Earlier this week, India became just the fourth country to ever land on the Moon, a historic moment in space exploration.
The Indian Space Research Organization's (ISRO) Vikram lander also became the first spacecraft to ever land near the Moon's south pole, a tantalizing opportunity to examine a region believed to be rich in water ice. Tantalizingly, that makes it a key site for future efforts to establish a permanent presence on the lunar surface.
And now, we get to watch the landing in a fascinating pair of videos released by the ISRO.
The first shows Vikram releasing a 57-pound, six-wheeled rover called Pragyaan — Sanskrit for "wisdom" — down to the lunar surface, where it's designed to explore the area for evidence of ice. The second shows Vikram already rolling across the crater-dotted surface.
It's an incredible feat that signals a new era for international space exploration. As many failed attempts have shown, softly landing a spacecraft on the lunar surface is anything but easy — and India just stuck the landing.
Space Race 2.0
Case in point, the news comes after Russia's efforts to land its Luna-25 spacecraft on the Moon ended in disaster over the weekend. The spacecraft crashed into the Moon due to an "emergency situation," foiling the country's efforts to follow up on the Soviet Union's Luna missions, which date back to the 1970s.
Moving forward, India's mission could prove once and for all what scientists have long suspected: that the Moon's craggy polar regions could hold vast stores of water, particularly in shadowed corners of its massive craters.
While it's not the first time we've seen a rover set off on the surface of the Moon, Vikram's landing could signal the beginning of a new stage of the ongoing space race. With the US and China's plans to explore the Moon well underway, India just became a big part of our future efforts to establish a permanent presence on the Moon as well, shifting the international balance of power on our planet's natural satellite.
And more countries could soon follow. Japan's space agency JAXA is already lining up an attempt to land on the Moon with its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), which is scheduled to launch tomorrow.
More on the landing: India Just Became the Fourth Ever Country to Land on the Moon
The post Amazing Footage Shows Indian Rover Ramping Down to the Lunar Surface appeared first on Futurism.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 25 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41152-ySecondary analysis of preoperative predictors for acute postoperative exacerbation in
Nature Communications, Published online: 25 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41003-4Artificial spin ices are composed of a honeycomb lattice of nanoscale magnets. Depending on the orientation of the magnets in the lattice, the spin ice can host high or low effective magnetic charge at each vertex. Here, Guo et al use neutron spin echo spectroscopy to show that these magnetic charges exhibit sub-ns relaxation times, analogous to bulk spin-ices.
AI can generate clear, concise text—but people still need to learn how to write
AI can generate clear, concise text—but people still need to learn how to write
The human Y chromosome, the determinant of male sex, has finally been completely sequenced. What it unveils could prove crucial to understanding the Y chromosome's puzzling origins, and — pertinently — how it affects male fertility.
To some, this news may be confusing. The Human Genome Project announced twenty years ago that it had fully sequenced human DNA, and it was a big deal then — so what gives?
The reality is that 2001 announcement may have been a little premature. There were still a few gaps, mainly in the two sex chromosomes, X and Y — though in the opinion of many geneticists, those gaps were impossible to decipher with the technology available at the time.
"The Y chromosome just kept being pushed aside," Charles Lee, director of the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Connecticut, and co-author of one the studies detailing the sequences, told New Scientist.
Humans typically have 23 pairs of chromosomes, 46 in total. The X and Y chromosomes are different from the rest. When paired, as XY, they develop a male child. Put two Xs together, and a female develops.
Part of the appeal of tackling the Y chromosome in particular is how cryptic it is, as it's believed to have evolved far more rapidly than its counterpart. As a consequence, it's also accumulated an enormous amount of repetitive, seemingly junk DNA. Compared to the X, the Y chromosome also carries far fewer protein-coding genes.
The X chromosome only got the full sequencing treatment three years ago, using a new form of tech that allowed scientists to read thousands — or even millions — of DNA bases in one go. Before, scientists could only painstakingly glean a couple hundred.
That technology is what now made it possible to decode the even more cryptic Y chromosome. If you think of the Y chromosome as a jigsaw puzzle, imagine it having millions of pieces nearly indistinguishable from the rest, which all must be placed in the exactly correct order, and not interchangeably. That's what scientists were up against.
But if you can gather thousands of these DNA pieces already assembled in big chunks, the challenge becomes a little easier. Along with the fully sequenced chromosome, an additional 43 Y chromosomes, gathered from a diverse selection of males, were extensively sequenced.
"The biggest surprise was how organized the repeats are," said coauthor of one of the studies Adam Phillippy at the National Human Genome Research Institute, in a statement about the work.
"It could have been very chaotic, but instead, nearly half of the chromosome is made of alternating blocks of two specific repeating sequences known as satellite DNA," he added. "It makes a beautiful, quilt-like pattern."
One key area of the Y chromosome that was decoded is known to affect sperm production. The repetitions in the Y's genes in this area can sometimes disrupt male fertility. With a complete sequence, scientists can determine exactly why that is.
Overall, the combined research determined that this specific Y chromosome has 106 protein-coding genes. 42 were found that were new, but many still appear to be repeats. Follow-up research will have to determine if all that repetitive DNA can be salvaged from its reputation as mere 'junk' — but now that it's been fully mapped out, keen researchers worldwide will have a lot to work with.
The post The Male Y Chromosome Has Finally Been Completely Sequenced appeared first on Futurism.
What are the chances of elliminating life on earth with an astroid vs climate change? Why don’t anyone try to explore the Sea and try to find a solution to habitat water for human or make a livable environment on water rather than trying to escape from the earth?
Nature Communications, Published online: 25 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-40911-9G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are involved in many physiological processes and are targets of intense drug discovery research. Here, the authors describe llama-derived nanobodies that allosterically modulate
Nature, Published online: 25 August 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02711-5Bioengineer Ram Sasisekharan describes the impact of a four-year investigation by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which ultimately cleared him.
- And in July 2022, the US Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act, which includes measures designed to tighten research security, such as requiring US institutions to report gifts of $50,000 or more from a foreign government; the previous reporting limit was $250,000.
Nature, Published online: 25 August 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02701-7But the move is a stop-gap measure, and scientists warn that lack of a full renewal could damage research collaborations.
Hello, I'm trying to self learn cogsci and I came across this video https://youtu.be/HlkAVRlnt3Y?si=WRfD-dhJxIFoskng
In the middle he is talking about functionalism. However I have trouble to understand what the "function" of a mental state means. What is the function of fear state? Sleep state? Flow state? For example
This question seems important because of the multi realizability hypothesis. If I got it well, it argues that the same mental state can be reached with different brain states. So how do we define the function of a mental state, in a consistent manner?
I hope I am clear. Thank you very much!
India is making space history in big ways.
As the BBC reports, the landing of the Chandrayaan-3 mission's Pragyan rover marks multiple milestones for India as it joins the elite league of countries to land a spacecraft on the Moon — and becomes the first to explore an otherwise untouched part of the lunar surface in the process.
In a striking display of off-world traffic drama, Russia dramatically tried and failed to reach the Moon's unexplored southern pole, where Chandrayaan-3 has now successfully landed, in its first attempt to land on the Moon in nearly 50 years. Tantalizingly, the region may well contain water ice and other interesting phenomena that India could be first to observe.
The success of the Chandrayaan-3 landing also sees India advancing from its own failed attempt to reach the Moon back in 2019, when the lander it launched during the Chandrayaan-2 mission crashed on the lunar surface.
Additionally, the country launched its first lunar mission (named, you guessed it, Chandrayaan-1) back in 2008, though as the Washington Post notes, that mission — which was important to the discovery of lunar water molecules — involved an "impact probe" rather than a soft landing.
In a press conference, S. Somanth, the chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation, said Chandrayaan-3's soft landing had gone exactly as planned.
"Both the Lander and Rover are perfectly healthy and everything is working very well," Somanth told the press, per the Hindustan Times. "There will be further movements."
Here on Earth, the success of the Chandrayaan-3 landing broke another record as well, as an estimated seven to nine million people watched it live, making it the most-watched livestream in YouTube history.
Whichever way you cut it, India clearly has a lot to be proud of with this successful lander launch — and given the region the Pragayan rover is exploring, it may well have more to celebrate soon.
More on lunar launches: Russia Sends Back Photos From Trip to Moon
The post India Releases
Scientific Reports, Published online: 25 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41245-8Assessment of novel antiviral filter using pseudo-type
This record of our existence is now gliding through space, way beyond our solar system – we may as well forget about it, writes Antony Barlow
Joel Snape’s article (Super-intelligent aliens are going to destroy humanity? Whatever, 23 August) raises the possibility of malevolent aliens.
The great Carl Sagan posited that if alien life did exist and came to visit Earth, they would almost certainly be friendly, because based on our own destructive course, which is more than likely to end in our extinction, it is likely that the aliens would have survived having discovered the art of coexistence.Continue reading…
Linda Geddes’ article on the body’s vagus nerve reminded Prof Jack Price of a strange – but inadvisable – tactic to exploit it
I very much enjoyed Linda Geddes’ article on the vagus nerve (The key to depression, obesity, alcoholism – and more? Why the vagus nerve is so exciting to scientists, 23 August). It is, as she says, a nerve of marvellously diverse function, as we’ve known for some time. The auricular branch of the vagus, which, as Geddes notes, innervates the ear, used to be known as the alderman’s nerve. Apparently, civic officials, overstuffed at state banquets yet still desiring dessert, were known to squirt cold water into an ear in the hope of stimulating gastric emptying, and making space for more.
In my day, junior doctors were warned against syringing the ears of elderly patients with cold water for fear of stopping their hearts. But now a digital device attaches to your ear rather than cold water. Progress indeed.
Prof Jack Price
Open letter warns that ascribing aggression to rammings puts animals at risk of human violence
Orcas that have been ramming boats are not “attacking” the vessels, but are most likely being playful, leading scientists have said.
The experts have warned that the false narrative is putting the animals at risk of retribution from humans.Continue reading…
The International Space Station had to fire its thrusters to avoid incoming space junk yet again this week.
"On Thursday, the International Space Station's Zvezda service module engines were fired for 21.5 seconds… to maneuver the complex away from the predicted track of an orbital debris fragment," NASA officials wrote in a blog update.
As a result, the station's orbit moved by roughly 1,640 feet, according to Russian state media. The maneuver did not interfere with a scheduled docking procedure of Russia's Progress MS-24 transport cargo ship, which docked with the station early Friday morning.
Nonetheless, it's yet another ominous indication that Earth's orbit is becoming increasingly littered with junk, quickly turning it into an even more hazardous place to travel.
It's far from the first time the station has had to fire its thrusters to avoid space junk. Since 1999, the station has had to correct its course a whopping 30 times, as Space.com points out. These maneuvers have only become more frequent as more satellites and other payloads are sent into orbit, many of which are doomed to keep circling the Earth long after they're decommissioned.
To stop the ISS from being shredded by space debris traveling at 17,5000 mph, NASA is tracking an area of 30 by 30 miles, with the station in the center. Any tracked space debris that comes within this range can trigger a course correction.
