact. "My grandmother did the best she could," Knapp Schwarzenegger told me, "but that affects you as a child. For Arnold, it made him stronger and more determined. And for my dad, it crushed him."
Rabbi Hier, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, speculated that Schwarzenegger's visit to Auschwitz could have been driven by shame, by a desire "to repent for the embarrassment of having such a father." But Schwarzenegger does not concede to this narrative—to feeling guilty or embarrassed. His recurring message is more upbeat, if a bit deflecting. "We don't have to go and follow," Schwarzenegger told me. "My father was an alcoholic. I am not an alcoholic. My father was beating the kids and his wife, and I'm not doing that. We can break away from that and we can change."
A few weeks after the trip to Auschwitz, I visited Schwarzenegger at his mansion in Brentwood, located in an extravagant hillside cul-de-sac of celebrity homes. Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen used to have a place down the road (in better days), as did Seal and Heidi Klum (also in better days). Maria used to live here too, in the mansion with Arnold (ditto).
I waited for Schwarzenegger on the patio where he smokes his cigars. He walked in and Whiskey and Lulu greeted him with a maniacal duet of braying. Two dogs wandered over to nuzzle him. An attendant brought him a cigar and a decaf espresso, and some treats for his dog-and-pony show. He took incoming FaceTime calls and kept raising his voice and shoving his face up into his iPad like my mother does.
Milligan, Schwarzenegger's girlfriend, called to see how his day had gone. They have a comfortable, domestic vibe. She had been Schwarzenegger's physical therapist, helping him through rehab for a torn rotator cuff about a decade ago. Ketchell, who had accompanied Schwarzenegger to the interview, wanted to make it clear that the pair had not become romantically involved until after Milligan stopped working with Schwarzenegger professionally.
Schwarzenegger and I hadn't had a chance to talk much in Poland, save for a brief kibitz outside one of the gas chambers. I wanted to debrief him. What had it been like to witness the death camp firsthand?
"We know people were killed there and exterminated and blah blah blah." (He has an unfortunate tic, when speaking about grave topics, of trailing off his sentences and adding filler words like blah blah blah and all that stuff.) It's one thing, he said, to be told about "all the gassing, the torture, all this misery, and all that kind of stuff. You can read about it, see documentaries about it, see movies—the Schindler's List, all this stuff." But actually seeing the eyeglasses, the hair—that added a dimension of reality. "I'm a visual person; it's one of my things," Schwarzenegger said. "When I was walking around, I was going back to that era."
Did he have any regrets about signing "I'll be back"? Some social-media congregants had criticized the message as "tacky" and "flippant," among other things. Schwarzenegger said that he had been made aware of the blowback and had meant no offense. "I wanted to write 'Hasta la vista, baby,' " he said. Another signature line, this one from Terminator 2. (Yes, he was serious.) "I meant, you know, 'Hasta la vista to hate and prejudice.' " But then he worried that Hasta la vista might come off as glib and dismissive—as in "Buh-bye, I will never come back here again." So he opted for the more forward-looking "I'll be back."
His hosts had felt the need to tweet a defense: "The inscription was meant to be a promise to return for another more indepth visit." In other words, Schwarzenegger was speaking literally, and did in fact plan to return. "That is what he said, so we expect Mr. Schwarzenegger will come back," Paweł Sawicki, his tour guide, who doubles as Auschwitz's chief press officer, told me.
I wondered if this had always been the plan, or if he had I'll-be-backed himself into a corner and now had to schlep all the way to Poland again to prove his sincerity.
Definitely, it was the plan. In fact, he said, he was thinking about an annual road-trip-to-Auschwitz kind of thing. "I already told Danny DeVito and some of my acting friends that we're going to take a trip next year," he said. "Maybe Sly Stallone. I'm going to find a bunch of guys and we're going to fly over there, and I want to be a tour guide."
He contemplated the possibilities: "Imagine bringing businesspeople." Maybe they could auction off some seats on the plane and give the proceeds to the museum. "We have to figure out something that is a little bit snappy and interesting," he mused. Afterward, they could go to Munich for Oktoberfest, or something fun like that.
