A picture is emerging of a healthy lifestyle which is key to the condition’s prevention – exercise, being sociable, and looking after your ears
The idea was simple. Recruit hundreds of people in their 80s and 90s, equip them with fitness trackers, and monitor their physical activity. Then, when the participants died, collect their brains and examine the tissue. Is there evidence, lurking in the tissue, that exercise benefits the brain?
The results, from a 2022 collaboration between the University of California in San Francisco and the University of British Columbia, were striking. Physical exercise, late in life, seemed to protect the ageing connections between brain cells – the synapses where memories are made. The work, if backed up by further studies, could see exercise, and potentially drugs that mimic biochemical aspects of activity – prescribed to help slow the onset of
With the emergence of boutique AI-based travel recommendation sites (e.g. Stravl AI, iPlan, CitisKopes), planning a trip will (soon) become more and more like clicking on a YouTube video, Netflix series, or Amazon product – i.e. fully personalized & instantaneous. Some may argue that travel planning is inherently personal and requires specific knowledge about the individual that AI cannot provide, but the reality is that we already heavily rely on "collaborative filtering" when selecting travel options. For example, seeing our friends' Instagram posts greatly influences our decision-making process.
Booking a trip is a much higher-stakes decision than simply scrolling through social media. Thus, learning about an individual's travel preferences is not a straightforward task. However, the first major AI-based platform that can successfully "denoise" the available training data and accurately point communities of travelers to new and unique destinations has the potential to transform the travel industry.
As more travelers turn to AI for their trip-planning needs, traditional travel agents and booking services may become obsolete.
Examples of current offerings [which are bad compared to where we will be in 1-2 years]:
- Stravl (www.stravl.com):
- Asks you to fill out a small tinder-like form & then recommends a couple destinations
- Then, creates a fully personalized itinerary, with activities, restaurants, & hotels based on your request
- Then, let's you chat with ChatGPT-like interface to adjust the AI plan
- iPlan (www.iplan.com):
- Similar to Stravl, but as a mobile app. Asks you to put in your interests & then plans your trip itinerary
- TripPlanner (www.tripplanner.ai):
- Finds transportation options that fits your need using a chat-based AI interface
- Chat with an AI that finds your dream destinations, plans all your activities, and then actually books it by finding the cheapest offerings.
- AI remembers your requests & booked travel & then can be chatted with throughout your trip as a 24/7 personal travel assistant :O
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-31032-wUnderstanding the effect of component proportions on disease control in two-component cultivar cereal mixtures using a pathogen dispersal scaling hypothesis
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-31390-5Modeling of land subsidence using GIS-based artificial neural network in Yunlin County, Taiwan
D-ID’s New Web App Gives a Face and Voice to OpenAI’s ChatGPT
Aisha Malik | TechCrunch
“When you open up the web app on a desktop or mobile device, you’ll be greeted by an avatar named ‘Alice.’ You can then choose to either type out a question or click the microphone icon to say your query out loud. D-ID notes that Alice can answer almost anything. You can ask Alice to simulate a job interview or even host your family’s trivia night. …In a few weeks, the web app will let users generate a character, such as Dumbledore from Harry Potter, and talk to them.”
Two Oddball Ideas for a Megaqubit Quantum Computer
Samuel K. Moore | IEEE Spectrum
“Experts say quantum computers might need at least a million qubits kept at near absolute zero to do anything computationally noteworthy. But connecting them all by coaxial cable to control and readout electronics, which work at room temperature, would be impossible. Computing giants such as IBM, Google, and Intel hope to solve that problem with cyrogenic silicon chips that can operate close to the qubits themselves. But researchers have recently put forward some more exotic solutions that could quicken the pace.”
Room-Temperature Superconductor Discovery Meets With Resistance
Charlie Wood and Zack Savitsky | Quanta
“The results, published [this week] in Nature, appear to show that a conventional conductor—a solid composed of hydrogen, nitrogen and the rare-earth metal lutetium—was transformed into a flawless material capable of conducting electricity with perfect efficiency. While the announcement has been greeted with enthusiasm by some scientists, others are far more cautious, pointing to the research group’s controversial history of alleged research malfeasance.”
Sam Altman Invested $180 Million Into a Company Trying to Delay Death
Antonio Regalado | MIT Technology Review
“[Altman] says he’s emptied his bank account to fund two other very different but equally ambitious goals: limitless energy and extended life span. One of those bets is on the fusion power startup Helion Energy, into which he’s poured more than $375 million, he told CNBC in 2021. The other is Retro, to which Altman cut checks totaling $180 million the same year. ‘It’s a lot. I basically just took all my liquid net worth and put it into these two companies,’ Altman says.”
Meta’s Powerful AI Language Model Has Leaked Online—What Happens Now?
James Vincent | The Verge
“Meta did not release LLaMA as a public chatbot (though the Facebook owner is building those too) but as an open-source package that anyone in the AI community can request access to. …However, just one week after Meta started fielding requests to access LLaMA, the model was leaked online. On March 3rd, a downloadable torrent of the system was posted on 4chan and has since spread across various AI communities, sparking debate about the proper way to share cutting-edge research in a time of rapid technological change.”
Forget Designer Babies. Here’s How CRISPR Is Really Changing Lives
Antonio Regalado | MIT Technology Review
“…there are now more than 50 experimental studies underway that use gene editing in human volunteers to treat everything from cancer to HIV and blood diseases, according to a tally shared with MIT Technology Review by David Liu, a gene-editing specialist at Harvard University. Most of these studies—about 40 of them—involve CRISPR, the most versatile of the gene-editing methods, which was developed only 10 years ago.”
Could the Next Blockbuster Drug Be Lab-Rat Free?
Emily Anthes | The New York Times
“…momentum is building for non-animal approaches, which could ultimately help speed drug development, improve patient outcomes and reduce the burdens borne by lab animals, experts said. ‘Animals are simply a surrogate for predicting what’s going to happen in a human,’ said Nicole Kleinstreuer, director of the National Toxicology Program Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods. ‘If we can get to a place where we actually have a fully human-relevant model,’ she added, ‘then we don’t need the black box of animals anymore.’i”
This Geothermal Startup Showed Its Wells Can Be Used Like a Giant Underground Battery
James Temple | MIT Technology Review
“The results from the initial experiments…suggest Fervo can create flexible geothermal power plants, capable of ramping electricity output up or down as needed. Potentially more important, the system can store up energy for hours or even days and deliver it back over similar periods, effectively acting as a giant and very long-lasting battery. That means the plants could shut down production when solar and wind farms are cranking, and provide a rich stream of clean electricity when those sources flag.”
Detection Stays One Step Ahead of Deepfakes—For Now
Matthew Hutson | IEEE Spectrum
“…as computer scientists devise better methods for algorithmically generating video, audio, images, and text—typically for more constructive uses such as enabling artists to manifest their visions—they’re also creating counter-algorithms to detect such synthetic content. Recent research shows progress in making detection more robust, sometimes by looking beyond subtle signatures of particular generation tools and instead utilizing underlying physical and biological signals that are hard for AI to imitate.”
GPT-4 Might Just Be a Bloated, Pointless Mess
Jacob Stern | The Atlantic
“Will endless ‘scaling’ of our current language models really bring true machine intelligence? …the scaling debate is representative of the broader AI discourse. It feels as though the vocal extremes have drowned out the majority. Either ChatGPT will completely reshape our world or it’s a glorified toaster. The boosters hawk their 100-proof hype, the detractors answer with leaden pessimism, and the rest of us sit quietly somewhere in the middle, trying to make sense of this strange new world.“
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36922-1
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37040-8Connexin 36 (Cx36) gap junction channel is responsible for signal transmission in electrical synapses. Here, the authors determine
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37055-1Commensal microbes contribute considerably to mammalian metabolism. Here the authors report the relative contributions of microbiome, age and sex to metabolism throughout the body and uncover age- and sex- specificity in how microbes affect metabolite levels in mice.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-31069-xNumerical simulation of laser-produced plasma expansion on a droplet surface
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37069-9The collective nature of reorientational dynamics in water remains poorly understood. Here, the authors show that large angular fluctuations require a highly cooperative dynamics involving correlated motion of many water molecules in the hydrogen-bond network that form spatially connected clusters.
A neurologist explains why our bodies fare better when aligned with the natural light of standard time
After trawling through some forty years' worth of data, scientists have identified a foreboding "plastic smog" pervading our oceans that comprises more than 171 trillion plastic particles, according to their new study published in the journal PLOS ONE. Weighed altogether, that amounts to around 2.3 million tons.
Equally alarming was the "rapid and unprecedented" increase of the particles in the ocean since 2005 — which is only expected to worsen in the coming decades.
"It is much higher than previous estimates," study co-author Lisa Erdle, director of science and innovation at the environmental non-profit 5 Gyres, told CNN.
These estimates are based on surface water data between 1979 and 2019 that was gathered from nearly 12,000 stations across the world.
Rather than general plastic waste, the researchers focused specifically on microplastics. These fine particles, while vastly outweighed by the eight to ten million tons of general plastic waste dumped in the oceans each year, are just as dangerous to ocean life since they can be easily ingested, and are almost as inescapable in ocean water now as salt.
But microplastics don't need to be ingested to be harmful. They can just as easily seep toxic chemicals into the surrounding water, too.
Ominously, based on the woefully inadequate current rates of recycling paired with an increase in plastic production, the study predicts that the rate of plastic pollution entering the ocean will increase by about 2.6 times by 2040, highlighting the lack of meaningful, urgent action being undertaken to combat the problem.
"We clearly need some solutions that have teeth," Erdle told CNN.
And by solutions that have teeth, Erdle doesn't mean fishing errant plastic bottles out of the ocean, which, as the researchers wrote in the study, "has limited merit" — a sentiment shared by other marine scientists.
Instead, the best solution according to the researchers is "creating binding and enforceable international agreements to prevent the emissions of plastic pollution."
In other words, humanity will have to start getting real about limiting the amount of plastic we produce — and, most of the time, end up wasting.
"Cleanup is futile if we continue to produce plastic at the current rate, and we have heard about recycling for too long while the plastic industry simultaneously rejects any commitments to buy recycled material or design for recyclability," said study author Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of 5 Gyres, as quoted by The Guardian.
More on ocean pollution: The Refreshing Spray of the Ocean Is Loaded With Sewage Bacteria, Scientists Find
The post The Ocean's Plastic Pollution Has Spiked to "Unprecedented" Levels appeared first on Futurism.
Let Them Fight
The United States' cold war in space is continuing along swimmingly as indicated by recent statements from the
about its current posturing toward China and Russia.
"We’re under threat in the space domain," declared John Shaw, the deputy commander of the US Space Force, during a symposium held earlier this week as quoted by SpaceNews. "If I were on the General Staff of Russia, or if I was serving in the [China’s People’s Liberation Army] I would be advising the leadership to go after the space capabilities of the United States."
As warmongering as the whole thing sounds, Shaw did have a point when noting at the event that the American satellites which "project power across the planet" are "not all that well defended."
During the event, Chance Saltzman, the Space Force's chief of space operations, said that in order to address the threats posed by China and Russia, the US needs to be in "perpetual competition" with those countries and forge allyships to deter them.