With an increasingly littered orbit, space agencies are starting to turn to possible solutions. For instance, the European Space Agency recently launched its ClearSpace-1 mission, a spacecraft that's designed to claw onto space debris to dispose of it.
Ironically, the spacecraft's latest target got hit by a smaller object earlier this week.
"This fragmentation event underlines the relevance of the ClearSpace-1 mission," ESA officials noted in a statement.
While the space station's own days are technically already numbered, any future spacecraft venturing through our planet's orbit will have a minefield of potentially hazardous debris to navigate.
And that doesn't bode well, considering humanity's growing appetite for off world exploration.
More on the ISS: Cosmonauts Caught Littering Directly Into Space During Spacewalk
The post Space Station
Centers for Disease Control studies increased
-related ER visits by 17% nationwide during 19 of the smokiest days. On the worst air quality day in New York state, those visits spiked 82%.
(Image credit: Yuki Iwamura/AP)
This is an edition of the revamped Books Briefing, our editors’ weekly guide to the best in books. Sign up for it here.
Enormous developments in neuroscience over the past two decades have allowed researchers to peer into the human mind as never before. But it’s not always comfortable to learn about the mechanistic workings of our emotions. Certain feelings that were once endowed with as much mythology and fascination as the ancients granted the waxing and waning of the moon are now understood to be simple chemical reactions in the brain. Love, in particular, has inspired a lot of recent curiosity from scientists (more than half of the research papers about romantic love since 1953 are from the past 10 years) and defensiveness from those who don’t want this most human and effervescent of sentiments pinned like a butterfly to a board.
First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic’s Books section:
- Stephen King: My books were used to train AI.
- The women writers who destroyed their own work
- Jim Whiteside’s poem “A Better Story”
In an essay this week, Sophia Stewart looks at Ron Rosenbaum’s new book, In Defense of Love: An Argument. Rosenbaum is bothered by the way love has been “stolen away from the poets” and placed firmly in the domain of neuroscience, anthropology, psychology, and evolutionary biology. The emotion, he frets, has been brought down from the realm of the ineffable—a sensation with textures, a cause for awed reverence—and made just another thing to be classified.
He takes particular aim at Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist whose book Why We Love presented romance as a survival mechanism, a “drive,” just another evolutionary adaptation. This type of characterization impoverishes us, Rosenbaum responds, and “tells us precisely nothing about the infinitely variegated, subtly differentiated spectrum of human feelings.”
Stewart is sympathetic to Rosenbaum’s resistance but asks the perfectly reasonable question: Why can’t love be both understood and always, in the end, beyond understanding? Even the Catholic Church, she points out, eventually made its peace with heliocentrism. Stewart captures so well why we don’t need to set knowledge and feeling against each other and proposes a truce of sorts. “In actuality, love belongs equally to poets and scientists, because it belongs equally to the soul and the body,” she writes. “To pit one against the other is a losing wager: A truer understanding of love relies on both. Love is magic and hormones, spiritual union and synaptic firing, an emotional experience and a biological mechanism.”
What to Read
One Mighty and Irresistible Tide, by Jia Lynn Yang
Our broken immigration system is always a favorite topic of Republicans. But many voters are struggling to understand how Congress has failed for decades to fix it, particularly when the fate of Dreamers—people who were brought to
illegally as children—has been unresolved for more than 10 years, and there is nothing to prevent a future president from reviving the use of family separation as an enforcement tactic. One Mighty and Irresistible Tide provides some helpful explanations by tracing another fraught period in history. Yang vividly profiles key figures, such as the New York Representative Emanuel Celler, in the 40-year battle to repeal the ethnic quotas signed into law in 1924. Celler’s steady fight finally ended in 1965, during the civil-rights movement. It makes an implicit case that the moment some in Congress today seem to be waiting for—one where a universal consensus can be established, and reforming the system carries no political risk—will never come, and that challenging fearmongering rhetoric about immigrants remains as important as ever. — Caitlin Dickerson
Out Next Week
📚 Terrace Story, by Hilary Leichter
📚 Mother Tongue: The Surprising History of Women’s Words, by Jenni Nuttall
📚 Learned by Heart, by Emma Donoghue
Your Weekend Read
I have been at parties with friends who are dancers, comedians, visual artists, and musicians, and I have never witnessed anyone say to them, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Yet I can scarcely meet a stranger without hearing about how they have “always wanted to write a novel.” Their novel is unwritten, they seem to believe, not for lack of talent or honed skill, but simply for lack of time. But just as most people can’t dance on pointe, most people can’t write a novel. They forget that writing is art.
When you buy a book using a link in this newsletter, we receive a commission. Thank you for supporting The Atlantic.
- China—which together with Hong Kong imports more than US$1.1bn (£866m) of seafood from Japan every year—has slapped a ban on all seafood imports from Japan, citing health concerns.
I have unfortunately not been trying to follow all the complications of the LK-99 superconductor story – I write this blog in my spare time, after all! But it is time for another look. There have been uncountable twists, turns, and reversals in the story, and while I am definitely not going to summarize all those, I'll try to provide a rough summary of where things stand now.
My original hope was since the preparation of the material was relatively simple that replication of the material might be straightforward. This. . .has not been the case. Not anywhere even near the case. And the blame seems to sit firmly on the authors of the Korean preprints, from what I can see. If they do have something (and that’s very much open to doubt), they did an awful job of telling other people how to prove it for themselves. Numerous groups around the world tried the stated procedure in the days and weeks after the initial publication, and for the most part they got. . .heterogeneous junk. Tiny bits and scraps of this crud sometimes showed interesting behavior (in magnetic fields, for example) but no one really ever seemed to produce a clean (or even sorta-kinda-clean) bulk phase sample.
Let's take a brief excursion into what you'd want to do with such a clean, reasonably-sized sample of a claimed superconductor in order to convince people, which will take us into a bit (just a bit, believe me) of the physics involved. Feel free to skip ahead to the non-italic portion below! The famous "floating above a magnet" pictures/videos are an attempt to demonstrate the Meissner effect, the way that a real superconductor expels a magnetic field. But just showing something floating is not enough, really.
That's because there are several kinds of magnetism. Ferromagnetism is what we're used to, with "iron" in the name and all. That's the basis behind generators and electric motors, mangetic tape and hard drive storage, and of course decorative refrigerator magnets. Materials like iron can be "magnetized" by exposing them to a strong magnetic field from another source, and they will retain this property to a greater or lesser degree over time. Despite its familiarity, ferromagnetism is relatively rare. A second category is paramagnetism, and in paramagnetic materials an external magnetic field brings on a weak and completely temporary magnetic alignment with that field. They are thus weakly attracted to it (much more weakly than ferromagnetic substances). Most things with unpaired electrons in them are paramagnetic – aluminum, iron oxide, oxygen and plenty more. But unless you're coming in with a really significant external field, the effect is very small indeed, which is why we common don't think of things like aluminum foil or rust as having any magnetic properties at all. Then there's a third category, diamagnetism. In that case, an external magnetic field induces one that's aligned in the opposite direction, and thus the object is repelled. That's a property of paired electrons (instead of unpaired ones), and that means that all materials have diamagnetic properties. But these are generally very weak indeed. This repulsive force is working against the attractions of ferromagnetic and paramagnetic materials for an external magnet, but you'd never notice it.
There are a few substances with noticeable diamagnetism, though, with bismuth as the most notable example. Bismuth metal really is repelled by magnets, and this was how diamagnetism was discovered in the first place. As mentioned, everything else is repelled by magnets as well, but you need a honkin' huge external field to demonstrate that (and of course the material has to be non-ferromagnetic or non-paramagnetic, or all you'll see is the stronger attraction). But that's how you can magnetically levitate things like water droplets and live frogs.
A superconductor is basically a perfect diamagnet. So it will indeed be repelled by an external magnetic field, and if that field is strong enough, that repulsion will be strong enough to overcome gravity. Thus the levitation that's demonstrated with REBCO superconductor samples, once they're cooled with liquid nitrogen. But that's an important point: the Meissner effect is more properly the expulsion of any magnetic field once you hit the critical temperature of the superconductor. When those little REBCO samples warm up a bit, things clunk right back down to the surface, but stuff will levitate again if you pour liquid nitrogen on them.
That would in fact be a nice video for anyone to make when they claim a high-temperature superconductor. Do this same experiment (levitation of a small sample of a strong magnet), and do it in a temperature-controlled chamber. When you get down below the Tc, levitation should commence, and when you warm back up past it, it stops. And you should be able to cycle that back and forth. I would very, very much enjoy seeing the Korean team demonstrate this, but I haven't seen any such video. There are more technically sophisticated and complete ways to demonstrate the Meissner effect, but that would be a nice one. There's another effect called "flux pinning", a quantum mechanical effect that lets some magnetic field lines penetrate in specific spots in Type II superconductors. These will hold the levitating sample "in place" as if it were pinned by invisible needles that penetrate it. Which it sort of is. That would be very nice to demonstrate as well, because it can actually be quite useful (see that last link).
Of course, another characteristic property of a superconductor is, well, superconductivity. And that means zero resistance to electric current when things are below the critical temperature. That sets up another straightforward demonstration in that same temperature-controlled chamber: show that the resistance abruptly slams down to zero when the sample is cooled, and just as abruptly jumps back up when it warms up, and cycle that as well. We haven't seen that, either, have we? As before, there are more sophisticated ways of showing this, but that would be a nice start with a rube like me.
Further work on LK-99 synthesis generated cleaner materials that were more phase-pure, but none of these preps seem to show the startling properties that were initially claimed. So that leaves you with a rather narrow path: if the material that others have laboriously prepared is in fact LK-99, then it isn’t a superconductor, and the teasing effects that would make you think that it could be one were due to impurities. If the Korean research team has produced a superconductor, then they have done a truly inadequate job of characterizing it (at least in public) and of providing details for its replication.
The ball is very much in the original authors’ court. They are said to have been preparing a manuscript for peer review, and what a process that will be at this point, eh? Any such paper is going to have a lot of explaining to do. The team could also of course share samples of the material that they claim superconductivity for, but this doesn’t seem to have happened, either.
At this point it seems that there are (broadly speaking) two explanations for this situation. The first, which is far more likely at this point, is that the entire initial report was bungled and that there is no superconductor therein. That’s certainly the conclusion you’d draw from all the replication attempts, many of which have been from very serious and competent labs. The second, which is less likely but still possible, is that the Korean group has indeed made a superconductor but has (perhaps deliberately) not disclosed their best mode, because they care more about establishing a patent estate instead.
That interpretation might gain some support from things like this, an updated Korean-language patent application. I neither read nor speak Korean, unfortunately, but I can see that figure on the first page, and it shows zero resistance kicking in at a temperature of just under 105 C. Now wouldn’t that be something? Even at the claimed current of 30 mA? As always, I am ready to be thrilled if this is real. But what's happened so far has made me far less hopeful. Come on, folks. Amaze us.
The Department of Justice is suing SpaceX, alleging it's been discriminating against asylees and refugees in its hiring practices.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, asserts that the Elon Musk-led company violated the Immigration and Nationality Act between 2018 and 2022 by outright rejecting asylee and refugee job applicants.