In early 2021, a few days after Schwarzenegger made his January 6 video, then-President-elect Joe Biden FaceTimed to thank him. They spoke for a few minutes, and at one point, Schwarzenegger offered his services to the incoming administration. "I told Biden that anytime he needs anything, he should let me know, absolutely," he said. He's heard nothing from the White House since. It's complicated, he figures. Schwarzenegger, who is still a Republican, is not without baggage. The housekeeper-love-child-divorce episode remains a blotch. Celebrity politicians in general have seen better days: The likes of Trump and Dr. Oz have not exactly enhanced the franchise. In any event, Schwarzenegger gave no impression that he's waiting by the phone.
But in the conversations I had with him, he betrayed a strong whiff of existential stir-craziness. "I felt like I was meant for something special," Schwarzenegger told me that first morning after our workout, while we talked about his childhood in Austria. "I was a special human being, meant for something much bigger."
At his bodybuilding peak, in Pumping Iron, Schwarzenegger spoke with a kind of youthful yearning—or megalomania—of enduring through time: "I was always dreaming about very powerful people. Dictators and things like that. I was just always impressed by people who could be remembered for hundreds of years, or even, like Jesus, be for thousands of years remembered."
If only he could have run for president. That remains his recurring lament. Entering the Mr. Universe of political campaigns would have been the logical last rung of his life's quest for something bigger. Schwarzenegger said he thinks he could win. This is hard to imagine—a moderate Republican prevailing through the MAGA maelstrom of the GOP primaries? And he's not about to become a Democrat, either. ("I don't want to join a party that is destroying every single fucking city," he told me. "They're screwing up left and right.") Still, if they tweaked the Constitution, he told me, he would love to run, even at 75, which he insists is "just a number" and not that old. It's not like he's 80 or something!
In the meantime, what if Biden asked him to be secretary of state? I admit, it was me who raised the possibility. But Schwarzenegger warmed instantly to the idea, listing several reasons he would want the job and be perfect for it. George Shultz was one of his idols, and pretty much lived forever too (he died at 100). Schwarzenegger is a big believer in celebrity as a global force, in the power of being so widely, unstoppably known. Who would be bigger than Arnold Schwarzenegger? Who could possibly compare?
"I mean, look at the guy we have now," Schwarzenegger told me. Antony Blinken "is, like, a clearly smart guy, but, I mean, on the world stage, he's a lightweight. He doesn't carry any weight." (Blinken, who is leading U.S. efforts to contain Russia and China, could not be reached for comment.)
Schwarzenegger told me he really does want to live forever. Not everyone would, at his age. But not everyone has had his life, either. "If you have the kind of life that I've had—that I have—it is so spectacular. I could not ever articulate how spectacular it was." He was trying to project gratitude, but something else came through—a plaintiveness in that gap between the tenses.
I had a final visit with Schwarzenegger in late December, this time at his Santa Monica office suite. He wore a bright-red atrocity of a Christmas sweater and took a seat next to me at a conference table. Schwarzenegger has always been a creature of obsessive routine, dating to the strict training regimens of his bodybuilding days. But he emphasized to me that he is following no grand plan in this final stage. "The truth is that I am improvising," he told me. He is trying to pass on what he knows, and just signed a deal to write a self-help book that will codify his advice for life. The working title: Be Useful.
The next morning, I was walking to a Starbucks near Santa Monica Pier, when who should dart by on his bike? "Hey, Arnold," I called out.
He pulled over and accused me of being a "lazy sonofabitch" for not riding with him. He wore sunglasses emblazoned with I'll be back, and his white beard glowed in the dawn sun.
We chatted on the street, and Schwarzenegger suggested that I talk to a friend of his named Florian for this story. Florian, who sometimes stays in Austrian monasteries, apparently, has some elaborate theory of Arnold. "He would have an interesting perspective," Schwarzenegger said. "He's 6 foot 10, has big hair, and he FaceTimed me last night while he was shaving at 11 p.m. Who the fuck shaves at 11 p.m.?"
Florian does. His full name is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, a German and Austrian filmmaker who won an Oscar for his 2006 thriller, The Lives of Others. Later, I emailed him. He declined to share any grand theories. "These thoughts are very personal," he explained. "At some point soon, I'll turn them into a book myself. Hopefully to coincide with the release of a movie I direct with Arnold in the lead." He made sure to mention that Schwarzenegger was his hero.
In the meantime, the hero was idling on his bike, telling me that he has more things in the works—retrospective things (a Netflix documentary about his life) and new adventures (Return to Auschwitz ! ). He was also planning a trip to Ukraine; in late January, an invitation would arrive from the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky, praising Schwarzenegger's "honest stance and clear vision of good and evil."