After lauding China's "remarkable capabilities" in space, Saltzman admitted that the American "concept for domain control in space cannot rely on overwhelming destructive force."
Somewhat reassuringly, the military official said that winning won't be defined in traditional warfaring terms.
"If you do this right," Saltzman said, "you never fight."
As grandstanding as these officials' commentary sounds, they nevertheless do seem to accurately be portraying the fine line between hard and soft power when it comes to spacefaring and the global competition currently underway between the US, China, and Russia, the latter two of which are undoubtedly also drawing up similar deterrence plans.
"We have to completely rethink how we do our space architectures," Shaw said during his talk at the conference. "We’re probably gonna have to be more nimble."
More on the space arms race: European Space Agency Halts Plans to Send Astronauts to Chinese Space Station
The post US Space Force Says It's "Under Threat" and in "Perpetual Competition" With China and Russia appeared first on Futurism.
It's not exactly news that bee populations have been suffering, especially those that live in or nearby human-populated areas.
But according to a new long-term study, published in the journal Current Biology, even pollinators that live in remote, human-free forests, away from humans and aren't directly exposed to harmful behaviors like chemical pesticide use and habitat destruction, are disappearing in pretty horrifying numbers — yet another troubling sign that our much-needed pollinators are disappearing at alarming rates.
Bees, as The Bee Conservancy puts it, "lie at the heart of our survival." Human agricultural processes rely on these precious pollinators, which play a critical role in growing the crops that we and our livestock eat; they play a similarly critical role in natural food systems, too.
In short, if we lose bees, we lose a lot of plants, which means that we lose a lot of animals, habitats, and crops in turn. Not good.
The 15-year study, which concluded last year, closely tracked bee and butterfly populations in three different remote, forested areas in northern Georgia's Oconee National Forest.
After analyzing the data, the researchers were able to conclude that roughly 62.5 percent of the original bee population was lost, while butterfly populations shrank by a similarly shocking 57.6 percent.
The number of bee species dropped too, with the area losing 39 percent of its species biodiversity.
"Our results suggest," the study's authors warn, "that sharp declines in pollinators may not be limited to areas experiencing direct anthropogenic disturbances."
Though there's no clear-cut explanation for why these remote populations are shrinking, the researchers did present a few hypotheticals. For instance, the presence of invasive species, notably an invasive wood-nesting ant, may be damaging to the area's carpenter bee population.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers listed "increasing minimum temperatures" — in other words, climate change — as the other likely culprit for the pollinators' troubling plight. And considering that we don't exactly have that problem under control, it's hard to see a scenario where the bees and butterflies of the region recover in significant numbers, at least not in the short term.
It is worth noting that above-ground nesting bees fared worse than below-ground nesters, though all populations, as noted by the researchers, showed a sharp decline.
Again, it's not surprising news — but for the worst of reasons.
READ MORE: Bee and butterfly numbers are falling, even in undisturbed forests [Science.org]
The history respecters at the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant/entertainment chain still use
to control their animatronic rodent-bots — and they wouldn't have it any other way, apparently.
As BuzzFeed News reports, there are actually more than 600 Chuck E. Cheese locations throughout the world, and less than 50 still use the aging "Studio C" animatronics setup that runs off floppy disks.
But according to an employee of the distinguished Mr. Cheese who spoke to the website on condition of anonymity, even though this "paleotech" seems super old-school, it actually functions better than you'd expect — and at times, better than the newfangled setups.
"The floppies work surprisingly well. The animatronic, lighting, and show sync data are all in the floppy disks," the Chuck E. Cheese worker told BuzzFeed. "I've seen a few of the newer Studio C Chuck E.'s run on flash drive/SD card combo. But usually, newer setups cause issues with stuff, and it's easier to just keep the old stuff running."
When the website reached out to Chuck E. Cheese, the company did confirm that some of its franchisees still use floppies, but were, per the report, "very cagey" about supplying any additional information, and eventually decided to pull its on-record cooperation with BuzzFeed entirely.
As antiquated as floppy disk technology feels, BuzzFeed notes that it's remained in usage until recent years for all kinds of things, including nuclear weapons code storage, Boeing 747s, the San Francisco public transit system and, of course, animatronic robot musicians.
The low-tech-ness of floppies actually leads to one of their greatest benefits.
"If you’re looking for something very stable, really non-hackable — [floppy disks are] not internet-based, not network-based," Tom Persky, the owner of the floppydisk.com marketplace that is now the largest floppy sales site in the world, told BuzzFeed. "It's quite elegant for what it does."
Persky went even further in endorsing the technology he sells, too, saying that if someone's life depended on either using a USB drive or a floppy disk to save data, one should "pick the floppy disk every time."
While the man obviously has a stake in his accolades, they do make a lot of sense — though it's unlikely we're going to switch to using floppies anytime soon, given that most modern laptops aren't even equipped with CD-ROM drives anymore, much less equipment to read floppies.
More on tech changes: Gen Z Is Apparently Baffled by Basic Technology
The post Chuck E. Cheese Is Weirdly Defensive About Its Floppy Disk-Powered Robots appeared first on Futurism.
In January 2022, when the fifth Scream film came out, more than a decade had passed since someone had last donned the Ghostface mask and terrorized teens with threatening phone calls and a deftly wielded hunting knife. That movie, the first Scream not directed by the series’ now-deceased auteur, Wes Craven, had a lot of new developments to catch up on in the genre it ribbed so well: the rise of “elevated” horror, the tiresome formulae of legacy sequels, and how a killer who’s reliant on landlines might function in the smartphone era. The result was enough of a hit for executives to green-light Scream VI, which is rushing to multiplexes a mere 14 months later. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the follow-up has less to say.
Scream has always thrived on metatextuality: In the opening scene of the original 1996 film, an unseen caller starts quizzing a high schooler (played by Drew Barrymore) over the phone about scary movies. The movie allowed Craven, a master of the slasher form, and the screenwriter Kevin Williamson to mock the tired structure of the genre while still delivering a successful version of it. Last year, I was initially wary that the franchise’s new leadership, the Ready or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, wouldn’t be able to re-create the tone of such a voice-driven classic. But I was reassured by their take, which had real fun at the expense of the rageful, Reddit-dwelling online film nerds of the latest generation.
Scream VI retains Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett, along with the screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, but it lacks the previous films’ nimbleness in finding fresh angles on the horror world. The quick turnaround is partly to blame—not enough has happened within the genre in the intervening year to really be commented on—but the other problem is the prosaic nature of a sixth movie entry. Prior Screams satirized the tropes of a standard slasher sequel (Scream 2), the grand finale of a trilogy (Scream 3), the reboot (Scream 4), and the legacy sequel that brings back old cast members and mixes them with new characters (last year’s confusingly titled Scream).
All Scream VI really has going for it is that it has relocated its cast to New York City, following the example of other series that did the same. (I’m mostly thinking of the camp classic Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.) After the last film’s bloodbath, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) and her half sister, Tara (Jenna Ortega), have moved to the Big Apple, where Tara and their movie-loving pals Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) are attending college. The crew has made some new friends but is still stewing over old traumas when, surprise, surprise, another Ghostface killer emerges and starts slaying co-eds across the city—while implicating Sam in the murders.
Scream VI doesn’t have quite the same “legacy” pull as its predecessor. Hayden Panettiere (who gave the best performance of Scream 4) makes a welcome return as the smart-aleck Kirby, now an FBI agent on the Ghostface case, but Courteney Cox is one of the only cast members from the original film this time around, reappearing as the dogged tabloid journalist Gale Weathers. Instead of featuring a slew of character reprises, the movie sources nostalgia from its script, about a franchise-obsessed killer who collects mementos from infamous slayings and leaves them at his own crime scenes. It’s a nonsensical yarn but an obvious way for the film to glance back at its storied history, perhaps in search of some emotional weight.
At one point, Kirby and an NYPD detective (played by a snarly Dermot Mulroney, clearly just here to have a good time) examine a bulletin board covered with former suspects (from prior Scream films), looking for clues. But the pair might as well be Hollywood producers trying to track a new lead on an outdated blueprint, admiring the headshots of Ghostfaces of yore rather than investigating original material. The smiling visages of actors such as Timothy Olyphant, Laurie Metcalf, Emma Roberts, and Skeet Ulrich offer an amusing road map through a grand and gory backstory. They don’t, however, point the characters or the viewers to a clear path forward.
Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett remain gifted at set pieces, and Scream VI has more than a few arresting moments. The opening sequence (always a high point for these movies) features an entertaining switcheroo and a plum cameo for the Ready or Not star Samara Weaving. A clever series of murders takes place across two adjacent apartment buildings and uses the spatial geography of cramped New York housing brilliantly. And an extended, suspenseful scene on the subway is a blast. But there just isn’t enough juice behind the stagecraft. The Scream movies have thrived because they’ve always stayed one step ahead of their source material—but as the franchise grows more bloated, they risk becoming their own punch line.
This article was originally published by High Country News.
Fourteen-year-old Callie Lawson is living with a broken bedroom door perpetually ajar, leaking privacy. A teenager’s nightmare. That’s just one of the many repairs needed for her family’s aging mobile home—repairs that most craftsmen, unaccustomed to working on factory-built structures, either don’t know how to fix or are unwilling to tackle. Jeff, Callie’s father, is losing patience, too, with the rent hikes on the trailer lot and the leaky roof he can’t afford to mend. Meanwhile, Callie’s mother, Kim, yearns for the sort of home that’s been out of reach since she was a child: “I’m 52, and I’ve never lived in a stick-frame house.”
The housing crisis in western Colorado’s greater Roaring Fork Valley, where the Lawsons live, is like a stubborn virus that gets worse with each passing year. The region is bookended on one side by the relatively affordable “down-valley” cities of Glenwood Springs and Rifle, and on the other end by Aspen, where the median home value is roughly $3 million. Even the average down-valley home is now fetching more than half a million dollars.
But now Roaring Fork residents—including the Lawsons—are getting some relief. The local branch of Habitat for Humanity is constructing Wapiti Commons, a 20-unit development slated for completion next summer. The project boasts units that are not only affordable but also net-zero: The development will produce as much energy with its solar panels as its efficient appliances consume, which will make utility bills cheaper. This is no custom-built one-off; it’s part of Habitat’s plan to show that sustainability can be standard, not just a luxury add-on. Habitat sees Wapiti and its sister site, Basalt Vista, as templates of what’s to come. The first homes will be finished this spring.
The West’s resort and public-lands gateway communities have long struggled with housing shortages. The scarcity intensified—and spread to once-affordable areas—during the pandemic. Brian Rossbert is an executive director for Housing Colorado, a nonprofit policy group. Rossbert, who grew up near a ski resort, observed firsthand how the crisis became amplified in the mountains. “People are getting pushed further and further from their place of work, while a lot of the housing stock is taken up by second-home owners and short-term rentals,” he explains. The space available for building is also limited in the thin, ribbonlike tracts between the mountain ranges.