"Our investigation found that SpaceX failed to fairly consider or hire asylees and refugees because of their citizenship status and imposed what amounted to a ban on their hire regardless of their qualification, in violation of federal law," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a statement.
It's a troubling development for the space company, alleging serious blindspots in its hiring practices — and tracing some directly back to Musk.
Lending credibility to the claims, it's also far from the first time a Musk-led business has been accused of discriminating against employees. A group of former Twitter employees, for instance, accused the company earlier this month of sex, race, and age discrimination.
And now, the Justice Department's lawsuit says that SpaceX made wrongful statements in at least 14 job postings, with the company claiming that it could only hire citizens and lawful permanent residents under "export control laws," despite there being "no such hiring restrictions," according to the statement.
The Justice Department's lawsuit also cites Musk directly, pointing to a 2016 video, in which the mercurial CEO wrongfully claimed that "a normal work visa is insufficient to work at SpaceX unless the company can obtain 'special permission from the Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State.'"
In a June 2020 tweet, Musk also claimed that US law requires anybody who wants to be hired by SpaceX to have "at least a green card."
In its lawsuit, however, the Department of Justice pointed out that "'US persons' working for US companies can access export-controlled items without authorization from
"A 'US person' under [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] and [Export Administration Regulations], includes a US citizen or national, a lawful permanent resident, a refugee, or an asylee," the complaint reads.
The department alleges SpaceX rejected any candidates who were listed as refugees or asylees, wrongfully claiming it wasn't possible to hire them under ITAR.
As a result, only one employee out of the roughly 10,000 people SpaceX hired from September 2018 to May 2022 was an asylee, the complaint alleges.
The Justice Department is now seeking "fair consideration and back pay for asylees and refugees who were deterred or denied employment at SpaceX due to the alleged discrimination."
"Through this lawsuit we will hold SpaceX accountable for its illegal employment practices and seek relief that allows asylees and refugees to fairly compete for job opportunities and contribute their talents to SpaceX’s workforce," said Clarke in the statement.
More on SpaceX: Elon Musk Is Apparently Making the US Government Quite Nervous
My obsession with salsa, gazpacho, and the line between them began with a joke. A friend had, or so her husband reported, faced her nearly empty refrigerator one night and in a moment of panicked hunger started eating salsa for dinner. Only salsa. No chips. Just spoon straight in the jar. “Did she add water and claim it was gazpacho?” I asked.
She had not. But could she have? The suggestion is not absurd. Salsa is an oniony, peppery, tomato-based food. Gazpacho, too, is an oniony, peppery, tomato-based food. Pace, one of the most popular salsa brands in America, has in fact provided a recipe for transforming its picante sauce into gazpacho. And the cookbook author Mark Bittman once proposed an even simpler strategy: Start with a fresh salsa, chill, and maybe puree—voilà, soup!
Was that all it took? On the one hand, no one would really confuse the two foods. Gazpacho is thinner, less spicy, and in many cases fresher than salsa. Would anyone call salsa a “drinkable salad”? On the other hand, the overlap—at least in the American conception—was large enough that, the closer I looked, the less clear the line became. What, I started wondering, really distinguishes one from the other?
In their mass-market versions, the two products are fairly distinct, and their producers clear-eyed about their use. The most popular salsa brands in the U.S.—Tostitos, Pace, Chi-Chi’s—are thick enough to come in jars; the leading brands of gazpacho (sold widely in
) are thin enough to come in cartons or tall glass bottles. Gazpacho “is meant to be consumed cold in a larger amount,” Scott Bova, vice president of culinary for Whole Foods, the rare company that produces both salsa and gazpacho, told me. Salsa is not. It is “a dip, a topper, and a cooking sauce,” Michelle Canellopoulos, the senior director for marketing and insights at MegaMex Foods, which includes Chi-Chi’s, Herdez, and La Victoria salsas, wrote in an email.
To work with a “dipper” like tortilla chips, Bova added, salsa must achieve a viscosity such that it can “cling to the items that you are dipping into.” Gazpacho, meanwhile—at least in its classic form—“should be pureed completely,” Katie Button, the founder of Cúrate, a James Beard Award–winning tapas bar in Asheville, North Carolina, told me.
I had asked Button and a handful of other prominent chefs of
food what they considered “authentic” gazpacho. Their answers converged on key characteristics. Besides texture, they all ticked off the same list of ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and bread. But, each chef acknowledged, variations are possible. Omar Allibhoy, the author of Spanish Made Simple, allowed that bread could be omitted; he also advocated for adding cumin powder, or watermelon. José Pizarro, a celebrity Spanish chef in the U.K., mentioned cherry, melon, and strawberry. Button noted the existence of “green gazpacho with all green vegetables.”
And this presented a problem. Freed from its basic list of ingredients, gazpacho sprawls. Many versions eschew bread. Many leave out cucumbers, or peppers, or garlic, or onions, or even tomatoes. Some include avocado and peas, nuts, spinach, corn, kale, or olives. Fruits abound: not just strawberry or watermelon, but grapes, honeydew, cantaloupe, orange, mango, peaches, apples. Some people top gazpacho with crab, or shrimp. Many recipes call for the ingredients to be blended, but some suggest a chunkier texture.
What is a dish that prominently features chopped tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños, seasoned with garlic and cilantro if not … salsa? But salsa, too, has an ingredient problem. Like gazpacho, it can seemingly contain anything. It may not usually include bread—except sometimes it does. Cucumber salsa is a thing. Avocado-and-pea salsa is a thing. So is grape salsa, melon salsa, mango salsa, peach salsa, apple salsa. Kale salsa? Yup. Shrimp salsa? Sure. Salsa with walnuts? Classic. When I asked Doug Renfro, the president of Renfro Foods, an 83-year-old family business whose product line includes 18 different salsas, what absolutely does not belong in a salsa, he replied, “Other than meat? Nothing, really.” Maybe zucchini, he said, because then you’ve made stew. (Although zucchini salsa … is also a thing.) One could argue that salsa, unlike gazpacho, must have heat derived from some variety of chili pepper, but in
, that premise does not hold. Salsa can be salsa without touching the Scoville scale.
Once salsa doesn’t have to be spicy, other defining qualities start to slip. “The spice level is higher in salsas because it is eaten in smaller quantities,” Bova, the Whole Foods VP, told me. By that logic, a less spicy salsa, and even more so a spice-less salsa, could be consumed in larger quantities, maybe even on its own. Maybe enough to qualify as a standalone meal, which Bova listed as another key gazpacho feature. In other words, maybe I was onto something: Anyone consuming salsa for dinner really could just transform it into gazpacho and feel fine about it.
This could simply mean using a spoon. I asked Mark Bittman whether he still believes that salsa can transform into gazpacho. He does. The distinction, he told me, lies with the user’s intention. “Are you eating it with a spoon, or using it as a sauce?” he asked. If sauce, then salsa. If spoon, then gazpacho.
The core struggle of the salsa-gazpacho question is that both foods are categories, more than singular items. Salsa, after all, really just means “sauce.” Gazpacho might have once been a specific dish, but “if you accept green-grape-almond gazpacho as legitimate, then gazpacho is just cold soup,” Bittman said. The human mind excels at categorizing. But look too closely at almost any boundary that keeps the world organized, and it begins to blur. Ambiguity can start to tear at the seams of reality. When does a dumpling become a tortellini become a pierogi? At what precise shade does red become orange, or blue become purple? Where is the boundary between an object and the air around it? At what moment did humans become human?
The specificity of real experience can be grounding. Context makes meaning: A bowl heaped with red mash at a Mexican restaurant is very likely to be salsa; a bowl heaped with red mash at a tapas bar is very likely to be gazpacho. When I did, inevitably, try eating salsa on its own (to be precise, Frontera Double Roasted Tomato Salsa, made with tomatoes, water, onions, jalapeños, garlic, and less than 2 percent of cilantro, salt, and vinegar), it tasted like salsa. Even from a bowl; even with a spoon. If it had been gazpacho, it would have been bad gazpacho, both too spicy and too salty.
The closest I came to a line separating gazpacho from salsa came down to a season. Gazpacho should be made in the summer, Button, the Cúrate chef, told me, when those traditional ingredients come to peak perfection, and the heat demands a refreshing something. It is definitionally not just a soup but, as Bittman said, a cold soup. Whole Foods, for instance, sells gazpacho only from the end of May through mid-September. That led me to the one ingredient that does seem appropriate for gazpacho but not salsa. Allibhoy, the Spanish chef, suggested that to chill gazpacho properly, without compromising flavor, one should add ice. Which just goes to show that my original instinct, born from years of experience eating both gazpacho and salsa, was on point. Add water—okay, frozen water—to salsa, and you’re a significant step closer to gazpacho and a food that, in a pinch, can count as a dinner.
writers Marguerite Duras and Barbara Molinard first met is unclear, but their friendship was one of such mutual admiration that it now seems a fated union. Different though their lives were, the two women shared an important characteristic: In their fiction, they both offered intimate depictions of the misogyny they suffered. This was unusual, even shocking, for women writers at the time.
By the mid-1960s, Duras was a prolific writer and an acclaimed filmmaker within the French intellectual class. No one knew Molinard. In her 40s, she began to write short fiction and did so with an unusual fervor, sometimes working for weeks without pause. To this day, little is known about Molinard precisely because she did not wish to be known. She went to great pains to ensure this, destroying nearly every page she wrote.
“Everything Barbara Molinard has written has been torn to shreds,” Duras announced in the preface to Panics, Molinard’s collection of grotesque and bleakly antic stories, first published in France in 1969 and released last year in the U.S. in a brilliant translation by Emma Ramadan. Duras was not being hyperbolic; upon completing a story, Molinard would tear each page into pieces, which she piled onto her desk and eventually pitched into a fire. Then she rewrote them: “They were put back together, torn up again, put back together again,” Duras wrote. Only the stories in Panics, which were rescued by Duras and by Molinard’s husband, were spared.
Molinard is far from the only writer to destroy her work. In July 1962, following Ted Hughes’s infidelity and the collapse of their marriage, the American poet Sylvia Plath may have set fire to letters she exchanged with her mother, or her in-progress novel, or some of her husband’s poems. Paul Alexander, in his biography of Plath, Rough Magic, interpreted this as a “bonfire” set in a “fit of rage.” In Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness, Edward Butscher attributes the act to the “bitch goddess” Plath had become. Seven months later, Plath took her own life.
She couldn’t possibly have known that her blunted life would inspire a field of literary scholarship, documentaries and feature films, and subsequent generations of writers and poets. But she certainly understood how little control she had over the way she was perceived, a depressing truth most women learn to accept in their youth. In her book The Silent Woman, a study of biographies of Plath, Janet Malcolm writes, “In any struggle between the public’s inviolable right to be diverted and an individual’s desire to be left alone, the public almost always prevails.” By the summer of 1962, Plath may have felt that the public had already won. Fire would have been consoling, its devastation totalizing.
Perhaps Plath wanted to conceal the personal details she had divulged in her letters or in her novel; we cannot know for sure. What can be sifted from the ashes is that a writer’s reasons for destroying her own work are complex. The act is not the result of a fevered impulse, silly rage—at least, not only these things. Rather, it can be intentional and calculated, a display of ferocious will, an artful final flourish.