I imagined Schwarzenegger dropping into Kyiv, unarmed except for the Conan sword. He would drive out the Russians, end the war, and detour to Moscow to take down Putin. At least that's how the Hollywood action version would end.
"There will be more," Schwarzenegger promised that morning. I kept expecting him to ride off, but he seemed to want to linger.
This article appears in the April 2023 print edition with the headline "Arnold's Last Act."
'Cleanup is futile' if production continues at current rate, amid rapid rise in marine pollution
An unprecedented rise in plastic pollution has been uncovered by scientists, who have calculated that more than 170tn plastic particles are afloat in the oceans.
They have called for a reduction in the production of plastics, warning that "cleanup is futile" if they continue to be pumped into the environment at the current rate.Continue reading…
About one-fifth of California's Sierra Nevada conifer forests are a mismatch for the region's warming weather, a new study shows.
The study shows how these "zombie forests" are temporarily cheating death, likely to be replaced with tree species better adapted to the climate after one of the state's increasingly frequent catastrophic wildfires.
"Forest and fire managers need to know where their limited resources can have the most impact," says lead author Avery Hill, a graduate student in biology at Stanford University at the time of the research.
"This study provides a strong foundation for understanding where forest transitions are likely to occur, and how that will affect future ecosystem processes like wildfire regimes." Hill led a related study this past November showing how wildfires have accelerated the shifting of Western trees' ranges.
Forest conifers can't adapt
Sierra Nevada conifers, such as ponderosa pine, sugar pine, and Douglas fir are among Earth's tallest and most massive living things. They have stood watch as temperatures around them warmed by an average of a little over 1 degree Celsius or 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1930s.
The number of Sierra Nevada conifers no longer suited to the climate will double within the next 77 years.
Meanwhile, recent years have seen a giant wave of new human residents drawn to the lower elevations of the Sierra Nevada by spectacular scenery, relaxed lifestyles, and relative affordability. The combination of hotter weather, more construction, and a history of fire suppression have fueled increasingly destructive wildfires, making the names of communities like Paradise and Caldor synonymous with Mother Nature's fury.
Hill and his coauthors started by combing through vegetation data going back 90 years, when the vast majority of human-caused warming had yet to occur. Fed this information, a computer model designed by the researchers showed that the mean elevation of conifers has shifted 34 meters or almost 112 feet upslope since the 1930s, while the temperatures most suitable for conifers have outclimbed the trees, shifting 182 meters or nearly 600 feet upslope on average.
In other words, the speed of change has outpaced the ability of many conifers to adapt or shift their range, making them highly vulnerable to replacement, especially after stand-clearing wildfires.
Maps of zombie forests
The study estimates that about 20% of all Sierra Nevada conifers are mismatched with the climate around them. Most of those mismatched trees are found below an elevation of 2,356 meters or 7,730 feet. The prognosis: even if global heat-trapping pollution decreases to the low end of scientific projections, the number of Sierra Nevada conifers no longer suited to the climate will double within the next 77 years.
"Given the large number of people who live in these ecosystems and the wide range of ecosystem services they confer, we should be looking seriously at options for protecting and enhancing the features that are most important," says coauthor Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment within the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability.
The study's first-of-its-kind maps paint a picture of rapidly changing landscapes that will require more adaptive wildfire management that eschews suppression and resistance to change for the opportunity to direct forest transitions for the benefit of ecosystems and nearby communities.
Similarly, conservation and post-fire reforestation efforts will need to consider how to ensure forests are in equilibrium with future conditions, according to the researchers. Should a burned forest be replanted with species new to the area? Should habitats that are predicted to go out of equilibrium with an area's climate be burned proactively to reduce the risk of catastrophic blazes and corresponding vegetation conversion?
"Our maps force some critical—and difficult—conversations about how to manage impending ecological transitions," says Hill. "These conversations can lead to better outcomes for ecosystems and people."
The study appears in PNAS Nexus. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation funded the work.
Source: Stanford University
The post 'Zombie forests' are stuck in regions that are too warm appeared first on Futurity.
According to the IEA, there are currently 18 direct air capture plants in operation around the world. They're located in Europe, Canada, or the US, and most of them use the CO2 for commercial purposes, with a couple storing it away for all eternity. Direct air capture (DAC) is a controversial technology, with opponents citing its high cost and energy usage. Indeed, when you consider the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere relative to the amount that any single DAC plant—or many of them collectively—can capture, and hold that up against their cost, it seems a bit silly to even be trying.