The strain is felt across industries and demographics. Service workers struggle to make ends meet in the Roaring Fork Valley, and schools are hard-pressed to retain staff. Only 8 percent of area seniors said they could find quality affordable housing, according to a 2018 survey. Wapiti, which will include eight dedicated units for older residents in Rifle starting at $185,000, was conceived with those local tensions in mind. Jeff Lawson’s daily 20-minute commute to his job as a child-welfare manager in Rifle, for example, will shrink to biking distance. But housing security is the development’s key selling point. Prioritizing ownership is important, says Gail Schwartz, Habitat’s Roaring Fork president: “To keep people you want to stay in your community, long-term housing is critical for what it does emotionally.”
Making that vision a reality wasn’t easy. The first step involved partnering with the local government. For instance, in exchange for city land and $100,000 in waived permitting fees, Rifle received a dedicated unit for one of its employees. These deals offset part of, but not all of, what Schwartz calls the “gap”—the $125,000-a-unit shortfall that stems from selling units far below market rate. The rest came from state and federal grants, corporate donations, and other partnerships underwriting the initial research and development for Habitat’s net-zero designs.
All of this has produced a working model for Habitat’s future developments. However, the best place to see the fruits of this labor—Habitat’s investment in technology, the interminable grant writing—will be in the wallets of Wapiti’s eventual residents. A unit’s average monthly energy bill is anticipated to run about $14 a month, thanks to the energy-saving design.
Whether solutions put a dent in the Mountain West’s housing crisis or simply chip at its edges will largely hinge on the region’s ability to scale interventions to the scope of the problem. Only one state in the Mountain West is supplying more than 50 units of affordable housing for every 100 residents in need, according to a 2022 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition; Colorado supplies 29 units for every 100, and it is far from the worst.
Schwartz believes that a lasting solution requires more than singular housing developments, which can often take years to realize. The Roaring Fork chapter is betting on mass production: specifically, a modular-home factory in Rifle to produce 200 net-zero houses a year made from recycled steel that is rolled into sheets and punched into ready-made components, which are then “assembled like an Erector Set,” Schwartz says. Habitat is currently raising funds for a venture that would occupy a reclaimed uranium mill, pending surveys on the site’s safety.
Colorado’s affordable-housing deficit now exceeds 225,000 units, according to Rossbert, and despite the best efforts of nonprofit developers such as Habitat, it continues to grow. That may change with the passage of a ballot measure last November that will dedicate 0.1 percent of annual income-tax revenue—by one estimate $300 million a year— to affordable-housing construction, along with a raft of other measures, including accelerated permitting and down-payment assistance. “This legislation is monumental,” Rossbert says. “We’re talking about moving from being able to produce thousands of units to tens of thousands of units a year.” Schwartz hopes other developers will follow Habitat’s lead. “They will have funds that can support communities to do more projects like Wapiti,” she says.
The Lawsons, however, won’t have to wait that long, just until this fall. “I’ll have a home for my family, for Kim, for my kids,” Jeff Lawson says. “I’m looking forward to that.”
This is an edition of The Wonder Reader, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a set of stories to spark your curiosity and fill you with delight. Sign up here to get it every Saturday morning.
In a 2021 Atlantic article that I’ve now read many times, the writer Deborah Copaken reflects on her time spent with another writer, Nora Ephron. A random phone call (“Hi, Deb, this is Nora Ephron.” “Yeah, right. And I’m Joan of Arc.”) led to a decade-long friendship between Copaken and Ephron—or, as Copaken calls her, “this daughterless woman who has all but adopted me and several other women.”
Copaken’s article, excerpted from her memoir Ladyparts, catalogs her own midlife challenges as well as Ephron’s death, in 2012. The article helps those of us who have long loved Ephron get to know her better, but what resonates with me most are the three lessons Copaken has gathered from the rom-com auteur about navigating middle age. Ephron, Copaken wrote, “teaches me, by example, how to navigate the postreproductive half of my life.” Here’s how:
- Gather friends in your home and feed them.
- Laugh in the face of calamity.
- Cut out all the things––people, jobs, body parts––that no longer serve you.
I’d venture to suggest that those rules apply at most ages. But today’s reading list focuses on that era of life we call the “middle”—what makes it special, and how to find a singular sort of happiness within it.
By Deborah Copaken
Gather friends and feed them, laugh in the face of calamity, and cut out all the things––people, jobs, body parts––that no longer serve you.
By Jennifer Senior
There are good reasons you always feel 20 percent younger than your actual age.
By James Parker
Your body begins to betray you. You have neither the vitality of youth nor the license of old age. But being over the hill has its pleasures.
- The two choices that keep a midlife crisis at bay: Middle age is an opportunity to find transcendence, our happiness columnist wrote last year.
- What it’s like to date after middle age: Newly single older people are finding a dating landscape vastly different from the one they knew in their 20s and 30s.
- There’s something odd about the dogs living at Chernobyl.
- Milk has lost all meaning.
- The nasty logistics of returning your too-small pants (From 2021)
I’ll leave you with some words from James Parker’s ode to middle age:
“You’re more free. The stuff that used to obsess you, those grinding circular thoughts—they’ve worn themselves out. You know yourself, quite well by now. Life has introduced you to your shadow; you’ve met your dark double, and with a bit of luck the two of you have made your accommodations. You know your friends. You love your friends, and you tell them.”
In my dreams, Google begs me to come back. Human resources tells me that they have the perfect software-engineering role and that I alone can do it. Even though it’s been three years since I quit—frustrated by sexual harassment, an excruciating HR investigation, and being discouraged from applying for a promotion, which led to a reduction in pay—I always accept their offer, flooded with joy and relief. I clip my holographic badge back on to my belt loop; I clutch my corporate MacBook to my chest. Reunited with my colleagues, I throw myself back into debugging, ecstatic that my life has a clear purpose again.
I always wake up disappointed. Even though I’m glad I left Google, after which I worked at Facebook briefly before exiting tech in mid-2021, moving on was complicated. Like many workers who were part of the so-called Great Resignation, I walked away because of burnout worsened by the pandemic, along with a heightened sense that life is short. Quitting seemed like the path to taking control of my mental and physical well-being. But it was not the panacea I’d anticipated.
As a culture, we’ve come a long way in identifying the bad parts of all-consuming jobs, but saying goodbye still often comes with an enormous sense of grief. I’ve never felt more alive than when doing intense work in an intimate environment. Even after nearly two years of reflection, I still can’t decide if that euphoria is bad for me, incompatible with a healthy life, or if labor is, in fact, sacred. Talking with fellow quitters about what we lost when leaving, I found that there’s a fundamental tension between doing projects that thrill us and being able to shut our laptops, disconnect, and sleep through the night. We hoped that career switches would solve the problem, but we’ll probably be struggling with it our whole lives.
I arrived at Google in 2015, right after college, and immediately fell in love with the full-throttle pace. My team combatted misinformation, and our bosses warned us that our mistakes could kill people. When democracy seemed to be melting down outside our office tower, I believed I had the power to help.
This shared mission, plus the considerable perks that tethered me to the office, made relationships there fierce and visceral. At 5 p.m. each day, I filed into a conference room with the other young engineers for “Capybara Abs” time. We rolled around on the carpet, doing crunches and planks. It smelled like sweat and old socks, and it felt like home.
For all the perks, the job took a toll. After I reported sexual harassment, I was unable to sleep soundly for weeks on end. My lower-back pain became so severe that I couldn’t sit down at my desk—I had to code standing up, for hours at a time. I showed up at the on-site health clinic and broke down crying. The nurse practitioner prescribed muscle relaxants and tramadol, an opioid painkiller, and urged me to quit. Before I did, I bawled like a child on my sofa every night for weeks, saying, “I don’t want to go.” My next role, at Facebook, had similar drawbacks but few of the upsides. (In addition to back problems, I started getting crushing migraines.)
When I gave my notice at Facebook in 2021, indefinitely leaving tech, I had every reason to celebrate: I’d recently sold a book and had the financial resources to write full-time, a childhood fantasy. Before long my pain disappeared, further vindicating my decision to depart my grueling job.
I didn’t realize it yet, but I was part of the Great Resignation. In 2021, a record 48 million Americans left their jobs, followed by more than 51 million Americans in 2022. The news coverage was triumphant, featuring headlines and subheadings such as “Everyone Is Quitting Their Job. Great!,” while “QuitTok” videos portrayed even more elation—one featured a Taco Bell worker who cannonballed into a sink to celebrate his last shift before becoming a full-time video-game streamer.
My experience turned out to be less straightforwardly positive. Passion for my new endeavors didn’t erase the loss I felt about my old prestigious job. Once I got over the initial exhaustion, I ached for what I’d abandoned: my deep bond with my manager, whom I viewed almost as a parent; the promotion ladder that, for years, gave shape to my future; my self-image as a hard-core woman engineer making it in a male-dominated field. Dead set on moving forward, I threw myself into new ventures until I felt the twinge in my spine return. My old health issues had come back to haunt me.
Libby Vincent, a Scottish woman based in London, also had confusing feelings after departing an intense job. She spent her 20s running nightclubs, then climbed her way up the ladder at Just Eat Takeaway, a global tech conglomerate that owns food-delivery services such as Grubhub. Burned out by the pandemic, she quit in 2021, one month before her 40th birthday. But free from the constraints of her role, she found that relaxing was harder, not easier. “Everything I did, I felt it wasn’t the thing I should be doing,” she told me. She struggled to read. During yoga, she daydreamed about her old responsibilities. Seeing her company grow without her was excruciating. “It’s like seeing an ex do really well.”
The expectation to feel happy and calm once freed from the corporate albatross weighed on Vincent. At Christmas, three different people gave her copies of Glennon Doyle’s self-help book, Untamed. “They advised me to ‘stop trying to live up to other people’s expectations’”—an unwanted judgment.
Wellness and self-discovery turned into expensive, exhausting work. Eventually Vincent realized that she hadn’t failed at finding balance. Instead, harried is her preferred state. “I don’t want to be outside the corporate machine. I don’t want to be teaching yoga,” she said. Vincent launched a consultancy that assists women executives transitioning into new positions. She works more now than she did in tech, but is happier than she was in her old job or while unemployed. Vincent expected self-care to be the answer, but instead she found satisfaction in a more fulfilling, equally challenging career.
Khalid Abdulqaadir had a profound relationship with his profession after nearly 20 years serving the U.S., including time in the military. He took pride in the prestige and selectiveness of his post at the National Security Agency. “I was at the tip of the spear,” Abdulqaadir told me, “on the forefront of America’s security with the most sophisticated technology and capabilities in the world.”
But the pressure also weighed on him. It was hard to take vacations or even lunch breaks, because he had to be doing “what your countrymen expect you to do.” With a top-secret security clearance, Abdulqaadir was constantly on edge: Even in the grocery-store checkout line, if strangers made small talk, he wondered if they were trying to extract classified information from him. “That takes it from being a job to being a lifestyle. It affects your family too.”
These stresses wore on Abdulqaadir until he eventually quit in 2020, eager to begin a new chapter in his professional life. He and his family moved from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City, Missouri, where they crammed into his aunt’s house. Pursuing his dream of starting a film-production company seemed like a welcome reprieve—the last few years of his service to the federal government had been under President Donald Trump and had overlapped with the coronavirus pandemic and the unrest following the killing of George Floyd.