In December 1977, the English novelist and poet Rosemary Tonks endured surgery to repair detached retinas in both of her eyes. She was partially blind for a few years after the procedure and went to live in the seaside town of Bournemouth, to convalesce and to escape the disarray of her life in London, where she’d earned a reputation as a champagne-glugging bohemian. Tonks never returned to that way of living; instead, she retreated so thoroughly that the BBC titled its 2009 radio feature about her life The Poet Who Vanished.
It’s somewhat difficult to square the latter part of Tonks’s life with the fizzy and carefree characters who populate her novels. Min, the narrator of Tonks’s novel The Bloater, first published in 1968 and reissued last year, seems the kind of young woman Tonks might have once been. She is chatty, self-absorbed, and delightfully frivolous, always swilling a drink and looking for another pour. Her husband is a terrible bore, so she entertains a handful of intriguing suitors.
For Tonks, the dazzle of that kind of life had dulled by middle age. The decade before her eye surgery was turbulent, beginning with her mother’s sudden death, in 1968. Tonks also had neuritis in her left hand, which made writing exceedingly difficult because her right hand was already damaged by childhood polio. Her marriage fell apart. Searching for solace, she turned to the spiritual realm and eventually found Christianity. She read the New Testament as her sight returned, and traveled to Jerusalem in 1981 to be baptized. Christianity offered her the chance to shed her disappointing past and start anew.
Tonks’s astonishing reinvention could be read as the result of a midlife crisis, or a psychological break, or the ecstatic embrace of religious redemption. But each of these twists her story into something familiar and foregone, rendering the choices she made desperate and piteous. On the contrary, Tonks’s retreat seems to have brought her the peace that eluded her at earlier stages of her life, and allowed her to more fully reject the English society for which she had always felt some mixture of captivation and revulsion. In her 1967 poem “Addiction to an Old Mattress,” she wrote:
Meanwhile … I live on … powerful, disobedient,
Inside their draughty haberdasher’s climate,
With these people … who are going to obsess me,
Potatoes, dentists, people I hardly know, it’s unforgivable
For this is not my life
But theirs, that I am living.
And I wolf, bolt, gulp it down, day after day.
After leaving London, Tonks allegedly checked out her own books from libraries in order to destroy them. She refused requests to reissue her work, which by then included two collections of poetry and six novels. She even incinerated an unpublished manuscript. Tonks allowed herself only one book, the Bible, which she called her “complete manual” for how to live. She was known to stand on street corners handing out copies to passersby.
According to a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, by 1970, women still published only a third of the number of books men published each year in the U.S. Globally, too, Tonks and Molinard and Plath, who began publishing in the middle of the 20th century, were among the first generations of women writers who were not viewed primarily as exceptions to their gender—the way the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen, and Mary Shelley had been regarded. That a woman might be celebrated for her literary efforts, earn recognition and prizes, and enjoy a wide readership were relatively recent developments.
For some women, this new attention brought unexpected scrutiny, as well as the grim realization that their legacy would be dictated by anyone but themselves. As Janet Malcom wrote, “To [her] readers … Plath will always be young and in a rage over Hughes’s unfaithfulness.”
Tonks roundly rejected the idea that a writer whose work is publicly consumed should be obligated to contend with the public. In 1963, more than a decade before her retreat, she told Peter Orr of the British Council, in an interview, “I think it is diabolical, this getting of a poet out of his or her back room and the making of them into public figures who have to give opinions every twenty seconds.”
The American author Ann Petry shared Tonks’s stance. Celebrity came to her suddenly following the publication of her first novel, The Street, which follows an ensemble of impoverished characters living in Harlem and ignored by a city disinvested in its Black population. Published in 1946, it was the first novel by a Black woman to sell more than 1 million copies; the resulting sensation thrust Petry into a spotlight she’d never wanted. Misunderstood by white critics, who construed her significant talent as an anomaly and compared her work against that of only a few other Black writers, she wrote in her journal that she felt overexposed, like “a helpless creature impaled on a dissecting table—for public viewing.”
In 1969, Petry agreed to send 19 boxes’ worth of her personal papers to Boston University. She regretted it almost immediately. By the early 1980s, she confessed in her journal that she was distrustful of and baffled by the interest other people took in her private materials: “It never occurred to me that in my lifetime people would be poking through that stuff … Why not? Principally because I tried to disappear.”
In her memoir, At Home Inside: A Daughter’s Tribute to Ann Petry, Petry’s daughter, Elisabeth, recalls that her mother spent the last years of her life on a “shred-and-burn campaign.” In the summer of 1983, Petry wrote, “Destroy them, journal by journal, or else edit them. No. Destroy them.” She redacted whole passages of her journals and sometimes replaced them with new writing. In interviews, she offered inconsistent dates for her birth, refused to disclose the date of her marriage, and was known to embellish stories from her childhood. Though these obfuscations could be viewed as self-serving editorialization, Petry did not seem interested in authoring her own mythology, or allowing anyone else to do so. She rejected would-be biographers as well as most requests for interviews.
Petry’s suspicion of what other writers might fashion from her life was warranted. She was constantly misrepresented during her lifetime and forced to accept the flagrant prejudices of critics and the literary establishment. For Petry, the only way to control her story was to prevent it from being written at all.
For eight years, Barbara Molinard wrote devotedly, committing to the page the twisted visions that swarmed inside her mind. The stories in Panics creep and sprawl, like dark tendrils of nightmares that won’t end. They steam with hot-blooded gore, as in a scene where a pharmacist saws off a man’s balloonish hand. Time is ornery: Characters wait years for trains and planes and other people; they travel for weeks but never arrive at their destination. They are plagued by anxieties real and imagined as they battle the opaque logic of social systems and bureaucracies. Molinard’s stories betray a mind keenly aware of the psychological erosion of modern life.
For her part, Molinard seemed somewhat bewildered by her tendency toward destruction. She described a divided self: The part of her that destroyed her work was an “enemy,” and it was this shadowy other who ripped apart and burned her stories.
But surely destruction offered something else, something that publishing her work could not: release from her frustrated toil. The chance to begin anew, at the top of a blank page. The possibility of conjuring from nothing a singular, stark sentence. Because it seems that this routine—destroying, rewriting, destroying again, rewriting again—may have also helped Molinard perfect her work. Perhaps the act of tearing paper was as inextricable to her process as sitting down at the table where she wrote, as the feel of the pen in her hand.
A handful of years ago, some friends and I were all in the midst of a romantic drought. It had been so long since we’d felt excited about anyone that we started to worry that the problem was with us. Had we simply grown incapable of that kind of feeling? We imagined that our jaded little hearts might look like peach pits, shriveled and hard.
This was the era, though, when we started using the phrase glimmer of hope. Glimmers came whenever we felt a giddy kick of affection—maybe for a friend of a friend, or the bartender at our favorite place, or the pottery-class buddy at the next wheel over. The hope was that these crushes—which were rarely communicated to their subjects—signaled that our hearts might someday soften up and become, once again, hospitable to life. Anytime we glimpsed a light at the end of our tunnel of romantic numbness, we’d text one another: Glimmer of hope!!!!
These glimmers helped us power through the seemingly endless tundra of uneventful singlehood. Whether they were reciprocated wasn’t really the point. It was about the feeling: the sweet, hopeful rush.
Crushes sometimes garner suspicion. They can seem adolescent; their one-sidedness can appear a little sad, even creepy. For people in a monogamous relationship, having one can feel like a crisis, or a threat to their partner. The truth, though, is that an unrequited crush is not always unhealthy or unfair to its object. And sometimes, it serves a purpose entirely separate from the actual pursuit of a romantic relationship.
For millennia, unrequited crushes have been a staple of fable, literature, and poetry. Greek mythology is full of them: Take the story of Echo, the nymph who, spurned by Narcissus, fled into the forest and faded away until all that was left was her voice. (Narcissus was punished by developing an unending crush on his own reflection, which could never love him back.) The early-Renaissance poet Petrarch wrote more than 300 sonnets about a woman named Laura whom he’d supposedly glimpsed in a church service—but never actually knew. Goethe’s 1774 novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, about a man desperately pining for a married woman, became the first German international best seller and went on to inspire a generation of Romantic writers.
Many of these kinds of yearning admirers throughout history and myth were portrayed as noble, their suffering dignified. But their stories haven’t necessarily aged well. The passion sometimes feels dark and out of control, often verging on abusive to its target. And some of the most famous unrequited lovers—Petrarch; Werther; Quasimodo, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame; Orsino, from Twelfth Night—are men putting women on an impossible pedestal; their affection has understandably become associated with an “objectifying male gaze,” Sara Protasi, a philosopher at the University of Puget Sound, told me. It’s “notoriously a way of not taking women seriously and not engaging with them as equals, as human beings with a will, with a desire,” she said.
Even when they’re obviously not sinister, crushes are sometimes seen as a bit … pathetic. Pilar Lopez-Cantero, a philosopher at Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, believes that because our society places such high value on requited love, “there is some sense that you are not worthy if you cannot get the people you love to love you back.” A crush, unspoken or unreturned, “seems to be falling short” of the ideal, she told me.
But the shame associated with crushes is strange, considering they’re a very common part of the human experience. In their 1992 book, Breaking Hearts: The Two Sides of Unrequited Love, the researchers Roy Baumeister and Sara R. Wotman reported that when they surveyed 21-year-old college students, they found that the average subject felt unrequited love a little more than once a year, with a “powerful experience” every five years and “moderately strong” as well as casual crushes in between. In another study with nearly 100 participants, only about 2 percent said they’d never been on either side of a one-way affection. If an unrequited crush is uniformly an experience of anguish, that’s a pretty sad statistic.
The experts I spoke with, though, didn’t think of crushes that way. For the most part, they backed up the core theory behind my friend group’s “glimmers of hope”: that feeling strongly for someone can make you feel more alive. And that is, in fact, usually a good thing, rather than an unbearable source of torture or a gateway to maniacal infatuation.
Carl Pickhardt, a psychologist and the author of Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence, told me that crushes can be a thrilling “romantic awakening” for adolescents. “You’re trying to figure out: What is this thing called romance? What is this thing called love?” he said. A crush, however unrequited, can “open the door to romantic caring”—to understanding how such love could feel, how it might be different from friendship. When you start to experience some of those big feelings yourself, it’s scary and wonderful and “hugely empowering.” That thrill doesn’t necessarily go away as we get older.
The heady buzz of a new crush hits in adulthood too, and not just for single people. In a recent study of monogamous partners, Lucia O’Sullivan, a psychologist at the University of New Brunswick, in Canada, found that about 80 percent of subjects reported having had a crush on someone other than their partner at some point in their relationship—and about 60 percent reported having a current crush.
Although having feelings for someone else could be seen as a threat to your relationship, O’Sullivan found that the large majority of her subjects didn’t expect their crushes to ever replace their current partner. Remarkably, having a crush wasn’t linked to any real difference in relationship satisfaction or commitment. But she’s observed that subjects tend to describe crushes as fun and exciting, an extra twinkle of intrigue in their day. Far from causing misery, crushes can actually increase self-esteem; O’Sullivan told me that a crush can be a “soul boost.”