But given the lack of other great options available to stop the planet from bursting into flames, both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency say we shouldn't discard DAC just yet—on the contrary, we should be trying to find ways to cut its costs and up its efficiency. A team from Lehigh University and Tianjin University have made one such breakthrough, developing a material they say can capture three times as much carbon as those currently in use.
Described in a paper published today in Science Advances, the material could make DAC a far more viable technology by eliminating some of its financial and practical obstacles, the team says.
Many of the carbon capture plants that are currently operational or under construction (including Iceland's Orca and Mammoth and Wyoming's Project Bison) use solid DAC technology: blocks of fans push air through sorbent filters that chemically bind with CO2. The filters need to be heated and placed under a vacuum to release the CO2, which must then be compressed under extremely high pressure.
These last steps are what drive carbon capture's energy use and costs so high. The CO2 in Earth's atmosphere is very diluted; according to the paper's authors, its average concentration is about 400 parts per million. That means a lot of air needs to be blown through the sorbent filters for them to capture just a little CO2. Since it takes so much energy to separate the captured CO2 (called the "desorption" process), we want as much CO2 as possible to be getting captured in the first place.
The Lehigh-Tianjin team created what they call a hybrid sorbent. They started with a synthetic resin, which they soaked in a copper-chloride solution. The copper acts as a catalyst for the reaction that causes CO2 to bind to the resin, making the reaction go faster and use less energy. Besides being mechanically strong and chemically stable, the sorbent can be regenerated using salt solutions—including seawater—at temperatures lower than 90 degrees Celsius.
The team reported that one kilogram of their material was able to absorb 5.1 mol of CO2; in comparison, most solid sorbents currently in use for DAC have absorption capacities of 1.0 to 1.5 mol per kilogram. In between capture cycles they used seawater to regenerate the capture column, repeating the cycle 15 times without a noticeable decrease in the amount of CO2 the material was able to capture.
The main byproduct of the chemical reaction was carbonic acid, which the team noted can be easily neutralized into baking soda and deposited in the ocean. "Spent regenerant can be safely returned to the sea, an infinite sink for captured CO2," they wrote. "Such a sequestration technique will also eliminate the energy needed for pressurizing and liquefying CO2 before deepwell injection." This method would be most relevant in locations close to an ocean where geological storage—that is, injecting CO2 underground to turn it into rock—isn't possible.
Using this newly-created material in large-scale carbon capture operations could be a game-changer. Not only would the manufacturing process for the sorbent be cheap and scalable, it would capture more CO2 and require less energy.
But would all that be enough to make direct air capture worthwhile, and truly put a dent in atmospheric CO2? To put it bluntly, probably not. Right now the world's DAC facilities collectively capture 0.01 million metric tons of CO2. The IEA's 2022 report on the technology estimates we'll need to be capturing 85 million metric tons by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
No matter which way you do the math, it seems like a long shot; rather than a material that absorbs three times as much CO2 per unit, we need one that absorbs 3,000 times as much. But as we've witnessed throughout history, most scientific advances happen incrementally, not all at once. If we're to reach a point where direct air capture is a true solution, it will take many more baby steps—like this one—to get there.
Image Credit: Michaela / Pixabay
Nature, Published online: 08 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00616-xThe vast prairie pothole complex across central Canada and the United States could emit double or even triple its current methane levels by 2100.
One Falls, Another Rises
As language-modeling AIs continue their rise to dominance, a new-old victim to the tech might be emerging: voice assistants.
CEO Satya Nadella, that is. As the scope and impact of Amazon's recent layoffs — which reportedly hit Amazon's Alexa division quite seriously — come further into focus, The Financial Times has revealed that in an interview last month, Nadella went absolutely off on the voice assistants of the 2010s, basically just saying that, well, they're not too bright.
"They were all dumb as a rock," Nadella reportedly told the FT last month, speaking to the digital assistants — Microsoft's own, Cortana, included — that are currently available on the market.
"Whether it's Cortana or Alexa or Google Assistant or Siri," he added, "all these just don't work."
In other words: while the hype was clearly real, considering that Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Apple all had their version of a digital assistant — Amazon, notably, had sold 100 million Alexa units by November 2019 — the models just didn't live up to their original hype.