But after saying goodbye, Abdulqaadir felt loss every time he turned on the news. “I was a player and now I’m out of the game. I see what’s going on all over the world. I used to be able to look at that and think ‘I’mma go in and do something about that tomorrow.’”
Eventually Abdulqaadir’s wife found full-time employment, and he and a business partner landed their first clients. When he struggled with the transition, it was magnified by the fact that the people around him assumed he was doing fine. He said that many people see him solely “as a resilient individual,” incapable of experiencing the strain of a crucial job, the loss of walking away from it, or the uncertainty that comes with starting a business. “They think I’m not having a nervous breakdown when I am. That I’m not terrified by my future, watching my kids sleep at night.”
Abdulqaadir is grateful that increased awareness of mental health—particularly through conversations led by Black men—gave him the courage to prioritize his well-being and make the change. He still struggles with knowing he’s “on the sideline” of global politics but, now that he’s immersed in entrepreneurship, has no regrets. “When you quit the job, you’re obviously going to miss everything you loved about it,” he said. “Being able to find something else you love in the same way is key.”
Just before the pandemic, Hadassah Mativetsky was promoted to management at a hardware manufacturer in rural New York. A year later, in 2021, her daughter’s day care told Mativetsky to find another placement. Nearby facilities had lengthy waiting lists. “This isn’t the city. Nannies are not a thing here,” she told me. She found babysitters on Care.com and trained them, only to have one college student after another flake at the last minute. After several months of this, Mativetsky, newly pregnant with her second child, felt forced to resign to stay home with her kids. She’s not alone: According to a 2021 survey by the consulting firm Seramount, about a third of working moms quit or scaled back their jobs—or planned to do so—during the pandemic.
When I asked Mativetsky if she grieves for her old work, she seemed to fight back tears. “When it’s nice out, I still go eat outside with my old co-workers.” Despite interesting freelance assignments, she misses her colleagues and the thrill of fixing crises. “When you’re in quality assurance, everything is critical, critical, critical,” she said. “You complain about it, but you love it.”
A recent survey showed that 80 percent of Great Resignation quitters regret their decision. Though many people left for better work-life balance and mental health, only about half of respondents were satisfied with these things in their new roles. Meanwhile, employees long for their former cubicle buddies, mentors, and company cultures—which suggests that our office mates offered far more support and stability than triumphant QuitToks let on.
Giving up the office and the jobs that kept us tethered to it represents the loss of an institution that constrained us but also provided community and meaning. Moving on means reevaluating our relationship with work—a far more arduous task than anyone warned.
Today, I log many more hours than I did at Google for an order of magnitude less money. Everything I adore about my new career pushes me to go harder, but it still has the same consequences. I write this at 10:23 p.m., exhausted, desperate to stretch out my seizing back. Leaving tech didn’t fix my old habits. They’re right there waiting for me.
And yet I feel clarity, realizing how ingrained effort is to my identity and values. Even if it’s cringey, I love who I am when I’m focused, when I put my all into a goal. Childlike devotion blankets my body. Even in my solitary pursuits, I feel like I’m connected to something bigger: part of a long line of humans who have toiled and strived, cheered in glee, and wanted to smash our laptops. Maybe this is all an illusion, but it’s the one I know as well as my own face. More than any company, it feels like home.
Google did not respond to questions about the author's experiences working at the company.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-31202-wDevelopment and validation of a new analytical method for determination of linagliptin in bulk by visible spectrophotometer
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36787-4Cuprate superconductors are known for their intertwined interactions and coexistence of competing orders. Here, the authors observe a Fano resonance in the nonlinear THz response of La2-xSrxCuO4, which may arise from a coupling between superconducting and charge-density-wave amplitude fluctuations.
The week at Retraction Watch featured:
- Wiley paused Hindawi special issues amid quality problems, lost $9 million in revenue
- Article retracted when authors don’t pay publication fee
- Ob-gyn loses PhD after committee finds he made up research
- Journals dismiss claims that Harvard researcher’s work on race is ‘pseudoscience’
Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to more than 300. There are more than 39,000 retractions in our database — which powers retraction alerts in EndNote, LibKey, Papers, and Zotero. And have you seen our leaderboard of authors with the most retractions lately — or our list of top 10 most highly cited retracted papers?
Here’s what was happening elsewhere (some of these items may be paywalled, metered access, or require free registration to read):
- “Is Economics Self-Correcting? Replications in the American Economic Review.”
- “20 years of ‘terror’ in the laboratory: the ‘abuse of power’ of a Pompeu Fabra professor against his researchers.”
- “Are self-citations a normal feature of knowledge accumulation?”
- “Article Processing Charges are a Heavy Burden for Middle-Income Countries.”
- “A tool for preprint to publication detection shows global inequities in scientific publication.”
- “Is writing a book chapter still a waste of time?”
- “Protecting research integrity: change or the same old ARIC [Australian Research Integrity Committee].”
- “Are female scientists underrepresented in self-retractions for honest error?” asks a new paper.
- “Research misconduct and questionable research practices form a continuum.”
- How “curing” misinformation can do more harm than good.
- “A sad day for science” as a journal publishes “a worthless corrigendum,” says Nina Steinkopf.
- A USC oncologist’s new book is filled with plagiarism, the Los Angeles Times finds. It’s being held from publication.
- “Deception Detection.”
- Jonathan Pruitt earns another retraction, this one from Nature. It joins 14 others.
- “Leading American medical journal continues to omit Black research,” say the authors of a recent analysis.
- “‘MTL knew’: Misconduct allegations independently corroborated in private correspondence to special committee.”
- A former medical school dean has another paper retracted. He’s up to seven.
- “Article retracted when authors don’t pay publication fee.”
- Two new journals seek to fill a neurodiversity gap in the autism literature.
- “I was wrong, says the Harvard professor. And that’s OK.”
- “Overall, 20% of respondents admitted sacrificing the quality of their publications for quantity, and 14% reported that funders interfered in their study design or reporting.”
- “Allegations of Scientific Misconduct Mount as Physicist Makes His Biggest Claim Yet.”
- March 14 event: Our Ivan Oransky on the ethics of reporting on scientific mistakes and misconduct
Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Makkai’s new novel, I Have Some Questions for You, begins with a dark joke. The narrator is recounting conversations with strangers about the podcast she’s making, a Serial-style exploration of the murder of a girl at an elite boarding school in the ’90s. “Wasn’t that the one where the guy kept her in the basement?” they sometimes ask. “Wasn’t it the one where she was stabbed in—no. The one where she got in a cab with—different girl. The one where she went to the frat party …” The punch line isn’t just that violence against women has become so ubiquitous that the victims blur in our minds; it’s that the stories we tell about them have become completely formulaic—and we devour them anyway. The narrator goes on to promise us a particularly well-worn true-crime tale, aware of both its allure and its shortcomings: “It was the one where she was young enough and white enough and pretty enough and rich enough that people paid attention.” In just a couple of pages, Makkai sets up the tricky, meta undertaking of her fourth novel: working within a genre that she approaches with skepticism.
Doubts about the genre also trouble her narrator. Bodie Kane, a 40-year-old film professor and lauded podcaster, returns in 2018 to Granby, the ritzy New Hampshire boarding school she attended in the ’90s, to teach a pair of short courses—and “to measure myself against the girl who slouched her way through Granby.” As an overweight teen from small-town Indiana, she’d dressed in all black and clung to the shadows as a stage manager for the theater program. A couple of decades later, she finds that the present-day students cast her teen self and the mores of that era into stark relief.
The eager Gen Zers in Bodie’s podcasting seminar seem to have pole-vaulted over the awkward-teen phase. They all share their pronouns, one girl talks openly about clinical depression, and two of them debate which stories are theirs to tell. After the first class, a girl named Britt approaches Bodie to discuss the project she’d like to pursue: the grisly 1995 murder of a Granby senior named Thalia Keith. Britt is earnest, reciting the “problematic” aspects of the true-crime genre as they apply to this case—she fears that by focusing on a white girl’s murder, she would be “ignoring the violence done to Black and brown bodies.” But she has a social-justice angle: She’s convinced that Omar Evans, the school’s young Black athletic trainer imprisoned for the crime, was the victim of racist policing.
Bodie is struck by how much more clued in Britt is than she was at that age: Back then, she’d merely thought of Omar’s conviction on largely circumstantial evidence as “odd.” Yet she is also well aware that Britt, hoping not to be just “another white girl giggling about murder,” is just another girl captivated by a familiar true-crime plotline. Not that Bodie is about to discourage her student—she herself is wildly curious, having been Thalia’s roommate and having spent countless hours over the years spelunking Reddit boards devoted to the case.
I Have Some Questions for You seems at first glance like a retreat for Makkai, whose previous novel, The Great Believers, was a brilliant and ambitious chronicle of the AIDS epidemic. Following a group of gay men in Chicago in the 1980s and deftly interweaving plots from different time periods, Makkai captured the scourge’s devastating long-term repercussions in a city given far less attention than either Los Angeles or New York. Yet look again, and I Have Some Questions for You, too, tackles big social convulsions that raise questions about memory, and about how we assign blame. But this time, training a wary eye on our true-crime obsession and on #MeToo revelations, Makkai conveys less confidence that we have useful means of excavating and telling the stories that haunt us. The novel’s dizzying tour of tweets and headlines and podcast sound bites leaves us unmoored even as it has us hooked—and that’s precisely the point.
As Bodie tries to recall the events surrounding Thalia’s murder, other parts of her past bubble up, and the book takes a #MeToo turn. Like so many women did in early 2018, Bodie resurrects memories from long ago, now “looking at their ugly backsides, the filthy facets long hidden.” She fumes at the sexist treatment she and other girls were expected to laugh off—being groped, being made the punch line of crude jokes. The overly familiar approach of a beloved music teacher, she reluctantly recognizes, was grooming, and the boys’ game of “Thalia Bingo” was harassment. (It involved “a sheet on which they could initial squares that said things like touched outside clothes, or under clothes above waste … or asked out, or fucked.”) Her newly attuned vision reminds her of the first time she put on glasses “and looked in wonder at the trees, and felt inexplicably betrayed. Those clearly delineated leaves had been there all along, and no one ever told me.”
But before long, Bodie begins to have doubts about her new vantage. Aware that her memories aren’t offering the full picture, she resorts to a kind of kaleidoscopic fantasy; in pulpy chapters scattered throughout the novel, she imagines how various people—her peers, a teacher, even she herself—would have killed Thalia, and why. She hopes Britt’s podcast will fill in some of the blanks, aware though she (sometimes) is of the slippery way that stories can become substitutes for truth: “I wanted Britt to take me there. I wanted second sight. I wanted the ability to remember things I was never there for.”
Here, Makkai begins to toy with an urgent question for a society steeped in true-crime and #MeToo narratives: Should we evaluate the past by the standards of today? In lieu of an answer, she calls attention to the inadequacy of the storytelling modes we count on. Desperate to know who killed Thalia, Bodie falls for a formula that she cautioned her podcasting students against: intruding with new theories too soon rather than exploring questions. Seen through the veil of Thalia’s murder, all past male misbehavior takes on a more sinister shape for Bodie, and she clings stubbornly to the idea of one predatory man as the perpetrator. Even when she’s proved wrong, she can’t stop seeing guilt spreading widely.