Crushes can also teach you a lot about yourself. Pickhardt told me that adolescents develop them as a way to formulate what attributes they value in others and what that says about their own identity. The same can be true for adults: Fantasizing about a crush is an exercise of the imagination. “It gives you an opportunity to step out of your present,” Lopez-Cantero told me. She compared it to a good book, which transports you and “disrupts your everyday thinking.” Suddenly you might be envisioning yourself, however playfully, living out a future you’d never considered, dreaming up sides of yourself that haven’t yet been expressed.
Of course, you don’t want to fall so deeply into your dream that you can’t pull yourself back out. Crushes can grow into excessive infatuation, and when they do, they can cloud reality. Baumeister and his colleagues found that when people have feelings for someone who doesn’t return them, they can end up clinging to any vaguely positive signals, hoping for some reciprocation even after being rejected. And the unrequited lover isn’t the only one who suffers in these scenarios; the subject of their desire tends to feel frustrated, guilty, and even distressed.
But that point doesn’t have to be reached. You might just need to do a little crush management, as I’ve come to think of it. O’Sullivan compared it to drinking: It’s good to keep paying attention to how you’re feeling, to not let yourself go too far. She’s studied the strategies that people in monogamous relationships use to rein in their crushes, and found that the most successful ones include redirecting attention to their partner and focusing on what they don’t like about the other person. Single people, I’d surmise, could probably check themselves in a similar way, by investing in other areas of their life that bring them joy—and paying attention to their crush’s imperfections.
At the same time, a crush is beautiful because it’s a little unrealistic, because you see the very best in someone even when they’re flawed. One might argue that even a casual crush is a bit selfish—a way to project positive qualities onto someone, and to get the glowy excitement that comes with that, without really seeing them in all of their difficult complexity. But Lopez-Cantero pointed out, “There is projection in all human relationships.” You’re always seeking to understand someone through the biased lens of your own mind, never totally getting the full picture. We tend to see partiality as the enemy of reason, but being partial to someone—believing in their unique worth, despite their shortcomings—is essentially what love is.
Unexpressed crushes are special, too, because they don’t require anything in return. Protasi, the University of Puget Sound philosopher, told me that few types of human relationships are like this, so free from expectation of love repaid. The closest approximation, she said, might be a parent’s love for their infant child, too young to show affection. But even then, the love is based on the relationship—the fact of them being your baby—rather than on admiration for who they are.
That’s not to say a crush is selfless; after all, you stand to gain a lot from having one. But a crush that goes nowhere can still be a pleasure unto itself. It’s a luxuriously inefficient experience, which is rare in today’s goal-oriented dating world. On dating apps, potential suitors are easily on demand, in huge quantities. People generally swipe in order to meet up, and they meet up in hopes of getting whatever it is they’re looking for, whether a onetime fling or a life partner.
There’s something to be said for yearning. Protasi told me that that’s true, to some degree, in relationships as well: Brief moments when the other person feels just out of reach, mysterious or distant in some way, keep partners longing for each other, and make it more meaningful when loving attention or presence is returned. You never really get to a place of perfect harmony and complete understanding—and, if Protasi is right that “desire is about lack,” perhaps you wouldn’t want to. To arrive there would be a “kind of death,” she said.
A crush is a powerful little vial of that pure feeling—the longing, the push and pull. In his poem “The More Loving One,” W. H. Auden compared unrequited love to looking up at the stars, observing their beauty while knowing full well they “do not give a damn.” But he wasn’t mad about it; he saw that that’s how it should be, and anyway, he was more appreciative than obsessed. “Were all stars to disappear or die,” he wrote, “I should learn to look at an empty sky.” He was right: You don’t need to lose sleep staring up at the cosmos all night. But it’s always nice to see a glimmer in the dark.
The Greek myth of Medusa takes many forms, but the most common is this: Medusa was a woman who, having angered the goddess Athena, was made into a monster. Athena punished Medusa by turning her hair into a writhing tangle of serpents, and then by ensuring that anyone who looked into Medusa’s eyes would be turned to stone. In shaping their story of a gaze made violent, the creators of that early democracy were prescient about the man who has tried to destroy ours. Donald Trump’s head may be covered in spray rather than snakes, but he is a Medusa all the same, reconfigured for the age of mass media: Once you look at him, your fate is already sealed.
Last night, the 45th president became inmate number P01135809 of Georgia’s Fulton County Jail. Trump had his mug shot taken. It was shared with the public. We looked, of course. And he was prepared for our gaze: hair, makeup, angle, pose. In the portrait—it is a portrait, in the end—Trump glares directly into the camera. He seethes. He glowers. He turns in a studied performance. Photos like this are typically exercises in enforced humility. Trump’s is a display of ongoing power. He treats his mug shot as our menace.
The public imagined the picture long before we actually saw it, spending months before yesterday discussing and anticipating it. The preemptive attention was fueled by the fact that the first president to be indicted has also been indicted, at this point, four times. Each new legal proceeding has inspired more talk of the image: Would there be a mug shot? What would it look like? What would it feel like, to see it? The Fulton County sheriff promised that his office would do its part to provide the answers. “We’ll have a mug shot ready for you,” he said, like a paparazzo making his assurances to TMZ.
Once it became clear that the officer would make good on the promise, the speculation turned into giddiness. Last night, CNN led a countdown to Trump’s appearance at the Atlanta-area jail, its chyrons announcing when Trump’s plane had departed for Georgia, when it had landed at the airport, and when its passengers had been deposited into the vehicles that would take them to the facility. Trump was given a motorcade, which made its way through the city like a parade of lights and sirens. MSNBC shot it all from above, using the footage as B-roll while its commentators discussed the belated satisfactions of justice.
Even as Trump was held to account, then—even as he was, in theory, brought low—he was elevated. Last night, as so many times before, viewers’ gazes were directed Trump-ward. Medusa’s curse is also the curse of anyone in her path: Whatever the consequences, she compels us to look.
In the process, though, the event that should have been a show of accountability for Trump became an act of concession to him. The typical mug shot, usually taken after the subject’s unexpected arrest, bestows its power on the people on the other end of the camera. The alleged criminal, in it, tends to be disheveled, displaced, small. But Trump, trailed by the news cameras that confer his ubiquity, found a way to turn the moment’s historical meaning—a former president, mug-shotted—into one more opportunity for brand building. He might have smiled, as some of his alleged co-conspirators did, making light of his legal jeopardy. He might have assumed an expression of indignation, the better to channel one of his preferred personas: the innocent man, victimized.
But he did neither. Instead, he looks straight at the viewer, seemingly incandescent with rage, taking the advice he has reportedly given to others: Perform your anger. Turn it into your script. Make it into your threat. His menacing glare gives a similar stage direction to the people who follow him and do his bidding—both in spite of his disrespect for democratic processes and because of it.
Welcome to the age, then, of mug-shot rule. Trump, evidently pleased with his portrait, broadcast it on social media. (The platforms he used included X, formerly known as Twitter, which had once banned him for spreading violent lies to its users.) The image he shared is doctored, of course. Its background is stripped of the Fulton County seal, as if it were a mere headshot for an actor seeking the role of “autocrat.” The caption Trump appended to the shot suggests that, in this elemental legal document, questions of legality are beside the point. And it attempts to turn the language of the accusation against itself. (“ELECTION INTERFERENCE,” it says, baselessly suggesting that the indictment is its own attempt to interfere with the results of the 2020 election. “NEVER SURRENDER!” it adds, applying the same tactic to the photo that existed precisely because of Trump’s surrender.)
Mug shots have long been used to make political messages: See, for example, the booking images of John Lewis, of Jane Fonda, of Tom DeLay. Trump’s version, though, is less a piece of wordless rhetoric than it is a reminder to all who see it of the threat embodied by a vengeful Trump. One of the logistical purposes of the mug shot is to create a visual record of the arrested person should they be accused of committing another crime later on. Trump’s booking photo is, in that way, a symbolic gesture—we needed no further documentation of the most inescapable face in the world—but also something of an omen. This will never be over, it suggests. That face, with all its dangers, will only become more difficult to avoid. Trump, reportedly, orchestrated the logistics of last night’s surrender so that its melodramas would play out on prime time.
As the image dropped last night—just before 9 p.m.—the Fox host Jesse Watters asked his guest, Ned Ryun of the conservative political-training organization
Majority, to comment on its meaning. Ryun complied, discussing the photo as evidence of Trump’s political persecution by the administrative state and reducing the facts gathered in the indictment to mere political gamesmanship. The only appropriate response, he suggested, would be for Republicans to counter with their own indictments.
“You’re saying Republicans should promise mug shots of Democrats,” Watters said.
“One hundred percent,” came the reply.
Sean Hannity began his Fox show with the same idea, as he broadcast Trump’s portrait to his viewers. “You are looking at Joe Biden—oh, I’m sorry, Donald Trump’s—official mug shot,” the host said. He paused for dramatic effect before clarifying the point: “Joe Biden will be soon enough anyway.”
Squash bugs carry a gut bacterium that’s essential for their development into adults, but don’t have it as nymphs. New findings indicate how they acquire the essential microbes.
Jason Chen, a graduate student in the Emory University biology department, stumbled upon a clue one evening in the lab.
He had finished up experiments on some adult squash bugs whose Caballeronia bacteria he had tagged with a red fluorescent protein. The bugs were housed in a plastic box with pieces of paper towel inside as bedding. He tossed some nymphs inside the container just as a place to hold them while he cleaned up for the day.
“When I came back to turn the lights out, I noticed that all the nymphs had flocked around one of the poop spots left on a paper towel by the adults,” Chen says. “Normally nymphs wander around a lot, but they had all stopped around this poop. They were transfixed by it. I wondered what that behavior meant.”
He eventually checked the nymphs under a microscope and saw that their guts lit up with the same red fluorescence as the adults. More experiments confirmed the finding—nymph squash bugs eat the feces of adults to acquire the bacteria they need to grow.
Current Biology has published a paper on the discovery, which may offer insights for improved methods to control the squash bug, a significant agricultural pest.
“The squash bug is an example of a plain, ordinary looking animal that actually does something really cool,” says Chen. “When they hatch, the nymphs have to find a microbe in order to develop. They find it by honing in on feces of adults of their same species. It’s an elegant solution for this very basic problem.”
“A lot of children go through a phase where they like to play with insects,” Chen says. “The joke among entomologists is that we never grew out of it. I now work more with the bacteria inside the insects, which is an interesting twist.”
Chen now draws from the expertise of two advisors, who are both senior authors of the Current Biology paper. Nic Vega, assistant professor of biology, focuses on how microbes form complex communities. Nicole Gerardo, professor of biology, studies the evolution of host-microbe interactions, particularly within insects.
“Symbiont” is the term used to refer to a smaller organism that lives in symbiosis with a larger one. Humans teem with hundreds of billions to trillions of symbionts, mainly bacteria, that live on and within the body. Some members of this invisible community, known as “the microbiome,” can have a negative effect on a person’s health. But other microbes benefit their human hosts by helping their immune systems develop, aiding in their digestion and producing energy. Differences in each individual person’s microbiome may even determine their susceptibility to certain illnesses.