I'm Not Dead Yet
Though the FT didn't note whether Nadella, who in 2016 had declared that "bots are the new apps" while demoing Cortana, was overtly comparing digital assistants to Microsoft's newer, OpenAI-powered Bing Search, it certainly seems that way.
And to Nadella's credit, in a lot of ways Bing Search is already more advanced than the Siris and Alexas of yesteryear. If you ask Siri, for example, to build a workout plan for you from scratch, it can't — it can only find a pre-made program online via conventional search. Bing Search and its OpenAI-built brother ChatGPT, on the other hand, could both construct some kind of workout plan — or grocery list, or travel itinerary, and so on — for you by remixing relevant content that it can locate in its training material.
Elsewhere, currently-integrated digital assistants are difficult to monetize post-purchase, and the data-mining of it all aside, they don't exactly have the sci-fi feel that their architects imagined.
That said, though, according to the FT report, it looks like Microsoft competitors have their eyes on using generative AI tools to level up their existing digital assistant models.
"Fundamentally, [generative AI] will enable that breadth and flexibility and complexity that has not existed with the previous generation of voice assistants," Siri co-creator Adam Cheyer told the FT. "I think there will be a renaissance."
Heard that, folks? They're not dead yet!
READ MORE: Amazon's big dreams for Alexa fall short [The Financial Times]
More on Amazon: Amazon Begs Employees Not to Leak Corporate Secrets to ChatGPT
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It feels safe to say that John Reed Stark, a former attorney for the
, is not a fan of the cryptocurrency firm
The crypto exchange — now the world's largest in terms of trading volume, as a direct result of former rival
's spectacular November collapse into bankruptcy — has faced mounting controversy in recent days as the result of a bombshell Forbes investigation alleging that Binance's "asset shuffling" is "eerily similar" to that of the now-defunct FTX.
Binance "moved $1.8 billion of collateral meant to back its customers' stablecoins, putting the assets to other undisclosed uses," according to Forbes. "They did this without informing their customers."
It's a serious allegation and one that Binance and its CEO, Changpeng "CZ" Zhao, have since denied.
"I am deeply disappointed that Forbes continues to write baseless articles," Zhao wrote in a Feb 28 Twitter thread, "losing their own credibility."
But Stark, among others, isn't buying it.
"My take is that Binance is a shadow bank," the attorney wrote in a scathing Monday tweet, "minting their own counterfeit currency while providing limit-order books/brokerage/custody/clearing/settlement/etc. with no US regulatory oversight or audit."
"It's FTX redux," he ominously added, "and an epic bank run seems inevitable."
A bank run isn't entirely out of the question, considering that's exactly what happened to since-collapsed competitors Voyager Digital, Celsius, Gemini, and FTX, among others.
And given how many investors have assets in the firm, the impact of a Binance bank run would be, put mildly, devastating.
But that still-hypothetical scenario aside, Binance is facing very real trouble elsewhere: US Congress. Three US senators — Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Chris Van Hollen, along with Republican Roger Marshall — sent a bipartisan letter to Binance and its US subsidiary last week, demanding that the firms provide lawmakers with a copy of their records.
"Your companies' apparent attempts at evading the enforcement of anti-money laundering laws, securities laws, information reporting requirements, and other financial regulations cast serious doubt on the stability and legitimacy of Binance and its related entities and on your commitment to your customers," the senators wrote in the letter, which was sent after the Forbes report was published,
Unsurprisingly, Zhao maintains that it's all fake news.
"Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation has been spread about our company," the crypto leader told Forbes last week, "and we look forward to correcting the record."
READ MORE: Binance is FTX Redux, Bank Run Seems Inevitable: Ex-SEC Lawyer [Blockworks]
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People who start playing tackle football at an early age or play for more than 11 years may have less white matter in their brain, potentially leading to poor impulse control and thinking problems, researchers report.
The degenerative brain disease known as CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, has become a specter haunting football.
"Just because you aren't diagnosed with CTE doesn't mean there isn't something structurally damaged in the brain."
One-time stars—like the late NFL defensive backs Irv Cross and Dave Duerson and the Hall of Fame center Mike Webster—who were all once heralded for their swaggering on-field heroics, later found themselves condemned to far less glamorous retirements, stuck with years of progressively declining brain health, plagued by forgetfulness, disordered thinking, and poorly regulated emotions.