When confronted with drama closer to home, her vision shifts. After her husband, Jerome, is attacked online for a murky situation involving a long-ago girlfriend, Bodie suddenly becomes much more interested in making distinctions among various harms against women. (At the time, Jasmine was a 21-year-old gallery assistant, and Jerome was a painter in his mid-30s; since then, she’s become a performance artist, and asserts in a piece that he wielded his power in discomfiting ways.) Now Bodie applies rigid bounds to a #MeToo claim. Drunk in the bath, she takes to Twitter to blast the online mobs for equating shitty behavior with “ACTUAL sexual assault,” for suggesting that a grown woman lacks sexual agency. Offline, she admits to being more conflicted—and not just about Jerome: “I no longer had any sense of what was true … I couldn’t figure out who knew more about what happened to Thalia: me now, or me at barely eighteen.”
Makkai isn’t here to adjudicate, but to complicate. She juxtaposes examples and leaves it to us to draw connections and comparisons like detectives layering red string on an evidence board. Bodie sees a line between the Twitter mobs and the true-crime obsessives—both are “inserting themselves into someone else’s story,” their voyeurism infused with zeal to apportion blame and deliver some sort of justice. Crucially, these true-crime fans and #MeToo spectators aren’t merely passive consumers. They have the power to alter lives, sometimes in extreme ways: Jerome is tweeted out of a job; a later, more-polished iteration of Britt's podcast prompts a reappraisal of Omar’s conviction, and Bodie’s sleuthing influences what happens in court.
As we race through the novel, we’re pulled into playing much the same role as Bodie does: trying to piece together the various stories, eagerly awaiting a verdict. We’re all but sure who did it by the end, but Makkai denies us the satisfaction of a confession or of justice cleanly served. Instead, she leaves us to fill in the gaps, to conjure the lurid details from scraps and rumors—trapped in a quest, her agile book reminds us, that should always leave us second-guessing.
Almost half a century ago, an English busybody named Mary Whitehouse took a gay publisher to court in London for blasphemy. The publisher had printed a poem depicting a Roman centurion as a necrophile having his way with the corpse of Jesus Christ. She won the case but lost the culture war: Hers was the last successful prosecution for blasphemy in the United Kingdom, and in 2008, after decades as a dead letter, England’s blasphemy law officially ceased to exist.
But the moralists never left, and English authorities have stumbled when trying to figure out how to mediate between them and those they accuse. Last month, in the West Yorkshire town of Wakefield, a 14-year-old bought a bargain-basement English translation of the Quran on Amazon. (Known as the “Pink Qur’an,” it costs about $13.) He gave it to his buddies at school, and by the end of the day it was smudged and slightly torn. The school suspended the kids, and police investigated the incident as a possible hate crime—which, given that it was his own book, and that police don’t generally conduct investigations of creased covers and smudged pages, would be hard to distinguish from a charge of blasphemy.
They did not, in the end, prosecute. And when the owner was threatened with death, police took the menacing seriously. But the incident illustrates how society’s defenses, like a watchman dozing off on a late shift, tend to slip. (Last year’s attempted murder of Salman Rushdie roused many advocates of free speech from a similar slumber.) Only one good thing has come from this incident: It has forced authorities, and civil society, to wipe the crust from their eyes and recall how best to respond to incidents, or non-incidents, like this one.
The reactionaries reacted first. A local politician, Usman Ali, called on the government to deal with the “terrible provocation”—by which he meant not the death threats against a child but the light wear on the book. Then things got grimmer. The boy’s mother, who is not Muslim, awkwardly draped a veil over her head and begged for mercy during a meeting at a Wakefield mosque. A local councilor named Akef Ahmed said in mitigation that her boy (who may not even have been responsible for the smudges) is both sheepish and “highly autistic.” The next speaker, an imam, was less conciliatory than Ahmed. “We will never tolerate disrespect of the Holy Quran,” he said. “We will sacrifice our lives for it.”
The imam’s words suggest support for a Rushdie-style campaign of vengeance against an autistic child. But one must keep in mind that every community has cruel, vindictive members, and like stopped clocks, they’ll keep indicating blasphemy forever. This particular imam’s clock seems to have stopped in the late medieval period.
A more productive target for outrage is the man who sat to the imam’s left, wearing not a turban or a Muslim skullcap but a constable’s uniform, with three pips on the shoulder boards. This police representative nodded along, without even flinching at “we will sacrifice our lives for it.” His reaction has been interpreted as indifference. More charitably, I think his silence and presence were signs of respect—an acknowledgment of his fellow citizens’ strong feelings, which they, like all people, have every right to express without government interference.
He was still in error, and the best lesson from this spectacle of harassment is that in cases of alleged blasphemy, respect is a poor guide to public action. The grumbling of the men (they were all men) at the mosque was of no concern to a police officer in the course of his duties. Sending a cop to ensure the mother’s safety may have been wise; even one of the male speakers described the venue as “intimidating.” The officer should not have sat on the panel of men presiding over this humiliation session. And he should have walked offstage as soon as he realized that the occasion was being used to bully the mother and promulgate a religious, rather than civic, message.
Respect is such a decorous and unobjectionable concept that one tends to default, as a public servant, to acting in a respectful manner. But it is, as the philosopher Simon Blackburn once put it, “a tricky term”—which makes it “uniquely well-placed for ideological purposes … What we might call respect creep sets in, where the request for minimal toleration turns into a demand for more substantial respect, such as fellow-feeling, or esteem, and finally deference and reverence.”
In practice, the recipients of these shows of respect are the insecure, the whiny, and the violent. Cops pay respect to a mob on the brink of violence, to “ease tensions” or “dial down the temperature.” Meanwhile those capable of containing their emotions, or who never threaten anyone, neither demand any public respect nor get it. By being benevolently respectful, the terrorism researcher Liam Duffy recently noted, those nodding authorities “inadvertently lent legitimacy to the complaints of the offended.” Any private person can show good manners and try to soothe a neighbor’s offense. To do so with the authority of the state is something else.
Marvel at how the concept of blasphemy, once relieved of its legal bite, insinuates itself elsewhere, with the color of law if not law itself. One author on the Muslim site 5pillarsuk.com wrote that there was nothing “disturbing” about the meeting at the mosque, because “it’s perfectly fine to voluntarily speak to a community of people” in order “to resolve matters or [defuse] tensions.” You can watch the video yourself, to see if it feels more like a neighborly hashing out of differences, or a woman begging for her child’s life. In the aftermath of a death threat, and in the nodding presence of a constable responsible for keeping one’s child safe from assassination, the word voluntarily hides all manner of compulsion.
I assume that the constable regretted his tacit endorsement of that event, probably before it was over. And even Ali, the politician who said the boy should be “dealt with,” seems to have wished he had said otherwise; he took down his tweet. Only last week did a politician issue what should have been the first and only response: to state unequivocally that anyone can respect or disrespect any religion or book in the manner of his choice, without support or sanction by the government.
This sane reply came from Home Secretary Suella Braverman, in The Times of London. “We do not have blasphemy laws in Great Britain, and must not be complicit in the attempts to impose them on this country,” she wrote. “There is no right not to be offended. There is no legal obligation to be reverent towards any religion.” And she denied as bigoted the notion that “Muslims are uniquely incapable of controlling themselves if they feel provoked.” The closest analogue in Christianity to befouling a Quran might be desecrating the Host, one of the few acts that get you automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church and sent in the EZ Pass lane to the Hot Place. Muslims should know that they are no more protected from mockery than Catholics who believe in transubstantiation.
Braverman’s statement was flawed, with superfluous and ill-considered references to Sharia law and J. K. Rowling; it criticized the U.K.’s counterterrorism strategy, known as Prevent, for not recognizing the “scale” of jihadism, when Prevent’s errors had more to do with implementation. Ordinary conservative Muslims reported that they felt targeted for their beliefs and practices. The problem of radicalization was indeed large, but finding the incipient radicals among the merely devout remains difficult.
But these defects in Braverman’s op-ed only reinforce the wisdom of a policy that keeps the government out of religion entirely. A government that nods gravely to endorse one religious position will nod gravely to condemn another. There is a natural solution: If you’re a government official, stay out of my erotic poetry about Roman centurions, and stay out of my mosque.
A bipartisan group of senators wants to make daylight saving time permanent. But sleep experts say standard time is better, because it saves morning light and is more in sync with our natural rhythms.
(Image credit: Charlie Riedel/AP)
Scientists are pondering how to tell time on other celestial bodies. It's a lot harder than you might think.
(Image credit: NASA Johnson)
For a more in-depth analysis and summary, see my previous posts here:
Dear Futurology subreddit,
I'm well aware there already is another major crisis currently. Nonetheless – due to my only recent realization on this message's subject matter – I'd like to use this contact opportunity in an attempt to raise awareness of what I'm by science convinced of being the ethically most important subject for all of humanity's future, due to its inherent immense risk for the future of sentient beings in general: Natural & especially Directed Panspermia. And I think this topic deserves far more serious care and attention, especially from the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA). Further insightful elaboration & scientific sources on the topic can be found at the Center for Long-Term Risk's page on the importance of animal suffering. In particular, the stark concerns which Brian Tomasik from the Effective Altruism group expressed (already) in a video titled "Space colonization and animal ethics" in 2014 should be taken to heart. And the same for Persis Eskander's talks from 2017 and 2018, summarized on the Effective Altruism site's page titled "Crucial Considerations in Wild Animal Suffering".
Claim: The existence of past & recent projects alike the Venera 7, Pioneer 10 & Huygens spacecraft missions, 21 Mars lander or rover (including Curiosity & Perseverance rover) missions like InSight & Tianwen-1 as well as the Enceladus Explorer, Europa Lander, Gan De, Uranus Orbiter & Probe, Laplace-P, Enceladus Orbilander, and Neptune Odyssey missions and BioSentinel, Project Starlight, Breakthrough Starshot & Prof. Claudius Gros' Genesis Project strongly indicate that there is no prohibition of Directed Panspermia currently in the United Nation's Outer Space Treaty, which I think – at least until sufficient research and ethical evaluations are done, which admittedly may take decades or centuries even – is desperately needed & of imperative importance. However, a fast development of a global, international, emotionally intelligent consensus on voluntary self-restraint in regards to Directed Panspermia type projects, out of respect & care for how riskfully consequential such projects can be, may be even safer and hence preferable.