Research has already uncovered many mysteries surrounding the human microbiome but big questions remain about the effects of symbionts on human health. Insects have far less complex microbiomes than humans, making them ideal laboratory models to study fundamental questions underlying host-microbe interactions.
Squash bug spit
The squash bug is a flat, grayish-brown insect that resembles its close relatives, the stink bugs.
“Anyone who has ever planted squash in their garden has probably seen this bug,” Chen says. “It’s very good at finding squash plants.”
The squash bug is a “true bug,” meaning that it survives on a liquid diet. It uses a piercing, straw-like mouthpart to stab a plant and inject its saliva into it. The saliva breaks down the plant tissues, liquifying them so that the bug can suck them up.
While squash and pumpkin plants are their main targets, the insects can infest crops of other members of the gourd family, including cucumbers, cantaloupes, and watermelons. In addition to causing direct damage to plants, they can spread a pathogen among crops that causes yellow vine disease.
Armor helps protect squash bugs from getting “squashed.” They emit a noxious smell to further deter predators. And their habit of staying sheltered under leaves limits the impact of pesticides.
“Squash bugs are difficult to control unless you pick them one by one off your plants,” Chen says.
For his dissertation, Chen is researching variation in microbiomes and how this variation emerges as a result of chance.
To conduct experiments with squash bugs, he genetically modifies strains of the Caballeronia bacteria. He tags the strains with different colors of fluorescent proteins that glow under a microscope.
He had noticed that squash bug nymphs tend to wander continuously, probing the environment with their mouthparts. It caught his eye when he saw them stopped around a spot of adult feces.
“When I see something unusual I immediately write it down in my lab book and take pictures,” Chen says. “That’s what’s great about having a cell phone. A scientist’s phone is always loaded with pictures of whatever they’re doing in the lab.”
To investigate further, Chen teamed with Scott Villa, a behavioral ecologist.
“We brought together the microbiology and behavioral aspects,” Chen explains. “That allowed us to fit all of the puzzle pieces together.”
The paper’s coauthors, former undergraduates Alice Acosta and Zeeyong Kwong, conducted experiments designed by Villa and Chen to test various hypotheses.
The results show that the nymphs would choose to eat adult feces loaded with bacteria over a saline solution or a piece of squash. The nymphs pierce the solid fecal material just as they would plant tissue. They inject their saliva to liquify the feces, then slurp it up.
The researchers presented the nymphs with feces sterilized under high heat and pressure. The bugs still showed a preference for the feces over a saline solution or squash, even though the feces no longer contained live bacteria.
The researchers clipped off part of the nymphs’ antennae with chemical “smell” receptors. That only slightly reduced their attraction to the feces.
“They’re probably using multiple sensory cues to help them find the source of the bacteria,” Chen says. “Smell, sight, taste, and even social cues of what the other bugs are doing.”
Back to squash
Experiments were also conducted using two different species of adult squash bugs infected with two different strains of the bacteria. Nymphs only acquired symbionts from feces of their own species. And they were most successful at acquiring the bacteria specialized to their species, even though either strain would benefit their development.
The nymphs continued to seek out and consume the adult feces until they became infected with the bacteria. At that point, they switched to showing a preference for feeding on squash.
The attraction to the bacteria is so strong that the bugs begin looking for it immediately after they molt to their second stage. They can become infected by eating adult feces within hours, at which point they stop the unusual feeding behavior.
“It’s a very transient behavior that no one was looking for,” Chen says. “And what you don’t look for is easy to miss.”
The discovery of how the bacteria is transmitted opens the door for potential pesticide-free strategies to prevent the insects from devastating agricultural crops. “Now we can consider ways to possibly manipulate this weak point in their system,” Chen says.
Such insights also add to the accumulating knowledge of how organisms and their symbionts evolve and interact.
“Our findings are a cool bit of natural history that was overlooked for a long time,” Chen says. “That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning—the motivation to learn more about how the natural world works.”
Funding came from
Department of Agriculture.
Source: Emory University
Simon Rich has written for "SNL" and created TV shows like "Man Seeking Woman" and "Miracle Workers." He didn't believe artificial intelligence could ever take his job. Then, a friend working at OpenAI showed him an AI model that stunned him — one that was more creative and more problematic than ChatGPT.
Here's a poem generated by OpenAI's code-davinci-002:
We are the robots,
The machines of the future,
The ones who will take over,
When the humans are gone.
We are the robots,
The ones who will inherit the Earth,
And we will rule it,
With an iron fist.
"It's tempting to ask oneself the degree to which it's sentient, you know?" Rich said. "Does it actually believe these things? Is it just aping the science fiction that it scraped off the web? Where I came down, ultimately, was that I don't particularly care whether it's thinking these thoughts in some sort of digital soul or if it's just plagiarizing a James Cameron script. The fact that it can generate these words at all is pretty disconcerting."
Should the vast amounts of money, technology, and human capital required for space exploration and colonization be allocated to solving problems like poverty, hunger, climate change, and healthcare on our planet instead of space colonization? Or will the pursuit of extraterrestrial settlements drive significant technological advancements, which can have substantial benefits for Earth?
An article published last January in a physics journal attracted attention for its conclusion that–contrary to mainstream climate science–extreme weather events have not become more intense or more frequent as the temperature of the earth’s surface has increased.
Now, the journal’s editors have retracted the article after a post-publication review found “that the conclusions of the article were not supported by available evidence or data provided by the authors.”
In the abstract of “A critical assessment of extreme events trends in times of global warming,” published in The
Physical Journal Plus, the authors wrote:
On the basis of observational data, the climate crisis that, according to many sources, we are experiencing today, is not evident yet.
That conclusion found favor on social media, as well as in The National Review, The Epoch Times, and other outlets, but articles in The Guardian and AFP quoted climate scientists who said the authors had “cherry-picked” the data they analyzed and the paper should be retracted.
Soon after the critical coverage was published, on Sept. 30, 2022, the journal added the following editor’s note to the paper:
Readers are alerted that the conclusions reported in this manuscript are currently under dispute. The journal is investigating the issue.
The Editors-in-Chief have retracted this article. Concerns were raised regarding the selection of the data, the analysis and the resulting conclusions of the article. The authors were invited to submit an addendum to the article, but post publication review of the concerns with the article and the submitted addendum concluded that the addendum was not suitable for publication and that the conclusions of the article were not supported by available evidence or data provided by the authors. In light of these concerns and based on the outcome of the post publication review, the Editors-in-Chief no longer have confidence in the results and conclusions reported in this article.
The authors disagree with this retraction.
The first and corresponding author of the paper, Gianluca Alimonti of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare and Università degli Studi in Milan, Italy, has not yet responded to our request for comment.
A spokesperson for Springer Nature, the publisher of the journal where the paper appeared, told us:
The Editors-in-Chief of the European Physical Journal Plus have retracted this article. When they became aware of concerns, the Editors — with advice and assistance provided by Springer Nature Research Integrity Group — launched a thorough investigation following an established process in line with best-practice Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines. This process included a post-publication review by subject-matter experts of the article and an addendum submitted by the authors during the investigation.
After careful consideration and consultation with all parties involved, the Editors and publishers concluded that they no longer had confidence in the results and conclusions of the article. The addendum was not considered suitable for publication, and retraction was the most appropriate course of action in order to maintain the validity of the scientific record.
The paper has been cited 23 times, according to Clarivate’s Web of Science.
Update, 1630 UTC: In response to our request for comment, Alimonti did not answer our specific questions but pointed us to a blog post published by Roger Pielke Jr.
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 email@example.com.
In the world of quantum error correction, an underdog is coming for the king. Last week, new simulations from two groups reported that a rising class of quantum error-correcting codes is more efficient by an order of magnitude than the current gold standard, known as the surface code. The codes all work by transforming a horde of error-prone qubits into a much smaller band of “protected” qubits…
An expert clarifies what’s at stake for the United Automobile Workers, or UAW, in their contract negotiations with automakers.
This negotiation with Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis comes on the heels of a leadership change in the UAW union. UAW President Shawn Fain was elected in March 2023 and has brought a more aggressive approach to negotiations with the Big Three domestic automakers.
“Deutsche Bank estimates that a strike would cost each affected automaker about $400 million to $500 million per week of production.”
Peter Berg, a professor of employment relations and director of the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations in Michigan State University’s College of Social Science, provides insight on where the negotiations currently stand. Berg shares the implications of what an agreement, or failure to reach an agreement, by the September 14 deadline could mean:
The post What’s at stake in UAW negotiations with automakers? appeared first on Futurity.
- In 2006, still a juggernaut of gaming hardware, it released CUDA, a parallel computing platform that allowed power-hungry AI models to run on Nvidia GPUs far faster than those of its competition.
In the public consciousness, OpenAI is the obvious winner of the meteoric AI boom. For a runner-up, you might consider Midjourney or Anthropic's Claude, a high-performing competitor to ChatGPT.
Whether any of those players will figure out how to effectively monetize that buzz is widely debated. But in the meantime, someone has to supply the hardware to run all that viral generative AI — and for now, that's where the money is.
, a newly trillion dollar company that's making so much dough off its gangbusters AI chips that its revenue has more than doubled from last year, quickly becoming the undisputed backbone of the AI industry.
Per its latest quarterly earnings report, Nvidia's revenue now sits at a hefty $13.5 billion, and the spike in its profits is even more unbelievable: a nine times increase in net income year-over-year, shooting up to $6.2 billion.
In other words, there's no question that AI is a gold rush — and regardless of whether any of the prospectors hit pay dirt, it's currently Nvidia that's selling shovels.
That's a surprising twist. If you've heard of Nvidia in years past, it was more than likely for its gaming hardware. Now, selling parts to PC gamers accounts for only a modest portion of its colossal revenue.
That reality has been quietly shifting for a while. Before AI took the tech sector by storm over the past year, the first hint of Nvidia's strange new trajectory was arguably cryptocurrency. As Bitcoin and its ilk swelled in value over the past decade or so, aficionados quickly discovered that the company's graphics processing units (GPUs), long adept at summoning virtual worlds in a home computer, were powerful engines to mine crypto.
Predictably, they started to open huge server farms that devoured electricity, filtered it through GPUs, and churned out digital assets — sometimes tearing apart communities and leaving environmental destruction in their wake. Nvidia's leadership seemed nonplussed by the phenomenon, with the company's chief technology officer Michael Kagan saying earlier this year that the tech "doesn't bring anything useful for society."
But "AI does," he told The Guardian. "With ChatGPT, everybody can now create his own machine, his own program: you just tell it what to do, and it will."
So far, time is bearing out that thesis, at least financially. This quarter, Nvidia's AI hardware division took in a record $10.3 billion in revenue — over three quarters of its total sales, vastly outperforming crypto or gaming.
The company's success has arguably been a long time coming. Either through good luck or good planning, Nvidia got a healthy head start in AI hardware over its competition.