Now, the new study in Brain Communications suggests the repetitive blows to the head players take on the path to fame and glory may have a wider impact on their brains than previously known, whether or not someone has CTE.
"Just because you aren't diagnosed with CTE doesn't mean there isn't something structurally damaged in the brain," says neuropathologist Thor D. Stein, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine.
"Damage to the white matter may help explain why football players appear more likely to develop cognitive and behavioral problems later in life, even in the absence of CTE."
Damage to brain's 'cabling'
White matter is the brain's cabling, made up of axons, or nerve fibers, that connect its billions of cells. It accounts for about half of the human brain's volume—without it, our cells (the gray matter) wouldn't be able to communicate with each other.
"A lot of neuroscience and degenerative disease study is focused on the neurons or cells themselves, but increasingly people are recognizing that there can be damage to the connections," says Stein, leader of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center's neuropathology core and a staff neurologist at two Boston-area Department of Veterans Affairs' health care systems. "The cell itself might look okay, but its connection is not intact—and that was what we wanted to look at in this study."
To dig into the effect of repeated hits to the head on these connections, the researchers analyzed the brains of 205 amateur and professional football players. All had asked that their brains be donated to the BU-hosted UNITE Brain Bank, which holds more than 1,200 brains, after their deaths. A majority of the former players—75.9%—had reportedly been functionally impaired and, the researchers found, many (but not all) also had CTE.
"There's a cumulative risk—the more you play, the more your risk is increased."
For the study, Stein and his colleagues split themselves into two groups, blinded—or working independently—from each other. One group conducted a pathological examination of the brains, peering at samples through microscopes and dissecting white matter tissue to test protein levels. The second group evaluated medical records and interviewed family members about symptoms.
Stein was part of the pathological team. He concentrated his efforts on investigating myelin, a membrane of lipids and proteins that wraps around and strengthens the brain's cabling—like the plastic casing around insulated wire. Using biochemical tests called immunoassays, he measured the levels of two myelin proteins, myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG) and proteolipid protein 1 (PLP).
"How much of these proteins are present is a proxy of the integrity of the white matter," says Stein. Less myelin, less efficient connections between brain cells.
The researchers targeted the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls many executive functions, from memory and attention to planning and self-control. It's also on the front lines when it comes to football hits and concussion impacts.
They found that the more years someone played football, the less PLP they had; those who played for more than 11 years had less PLP and MAG than those with shorter careers. They also discovered that donors who started playing tackle football earlier had lower PLP levels. Stein suspects that young, developing brains are especially susceptible to damage from football's repeated hits.
"Maybe young folks playing at an early age, their connections might be particularly susceptible to damage," he says. "We found if you started at a younger age, you were more likely to have less of these white-matter-associated proteins decades later in life."
During their lifetimes, the former players probably struggled to plan their days, control their emotions, and understand the consequences of their actions, says Stein.
"In our study, we found that, in those over 50 years of age, lower measures of white matter were associated with an impaired ability to perform normal activities of daily living, such as paying bills, shopping, and cooking, as well as with more impulsive behavior."
Toll of youth tackle football
The latest study should allow the researchers to give families some closure—by explaining what caused their loved ones' sliding brain health. The research could also provide a foundation for helping future patients.
"These results suggest that existing tests that measure white matter injury during life, including imaging and blood tests, may help to clarify potential causes of changes in behavior and cognition in former contact sport athletes," says lead author Michael L. Alosco, an associate professor of neurology at the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine.
"We can also use these tests to better understand how repeated hits to the head from football and other sports lead to long-term injury to the white matter."
Stein hopes the work will also help people better assess the risks of playing football, along with other contact sports.
"There's a cumulative risk—the more you play, the more your risk is increased," says Stein, who backs the Concussion Legacy Foundation's Flag Football Under 14 campaign. "One message we try to get across is you don't need to be playing tackle football at a very young age—if you can just shrink those cumulative years of play down a little bit, you can make a really big impact on brain health. This study is more evidence of that."
Funding for the study came from the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the NIA BU Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Health Administration, the Nick and Lynn Buoniconti Foundation, and the BU Clinical & Translational Science Institute.
Source: Boston University
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Could robotic parents with their own set of DNA for the child could exist?, we've developed artificial wombs and soon designer babies so would it be possible to have a robotic parent?