To be questioned & investigated rationale for this claim: The topic is too vast & complex for me to concisely elaborate on all potentially relevant aspects (that I'm aware of) of it in here, so I'd like to summarize the main points of my & others' concerns: If we take earth's historical evolution of life as reference point for orientation & if there is plausible reason to assume that the majority of prehistoric life – by means of the widespread presence of pain-receptors & some forms of sentience – was not only, but also filled with suffering of therein involved many millions of species' populations at any given time across a few hundred millions of years, and to the extent to which this may all in all amount to unutterable extents of misery, then even if it is the case for earth that humanity is for the foreseeable future the only – and thereby critically important – species capable of finally turning this otherwise possibly almost endless misery into an overall pleasant existence e.g. using lab-grown meat and technological breakthroughs alike it, it still remains to be uncovered if even just locally this misery can in any form be compensated for, and there's no guarantee. Now, if there is reason to believe that one can generalize or extrapolate from earth's case to a sufficient variety of exoplanets (or celestial bodies in general), especially if it cannot even ever be ensured that colonies on exoplanets would treat the topic of Directed Panspermia carefully themselves or that their own presence as caretakers is ensured to hold sufficiently long compared to any introduced already primitive life forms (rather than starting with RNA, DNA, or single cells only) so that the dramatic consequences for wildlife animals can then last for billions of years even, then this constitutes an extremely strong argument against rushing developments towards such projects.
As reminder: The climate, biological and nuclear and chemical threats, autonomous A.I., microplastics, and other topics – in our history, humanity had to learn after mistakes were already made, which often times turned into burdens that later generations had to carry. While for these cases the – still devastating – consequences may be more limited in scope, I think when it's about the cosmos, it'd be wiser to approach this matter in a more reluctant, mindful manner, with long-term foresight, and without forgetting about ethics. Power & knowledge demands responsibility in its use, and it cannot be allowed for anyone to play god with exoplanets by kick-starting evolution of life there. And just because the universe contains so far uninhabited but habitable hells, this doesn't mean we should even just infinitesimally risk populating them, especially in those instances in which they are so far away that it is utterly impossible to control what happens there. Contamination of celestial bodies with rapidly exponentially in numbers growing multi-cellular microbes would constitute a forever irreversible point of no return, especially for those several very near-future missions aiming at those moons estimated to be most capable of allowing life on them & therefore carrying the highest contamination risks: Enceladus, Europa, Titan, Ganymede, Callisto, Triton. As reference, even the microbes on the ISS eventually started to for their metabolism consume the cleaning substances meant for sterilization. And according to John Grunsfeld, the associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Mars already has been contaminated with microbes by accident. Let's think of the possibly thousands or even millions of future generations that will judge us, our behavior. If nothing's done about it, the clock until forwards-contamination happens keeps ticking down. The entirety of humanity together – including whatever the future can be – does NOT sit on the most populated Trolley Problem track, and we ought to better know our due place in this universe and act accordingly. Those who do not understand the all-species-encompassing, dominantly widespread extent of pain can never understand true peace. To express the matter in a metaphor, a chain is only as strong as its weakest element, and for ventures into new technological and scientific frontiers, history repeatedly demonstrated that the weakest element is at the beginning, when the knowledge and experience with a subject matter is the smallest (without the entirety of people being entrustable to act carefully enough, namely in accordance to this circumstance), especially regarding long-term consequences and far away, subtly and with delay accumulating large-scale effects of which their prevention can require having predicted them long ago already. So it seems extremely concerningly plausible that if (interplanetary or interstellar) forwards-contaminations happen ever at all (until finally never anymore), that it happens within this very – new space rush mentality plagued – century (which then were to negatively affect generations across thousands of future centuries). Positive & negative (alike other SI-units of measurement very well quantifiable) feelings – by the precise causal means of emergence via a specific set of neuro-chemical processes – contribute to and in summation determine the development of the value and meaning generated within our universe, independent of who experiences those feelings – it solely matters if they actually happen and therefore need to be accounted for. And absolutely no principle ought to get in the way of the in its logical position unique axiomatic principle of total sum of overall generated scalar levels of well-being maximization across all time, not even the principle of justice (as it isn't absolved from scrutiny in ethics either and isn't allowed to cause misery), though just solely precisely in those instances of it in which following it were to be required to come at an unavoidable cost in terms of reducing the total sum of overall generated well-being, since otherwise, justice serves the well-being maximization principle as well. To quote the most famous physicist: "Compassionate people are geniuses in the art of living, more necessary to the dignity, security, and joy of humanity than the discoverers of knowledge." Interstellar directed panspermia en masse, if ever perpetrated, potentially causes up to a – once initiated naturally self-feeding and out of control – near eternal chain-reaction of cosmos-wide calamity, and therefore this warning message is about nothing less than saving the Milky Way galaxy (or even the world beyond it) from the worst possible case scenario that could ever befall it. Here is a quote attributed to Hunter S. Thompson: "For every moment of triumph (and for every instance of beauty), many souls must be trampled." Furthermore, in case appeals to reason or negotiations may fail, interception of forwards-contamination-risking spacecraft enacted by nations on earth's crust that grasp the non-negotiably imperative importance of preventing kick-started entire evolution of life processes by irreversible biological forwards-contamination may unnecessarily risk international misunderstandings of (far less harmful but still) grave consequences alike mutually assured destruction. Not only is humanity an "early game" civilization relative to the development of the universe, but we are also located in a so-called Super Spiral, the largest known kind of galaxies, and on top of this, we are a pre-galaxy-collision civilization as the Andromeda galaxy is approaching, which further increases the possible extent of naturally in magnitude upwards-cascading contamination processes, and all of this together – relative to nearly any other circumstance a civilization could find itself in – provides all that much more in the universe uniquely important reason and necessity for humanity to be utmost extremely careful with respect to outer space activities and to make sure to not risk irreversible forwards-contamination at all.
Also, on the topic of Fermi's Paradox, it might be worthwhile considering the plausibility of the following hypothetical explanation:
=== Ethical explanation ===
It is possible that ethical assessment of general forms of evolution of life in the universe constitutes the central issue which intelligent alien species' macroscopic decision-making, such as for the topic of natural [[panspermia]], [[directed panspermia]], [[space colonization]], [[megastructures]], or [[self-replicating spacecraft]], revolves around. If the result of [[utility]] evaluations of enough and sufficiently in time extended initial or lasting portions of expected or prospective cases of evolution is among all other ethically relevant factors the dominant ethical concern of intelligent alien species, and if furthermore a large enough negative expected utility is assigned to sufficiently common forms of expected or prospective cases of evolution, then foregoing directed panspermia, space colonization, the construction of megastructures, sending out self-replicating spacecraft, but also active attempts to mitigate the consequences of interplanetary and interstellar forms of natural panspermia may follow. While in the case of [[space colonization]] it might ultimately stay too uncontrollable to – by technical or educational means – ensure [[settlers]] or emerging [[space colonies]] themselves consistently keep acting in accordance to the awareness of by [[colonizer]] considered major ethical dangers accompanying physical interstellar [[space exploration]], and for the case of interstellar self-replicating spacecraft, due to potential prebiotic substances in [[interstellar clouds]] and exoplanets' atmospheres and soils, it may forever stay impossible to ensure their [[Sterilization (microbiology)|sterility]] to avoid contamination of celestial bodies which may kick-start uncontrollable evolution processes, reasons to forego the creation of a megastructure, even if such may be beneficial to an intelligent alien species and also to some other intelligent alien species imitators, may mainly have psychological origin. Since certain megastructures may be identifiable to be of unnatural, intelligent design requiring origin by foreign intelligent alien species, for as long as the by an intelligent alien species expected number of (especially less experienced or less far developed) from them foreign intelligent alien species capable of identifying their megastructure as such is large enough, the by them rather uncontrollable spectrum of interstellar space endeavor related influences this may have on those foreign intelligent alien species might constitute a too strong ethical deterrence from creating megastructures that are from outer space identifiable as such, until eventually a lasting state of cosmic privacy may be attained by natural or technological means.
On the topic of space expansionism, I think there would be books to fill with considerations about it, and I have many (what I think would be) noteworthy informally documented points on the topic, but for now, some of the most important ones that I'd like to forward would be the following. I hope my slight intellectual dishonesty (used as maybe psychologically manipulative means to press on the matter) in using mathematical nomenclature that alludes to the following statements to appear as if they were in a mathematical, absolute sense proven when that isn't quite true can be forgiven, but I genuinely am of the opinion that for the time being, it would be safer, better if humanity were to think of it as proven:
Here is the core of the theory of everything that matters:
Axiom of Importance: The ethical importance of an issue increases alongside the number of therein involved sentient lifeforms, the time duration during which they are affected by it, and the vastness of the affected space to the extent to which changes of it affect the lifeforms. Or more directly, it increases with the absolute difference in caused, resulting time-integrals over all (with receptor-specific intensities weighed) pleasure & pain receptor-signals for any and all sentient beings.
Extreme case: By the in the above statement defined abstract, general standard, according to the current body of humanity's knowledge, general forms of evolution of life (if on earth or on exoplanets) forever constitute the most ethically important issue to exist in the universe: With billions of species – each with numerous individual lifeforms – together with durations on the scale of billions of years, and spacial extension of at least a whole planet, it dwarfs any other conceivable ethical issue's level of importance.
Valuation Axiom for the extreme case: According to many scientific studies, such as by Richard Dawkins, Brian Tomasik, Alejandro Villamor Iglesias, Oscar Horta, pain and suffering dominates over joy for animal wildlife in general forms of Darwinian evolution of life due to the global war-like situation commonly framed as survival of the fittest (rather than the demise of all unfit), and therefore – when accumulated across all logically entangled parameters such as duration and count of involved individuals – instances of such forms of evolution of life has to be kept at a minimum in the universe, as there never was and never will be anything that could be more important, to change the conclusion of this Anti-Panspermia-implying directive.
Special Cosmos Ethics Theorem: Exoplanet-Wildlife-Development-Control-dependent Anti-Panspermia Directive for Humanity
The current state of the art of scientific evidence and ethics without exception imperatively demands that humanity does NOT engage in outer space activities of kinds that could even just infinitesimally likely risk introducing life to for any kind of lifeforms habitable worlds, for at least as long as humanity's practical capability of controlling the up to astronomically vast consequences of interstellar space projects doesn't sufficiently improve in a for interstellar space endeavors safety guaranteeing, critical manner.
Proof (by contradiction):
This conclusion deductively follows from the concerningly plausible, by many scientific studies supported, Axiom that general animal wildlife – not only as it has been throughout evolution on earth, but on a more general level that would apply to exoplanet life of our biological kind, too – for the vast majority of it is dominated by pain and suffering rather than joy (reference: Center for Long-Term Risk).
Assume the existence of a counter-example:
It could be argued that IF overall worthwhile to exist life on a larger scale were to rely on previous evolutionary animal wildlife's existence and that the former were to safely come from the latter, that THEN it could possibly be better for evolutionary animal wildlife to come into existence than not.
Proof (by Ethical Dominance Principle) of the impossibility of the existence of counter-examples:
However, given that aforementioned, dominant wildlife animal pain and suffering in its amount and hence importance and priority for macro-scale decision-making increases by the duration throughout which such a miserable, in itself unwantable state persists, and that in the case of general forms of evolution of life, we have to expect that it can last for extraordinary long times of what essentially is involuntary, if avoidable unnecessary torture by the banal means of nature's own ruthlessness, namely that it can last for billions of years, and furthermore that these time-spans are unavoidable if it shall lead to intelligent species, we can therefore conclude that the severity of this issue dominates every other to this date conceivable, plausible ethical issue, since all other ethical issues absolutely pale in comparison to the magnitudes of magnitudes by which this central ethical issue overshadows them all, in such a uniquely outstanding way that risking billion years full of suffering for thousands of individuals of at any time billions of wildlife exoplanet animals each can for nothing in the world be a by any standards reasonable sacrifice to make.