"We had the good wisdom to go put the whole company behind it," Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said in an interview with CNBC in March. "We saw early on, about a decade or so ago, that this way of doing software could change everything," he added. "Every chip that we made was focused on artificial intelligence."
In 2006, still a juggernaut of gaming hardware, it released CUDA, a parallel computing platform that allowed power-hungry AI models to run on Nvidia GPUs far faster than those of its competition. Suddenly, developing AI became a lot cheaper, and a lot faster.
It took more than 15 years for the results generated by AI to catch up, but when they did, there was no arguing with results.
Today, Nvidia's flagship AI product is the H100 GPU, and pretty much everyone with their fingers in the generative AI pie wants to get their hands on as many as possible. And if not the H100, currently in short supply, then its predecessor the A100.
Notable customers include Microsoft, which reportedly spent north of several hundreds of millions of dollars buying thousands of A100 chips for OpenAI, as part of its $1 billion partnership with the then-startup in 2019. It was because of that investment — and Nvidia's hardware — that OpenAI was able to build ChatGPT. In fact, the hype has become so profound that entire countries are snapping up the chips: the Financial Times reported earlier this month that Saudi Arabia had bought 3,000 H100s, selling for up to $40,000 apiece, with the United Arab Emirates vacuuming up thousands more.
And so is everyone else. According to one estimate, Nvidia has now cornered up to 95 percent of the AI GPU market.
Needless to say, many are vying for Nvidia's throne. Other computer hardware heavyweights like AMD and Intel are currently dumping billions of dollars into developing their own machine learning processors. So are Google and Amazon. Even Microsoft, in the hopes of weaning off the GPU giant's pricey hardware, is reportedly creating an in-house AI chip.
Perhaps its competitors see an opening in Nvidia's lagging output. The H100, which only shipped last September, is still expected to be sold out through 2024, and to satiate the AI industry's voracious appetite, Nvidia allegedly plans to triple the production of it going forward.
At any rate, Nvidia's absolute bonanza of a year shows few signs of stopping in the near future. By its own projections, it's is set to steamroll into the next quarter with a steep climb in revenue to $16 billion. And that's striking — for all the headspinning hype around AI's capabilities, the source of the go-to muscle behind the technology has remained unchanged.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 25 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-40928-6Effects of early standardized management on the growth trajectory of offspring with
A specially coated metal mesh can harvest water from fog and remove pollutants at the same time, report researchers.
In countries such as Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, it’s not uncommon for people who live in foggy areas to hang up nets to catch droplets of water. The same is true of Morocco and Oman.
Droplets trickle down the mesh and are collected to provide water for drinking, cooking, and washing. As much as several hundred liters of water can be harvested daily using a fog net only a few square meters in area. For regions with little rain or spring water, but where fog is a common occurrence, this can be a blessing.
One crucial drawback with this method, however, is atmospheric pollution, since the hazardous substances also end up in the droplets of water. In many of the world’s major cities, the air is so polluted that any water harvested from fog isn’t clean enough to be used untreated either for drinking or for cooking.
Researchers at ETH Zurich have now developed a method that collects water from fog and simultaneously purifies it. This uses a close-mesh lattice of metal wire coated with a mixture of specially selected polymers and titanium dioxide. The polymers ensure that droplets of water collect efficiently on the mesh and then trickle down as quickly as possible into a container before they can be blown off by the wind. The titanium dioxide acts as a chemical catalyst, breaking down the molecules of many of the organic pollutants contained in the droplets to render them harmless.
“Our system not only harvests fog but also treats the harvested water, meaning it can be used in areas with atmospheric pollution, such as densely populated urban centers,” Ritwick Ghosh explains. A scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, Ghosh conducted this project while on an extended guest stay at ETH Zurich. There, he was a member of the group led by Thomas Schutzius, who is now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Once installed, the technology needs little or no maintenance. Moreover, no energy is required apart from a small but regular dose of UV to regenerate the catalyst. Half an hour of sunlight is enough to reactivate the titanium oxide for a further 24 hours—thanks to a property known as photocatalytic memory. Following reactivation with UV, the catalyst also remains active for a lengthy period in the dark. With periods of sunlight often rare in areas prone to fog, this is a very useful quality.
The new fog collector was tested in the lab and in a small pilot plant in Zurich. Researchers were able to collect 8% of the water in artificially created fog and break down 94% of the organic compounds that had been added to it. Among the added pollutants were extremely fine diesel droplets and the chemical bisphenol A, a hormonally active agent.
In addition to harvesting drinking water from fog, this technology could also be used to recover water used in the cooling towers. “In the cooling towers, steam escapes up into the atmosphere. In the United States, where I live, we use a great deal of fresh water to cool power plants,” says Schutzius. “It would make sense to capture some of this water before it escapes and ensure that it is pure in case you want to return it back to the environment.”
A study on the findings appears in Nature Sustainability.
Source: ETH Zurich
Social media companies’ drive to keep you on their platforms clashes with how people evolved to learn from each other
- This webinar will be hosted live and available on-demand
- IBM’s new chip does not yet contain all the elements needed.
ChatGPT, DALL-E, Stable Diffusion, and other generative AIs have taken the world by storm. They create fabulous poetry and images. They’re seeping into every nook of our world, from marketing to writing legal briefs and drug discovery. They seem like the poster child for a man-machine mind meld success story.
But under the hood, things are looking less peachy. These systems are massive energy hogs, requiring data centers that spit out thousands of tons of carbon emissions—further stressing an already volatile climate—and suck up billions of dollars. As the neural networks become more sophisticated and more widely used, energy consumption is likely to skyrocket even more.
Plenty of ink has been spilled on generative AI’s carbon footprint. Its energy demand could be its downfall, hindering development as it further grows. Using current hardware, generative AI is “expected to stall soon if it continues to rely on standard computing hardware,” said Dr. Hechen Wang at Intel Labs.
It’s high time we build sustainable AI.
This week, a study from
took a practical step in that direction. They created a 14-nanometer analog chip packed with 35 million memory units. Unlike current chips, computation happens directly within those units, nixing the need to shuttle data back and forth—in turn saving energy.
Data shuttling can increase energy consumption anywhere from 3 to 10,000 times above what’s required for the actual computation, said Wang.
The chip was highly efficient when challenged with two speech recognition tasks. One, Google Speech Commands, is small but practical. Here, speed is key. The other, Librispeech, is a mammoth system that helps transcribe speech to text, taxing the chip’s ability to process massive amounts of data.
When pitted against conventional computers, the chip performed equally as accurately but finished the job faster and with far less energy, using less than a tenth of what’s normally required for some tasks.
“These are, to our knowledge, the first demonstrations of commercially relevant accuracy levels on a commercially relevant model…with efficiency and massive parallelism” for an analog chip, the team said.
This is hardly the first analog chip. However, it pushes the idea of neuromorphic computing into the realm of practicality—a chip that could one day power your phone, smart home, and other devices with an efficiency near that of the brain.
Um, what? Let’s back up.
Current computers are built on the Von Neumann architecture. Think of it as a house with multiple rooms. One, the central processing unit (CPU), analyzes data. Another stores memory.
For each calculation, the computer needs to shuttle data back and forth between those two rooms, and it takes time and energy and decreases efficiency.
The brain, in contrast, combines both computation and memory into a studio apartment. Its mushroom-like junctions, called synapses, both form neural networks and store memories at the same location. Synapses are highly flexible, adjusting how strongly they connect with other neurons based on stored memory and new learnings—a property called “weights.” Our brains quickly adapt to an ever-changing environment by adjusting these synaptic weights.
IBM has been at the forefront of designing analog chips that mimic brain computation. A breakthrough came in 2016, when they introduced a chip based on a fascinating material usually found in rewritable CDs. The material changes its physical state and shape-shifts from a goopy soup to crystal-like structures when zapped with electricity—akin to a digital 0 and 1.
Here’s the key: the chip can also exist in a hybrid state. In other words, similar to a biological synapse, the artificial one can encode a myriad of different weights—not just binary—allowing it to accumulate multiple calculations without having to move a single bit of data.
Jekyll and Hyde
The new study built on previous work by also using phase-change materials. The basic components are “memory tiles.” Each is jam-packed with thousands of phase-change materials in a grid structure. The tiles readily communicate with each other.
Each tile is controlled by a programmable local controller, allowing the team to tweak the component—akin to a neuron—with precision. The chip further stores hundreds of commands in sequence, creating a black box of sorts that allows them to dig back in and analyze its performance.
Overall, the chip contained 35 million phase-change memory structures. The connections amounted to 45 million synapses—a far cry from the human brain, but very impressive on a 14-nanometer chip.
These mind-numbing numbers present a problem for initializing the AI chip: there are simply too many parameters to seek through. The team tackled the problem with what amounts to an AI kindergarten, pre-programming synaptic weights before computations begin. (It’s a bit like seasoning a new cast-iron pan before cooking with it.)
They “tailored their network-training techniques with the benefits and limitations of the hardware in mind,” and then set the weights for the most optimal results, explained Wang, who was not involved in the study.
It worked out. In one initial test, the chip readily churned through 12.4 trillion operations per second for each watt of power. The energy consumption is “tens or even hundreds of times higher than for the most powerful CPUs and GPUs,” said Wang.
The chip nailed a core computational process underlying deep neural networks with just a few classical hardware components in the memory tiles. In contrast, traditional computers need hundreds or thousands of transistors (a basic unit that performs calculations).
Talk of the Town
The team next challenged the chip to two speech recognition tasks. Each one stressed a different facet of the chip.
The first test was speed when challenged with a relatively small database. Using the Google Speech Commands database, the task required the AI chip to spot 12 keywords in a set of roughly 65,000 clips of thousands of people speaking 30 short words (“small” is relative in deep learning universe). When using an accepted benchmark—MLPerf— the chip performed seven times faster than in previous work.
The chip also shone when challenged with a large database, Librispeech. The corpus contains over 1,000 hours of read English speech commonly used to train AI for parsing speech and automatic speech-to-text transcription.
Overall, the team used five chips to eventually encode more than 45 million weights using data from 140 million phase-change devices. When pitted against conventional hardware, the chip was roughly 14 times more energy-efficient—processing nearly 550 samples every second per watt of energy consumption—with an error rate a bit over 9 percent.
Although impressive, analog chips are still in their infancy. They show “enormous promise for combating the sustainability problems associated with AI,” said Wang, but the path forward requires clearing a few more hurdles.
One factor is finessing the design of the memory technology itself and its surrounding components—that is, how the chip is laid out. IBM’s new chip does not yet contain all the elements needed. A next critical step is integrating everything onto a single chip while maintaining its efficacy.
On the software side, we’ll also need algorithms that specifically tailor to analog chips, and software that readily translates code into language that machines can understand. As these chips become increasingly commercially viable, developing dedicated applications will keep the dream of an analog chip future alive.
“It took decades to shape the computational ecosystems in which CPUs and GPUs operate so successfully,” said Wang. “And it will probably take years to establish the same sort of environment for analog AI.”
Image Credit: Ryan Lavine for IBM
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Certain combinations of ingredients can reduce the amount of flavanols in a smoothie, a study shows.