Therefore, by humanity's current full body of knowledge, what happens to wildlife animals part of any actual, prospective, or potentially risked to exist instances of evolution of life constitutes the single most dominating, for ethical macro-scale decision-making behavior sole determinant factor of consideration.
Corollary 1.1: Time-Global Anti-Panspermia Directive for Humanity
If humanity is never able or can never be able to safely control exoplanet wildlife's entire development for the purpose of guaranteeing its & all by its own activities potentially emerging foreign exoplanet wildlife's pain-less flourishing, for any exoplanet wildlife risked to emerge or exist as consequence of humanity's outer space activities, then it follows that humanity shall NEVER engage in activities that risk causing such.
- Central Cosmos Ethics Theorem: General Anti-Panspermia Prime Directive
If the result of wildlife well-being evaluations of enough and sufficiently in time extended initial or lasting portions of expected or prospective cases of evolution of life is generally among all other ethically relevant factors the dominant ethical concern, and if furthermore a large enough unavoidable negative expected wildlife well-being has to be assumed of sufficiently common forms of expected or prospective cases of evolution of life, then imperative necessity of complete prevention of all preventable forms of contamination or panspermia follows.
Corollary 2.1: Anti-Panspermia Directive on local Star System Contamination
Any at least infinitesimally contamination or panspermia risking contamination of a celestial body within the local star system with (not necessarily extremophile) micro-organisms is to be prevented. This includes causing the emergence and spread of micro-organisms on a celestial body of the local star system, potentially followed by eventual interstellar transportation of by it emerging (extremophile) micro-organisms on the celestial body via natural panspermia, such as meteorites entering such celestial body's atmosphere to pick the organisms up and continue towards interstellar space via sling-shot.
Corollary 2.2: Anti-Panspermia Directive on Space-Faring
Any at least infinitesimally contamination or panspermia risking space-faring activities are to be prevented. This includes not only space probes, satellites, solar sails, and light sails but also von-Neumann-Probes (self-replicating Spacecraft), (replicating) seeder ships, and space-faring of individuals where the Anti-Panspermia abiding behavior of them and later generations after them cannot be ensured.
Corollary 2.3: Natural Anti-Panspermia Directive
Any at least infinitesimally contamination or panspermia risking, preventable natural litho-panspermia processes are to be prevented. This includes (extremophile) micro-organism transportation methods via space dust, meteorites, asteroids, comets, planetoids, planets, and debris ejected into space upon celestial body collisions.
Corollary 2.4: Anti-Panspermia Directive on Mega-Structures
Any construction of a mega-structure that at least infinitesimally – due to literally far reaching psychological influences – risks contamination or panspermia being risked or pursued via outer space activities from any other – for the detection of such mega-structure in astronomy engaging – alien civilization is to be prevented.
Corollary 2.5: Anti-Panspermia Directive on Super Geyser and Super Volcano Eruptions
Any at least infinitesimally contamination or panspermia risking, preventable natural super geyser and super volcano eruptions on a by life inhabited planet that can reach beyond its exosphere are to be prevented, or altered so they safely don't risk contamination or panspermia anymore.
Corollary 2.6: Anti-Panspermia Directive on Space-Flight Infrastructure
Any at least infinitesimally contamination or panspermia risking, preventable space-flight infrastructure construction or use is to be prevented, or at least sufficiently restricted, controlled, and regulated.
Corollary 2.7: Anti-Panspermia Directive on Science, Technology, and Knowledge
Any at least infinitesimally contamination or panspermia risking, preventable scientific or technological activities or knowledge is to be prevented or irreversibly deleted, or at least sufficiently restricted, controlled, and regulated. This includes solar sail and light sail related technology, science, and knowledge. This may at first glance seem to be excessive, but for comparison, by magnitudes far less in their potential damage severe dual-use technologies are classified & are subject of strict continual control, too.
Corollary 2.8: Anti-Panspermia Directive on (Mass) Psychology
Any at least infinitesimally contamination or panspermia risking, preventable psychological influence is to be prevented, or at least sufficiently restricted. This includes the propagation of news of any astronomical discovery of a bio-signature or techno-signature or celestial body of special interest such as habitable exoplanets.
Remark: The importance of prevention measures for types of panspermia (according to the above general line of reasoning) depends on the level of (lack of) controllability of the potential long-term consequences (in terms of kick-started evolution of life) that may emerge as result from such, and for the purpose of differentiating in a reasonable manner that has this control-related parameter in mind, it makes sense to differentiate between interstellar and interplanetary panspermia, as at least it seems more plausible that interplanetary panspermia – if it were to happen – would be easier and more timely to control (although not necessarily sufficiently controllable).
Also, to cite the animal suffering Wikipedia page's top paragraph with sources (though there is many more, namely 244 of them):
Wild animal suffering is the suffering experienced by nonhuman animals living outside of direct human control, due to harms such as disease, injury, parasitism, starvation and malnutrition, dehydration, weather conditions, natural disasters, and killings by other animals, as well as psychological stress. Some estimates indicate that these individual animals make up the vast majority of animals in existence. An extensive amount of natural suffering has been described as an unavoidable consequence of Darwinian evolution and the pervasiveness of reproductive strategies which favor producing large numbers of offspring, with a low amount of parental care and of which only a small number survive to adulthood, the rest dying in painful ways, has led some to argue that suffering dominates happiness in nature.
 Tomasik, Brian (2015-11-02). "The Importance of Wild-Animal Suffering". Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism. 3 (2): 133–152. doi:10.7358/rela-2015-002-toma. ISSN 2280-9643.
 Dawkins, Richard (1995). "Chapter 4: God's Utility Function". River Out of Eden. London: Orion Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-297-81540-2.
 Horta, Oscar (2010). "Debunking the Idyllic View of Natural Processes: Population Dynamics and Suffering in the Wild" (PDF). Télos. 17 (1): 73–88.
 Iglesias, Alejandro Villamor (2018). "The overwhelming prevalence of suffering in Nature". Revista de Bioética y Derecho. 2019: 181–195.
For reference, here are scientific estimates on the number of existing animals on earth at any time throughout hundreds of millions of years (with the exception of humans and livestock, of course):
Humans: 8 billion
Livestock: 24 billion
Birds: 100 billion to 400 billion
Mammals: 100 billion to 1 trillion
Reptiles: 100 billion to 100 trillion
Amphibians: 100 billion to 100 trillion
Fish: 10 trillion to 1 quadrillion
Earthworms: 100 trillion to 100 quadrillion
Terrestrial Insects: 100 quadrillion to 10 quintillion
An opinion position – especially if it were based on a bambi fantasy worldview emerging from cognitive dissonance – opposed to all these facts would be severely anti-scientific and with public communication I'm making sure for the long-term future for when humanity may look back into what is then history, to document people's development of opinion positions on this utmost critical matter. In case the previous arguments haven't been convincing enough yet, there has been not a single invention or technology by humanity that was immediately perfect, and because this gives immensely strong reason for expecting a forwards-contamination event to have abysmally miserable consequences and given the scale that's at stake, humanity must have more discipline and patience with respect to physical outer space exploration at the very least for the next centuries, and on top of this, stubbornly money-focused market and business incentives even worsen the situation further by steering humanity towards rushing into the outer space frontier which though absolutely, non-negotiably ought to be refrained from, as if there weren't already enough crises due to several historical mistakes of the very same nature. The urgency of this matter easily beats even the urgency of the climate crisis by at least a decade, where – for comparison's sake – even if a climate crisis were to cast disaster onto earth for thousand years, its scale were to still be not even a hundred-thousandth of how long wildlife suffering throughout entire evolutions of life last.
The advocacy of physical outer space exploration (which plausibly risks over short astronomical time turning into an – up to at most some point of eventual saturation – cascadingly magnifying catastrophe once an ice moon were to be contaminated, since many of them have geysers spewing material out more than 100 kilometers and past their exospheres into space from where space rocks can catch and carry them to the next celestial body, allowing for an escalatory feedback process) will in the long run age very poorly, since physical outer space exploration via possible contamination negligently risks quintillion times mass torture of future wildlife animals, and constitutes an extremely irresponsible form of arrogant hubris by daring to play god with foreign worlds despite great lack of understanding of the very long-term consequences. Unlike in the Sorcerer's Apprentice's situation, for humanity there will be no magical sorcerer Pankrates to rid the spirits that his apprentice once called.
This would be all. Thank you for reading, and especially in case of interest & understanding.
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36918-xEncapsulation engineering is an effective strategy to improve the stability of perovskite solar cells. Here, authors design and synthesize self-crosslinked fluorosilicone polymer gel for nondestructive encapsulation at room temperature, and maintain 98% of efficiency after 1000 h in damp heat test.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-31287-3Comparison of methanol fixation versus cryopreservation of the placenta for metabolomics analysis
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-30886-4Casson nanoliquid film flow over an unsteady moving surface with time-varying stretching velocity
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-30610-2
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-30905-4Cyanobacteria blooms induced precipitation of calcium carbonate and dissolution of silica in a subtropical lagoon, Florida Bay, USA
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-31078-wSerum levels of IL-4, IL-13 and IL-33 in patients with age-related macular degeneration and myeloproliferative
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-31234-2Long-term visual outcomes in children with regressed
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-30916-1Mock community as an in situ positive control for amplicon sequencing of microbiotas from the same ecosystem
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37030-wChemotherapeutic agents and immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown modest efficacy in patients with advanced
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36851-zGenetic circuits that control transgene expression in response to pre-defined transcriptional cues would enable the development of smart therapeutics. Here the authors engineer programmable RNA sensors, DART VADARs, in which ADARs autocatalytically convert target hybridization into a translational output, thus amplifying editing by endogenous ADAR via positive feedback and conferring high dynamic range and a small genetic footprint.
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36863-9Homeostasis and robust perfect adaptation are remarkable features of living cells. Here, to synthetically achieve this, the authors present a theoretical and experimental framework using inteins to implement compact biomolecular integral feedback controllers.
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37041-7Biased signaling in κ-opiod receptors (KOR) offer an attractive strategy for pain management. Here the authors identify determinants of KOR signaling bias using structural methods in combination with molecular dynamics simulations.
1st reddit post. I've done some work scientifically on G,the gravity constant. responding to different theories. I came up with a "relativistic way of thinking, I've done some hacker WordPress reporting, and debugging.i can use solar mass, relation to gravity and the perspective.. 1. Gravity is conatant. 2. Awake to more than 1 G, #force G+. The use of G+ may be of use to some. 3. Thank scientist for allowing me to continue this thought like G+. 4. Means weigh the heavier aide, ♡M=E2, and the light constant c. 5 use of force may lead to the betterment of society. 6. Rememeber:
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37043-5Kidney injury leads to fibrosis during the progression of
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36991-2Based on two high-resolution simulations, the authors find that submesoscale eddies significantly boost poleward oceanic heat transport in Antarctic waters by strengthening transport capability of mesoscale eddies through inverse energy cascade.
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36879-1Single-molecule 3D tracking is critical to understand macromolecular dynamics but achieving this at a sub-millisecond resolution remains challenging. Here the authors present a 3D tracking method based on cross-entropy minimization and the true excitation point spread function.
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36933-yTomaszowski et al show that co-mutations in Brca2 and
Scathing open letter accuses big pharma of ‘exploiting’ publically funded vaccines and says humanity must come before commerce
The Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, former first lady of South Africa and Mozambique Graça Machel and former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon are among nearly 200 signatories to a letter calling on governments to “never again” allow “profiteering and nationalism” to come before the needs of humanity, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a scathing open letter, published on 11 March, current and former presidents and ministers, Nobel laureates, faith leaders, heads of civil society organisations and health experts say
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36986-zSurveillance of respiratory pathogens in air may improve understanding of indoor transmission risks but impacts of context-specific factors on pathogen abundance are not well understood. Here, the authors investigate factors associated with 29 respiratory pathogens through surveillance of 21 community settings in Belgium.
Whispers about insolvency. A bank run. A desperate attempt to raise funds. A bank failure. Market gyrations. Concerns about financial contagion.
History is repeating itself. Today, California regulators shut down
, a lender aimed at start-ups, technology firms, and wealthy individuals. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation stepped in as the bank’s receiver. Account holders with less than $250,000 in savings will have full access to their funds as of Monday, the FDIC said. Account holders with more than that—the overwhelming majority of entities banking with SVB, according to the bank itself—will have to wait and see.
This is a debacle, one that will reverberate throughout the Bay Area and the tech ecosystem. In the near term, the biggest risk is that start-ups doing bread-and-butter banking with SVB might not be able to make payroll in the coming days and weeks, forcing them to miss paychecks or even announce furloughs or layoffs. In the medium term, the risk is that companies holding cash in other, smaller banks might worry about their stability, withdraw funds, and spread financial contagion.
In the long term, the danger is that the government might end up bailing SVB out, proving that all banks are too big to fail in the American system.
In the past few days, SVB came to experience a classic It’s a Wonderful Life–type bank run. On Wednesday, the bank’s publicly traded parent company announced that it had sold some securities at a loss and was trying to raise cash by selling its own shares. This stoked fears that the bank did not have enough cash to cover withdrawals, leading depositor companies to pull their funds, which then led to a solvency crisis.
The underlying problem was a straightforward lack of diversification, as Bloomberg’s Matt Levine has noted. SVB’s clientele is heavily concentrated in the tech industry, which boomed during the pandemic. That led to a dramatic increase in SVB’s books: The bank went from having $60 billion in deposits in 2020 to more than $200 billion in 2022. Normally, banks take such deposits and lend them out, charging borrowers different interest rates depending on their creditworthiness. But relatively few firms and individuals were seeking such bank loans in the Bay Area at the time, because the whole ecosystem was so flush with cash.
SVB parked the money in perfectly safe government-issued or government-backed long-term securities, as Telis Demos of The Wall Street Journal explained today—so safe, it seems, that the firm failed to hedge against the risk that those bonds might lose value as interest rates went up. Which is exactly what happened. This meant that if SVB had to sell the bonds to use the cash to cover deposit outflows, it would have to sell them at a loss. Which is exactly what happened. That would not be a problem, unless a large share of SVB’s account holders decided to withdraw their funds. Which is exactly what happened.
To be clear, this was mismanagement on SVB’s part. “What happens if interest rates go up?” is not an arcane question for a bank to have to answer, nor is “Are we adequately diversified?” But the Federal Reserve’s sharp and decisive interest-rate hikes played a role in a few ways: They reduced the value of the bonds on SVB’s books and spurred depositors to withdraw money from the institution as the tech industry cooled. The venture capitalists who made SVB such a big deal in the first place also played a role by egging start-ups to pull their funds from the institution.
“SVB’s condition deteriorated so quickly that it couldn’t last just five more hours today so that the FDIC could take it over on the weekend for an orderly resolution,” Dennis Kelleher, the CEO of the nonprofit Better Markets, said in a statement. “Its depositors were withdrawing their money so fast that the bank was insolvent, and an intraday closure was unavoidable.”
This bank failure is proving to be a spectacular mess. In many cases, a large share of a bank’s account holders are fully covered by FDIC deposit insurance, because relatively few people keep more than $250,000 in their accounts. But most of SVB’s account holders had more than $250,000 on hand, given that the bank caters to start-ups, venture capitalists, and Silicon Valley elites. Thus, thousands of people have their money frozen while the government figures out whether and how to merge the bank with another institution, sell off SVB’s assets to get people their money back, or grant protection to deposits of more than $250,000.
Why not just let the capitalists eat the losses? Because a lot of account holders are companies that are trying to keep the lights on and ensure that their employees get paid, and because of the risk of financial contagion. “I’m working with my [California] colleagues to address the Silicon
crisis,” Representative Eric Swalwell, whose district covers much of the East Bay, wrote on Twitter. “We must make sure all deposits exceeding the FDIC $250k limit are honored. Banking is about confidence. If depositors lose confidence [in] the safety of their deposits over 250k then we are in trouble.”
That might be the right call in this case. But it might also be the decision that the government ends up making in all cases where a bank needs a bailout and cannot find a buyer; the taxpayer will forever be called upon to make losses public while profits stay private. The financial system is much better capitalized than it was in 2007, yet the collapse of a bank such as SVB still seems like too much chaos for the financial system to handle and for the real economy to bear.
This is Silicon Valley Bank’s fault. And now it’s everybody’s problem.
Don’t write off popular Korean-language TV series as sappy melodrama. These shows will expand your conception of what storytelling can be. Read on for recommendations for your weekend.
But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic:
To describe the plot of Crash Landing on You to the uninitiated is to invite mockery. After a paragliding test from Seoul gone wrong, a South Korean heiress and entrepreneur crash lands, literally, onto a stunningly handsome North Korean army officer, who, despite being lawful and rigid, decides to hide her and help her return home. What follows are 16 episodes, totaling more than 20 hours, of a story so propulsive I could watch nothing else for weeks after.
Netflix first waved the show in my face in January 2020, but I was preoccupied with the self-imposed assignment of finishing all eight seasons of Game of Thrones, because I felt left out at the cultural watercooler. My mother, though, saw the light. Throughout the first year of the pandemic, she watched Yoon Se-ri and Captain Ri fall in love, hide and then unearth their respective familial traumas, and find friends and purpose, in and out of North and South Korea.
My mom had long known this world. For two decades, in between the demands of teaching, she would watch Dae Jang-geum (a 2003 drama that follows a girl who grows up to be the first female royal physician of the Joseon era) and savor the series Winter Sonata (a thoughtful 2002 romance about first love and second chances). As a disaffected teenager, I considered my mother’s devotion to Winter Sonata’s Bae Yong-joon embarrassingly out of tune, but she had been one of millions to join in the beginnings of the Hallyu wave. In 2021, Netflix, which has a bit of a stranglehold on the streaming market for new K-dramas, said it would spend about $500 million on Korean programming that year (and enabled the production of about 80 new Korean shows and films between 2015 and 2020).
To paraphrase my colleague and eminent critic of all things BTS, Lenika Cruz, first, you aren’t a fan. Then, you are. And so I am. K-dramas, in all of their multitudes, expanded the boundaries of what I thought good storytelling could be. Like their cousins the telenovela and the Indian serial, K-dramas (the term broadly refers to Korean-language TV series made in South Korea) are critically sidelined as melodrama, given their sensational plotlines. Of course there are low-quality duds, and some are ridiculously plotted, if still good fun (no judgment). Of course there are tropes (amnesia, rich-girl-poor-boy or vice versa, tragic illness, overlapping past lives). But the “drama” in K-drama misleads. K-dramas come in all genres—intimate dramas, yes, but also fantasies, histories, horror; multiple genres often swirl into one show. Crash Landing on You is a romantic drama, but it’s also part mystery and part satire that winks at K-drama tropes. And Little Women, nominally based on the Louisa May Alcott classic, is a visually jaw-dropping thriller about family, class, and morality in which three hustling sisters wind up at the center of a major conspiracy involving the wealthiest family in South Korea.
To me, a K-drama’s core tenets are its satisfying moral arcs—even for side characters—plot twists, and a preponderance of feeling. (Bonus: beautiful clothes.) The shows prize emotional clarity, whether the feelings are loving or ugly or just little: worry, pettiness, a first crush, the dancing insecurity of early friendships. There’s no value in repressing them, no shame in expressing them.
I watched Game of Thrones so I wouldn’t miss out. The same impulse drove me to start Crash Landing on You last fall, years after its release, because I wanted to join the growing universe of breathless viewers who had seen the light. As I watched at home, my partner, catching up on some emails, would turn over his shoulder to see the screen and ask me questions such as “So how did his dead brother’s watch end up in her possession?” and “Did the reluctant spy who found his conscience make it out with his family?”
Look over your shoulder. Come see the light. I know you’ll find a K-drama you’ll love. Here’s where to start (all of these are available on Netflix):
If you want a lengthy thriller to get lost in … Little Women (12 episodes)
If you want a snackable legal procedural with heart … Extraordinary Attorney Woo (16 episodes)
If you want to cry and cry and cry … Thirty-Nine (12 episodes)
If you want to be awash in nostalgia … Our Beloved Summer (16 episodes) and Twenty-Five Twenty-One (16 episodes)
If you want to breeze through something silly … Business Proposal (12 episodes)
If you want your zombies with a dash of historical political intrigue … Kingdom (12 episodes)
- 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 Freakish Powers of Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey
By James Parker
If you’re looking to the stars—and why wouldn’t you be?—you’ll know that Saturn has entered the sign of Pisces. It happened in early March: Shaggy old Saturn, god of constriction and mortality, lowered his iron haunches into the Piscean waters. He’ll be there until May 2025, an intractable lump in that wishy-washy element. Displacing it. Blocking it. Imposing his limits. Enough with the changeability, he says to dippy, fin-flashing Pisces. Enough with the half-assedness. Endless mutation is not possible. Now you’re going to face—and be stuck with—yourself.
This will be a challenge, one senses, for artists in general. And for pop stars in particular. Who sheds selves, and invents selves, faster than a pop star? Who defies time and gravity with more desperation? Something else was augured for March: the release of new albums by two of our most continually expanding and dramatically evolving celestial bodies. I’m talking about Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey. Two emanations of the holy city of Los Angeles; two distinct transits across the firmament.
More From The Atlantic
- Photos of the Week: Sea Dragon, mermaid convention, inflatable tank
Watch. The Terminator, home to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature line—“I’ll be back.” It’s a movie that has continued to define him.
Or watch the new Netflix limited series The Plane That Disappeared—and read the definitive account of how Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished, the subject of our July 2019 cover by William Langewiesche.
Speaking of a growing universe of fans: Before the orchestra music plays me off the Daily stage, I’d like to point you to a new song that’s been on repeat for me on my commutes: “On the Street,” by j-hope (one of the rappers and dance king of the Korean supergroup BTS) and J. Cole (the American rapper and longtime idol of j-hope). I hope it brings pep to your next train ride, bike ride, walk, or whatever it may be.
Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.