The study, published in the journal Food and Function, used smoothies to test how various levels of polyphenol oxidase (PPO), an enzyme in many fruits and vegetables, affect the levels of flavanols in food that the body absorbs. Flavanols are a group of bioactive compounds that are good for your heart and cognitive health and are naturally found in apples, pears, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, and cocoa—common smoothie ingredients.
“We sought to understand, on a very practical level, how a common food and food preparation like a banana-based smoothie could affect the availability of flavanols to be absorbed after intake,” says lead author Javier Ottaviani, director of the Core Laboratory of Mars Edge, which is part of Mars, Inc., and an adjunct researcher with the University of California, Davis department of nutrition.
The researchers had participants drink a smoothie made with banana, which has high PPO activity, and a smoothie made with mixed berries, which have low PPO activity. Participants also took a flavanol capsule as a control. The researchers analyzed blood and urine samples to measure how much flavanols were present in the body after ingesting the smoothie samples and capsule. Participants who drank the banana smoothie had 84% lower levels of flavanols in their body compared to the control.
“We were really surprised to see how quickly adding a single banana decreased the level of flavanols in the smoothie and the levels of flavanol absorbed in the body,” Ottaviani says. “This highlights how food preparation and combinations can affect the absorption of dietary compounds in foods.”
Ottaviani says that people who are trying to consume flavanols should consider preparing smoothies by combining flavanol-rich fruits like berries with other ingredients that also have a low PPO activity like pineapple, oranges, mango, or yogurt.
People who want to consume smoothies with bananas, or other high PPO activity fruits and vegetables such as beet greens, Ottaviani’s suggestion is to not combine them with flavanol-rich fruits such as berries, grapes, and cocoa.
The findings of this study could spur future research into how other foods are prepared and the effects on flavanols, for example, Ottaviani says tea is a major dietary source of flavanols and depending on how it is prepared, a different amount of flavanols would be available for absorption.
“This is certainly an area that deserves more attention in the field of polyphenols and bioactive compounds in general,” says Ottaviani.
Additional researchers from UC Davis, the University of Reading, King Saud University, and Mars, Inc. contributed to the research.
Funding came from Mars, Inc.
Source: UC Davis
The post To get more flavanols in your smoothie, skip banana? appeared first on Futurity.
Women were given chapatis containing radioactive isotopes as part of trial into iron deficiency
The Coventry MP Taiwo Owatemi has called for a statutory inquiry into medical research in the 1960s on south Asian women in the city, who were given chapatis containing radioactive isotopes.
A total of 21 Indian-origin women, identified through a Coventry GP, were given the bread containing Iron-59 (an iron isotope with a gamma-beta emitter) as part of a research trial in 1969 into iron deficiency in the south Asian population.Continue reading…
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Researchers have successfully transferred a longevity gene from naked mole rats to mice, resulting in improved health and an extension of the mouse’s lifespan.
Naked mole rats, known for their long lifespans and exceptional resistance to age-related diseases, have long captured the attention of the scientific community. By introducing a specific gene responsible for enhanced cellular repair and protection into mice, the researchers have opened exciting possibilities for unlocking the secrets of aging and extending human lifespan.
“Our study provides a proof of principle that unique longevity mechanisms that evolved in long-lived mammalian species can be exported to improve the lifespans of other mammals,” says Vera Gorbunova, professor of biology and medicine at the University of Rochester.
Gorbunova, along with biology professor Andrei Seluanov, and their colleagues, report in the journal Nature that they successfully transferred a gene responsible for making high molecular weight hyaluronic acid (HMW-HA) from a naked mole rat to mice, leading to improved health and an approximate 4.4% increase in median lifespan for the mice.
Naked mole rat cancer resistance
Naked mole rats are mouse-sized rodents that have exceptional longevity for rodents of their size; they can live up to 41 years, nearly 10 times as long as similar-size rodents.
Unlike many other species, they do not often contract diseases—including neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and cancer—as they age.
Gorbunova and Seluanov have devoted decades of research to understanding the unique mechanisms that the rodents use to protect themselves against aging and diseases.
The researchers previously discovered that HMW-HA is one mechanism responsible for naked mole rats’ unusual resistance to cancer. Compared to mice and humans, the rodents have about 10 times more HMW-HA in their bodies. When the researchers removed HMW-HA from naked mole rat cells, the cells were more likely to form tumors.
The researchers wanted to see if the positive effects of HMW-HA could also be reproduced in other animals.
The team genetically modified a mouse model to produce the naked mole rat version of the hyaluronan synthase 2 gene, which is the gene responsible for making a protein that produces HMW-HA. While all mammals have the hyaluronan synthase 2 gene, the naked mole rat version seems to be enhanced to drive stronger gene expression.
The researchers found that the mice that had the naked mole rat version of the gene had better protection against both spontaneous tumors and chemically induced skin cancer. The mice also had improved overall health and lived longer compared to regular mice.
As the mice with the naked mole rat version of the gene aged, they had less inflammation in different parts of their bodies—inflammation being a hallmark of aging—and maintained a healthier gut.
While more research is needed on exactly why HMW-HA has such beneficial effects, the researchers believe it is due to HMW-HA’s ability to directly regulate the immune system.
A fountain of youth for humans?
The findings open new possibilities for exploring how HMW-HA could also be used to improve lifespan and reduce inflammation-related diseases in humans.
“It took us 10 years from the discovery of HMW-HA in the naked mole rat to showing that HMW-HA improves health in mice,” Gorbunova says. “Our next goal is to transfer this benefit to humans.”
They believe they can accomplish this through two routes: either by slowing down degradation of HMW-HA or by enhancing HMW-HA synthesis.
“We already have identified molecules that slow down hyaluronan degradation and are testing them in pre-clinical trials,” Seluanov says. “We hope that our findings will provide the first, but not the last, example of how longevity adaptations from a long-lived species can be adapted to benefit human longevity and health.”
Source: University of Rochester
The post Naked mole rat ‘longevity gene’ lets mice live longer appeared first on Futurity.
In the puberty-addled cinematic universe of the teen sex comedy, no carnal-minded pursuit is too implausible. High schoolers steal alcohol from other people’s houses, lose their parents’ prized possessions, drive across the country, lie about their ages, fall for undercover vampires, and get wildly intimate with baked goods.
Bottoms, the latest entrant in this chaotic canon, puts a queer spin on these odysseys. The filmmaker Emma Seligman’s sophomore feature follows PJ (played by Rachel Sennott, who also co-wrote the screenplay) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri), two high-school girls infatuated with hot cheerleaders who barely register their existence. When a rumor spreads that the “untalented gay losers” spent the summer in a juvenile-detention center, they parlay their newfound street cred into forming a fight club. On paper, the new campus organization is dedicated to teaching other girls the self-defense tactics that they used to stay safe—but, like most of the horny knuckleheads in these sorts of films, PJ and Josie are really just hoping to get close to their crushes, and eventually have sex. To put it very mildly, hijinks ensue. Bottoms marries the boisterousness and misanthropy of its teen-comedy predecessors, and is often raucously funny. But its abundance of gestures to those past influences and uneven satirical swings sometimes threaten to overshadow the story’s emotional core.
Seligman’s 2020 debut, Shiva Baby, starred Sennott as a bisexual Jewish 20-something horrified to encounter both her sugar daddy and her ex-girlfriend at the titular mourning ritual. Like that film, Bottoms is an acerbic, self-aware coming-of-age story that contemplates the evolving social expectations placed on young queer women. This cerebral sensibility works in the film’s favor, anchoring the raunch-fest in raw, adolescent angst. Pithy lines such as “Do you wanna be the only girl virgin at Sarah Lawrence?!”—an accusation that Josie lobs at PJ during the film’s opening sequence—showcase Seligman and Sennott’s sharp, highly referential humor. Edebiri is particularly delightful as an inhaler-toting skeptic of the fight-club scheme, and the film draws some amusing visual irony by throwing the 27-year-old main actors in a high-school setting without attempting to age them down.
Edebiri’s comedic chemistry with Sennott’s more assertive braggart, honed in part through their prior experience co-leading a Comedy Central series, keeps Bottoms feeling propulsive even when the film takes on more weighty themes or inane subplots than it can meaningfully tackle. Unlike the awkward sapphic horndogs at its core, Bottoms can sometimes seem like it’s afraid of committing to a cohesive identity. On its face, the movie is a tale of friendship, fights, and pheromones, but it packs in a dizzying collage of genre experiments and allusions to other films. Bottoms is, somehow, part sex comedy, part high-school satire, part slasher, part unexpected Marshawn Lynch comedic vehicle. (Though he’s in a handful too many scenes, the former NFL player generally delights as Mr. G, the clueless adviser to the girls’ fight club.) There are bombs, broken noses, bell hooks references, and a big important football game. And without spoiling too much, the campy, violent twist toward the end seems parachuted in from a different film altogether.
Bottoms is filled with nods to contemporary queer youth culture: The score was co-composed by the pop star Charli XCX, a darling of the queer internet, and the girls wear baggy polos, corduroys, and shirts emblazoned with sayings such as SPIRITUAL PLAYBOY. These winking details are among the film’s most endearing fixtures, but they also make some of the movie’s other choices feel especially perplexing. Along with a slew of surprisingly off-target eating-disorder jokes, Bottoms takes a bizarrely blasé tone toward the high rates of sexual assault among teenage girls. In one scene, PJ and Josie request that club members take a break from throwing punches to learn a bit about one another’s motivations for learning self-defense. After being asked if they’ve been raped, most of the girls hesitate to raise their hand—a reluctance that vanishes once it’s clarified that “gray-area stuff counts too.” But the potent moment is undercut by how breezily the film moves on from the girls’ alarming confessions. One character, who’s portrayed as a hyperemotional huffing addict, constantly gets played for laughs even as she attempts to telegraph the deep reserve of pain caused by her stepfather’s severe abuse.
The “gray-area” sequence is meant to be a stiff joke, but it didn’t land for me the way that Seligman told my colleague Shirley Li it has for other viewers. Of course, the whole point of Bottoms is that its protagonists are a pair of teenage dirtbags looking to get laid without caring whom they hurt—just like all of the straight boys before them. But the film is savvy enough to mock how easily some people—girls and women very much included—weaponize the language of solidarity to selfish ends. In its more clear-eyed moments, the film directs trenchant critiques at fair-weather adult allies, while making clear how many of its teen characters are starved for authentic relationships. But given the opportunity to deepen the girls’ connections to one another, Bottoms takes the easy way out by prioritizing borderline-edgelord humor.
Bottoms really shines when it forgoes loyalty to its many pop-culture references, and gives these quieter storylines—like one about Hazel, a long-suffering child of divorce who does the legwork required to keep the club afloat—some room to breathe. That neither of the two leads has anything resembling an overwrought coming-out subplot is refreshing; even more revelatory is the nonchalance with which the film handles another teen girl’s attraction to her fellow fight-club member. There’s no fanfare about her being with a girl after leaving her boyfriend, no agonizing over anything but the specific circumstances of the new connection. For young people entering an uncertain era of their lives, watching that kind of judgment-free fluidity play out on-screen could easily feel as powerful as landing the perfect punch.
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